How Important Are Guilds?

One of the reasons that I utterly adored Everquest 2 was because of my guild. Even though I was an experienced MMO gamer by the time I hit EQ2, I had never been in what I would call a truly amazing guild and it wasn’t until about a year into playing EQ2 that I found my first one. Maybe it was the fact that I was playing on PvP servers (original Darathar and then Nagafen) but something just clicked and my guild experiences went from strength to strength.

My first great guild, on Darathar, introduced me to the delights of reliable and consistent grouping and also helped me overcome my voice chat shyness. Then my second great guild (and certainly the best I’ve ever had the privilege to be in), on Nagafen, showed me how it was possible to build long term, real friendships with other players. It was an amazing experience, not just because I had a lot of fun playing with everyone but also because I felt a genuine connection with them as people. I still keep in contact with several of the members now via Facebook and email and I’ve even had some drunken phone calls form one particular horny Austrian (you know who you are!).

I haven’t played the same MMO with many of my old guildies since Warhamer Online last year and I’m now thrilled at the prospect of reuniting with some of them in Aion when it releases in September. This really got me thinking about the importance of guilds in MMORPGs.

Although I’ve played WoW for several months now, I’ve never been able to recapture my guild experience there. Perhaps I’ve just been unlucky or perhaps the game doesn’t lend itself to strong social guilds as much as other games but I for one found that it certainly diminished my gaming experience. Not having any players to group with, quest with, or even just shoot the breeze with has been my major gripe with the game from day one.

The Cataclysm expansion has received a lot of attention for it’s content revamp and new classes but it also introduces some rather big changes to the social structure of WoW. For instance, Blizzard intend to give an experience bonus for just being in a guild. Now that’s a huge draw to giving up your nomad lifestyle and it obviously shows the intention of Blizzard to encourage social guild and group play.

I’m probably a pretty social player and I enjoy MMORPGs due to the feeling of existing in a virtual world and being able to interact with other players. Of course, plenty of people don’t see it that way though. I’ve enjoyed the friendships I’ve made in my guilds but in the case of WoW for instance, I found that being in or out of a guild had very little impact on my actually gameplay – I just always ended up soloing anyway.

So what do you think – are guilds an important integral part of the MMORPG experience or are the just social fluff to make the games less lonely?

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  5. Grouping Is Where The Fun’s At

26 Comments

  1. Jason says:

    For me, its the social that makes the MMO, not just the guild, but everyone. Ultimately this is one of the larger reasons I gave up on WoW… social interaction was limited to my guild, occasionally a battleground, the odd pickup raid (usually a disastrous failure) and people yelling Chuck Norris jokes in open channels. All of the ad-hoc connections I loved in early games just didn’t happen there…

    • Gordon says:

      Yeah, my social interactions in WoW haven’t been great especially compared to EQ2. Dunno if it’s the way chat channels are setup or just due to the player base, but it’s a lot harder to get a decent conversation going and avoid the spam.

  2. JC says:

    My 1st MMO was SWG. My 1st guild was a group of about 25 IRL friends, co-workers, and their spouses. We were quite cohesive since we all saw each other at work each day and we had a chat program we used at work where we could get everyone on and so when it wasn’t busy we’d all be chatting about the game and our plans and what we were gonna do that night and so on.

    It rocked. TBH, the game was pretty boring on its own, but he fact that I was in a “great guild” and we all supported each other made it awesome to me.

    I had a 2nd account. This toon was intended to be a hunter for my armorsmith to gather the hides he needed, but I ended up going the entertainer route with it instead. Since entertainers were so vital (pre-NGE) to heal the mind wounds and battle fatigue and they could only operate in the cantinas, this forced the whole population of the game to come see you at some point and created a lot of social interaction also. I got invited to an entertainers guild with this toon and we did a lot of player-run events, got hired to perform at player events and weddings and such. Became well enough known that Pex (game-wide community manager) would fly in to our events on his personal Imp shuttle and hand out little fluff goodies, even.

    Again, it TOTALLY rocked!

    Like you, I’ve maintained many IRL friendships made with people I met via these games — email, phone, Facebook, etc. It’s been very rewarding.

    Of course, my EQ2 guilds have been more of a mixed bag, but if/when I’m able to start playing a bit more I’ll be able to contribute more myself, and the whole “more you put in, more you get out” axiom certainly seems to apply to guilds as well as it does to any other thing.

