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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 themselves...an 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 incarnation...so 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.