It’s been a while since we’ve seen so many different views and opinions about a topic like we have when the guild function for Guild Wars 2 was announced. Not much is known at the moment. You can find all the relevant information on the official Wiki. The most prominent change is that you will be able to join as many guilds as you like. At any given time, your character represents one of those guilds which also ‘activates’ this guild’s chat.
Bookahnerk and I have had our share of discussions about this new system. In general: I’m more skeptical than he is. But we both see good and potentially negative points. The “TL;DR”-version would be: We will have to see how the players adapt to this system and how the guild environment changes to see if it’s a change for the better or not.
We read several blog postings and forums to see how other players react. We found lots of opinions and arguments for liking and disliking the feature. A few general ‘themes’ appeared quite often. The number one concern we found was ‘guild pride’ and the lack thereof when people can just hop from guild to guild and be in whichever guild gives them the best features, events, etc. at any given time. Right now, you’re either in or out. People recognize a guild tag and might know what the guild stands for – if it’s a well-known/established guild – and know its members. People in those guilds “are somebody” and have a certain reputation. They identify with their guild and are loyal to it. Those people, fortunately for them, can still behave the way they do now. Joining more than one guild is a feature but not a must. The same goes for those people who do not have much time for more than one guild. Look for one that fits the best to you and your playstyle, join it and hope it was the right choice. It would essentially be the same as it is right now in other MMOs.
Kind of belonging to the first argument of guild pride and being loyal to it is the fear that people will hide in another guild as soon as things aren’t rosy-peachy in your guild. Some players already do that now by hiding on alts or – especially with the uprise of more and more f2p games – they hide in other games. With the multi-guilds feature in GW2, people can still play their beloved ‘main char’ and just go to another guild. On the other hand, would you want those people in your guild to begin with? Those people who leave as soon as there’s the slightest hint of trouble on the horizon? Those people who demand lots of things and aren’t willing to give the tiniest bit back? With the multi-guild feature, people have the freedom to go and leave and on the other hand, it might show a guild leader a lot faster who’s a loyal guild member and wants to help out and work on the guild being a great one. Also, if your members are leaving faster than you can jump over an Asura, there might be something wrong with your guild and you’ll probably get that feedback immediately when your members are all hanging out elsewhere.
As ArcherAvatar said in a comment on Massively’s entry about the multi-guild feature: “The few details we’ve been given so far indicate a shift in ‘power / control’ away from a guild and towards individual players.” and “How does the proposed guild system encourage better behavior? Flexibility and power shift towards the individual. Guilds / groups with excessive amounts of ‘guild drama’ will quickly find themselves with members who aren’t interested in that sort of thing leaving more frequently. Why would they leave more frequently? Because there will be a significantly easier access to alternatives.” – This, on the other hand, also means that a guild leadership will have to work even harder to keep their members and make them happy. You will have to make sure that there is an enjoyable environment in your guild and that there is something that will make the members want to be in your guild. They will not just have the choice of leaving and finding another guild. Chances are that they have already gotten to know other people and that they already are a member of other guilds and can compare those guilds with yours. And if your guild doesn’t live up to people’s expectations, then they will rather go somewhere else.
Then again, small and social guilds could have an advantage here compared to the one-guild system. Currently, as seen in Lotro with our kinship, people do not necessarily want to join our kin even though they’d really like to be with us. But joining us (a small social kin) would mean giving up the chance of raiding (because others only want to raid with people who are members of their kinship). So instead of being with us for the social factor and going raiding with the others, they rather stay in the raiding kin and chat with us when they have the chance (on an alt, for example). That means that two of their characters are in two guilds. One for raiding, the other for socializing. What would be so bad about being able to do the same thing as we can now but on one character? I’d imagine that some roleplayers would also very much love that: Be in one guild with their fellow roleplayers when they feel like roleplaying and switching to their group of PvPers when they feel like PvPing (I assume that not all roleplayers enjoy PvPing and thus, the split would make sense).
Our own guild, Nerdy Bookahs (which will be a smallish social guild), will probably have an easier time recruiting players. We want to foster a cozy social environment where you log on and chat with others and actually know who those people are. But that only works if the guild’s relatively small. We have such a small kin in Lotro but as mentioned above, one of our friends is only in it with an alt because he doesn’t want to leave behind the opportunity to raid once in a while. New people also don’t want to join our kin because we are small and not as active. But they would enjoy the comfortable atmosphere and chatting with us or going to an instance once in a while. Still, they rather join a bigger, more active kin instead because they can only be in one kin with their character. Of course, the bigger one will usually win. But if you can join and then switch to another guild when nobody’s online in ours or when you don’t feel like chatting but rather want to get something done with a huge group of people, then you can do that and come back to us later when you just want to chat while crafting… or something like that. ;)
Spontaneous events, on the other hand, might be harder to start with such a system. When you go online and see nobody from your current guild is there, you switch to a more active guild and go do something with them. Then somebody else comes online and asks in guild chat if others want to join and do something – but hardly anybody is there because those who are online switched to other guilds. Then again, thinking about it further: Why don’t you do the same? Or ask around – I’d assume that friends lists are in the game anyway, so you can just ask friends if anybody’s up to something. It’s not the guild’s sole purpose to make sure you’re properly entertained. It helps but a player should also be willing to organize something or go and look for fun in the game themselves.
Let’s do something else. Let’s try to imagine we’re Asuras. We like to think big and in order to come up with inventions and new things, we need to think outside the cube! Let’s take that step and imagine what this new system could mean and what it could be used for in Guild Wars 2. In our opinion, all of the above arguments and thoughts feel inconsequential now.
What Guild Wars 2 does is that it a) gets rid of the need to group with their open-world dynamic events and b) it throws us into a 2 week long PvP fight with our server against two other servers. Where in those scenarios are guilds a necessity? Everybody from your server can participate in PvE events. And in WvWvW, your whole server will be needed. Yes, a guild can claim a keep. But will they be able to succeed against two other servers? Probably not. But your server as a whole, fighting together, can! People need to collaborate and work together. People won’t just hide in one single guild. If a person can be in several guilds with the same character, then chances are that people will be connected with each other more than they currently can be with the one-guild system.
Bookahnerk likes to remember the ‘good old times’ in Ultima Online where he was ambassador in his guild and spent quite a lot of his game time chatting with people from other guilds organising and negotiating etc. With this system now, lots of players would work as ambassadors in a way. There wouldn’t be as much “Do you know anybody who’d like to come with us?” answered with a “No”. Instead, there could be lots of “Yes, I can ask in my other guild!” replies. Because more people will have other guilds and will know more people that way. And guild pride will switch to server pride the way that we’ve seen people ask for over the last few years (well, mostly old DAOC players, but still! ^^). Every player needs to work together. We need to change the way we play (from sticking to one guild to opening up to include the rest of the server)!
What we would still like to know more about is how exactly the communication will take place. We know that you’ll be able to access your current guild’s chat but not the chat of your other guilds. But will there be an easier way to communicate with your other guilds’ members? Like an extended/organizable friend list that automatically adds those people? Communication seems to be important and with WvWvW, a good communication system seems to be the key to success (more so than the guild system probably ;) ).