    • Gordon says:

      Sounds awesome :) I think having strong social ties to a game can really keep you going. I’ve kinda wished there was a way to have a global MMO chat or even guild that let you communicate with people in other games i.e. from one guild in WoW to another in EQ2. That way it doesn’t matter what game you play, you can still chat with your friends.

  3. I am still careful when it comes to the guild achievement thing being introduced in Cataclysm, mostly since what is generally seen as “achievements” in WoW are raids and gear. What I like about the concept is that even a small guild would be able to work towards more tangible awards, whatever they might be – it would be a perfect time to introduce at least guild housing.

    I’ve had some of those connections in WoW, including a few people I now consider friends. But WoW does not lend itself well to that kind of co-operation, except for larger raiding guilds. And for every close nit group there are millions of worthless raiding guilds, as most ex-raiders would be able to confirm.

    If I start talking about going back to raiding after Cataclysm, please shoot me in one of my kneecaps.

    • Gordon says:

      Yeah, I was reading about the bonuses Blizzard are going to offer to players forming groups in Cataclysm. I can see that resulting in a lot of spam and disingenuous groups.

      Does anyone remember the Squad Leader from the original SW:G? You got exp from leading groups. Was a pretty cool concept :)

  4. Psynister says:

    Short Answer:
    Are they integral? No, you can easily get all the way to 80 going entirely solo the whole way, and you can PuG easily enough that a guild is not required.

    Are they just social fluff? A lot of them are, but they don’t have to be. There are a lot of guilds that help to make the game more fun, more interactive, and more than just a game on which to waste your time.

    I think that guilds will become more important with Cataclysm’s launch and I eagerly await its arrival.

    Long Version:
    I’d say you probably had one crappy run of bad luck with your guilds, and that’s not too uncommon to be honest. It also depends on what you use to define a good guild.

    For some people a good guild is one that always runs things together, no matter the level. For some it is one that always does a specific thing (raids, pvp, whatever) at a specified time and they stick to it. Others want a constant challenge where the guild always pushes to get new things done or to progress quickly despite being “undergeared”. For others its ones that are always willing to drop what they are doing to run you through low level instances for gear and/or experience. Others want guilds where people are willing to sacrifice their own gold or mats in exchange for you doing the same. And there are any number of other types as well.

    For me, a good guild is one where people are social. For me, a social guild trumps all other kinds of guild. Now, social in and of itself isn’t specifically a guild type, it’s usually a term used in conjuction with something else. For instance, you might be in a Social Raiding guild or a Social Leveling guild.

    Not all raiding guilds are social, though they might be Casual or Hardcore Raiding guilds. Casual, generally speaking, also implies Social, but not necessarily. Hardcore doesn’t necessarly imply Social, but it often times is.

    I don’t really care what the guild is focused on as far as raiding vs. leveling, leveling vs pvp, bg vs arena, or whatever else it might be, just so long as there’s a social aspect of it. I don’t care if I play 80 levels worth solo as long as I have some people to chat with either in guild chat, vent, or whatever other method of communication. I have my preferences of course, but if I’ve got a great group of friends to talk to then I’m good.

    I’d say that what you need in WoW isn’t so much a guild as it is a friend or two that’s willing to run with you. My wife is real big into guilds, but she has a great time as long as she has even one person to run around and do things with her.

    One more thing to drop in this massive rambling of words here and then I’ll shut up. It may also be your server. I have found after playing on many different servers that they all have an atmosphere of their own. A lot of things are the same no matter what, but some of the key things are different as well.

    The server I started on was one that was not friendly towards new people or those without guilds. If you weren’t already in one, then it just sucked to be you.

    The second server I joined, which became my main server, was filled with people who always wanted to PuG instances throughout the entire game with people still looking for RFC/WC/SFK/etc when Wrath came out. It was a great server where a social atmosphere was dominant. The only bad thing about it was that it was also a PvP server which my wife couldn’t stand, so I eventually switched servers with her.

    The server that I am in now has no potential for PuGing much of anything at all. There are a million and one guilds to join, but the vast majority of them suck. BAD. Despite that, there’s something about the server that just makes it feel like the right place for me. Despite all the things that have sucked here and there I still like playing there. It might help that 6 friends and my brother all play there as well though.

