Raid Alliances, and What Could Have Been

There was a time during Wrath when I thought that we’d broken the mould.

The random dungeon finder had just been released. Emblems rained from the heavens to outfit everybody and their alts in T9 equivalent. And in every nook and cranny of Dalaran, PUGs sprouted newborn to tackle various tiers of raid content. Gold DKP runs rewarded experienced raiders for carrying rich alts and newbies. And suddenly, guilds were no longer the gatekeepers of group-based content in Warcraft.

When people wanted to run heroic instances, the advice was no longer a smug, “Join a better guild.” If people wanted to raid, no longer were they pressured into a raid guild. It was to be a new era of people being able to join guilds (or not) as social clubs, and access their group content through a variety of other channels.

And still, despite the gearscore mavens and hapless ninjas, this is how Wrath has played out. My new DK alt has gotten plenty of heroic runs, and already been able to check out raids to Tempest Keep and the Vault of Archavon. And not a single one of those was with a guildie (because the guild is quiet at the moment outside raid times). Yet I was still able to play my alt in groups, and it didn’t involve hours waiting around trying to persuade random people that they wanted a dps DK or trying to schedule with my guild.

In this brave new world, people could form guilds for all sorts of reasons, divorced from the mechanics of the game. Or in other words, you would not be driven to guild with people who wanted to complete the same group content and played at the same skill/commitment level. Never mind Blizzard’s old mantra of requiring people to be in a persistent team for the entire expansion. PUGs would set us free.

In Cataclysm, I increasingly feel, we will be thunderously thrown back into our boxes. Far from being more casual friendly, group content will be more gated than ever before. And heaven help the player who cannot commit to a weekly raid schedule, if they have an interest in raiding. Or the player who has friends who don’t all play at a similar skill level (the big downfall for 10 man raiding).

I like guilds, but I couldn’t eat a whole one

I love guilds myself. Ever since I was first invited by a random person to sign a guild charter in DaoC, I have been hooked. And it’s because I love guilds that I don’t want to play a game where I have to swap guilds any time my playing times change or my interests take a different turn.

I enjoy being part of a large in-game group with common goals. I just don’t want those goals (and that community) to be tied in so tightly with the class/spec I play, the online times I can make, and my gearscore.

Keen has a revolutionary take on how MMOs and guilds have evolved. He hates the tyranny of guilds and thinks they have become far too key. He also comments on how often guild drama or breakups chase people away from games. I’m sure that I am not the only person who ever left a game after a guild broke up – I was so invested in my old TBC raid guild that I had no energy left to start again after they split. (At least not for at least 6 months.)

And Blizzard DID have options. They could have kept their new shiny guild plans without chasing people into regiments that were organised around 10 clones wanting to do the same content.

We could have had guild alliances

Imagine an alternative future. A future in which you could be a member of a guild, and also of several different alliances or communities. Each alliance/ community would be formed because of a shared interest in a specific type of group content. Guilds, on the other hand, would be primarily social groups.

So if your alliance broke up over raid drama, you wouldn’t lose your guild. And vice versa. And if your interests or timetable changed, you could change alliance/ community without having to lose contact with your guild friends.

And all Blizzard would have had to do is to actually support alliances. Offer alliance channels, alliance timetables, and maybe even alliance banks. Recognise that people don’t like switching guilds and leaving their friends just because they have different progression goals. And maybe even add in some larger, PUG friendly raiding content alongside the main line of progression. Something for groups of mixed ability.

Maybe that was just too hard. Maybe they didn’t even consider it. Maybe the hardcore EQ raiders who were at the original core of Blizzard raid design just had too much influence over the design team, and they had no interest in setting players free.

But mark my words, a year from now we will look back and see this period in Wrath as our brief time of freedom from guild tyranny.

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10 thoughts on “Raid Alliances, and What Could Have Been

  1. Maybe I’m being thick but I’m not following quite what the problem is.

    There have always been semi-casual guilds that raid 5 nights and want you available for 3. That’s not that onerous is it?

    Will it no longer be possible to run a guild that way in Cataclysm?

  2. Alliances would just add a level of convenience to WoW.
    They suffer the same problems as guilds: drama may break them, leaving their members alone, falling back to where they came from to wine about something they “left” the guild for. Hm.
    But I would like that kind of convenience to and I fear the upcoming tyranny of guilds.
    I’m member of Malygos Open Raid, raiding ICC10/25 2-3 times a week with a multiguild group (+2 selforganised runs). It’s fun and nobody ever asked to create/merge guilds to continue raiding. I hope, Blizz’s guild plans don’t change that.

  3. I’m an old EQ raider, so my opinion is a bit different coming from that background. Running a guild and holding it together is hard work. Showing up every week for a set number of days takes commitment. Wiping over and over to learn new tactics takes perserverance. Studying up on raid encounters and making sure that you have consumables takes dedication. Learning new bosses, adapting you tactics and downing new bosses takes skill.

    IMO, allowing so many to have access to all the content without a significant investment of hard work, commitment, perserverance, dedication and skill lessens the feeling of accomplishment that you get when you down a new boss or get that new piece of gear.

    Don’t get me wrong. Not having all these traits doesn’t make you a noob. There are tons of raiders out there who have two or three of these traits. Maybe a very skilled player who isn’t able to put for the time commitment or a dedicated new player who just hasn’t had the experience to gain the skill yet. There is a wide variety of guild out there with different levels of all of these traits. They can all provide enjoyable gaming experiences.

