Monday, July 12, 2010

Guild Perks

In an early preview of Cataclysm, one of the selling features was guild talents. The idea was that your guild would go up levels based on participation from the players, and then you'd get talent points to invest in a tree that would benefit your entire guild.

Since then the developers have decided that having an actual talent tree is probably a bad idea. Choices are fun, but in the case of guild talents they would be fun only for those who got to make the choice, and they would be a source of strife and drama for the multitudes who didn't get to be involved in that decision making process. For example, they said, suppose you are in a guild because you are friends with the other guild members. They all raid while you mostly PvP. They will choose raiding guild talents and you will be faced with a tough choice that doesn't add to anyone's fun: stick with your friends for the social aspect of the guild or leave for a guild that chose the PvP talents to support your playstyle. Instead, they have opted to get rid of the talent trees and give guilds "perks" as they level up. Basically it's all the same content, but with no choices involved and all guilds get all the perks.

A very good point, but it carried with it a strong implication that ran contrary to how I assumed guild talents would work. They were basically saying there would be guild talents that made you better at PvP and PvE. Talents that would have enough of an effect to leave you feeling handicapped by not having them. Is the problem really the choice and the guild drama, or is the problem that this sort of talent exists in the first place? had a view of the current state of guild perks a couple of weeks ago. If you haven't seen them yet then take a moment to look at them before you continue.

The talents that the developers would be concerned about here are the talents that increase heroism and honor point gains by 10%. While most of the talents favour PvE over PvP, those are the only talents that have to do with gearing up and beating your enemies that you might feel really let down if you didn't have. The ability to summon your guild helps raiding and doesn't really do anything for PvP, but it's a minor convenience issue, not one that affects your progression.

The real problem is that these perks that increase the rate at which you can acquire last-tier's gear aren't a good idea in either system. They will feel pretty exciting when you first unlock them and start getting extra points, but several months into cataclysm all of the big guilds will have those perks. That will mean that everyone will expect to have the perks and rather than seeming like a bonus, not having them is going to seem like a penalty. No one will feel like they are getting 10% more honor points, but there will be people out there who feel like they are getting 9% less honor points. There will be people who want to start new guilds and can't because no one wants to join a guild without the perks. They will be a source of aggravation without being a source of satisfaction or fun.

Those aren't the only talents that fall into this category either. Getting more reagents when you use gathering professions is the same. Everyone is going to feel like "15% more" is the standard, and someone who chooses to be guildless or who plays in a very small guild of very casual players will just get 13% less. In fact this may be even more true for gathering professions than for honor/heroism points. The value of gathered materials is set by the market, so other people getting more directly devalues what you get. What is the reasoning behind imposing this on casual players?

There are lots of great examples of perks on the list. Instant mail between guild members, summoning a remote guild bank and having 10% of cash gains added to the guild bank are all spectacular. Perks that give personal benefits to the members of the guild are not good ideas as guild benefits because they do not benefit the guild. They benefit the members of the guild, which is a very different thing. Perks that give individual benefits mean that there is a selfish incentive for people to attach themselves to large established guilds over working with their own guild. This is an incentive the game does not need.

This is something that is particularly risky because once these benefits have been handed out it will create a lot of backlash if they are taken back. I hope that individualized benefits as guild perks can be stamped out entirely during the testing phase, before they go live. I don't have a huge interest in perks vs. talents (I would be the one choosing the talents anyway) but I do have an interest in the benefits given by them being guild benefits rather than individual benefits.

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