    So, before I go and write a comment that’s longer than your blog post (crap, I think I already did…) I’m going to shut up right here and just let you take what I’ve got for what it’s worth.

    • Gordon says:

      Hehe! Awesome comment! Love it, thanks :)

      I agree with everything. I guess guilds aren’t “integral” in the sense of being a necessity but sure can add a lot of new dimensions to the game if you get a good one, whether that’s just being playing with friends or getting the opportunity to group/raid/quest.

  5. ogrebears says:

    I see MMo’s kind of similar to high school. You have a bunch of different people who play together.

    There little groups that form in school, are similar to guilds. Do you need to be in a group, no you can get through high school with out one, but it isn’t as much fun, and you get lonely.

  6. Mike says:

    MMOs are about being “massively multiplayer”. The players can make or break a game, and community is an essential element of your enjoyment. Guilds help make virtual worlds feel “alive” in a way that single-player games don’t. Personally I think guilds are essential to the health of any game game.

    Guilds are the foundation of communities in these game worlds. 99% of players come to games such as WoW, WAR and Aion based on the promise of meeting and interacting with other players.

    My WoW guild has been going for four years, with quite a few of the original members. We’re an alliance guild on the Nagrand Oceanic PvE server with members from Australia, the US and New Zealand. And yes, we have a tabard!

    I’ve been an officer since the very early days, manage our guild website and (co)lead one of our raid teams. Spending that much time with people in both Vent, in raids in guild chat allows you to get to know them as individuals.

    I like to think of our guild as a community. In fact we are a community…. we know each other, help each other enormously in game and real life friendships have formed. I’ve developed at least one real, lasting genuine friendship with a now ex-guildie. Even though this person left the guild a while ago to go on another server a year ago, our friendship has gone from strength-to-strength. I’m not sure if my experience is typical of WoW, but its one of the reasons I’ve played the game for four years now.

    In fact there are several guilds on our server that been existence for at fours years as well (AFK with Kids, Gankers Inc). I read that the typical life span of any guild is about six months, so perhaps my guild is a rare exception.

    Other players I know in game move from guild to guild, from what I see it’s the high end raiding guilds that have the shortest life spans. The pressure to raid 3-4 nights a week and “perform” often leads them to implode. Our guild is a “casual raiding guild” with 10 man two raid teams and lots of casuals players. Those who raid are committed, and casual players who are interested in making the transition to raiding find themselves welcomed into one of the raid teams.

    I played Warhammer solidly for six months after release, but stopped playing. Not because I thought it was a bad game (despite it’s flaws, it has some real fun elements), but because I couldn’t find a guild that had the same sense of community. When the WAR player base collapsed you could feel how the exodus of large numbers of players hurt guilds. In turn the sense of the virtual world being populated by real people evaporated as well. Now when I play WAR in the lower levels I feel like I’m playing a solo-RPG. Apart from the NPCs and mobs no-one is there. At least on my server.

    I also “missed” my WoW guild, as I stopped playing WoW for that time. It was when I got emails and messages from my WoW guild mates asking me when I was coming back and while stating that I was “missed by the community” that it really clicked: there are real people, real friends and we enjoy each others company.

    If your prepared to play on an Oceanic server we’d love to welcome you!

    • Gordon says:

      Thanks for the kind offer! Unfortunately I can only play on European servers so I can’t join your guild :( I think I’m going to try and hunt for a really good guild in WoW and see what I can find. I miss playing with interesting, friendly people who share the same goals and playstyle as me.

  7. I’m mostly a soloer when it comes to MMOs, but I definitely like being part of a community as a backdrop for all sorts of fun weirdness. :)

    I mean, who else can you rickroll at ungodly hours of the night or day but your guild?

  8. Sharon says:

    Guilds are a huge thing for me, but as much as I love to be able to solo, I’m a social gamer at heart.

    If I don’t find a guild in a game, I generally don’t stick around long. The two MMOs that I’ve played the longest (WoW and Warhammer) are the two places where I found really great guilds. I’m still playing WAR on and off, but most of my guild is moving over to Aion next month, and I’ll be going with them. Although my WoW guild no longer plays, for the most part, many of them are also planning on trying Aion, and a couple of them have even applied to join the Aion branch of my WAR guild which is really neat. I’ll tolerate a grindy game if I can do it with people I love to play with!

