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?