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A discussion on community systems and guild systems

GishgeronGishgeron Princeton, KYPosts: 1,287Member

  This was a blog of mine that evolved into a rather nice discussion.  Since it was agreed that the content would suit a forum, I am moving it here.  I will copy and paste both my initial entry, and the replies, here for you to view and join in!



  Anytime I post on these forums, and find a position which strikes me as interesting, I feel the need to blog about it.  Now, normally, I repress this urge and just go about my way.  Most of it would not amount to much in the way of discussion or debate anyway, and I prefer that my blogs at least offer up something to consider when viewing them.  At least, thats what I want from my "non-review" blogs.

  So, to preface this whole matter, let me begin by saying that I've recently been active around here in discussions which made me really think about the way we view guilds in the MMO genre...and the effects this view has had on gameplay mechanics thus far.  I realize that my posts can be a little...aggressive...from time to time, and that I may not always present my thoughts in the best manner possible in a given thread.  Because of this, I actually decided to sit down with you all on this particular matter and actually blog it.  My hopes are to present this a little more maturely, and with a little more open-mindedness than I sometimes share in the actual forums.

  I'm not too proud to admit my own failings :P  On to the subject matter.


  We all understand the basics of the Guild structure in MMO's today.  Groups of people get together, and form a glorified friends list of players in which to organize and engage in larger content.  This system is controlled wholly by the players identity crafted by them and only them, and even comes with its own literal system of reputation behind it.  I recently discovered that this system is actually causing problems in open-ended development in the genre, though, and I'd like to explain why.

  When you have a game which focuses all of its content development around these Guilds, you also take with that a very harsh form of gating that prevents the community from actually opening up.  It almost sounds ludicrous when you say it aloud at first, that a community FEATURE could actually be breaking a community down, but its true.  This focus for Guilds breaks the "massive" community down into segments, fragmented sections of players which form these Guilds.  These segments do not actually involve themselves with the rest of the world, because doing so is a distraction from the game design...which forces the guilds to constantly operate together for maximum effectiveness in progression. 

  This matter translates over to the player poorly, actually.  In one particular forum a poster brought up how open GTA IV was compared to the "open massive worlds" prescribed by MMO gaming culture.  The openness of it is centered around the freedom of the individual to do what he wants, and involve himself in whatever he wishes.  It presents a situation where the day to day goals of the player can change, and are even encouraged to do so.  Guild-Focused content can never be this way, and the structure of the progression forces the individual to remove any personal goals for the sake of becoming involved in the Guild goals.  Granted, its not just guild systems which present this issue...gear and level based progression also have their hand in it.  But if we are going to address one face of the monster, I feel we should address all of its many heads as well.

  I think that these games need to go back to their community roots.  Ideally, factional systems BACKED by player controlled guild formats would be the best long as the content is based solely on the individual and factional goals, and not the guild goals.  Guilds should form naturally as players of like mind meet and wish to combine their similar goals.  Instead, the monster we have now gives us only ONE option.  Its an insult even TO the Guilds of todays MMO's...because they have nothing to truly involve themselves in.  They have no options, no freedom, no anything really.  They are forced into one of two gaming options, and neither of those do anything to actually make proper use of the ability to bring like minded people together.  They are glorified carrot-stick situations, and a weak when compared to the plethora of wonderful ideals floating around between the many games available.

  I'd like to know how many of you feel the same way about this.  Is the current Guild-centric structure really damaging the potential of the genre as much as a I think?  Am I simply being exaggerated for the sake of making a point?  Does this market NEED to scrap its old ways and rethink the usage of a community better?

  Feel free to talk!  I would love to hear what many of you have to say on this.  If the debate warrants it, I may copy paste this into a forum for easier access and reading.



  • GishgeronGishgeron Princeton, KYPosts: 1,287Member
    • JB47394- Thu May 15 2008 4:20PM Delete
      • I'm not a big fan of highly-structured social systems, including grouping and guilds.  I like the fact that there are people that I can do things with frequently, but things get rather insular.  I'd prefer a structure that let people think of themselves as a guild without setting up the us/them barriers.