  9. Brokenmilk says:

    To make a long post short, my point is that guilds, in and of themselves, make a game better, if only through psychological tricks, and thus, to get the full enjoyment out of a game, guilds and other such social aspects are absolutely essential.

    And if you like reading:

    Not to sound like an after school special, but my peers have really fueled my addictions to a number of things over the years. (All of them legal, I assure you! Except, well, I’ll get to that).

    My first MMO, and I hate to say it, was Runescape. Terrible game by any standard. Outdated graphics, click and watch numbers kind of combat, more scum and villainy than Mos Eisley, but being in Junior High, everyone played it. Hours and hours of the most tedious, mindless grinds, and I happily endured it because I did the most grinding than all of my friends, and I got to show off in their face about some vanity, useless thing that proved it.

    It was at this time I joined a clan, and boy was it an eye-opener. And not in a good way.

    Now, I thought myself as pretty accomplished, having a party hat and rune armor, and sure, I’ve seen random people walking around in shinier party hats and more elaborate rune armor, but those people, to me, had something that was obviously inherently unobtainable, and so I ignored them.

    That wasn’t possible in a clan. As I got closer and closer and developed more and more friendships, temporary as they might be, my worldview changed. These were no longer random people who had better things than I did, these were friends, peers, a group I was so used to lord over as master of everything Runescape! It seemed like everyone in my clan had shiner party hats, more elaborate rune armor, and so on and so forth that I could not stand being inferior (Bear with me here, I was in Junior High).

    I grinded even more, for days and days, weeks and weeks, and as I kept at it and gained more and more rewards, it seemed, so did my clan-mates. It was a self imposed grind treadmill, for no purpose other than social competition.

    Ironically enough, the one thing that broke me out of it was my introduction to WoW. Not just any WoW, mind you, it was a private server WoW, obviously illegal even to my just-out-of-middle-school-and-never-played-wow-in-my-life mind. However, again, some real life friends played, and I joined.

    Now, if you know nothing of private servers, they are buggy, laggy, crashy, and generally unpleasant in every way to play on. I think it’s a testament to Blizzard’s skill at game making that even a crude imitation kept me so enthralled.

    A while after I found said private server, I found myself a guild, and as I talked, and grouped, and when I hit 70 and was geared (This was in BC), raided with them, I was absolutely in love. Guild chat there was some of the most entertaining experiences I’ve ever had, and I dearly loved each and every single one of my guildies, and by extension, the game, crashes and all.

    Sure, it was never anywhere near the quality of real WoW, but I felt that, as long as I could log in and see green text, it was more than worth it, considering that I wasn’t even paying for it!

    That is not to say, of course, that I recommend private servers at all. If I’d had to pay a single cent for it, I would have quit the very day I joined (I remember it like yesterday, there was crashes every 15 minutes or so, and I only stayed on because my real life friend kept pushing me to keep giving it a try, play just a little bit more). And, eventually, as private servers are want to do, it crashed, and never came back online.

    At this point, the guild scattered, some were never to be heard from again, others decided to reroll on another private server, and some decided the roll on any number of real WoW servers, scattered throughout the realm. I was one of those.

    And thus, here I am today. After a lot of guild hopping, and guild disbands, and lots and lots of drama, I found myself of a great guild, if not progression wise by any standard, then certainly people-wise. No matter what loot, or better raid experience I could get if I /gquit or even transferred, no purples will ever be able to replace the green text in my chat box.

    I guess the point of the story is, that after playing terrible game after terrible game, and even now being in a, gamewise speaking, pretty poor guild, I would not trade it for the world. That, there is a certain quality to guilds, that social interaction allows one to overlook many faults with the game itself, regardless of how egregious they may be, and a proper social experience is essential to the enjoyment of a game.

    • Gordon says:

      Fantastic story. I find the whole private server thing very interesting – I don’t know much about them and I can’t really think of a reason why anyone would actually want to play on one other than saving money (but it’s such a small amount it doesn’t seem worth it). I definitely take your point about social interaction allowing you to overlook faults in the game and just enjoy it with your friends. I think that’s definitely a strength of MMOs and something we’re probably forgetting now. It’s about having fun, not about the game being “perfect”.

  10. spinks says:

    Actually, it’s my guild in WoW that keeps me coming back, because they’re great. And having been around for a few years now, I feel I know some of them fairly well (for online friends, anyway).

