Immersive Details is about the small features that can change how you play a game. We’ve talked about sitting in a chair, NPCs engaging with the world around them, animals with a will to survive and even the ability to customize your character after creation. MMORPGs are social games they are (supposed to be) designed for you to engage with other players. In a lot of MMORPGs you are an adventurer within the world set on a quest/mission to save it. As you travel deeper within you notice you won’t be able to do it alone. You seek assistance from other adventurers who are either looking for riches or reputation, but are willing to join you for a common goal. The topic I have chosen for Immersive Details Issue 5 is Guilds.
How do guilds fall into the immersion aspect of an MMORPG? If a game is supposed to be designed to be played with Massive (the first M in MMO) amount of people I would expect it to be social. Your immersion of a game is based on your ability to connect with it–if I expect it to be social, my immersion level will increase or decrease based on the social aspect of the game.
When I think of what a Guild is, I think of community and pride. Think of any medieval movie you’ve seen. Now go to one of the epic battle scenes, what do you see? I see a group of warriors banded with their clan or guild’s crest flying above their heads, all side by side, no matter what they are about to face they know they can trust the person next to them. You probably thought of the same thing as me, or a similar variation of it. This type of imagery has been burned into our brains in every medieval movie you will see a very similar scene. We used to see this type of engagement in older style MMOs like Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC) but modern MMOs seem to be deviating from the path and going off in the wrong direction.
For me community is the most important part of an MMO. An MMO is supposed to be designed to be social, it is supposed to have you talk and group with people. Dark Age of Camelot did this very well and I believe that is why this game has such loyal fans. You ask any former DAoC player and they’ll tell you how great the game was. The community of a game can be horrible and revolting, but if you’re lucky enough to be in a guild that has the perfect atmosphere for you, then the game’s world means nothing. I have logged into many games in my past, not to play, but to hang out with the guild members. I’ve come to know a lot of the guild members and have even became friends with them outside of the game. Without a guild or a community for you to enjoy, you might as well be playing a single player game not a Massively Multiplayer Game.
A strong guild community comes from being social, tackling the harder events of the game as a group. Learning how to communicate during raids, learning how to plan and take feedback from one another. With recent MMOs they have been offering solutions to people that make it so they don’t need a guild or a community into order to do the content. In some games you could go from level 1 to Level Cap and have cleared the entire content without ever speaking a word to anyone. World of Warcraft when it was released was all about guilds and communities. You needed them in order to see the end game content; however, as the game continued through the years it became less and less of a requirement to be in a guild to do content. With the introduction of the Looking For Group / Looking for Raid system that WoW currently has you have no reason to be in a guild. You’re able to do all end game content with a simple click of a button. You don’t even need to travel. The concept of community with this system is gone. The options are still present for you to be social but they are rarely used. The only time the chat channels are used in an LFR/LFG event are to discuss strategy or to comment on how much someone “suks”.
The LFG/LFR system isn’t a bad system, there are many ways it can be implemented into Elder Scrolls Online without it having a detrimental effect on the community. Instead of having an automated system that places you into a queue and teleports you directly to the event, what about a “Looking For Work” board in the main cities. This board will allow you to post your name for any event. You can either mark in that you’re solo or have a group and you need to hire someone specific. For example, if I was playing my Dragonknight I would mark down that I was a tank looking for a group to do <insert dungeon name here>. As my name is sitting in the “Looking For Work” section I can browse the “Looking To Hire” section of the board and see if I can find a group that would need my services. When I found one I would message the person and tell him I am looking for work and they would toss me an invite. Or if someone saw my name in the “Looking for Work” section they would message me and ask if I wanted to join them. Once in my group, I would use a wayshrine that is closest to the event and then jump on my trusty steed and ride off to help my new group.
This system promotes us to be social. Sure it might take longer to find a group to do something, but all good things take a little bit of work. I have way more fun doing things with my friends than I’ve ever had in one of WoW’s LFG/LFR groups.
This for me is more of a bragging right than anything else. DAoC did this aspect the best, when it came to showing off your guild there was nothing you couldn’t do. One of my fondest memories of DAoC is seeing my guild emblem on our Relic Keep. The NPC Guards running around the Keep with the guild emblem on their chest. We had the option of putting our guild’s emblem on the back of our cloaks and if we had a shield on, we could paint our emblem on the front. Later on in the expansions we were able to put our guild’s emblem on our horses and even outside our own house. It wasn’t uncommon to be running out in the RvR area (pvp) and see a group of opposing players off in the distance and just getting a glimpse of their emblem we knew who they were. Your guild emblem can symbolize your skill as a group.
Elder Scrolls Online will allow you to join up to 5 guilds at one time. Does this mean we won’t have guild emblems? If they do have emblems and I put one on and change the guild I am currently “representing” does the emblem just magically change? There are so many questions I have about Guild Pride that have yet to be answered. I can only hope that the developers that helped create DAoC will realize that one of the best features for guilds was the emblems and the ability to put it on pretty much anything.
Guilds seem to be evolving into glorified friends list, community is being pushed aside for features that offer the player convenience. Sadly, guild pride is being pushed to the curb to make way for convenience with the introduction of joining multiple guilds. Earlier I gave you a broad overview of the typical MMORPG storyline. Looking at how modern MMOs are being designed that all content can be done solo and end game can be complete with the push of a button, where did the push go to be social and to speak to other people. I know MMOs need to evolve and adapt new technology, but what was so wrong with the old school way of guild and alliances? Back in DAoC we were only able to join one guild and one alliance, yet I never had any issues finding a group to do Tuscaren Glacier or a Dragon raid for a Respec Stone. Alliances were a large collection of guilds that were able to communicate with each other. Even if you were in a guild of just friends and have 10 people you were able to join an alliance which would have turned your guild of ten members into an alliance of over one hundred members. Again this way took a bit longer to find and organize a group but it had us socializing with other members of our faction, getting to know them, adding them to our friends list and grouping with them in RvR later on.
Community and Pride play a large part in our immersion of an MMORPG game. If there is no community or pride, the MMO you’re playing has turned into a single player RPG game with an always online constant. Socializing and communicating with other faction members isn’t a bad thing, give us a reason to do it and we’ll end up playing the game for years.
This is my plea to Zenimax, please do not forget about the little things, they do matter.