        Instead of a yes/no structure for guilds and groups, I'd like to see something that lets me say how much I like or detest a character.  They are making similar rating with other people.  For people I haven't specified a rating, the system would use my rating for people who form a link between me and that person.  That's the old "Friend of a friend" or "My enemy's enemy is my friend" stuff.  They are implied ratings.  I can override them when I get a chance to spend some time with them.

        The idea is that players would be in the general vicinity of each other, and would tend to move their character towards other characters that are highly rated.  If red is for dislike and green is for like, then looking for green tints would let a player move to where they are generally matched up with other players.

        No guild is needed to get together an activity.  Just seeing friendlies.  That system can be used in any visualization that a game supports.  If there is a /who system, then the listing can include the implied ratings.  If there is an auction house, it can include the implied ratings.

        Beyond that, there's a need for a chat system that works with this.  One thought is to send a message to everyone that is rated at a certain level or above in your implied ratings.  Once contacted, they would all be part of a temporary chat channel for the purpose of that conversation.

        The number of channels could be kept manageable because any given group of friends and acquaintances could talk on a channel once it was created.  You might get drawn into three or four such circles of people, but I think it would work.  It would require more thought and plenty of experimentation.

        All I know is that fixed channels don't work all that well because they are on/off affairs.  Either you're in or your out.  I'd like to see systems that let the players dynamically form many overlapping social circles.

    • Gishgeron- Thu May 15 2008 4:36PM Delete
      • I absolutely love your ideals.  Most of the "Ranking" suggestions you made go hand in hand with my desire to see MMO's move into more community aspects.  The sims might have a great example of this, through their own relationship meter.  A sort of semi-transferable scoring system that allows you to not only place numerical value in relations...but to have that value extend to people that share similar values to the person in question.

        For example

        You are Bob, and your bestest buddy is Frank.  Through the game eventually tie a given relation score of 100 with him through interacting with him on things.  Now, if Frank ALSO has another friend with a 100 also find your rank with that person slightly increased.  So that, instead of starting at begin with a relationship meter of 25 or even 50 with them.  So if Frank were 100 with Tom, and you were 100 with Frank...the game would assign you to be ALSO 25 with Tom as well.

        Bring a color code into this system is nice too.  White for 0, light blue for 25, green for 50, orange for 75, and gold for 100.  This way, you can track people in your area which are somehow connected to your social circle at a glance.  Its also a nice way to meet new people and make new seeing a stranger with a light blue name would indicate to you that one of your BEST friends obviously enjoys their company as well.  So you would be inclined to meet them, or even group up randomly to do things.

        You could even tie in mild damage, defense, hp, and experience modifiers to this reward not only FORMING this relations, but interacting with these people even after capping the meter.  Rather than "guilds" you can connect players into "circles".  The system would look similar to a guild..but operate very differently.  Then, you can tie this system into empire-style systems by joining circles together to act upon territory control and society generation.



  • GishgeronGishgeron Princeton, KYPosts: 1,287Member
    • JB47394- Thu May 15 2008 10:15PM Delete
      • You/re talking about a system for letting characters build fictional relationships and have them known by the game.  I'm talking about players indicating their relationships with other players (through their characters).  As you say, the system you're talking about is more like The Sims Online.  What I'm after is more like MySpace.  I want a system that encourages people who are likely to get along to be friendly.  It works as a kind of introduction system.  With negative ratings, it also works as a gossip system.

        "See that guy?  He's pretty cool."   Introduction

        "See that guy?  He's a jerk."  Gossip

        But I'm glad you enjoyed it in any case.  :)

    • Gishgeron- Thu May 15 2008 11:46PM Delete
      •   Most of that structure is already in really only lacks a "top friends" mechanism.  Such a thing would need to be viewable via a character info page to be useful, though.  The sort of windows most games have via a right click and a "Player Info" selection from that menu.

          That way it would be easily accessible information to ALL players just who was in your personal social circle.  Otherwise, a friends list takes care of everything else.  That said, such a mechanism would be a wonderful community addition to the game...if also a trivial one.  I guess that would be subjective, though, as I do not personally find ANY community supportive additions to a game to be trivial.





          You can view the rest from my blog, I just realized how pointless reposting this was lol.  At any rate, the first parts are here for quick viewing.