    I just feel like those that are able/willing to cultivate all of these traits should be rewarded with more than a souped up version of fights we’ve already done or gear that has the same name and appearance with just a bit better stats.

    I feel like we’ve sunk to a place where everyone feels like they are entitled to accessing all the content and having access to the best gear without a significant investment in the game.

    Vyll

  4. Raid Coms can help seperate the grief of Raiding from the rest of Guild Drama. This reduces friction hugely. It therefore results in LESS drama all round and when one or the other insitution dies (as these things do) it leaves players with a support structure. So your raid com folded with LK blues…well the guilds still around giving you a rebuild point and some folk to bitch about it with. Likewise if your guild folds then your Raiding buds will no doubt be able to help or even take you in to their guilds….at least you’ll know a few people up front.

    As Spinks points out more of these structures Guilds, Alliances, Crafting societies, Pet collectors clubs whatever bind people more to the game. The more we rely on one social structure the worse it is when it fails. More ‘social structures’ = greater involvement and less players stopping playing. Blizz are missing a trick here. Guild Halls with Vendors, Trophies with listings of who won PVP or PvE victories, Portraits of past and current GM’s, RL’s, Arena Champions and so on would be rather nice as well.

  5. I LOVE the idea of having one social group and one “content” group. Right now I’m in a chat channel that links friends across guild from different skill levels. And I’m happy with my guild because it mixes social and progression for me perfectly. But from all the situations I’ve been in over the years in WoW, I think the best system would really be to have one social group and then cross-guild raid alliances that you could plug into when you want to do certain content.

    I also think it’s going to be important for Blizz to expand the longevity of early raid tiers in some way so that groups with mixed skill levels can still go in there and have fun without feeling like they aren’t getting any rewards.

  6. Doesn’t the possibility to create any kind of chatchannel you want in combination with the built-in calender actually give a pretty good ground for un-guilded arrangements?

    For my own part I must admit that I rely heavily on belonging to a guild and strong incentives for guilds to stick together. Because I DON’T know a single person in the world who plays wow from real life, I DON’T have any friends I’ve been playing with for 10 years over different games. Without my guild I would be alone and lost. That’s the harsh truth. I’m not a socializer and I’d soon quit the game since it would be barely anymore than a solo-game with some crappy chat channels as /trade to get annoyed at.

    I’m actually very happy with the emphasis on guilds in Cataclysm, minimizing the risk that it all will turn into an utterly lonely experience where you pugged x-realm and never got to know anyone at all…

    Guilds are actually much more likely to let an “outsider” like me come in, thanks to gear, experience, need of class etc. While social circles are very much set and almost impossible to break into for a 40+ slightly geeky and socially unskilled lady.

  7. I actually believe that it’s easier for non-affiliated players to socialise in larger guilds. Especially larger guilds with a disparate range of abilities and interests. Social guilds still recruit, in fact they don’t have a quota.

    In any case, now imagine that your guild splits up for some reason — maybe half of them leave for Cataclysm for example, and the remnants try to keep raiding but fail miserably (this is what happened to a lot of guilds at the beginning of TBC, I’m not trying to depress you). Suddenly you have contacts scattered between wherever it is that they go to, some have left the game altogether or gone to different servers, and there’s nowhere left for you, and the guild you loved is gone.

    If you had a separate social guild then you still have the people you know. If the raid guild is all you have then when raids collapse, you have nothing. And what they don’t tell you is that when you’re not in a guild, the silence is deafening. No guild chat. No nothing.

    Maybe my experience is coloured by the fact that no one recruits prot warriors in their raid guilds, but I think it is more from the experience of being in guilds I loved which split up due to raid pressure. Also sometimes its nice to be in a guild with people who like you and not just because you drag their alts through instances on your tank or have the right spec for their raid.

    (Also on the offchance that anyone ever makes a guild for 40+ socially unskilled female geeks, I’d like to be able to join it without caring about whether people can run out of fires!)

  8. I understand where you’re coming from with this. My main’s guild is a small, mostly social guild. But, we are part of a fairly successful (working on Sindragosa-25N) multi-guild raid group called The Anvil. It’s an extended grouping of friends from many different guilds on Feathermoon-US. The officers in the raid are not necessarily officers in any of the guilds, and vice versa. Everything that’s done formally for a single guild, we as a raid have to do the “hard way”–use bank alts as a raid bank instead of the handy guild bank, use a named chat channel instead of guildchat, all that stuff.

    Now enter what they’ve talked about in Cataclysm with guild levels and progression and whatnot. They’ve already said that they have no plans to extend this to raid alliances. So we’re going to be behind other, single-guild raids in terms of the perks we can offer, because our component guilds will “level” more slowly since no one guild makes up a majority of our main 25-man raid.

    We have no plans to change how we do things–we’re not going to ditch our component guilds for one mega-guild to cover the raid, because each of our various guilds are different, have different themes, different roleplay, different atmospheres in general. We’ll deal with the disadvantages. But it’s annoying to me that Blizzard is herding us toward this “guild = raid” box and ignoring smaller guilds who team together to conquer high-end content.

  9. You’re FREAKIN’ ME OUT, man!

    Sadly well written, depressingly convincing. It’s the commitment that kills me- you don’t find out that a guild is not for you until you’re actually in it, and forget about getting to see the inside of a raid without one.

    Sigh.

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