Friday, August 28, 2009

An Initial Thought on WoW Guild Advancement

I finished listening to The Instance’s coverage of Blizzcon (episodes #159 & #160) and I have to admit that the changes Blizzard is planning for World of Warcraft sound exciting. I’m actually tempted to buy Cataclysm (did I just write that?) when it comes out just to see what happens to Hogger and if the devs take the opportunity to clean up the quests in Stranglethorn Vale. But the part of the podcasts I found most interesting was the introduction of guild advancement.

As a player of EverQuest 2 who for three years has lived with a guild system that involves guilds having levels, I’ll be very interested in how Blizzard chooses to implement its guild system. One interesting design issue is how to equalize the leveling of small and large guilds. I see a different design philosophy between WoW and EQ2. From what I heard on the podcasts, in WoW only the top 20 contributors in a guild each day can contribute to the guild’s advancement.

In EQ2, all guild members efforts have always contributed to a guild’s advancement. When I started playing in 2006, SOE did try to normalize guild advancement between large and small guilds by adjusting the amount of a player’s status converted into guild status for doing writs (quests that reward personal status), heritage quests and turning in status items. The formula that determined how much status a guild would gain from a member completing a writ or heritage quest was personal status rewarded divided by the number of characters in the guild, with the maximum number of the divisor set to 24, the maximum size of an EQ2 raid force. But this system did cause a couple of issues. The lesser issue was that one of the items on the leaderboards on is guild status contributed and players in small guilds had an advantage on rising on the leaderboard over the ones in large guilds. The larger issue to me was that players in small guilds (less than 24 accounts) actually had an incentive to not allow their members to have alts in the guild. Both of these issues (plus others I’ve forgotten about) went away when the guild status conversion was set to a fixed 10% of all personal status gained from writs and heritage quests for all players.

Looking at the two systems, I prefer EQ2’s everyone’s contribution counts philosophy over Blizzard’s idea of only having the top 20 players in a guild have their contributions count and then the rest have theirs thrown away. I think that all members in a guild, be they level 10 or level 80, should be able to see their efforts, however small, advance their guild. I realize that Blizzard’s guild system is still in development, but since WoW is a level-based game, I don’t see how a high level character will not have an easier time contributing to the guild than a lower level player. Maybe the WoW devs will avoid that trap, because if they don’t, the lower level player in large guilds will rarely see their efforts contribute to their guild’s advancement. I’m not sure what kind of drama will entail from that effect, but knowing guilds, someone will make an issue out of someone who never seems to do enough to contribute to their guild’s advancement.

I should add one additional qualifier to what I have written. I am writing as someone who stopped playing WoW before the first expansion came out and has been immersed in the community of EQ2 ever since. The Blizzard developers know their player base a lot better than I do. Perhaps some sort of way to slow down the progression of large guilds so small guilds are not left in the dust is an absolute requirement to have the concept accepted. I can’t argue with that idea; SOE did it in EverQuest 2 for years. I just hate the fact that, according to what I was presented with on the podcasts, Blizzard is willing to deem the efforts of some players as not worthy of being counted.

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