  11. Chris says:

    A good guild can add a lot to a game. MMOs are, after all, a social activity. In some games, having a guild isn’t as important as others but I still find my time enriched by the fact that I’m part of a group of other players. In the sea of anonymous faces, there’s a group that’s familiar and consistent. I like that a lot. Otherwise, I tend to feel all alone.

    Guilds to me are more important as social tools first and advancement tools second. I’ve stayed with guilds that struggled to fill raids in WoW just because I was friends with the people that were there day after day. Even now, two years after leaving, the server it was on still feels more like home than any other.

  12. Dblade says:

    Depends how much you need others in a game to progress. if the game is focusing around 6-18 people a guild is vital, and if you dont have a good one might as well quit, PUGS seem universally reviled these days.

    • Gordon says:

      I think WoW is really to blame for the bad rep that PUGs get. I find it kinda funny, and ironic, that people hate PUGs yet pretty much everyone in a PUG is part of some other guild and probably has plenty of successful groups. PUGs fail because people have a bad opinion of them before they even start… and also that games like WoW let people get away with bad manners too easily :)

  13. Ferrel says:

    Guilds get a bad wrap these days because they’re “too much work” or “cause drama” but they really are the foundation of MMOs.

    These days so many players go it alone or with a few friends that they don’t lay down deep roots into the community. While a guild does not ensure this happens it certainly increases the chances. Guilds build wonderful relationships and keep players in game even after they might have otherwise quit.

    If anything I think it would be a wise business decision for designers to encourage guild membership. Their retention rates would go up.

    Without Sodality at my side I don’t even know if I’d play MMOs anymore.

  14. Although it’s not called a guild in EvE-Online, ‘corps’ are a very important part of the game for many people, including newbie players.

    When I first played in 2006 I had no idea what to do. I played through the tutorial and everything but I was lost in space with no direction. The only thing I knew was that I wanted a big awesome ship to fly around. :P

    I joined a corp called the Dragonian Freelancers Academy and they showed me all the ropes. It felt so awesome to be with other new players and being taught by some old players who actually enjoyed teaching us.

    I have been in and out of corps since then but none have ever had as much of an impact as that first one.

    • Gordon says:

      I haven’t played EVE a lot since I got back from holiday (which is a shame cause I want to get into it more) but certainly one of my intentions is to join a corp. I think that EVE is the sort of game where corps are almost mandatory to really get the most out of it unlike, say, WoW in which you can still solo away quite happily.

  15. Yetian says:

    I have written a recent post along similar lines on mmo-symposium.com. I recently came back from our 3rd guild meet. I chose to write my post more about the fldifference between in game friends and those in the real world, as well as the crossover between the two.

    For me my guild is at least half the reason I play eq2 and if the core longstanding members left for another game I would give it a try. If the said game wasn’t as much fun as eq2 but had my guild there I would move simply to have the increased fun my guild provides.

    So in short guilds are very important for me in mmo’s and as previous comments have mentioned mmo’s are supposed to be about interaction with other players.

  16. nugget says:

    Hm. What’s a good guild? *scritchy head*

    For me, it’s one where you can trust every guild member to stand up for you, whether you’re right or wrong. Or whether they are. Who will back you up. Who will risk loss for you. Who will face ‘hopeless odds’ for you. (All mutual of course!) Even if you don’t approve of your guildie’s behaviour, and wouldn’t do it yourself.

    Which, I think, definitely isn’t everyone’s idea of a good guild. Lol!

    I’ve never had a guild like that in WoW or Guild Wars. The only guild I’ve been in that I’ve ever really missed, and still miss, was my PvP guild in the MUD I called my home for about 8 years (I’ve left and no longer play).

    Maybe it was because we were a PvP guild as well… there was a solidarity to that guild (Hi Grendels! If anyone is reading, it’s Love! lol!) that I’ve never found anywhere else.

    I don’t expect to find something like that ever again. The context was different, the community was smaller, the models of the worlds in terms of design structure are totally different.

    …but that doesn’t stop me from missing it.

    • Gordon says:

      I think it’s important to find a guild that has players that share your playstyle i.e. casual, hardcore etc, otherwise you’re never going to have any fun. I get easily stressed and I found raiding tough going especially when I tried being a main tank for a while. Too much pressure!

      I know how you feel though – I really miss my EQ2 guild :) Thank goodness for Facebook!

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