  • MylonMylon Tampa, FLPosts: 975Member

    Social systems are definitely something that games need more work on. Usually a guild is an extra glorified chat and little more. First and formost, players need to be able to belong to more than one guild. Part of what kills a game for casual players is not having anyone to play with (I also blame sharding for this), getting stuck in a crappy guild where no one is ever on, or getting kicked out of a bigger guild for being inactive. Also, guilds should be able to form alliances together, so two good friends of different guilds can come and bring even more people together. This goes well with the OPs original point about bringing people together rather than dividing them.

    Plus, there are all sorts of mechanics that can be used to take advantage of guilds. Consider Sword of the New World. As you level up and do quests, you earn "reputation" for your family, which gives small boosts. It's not much, but consider a similar system applied to a guild, rather than an account. Give things players can work toward together for the benefit of everyone in the guild.


  • Melf_HimselfMelf_Himself MelbournePosts: 5Member

    I'll reply here to what JB wrote in Gish's blog...

    "The game would be following a chain whenever it showed a character's rating to you.  So if you rate Bob a 0.9 and Bob rates Mary a 0.9, then the first time you see Mary, you will be shown a default rating of 0.81 (0.9 * 0.9)."

    I'm still not comfortable with this idea. Let's say I quested with Bob once and he seemed to know what he was doing, so I rated him a 0.9. And then let's say that Bob is actually not a very nice person, and rated Mary a 0.1 just to be a dick. So I would be shown a rating of 0.09 for Mary, even though I've never met her before. I would think "wow, she must have really annoyed some of my friends, there's no way I'm playing with her".

    Additionally, I'm no psychologist, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was common for people to "copy" ratings. For example if I see Mary is 0.09, perhaps the slightest thing she does to irritate me will make me flag her with a big ol' zero. This makes it tough for Mary to get back into the good books.

    I'm not saying the rating idea is bad, in fact I think it's quite good, but I'm not sure exactly how to implement it to avoid this issue.

    "Groups are a problem, not a solution... When players chat, they only chat with their group.  When rewards are handed out, they are handed out to a group.  When a task is undertaken, it is a group-sized task.  And so on.  Two groups nearby to each other are aconsidered competitors, not allies."

    This is deserving of a topic in and of itself, so I'll try to be brief. The cons that you mention can be overcome I believe, although some will require tweaks to existing MMO concepts:

    i) Segregating groups so that they only talk to each other. I've never found this to be an issue, in fact, I am far more likely to be talking to members of my friends list and my guild/alliance then to be talking to random PUG's in my group.

    ii) Group rewards/group-sized tasks/groups competing:

    As long as the game design doesn't place people in competition for rewards, all a group becomes is a group of UI options to make interacting with your friends easier in a chaotic situation (for example, as a healer I may want to devote my energy pool to healing my friends preferentially - it needs to be made simple for me to do so, I don't want to tab through the other 50 people around me).

    I've heard you advocate such a system in which individual players all work together towards a common goal. There's nothing to stop groups from flourishing under such a system.

    The other thing to consider is instanced areas. I'm not talking about 40 man WoW raids, since they are just stupid. Instances should be designed and balanced for a particular number of players, say from 1 - 12 man content. You can't have an unlimited number of people able to join, or it becomes a zerg (that's what persistent world content is for). Instances are more refined. They require people to plan out beforehand what characters/skills/tactics they are going to take in to achieve a particular goal.

    They require people to form groups.

    "I don't want players given a fiction so that they can feel that they are hunting trolls to some purpose, while at the same time they know that they're actually hunting them for the loot and experience."

    Who said anything about loot and XP? The system doesn't have to reward troll hunting in that way. In that case, people would hunt trolls because they like the combat against trolls, or because trolls particularly annoy them, or because they like the death squeal when trolls die, or because they like the look of wearing troll hides, or because they want to work on their "troll slayer" title.

    Having said all that, yes, the "cooler" causes in terms of immersion for people to work towards are going to be the ones that further a particular faction, I was using a simplified example for troll hunting to get the idea across.

    "I am of the opinion that games that permit treachery and deceit are severely damaging the health of their community."

    Immersion is so much greater in those games. I don't want to create another UO, but the capability to be treacherous to *some* degree is almost a requirement to create conflict in a player-run community.

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