The Daily Grind: Do MMORPGs still need traditional guilds?
In the game’s design docs and our interviews, Camelot Unchained’s Mark Jacobs is positively adamant that multiguilding (that is, being able to join more than one guild at a time on the same character) is harmful and will not be possible in the game. Specifically, the doc argues that multi-guilding is “one of the things that has hurt the viability and attractiveness of guilds in modern MMORPGs” and that “multi-guilds have contributed to the decline of meaningful guilds in MMORPGs.”
My subsequent questions, you probably noticed, fought back against the idea that multiguilding is a problem. That’s because I’ve been a guild leader for a very long time, from hardcore to casual, and I’ve seen how strict and inflexible lines between guilds can actually cause massive rifts in communities and friendships, outstripping their potential for stickiness or society-building, and I’ve seen how blurring the lines, making the unit of play smaller teams or even larger factions or player cities, brings people together in ways structured, hierarchical guilds do not. Making people choose between my guild and somebody else’s was a friendship mistake, one I’d rather not be forced to make again.
But in retrospect, I think I was asking the wrong questions in that interview. I’m not concerned about multiguilding causing a decline in “viability and attractiveness of guilds” because I no longer care about the presumed sanctity of traditional MMO guilds in the first place. In fact, in the modern era, I don’t think traditional guilds serve the vast majority of gamers anymore. I am beginning to suspect we don’t actually need formal guilds. I care about guilds’ impact on MMOs, not about guilds. I care about friendships and communities, I care about the people in my core circle – not ephemeral, self-serving, studio-leverageable power structures. Let them decline, if that’s what gamers actually want, and let them be replaced by something that actually fits our lives, whether it’s with the dreaded multiguilding or CU’s own mini-guild-Warbands. Without the formal mechanics of guilds, similar would still form organically, as any day-one Ultima Online player can tell you – no mechanical intervention required, and the community went on just fine.
What do you think? Do MMORPGs still need traditional guilds? Do you also see a decline in guilds, and is it necessarily a bad thing? Are their replacements more suitable for your playstyle in 2017?