Wednesday, April 25, 2007

You are who you know

I am wondering in how far your playing style in a game like World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings Online is influenced by the people you play with, especially your guild. I used to be playing casually in a casual guild, then raided in a raiding guild, and now in LotRO I'm roleplaying in a roleplaying guild. If I were in a PvP guild, would I like PvP more? Would somebody else who is currently heavily into raiding be just as happy doing something else, if only his guild mates were doing the same?

Most probably there are both types of players. Those who absolutely know what they want, and those who adjust their playstyle to whatever their friends are doing. It is an old mantra of the MMORPG genre that people keep playing these games to hang out with their friends. But apparently that isn't the case for everybody, because otherwise it would be hard to explain why some people change guild so often. Some people seem to be on a fixed trajectory, at their own personal speed, towards more and more challenging raid content. And if their friends aren't able to keep up with that speed, they move to the next guild, further along on that same path, until one day they arrive in a guild which fits their playing style.

The problem with selecting your friends to fit your playing style is that people change. In retrospect it becomes clear that all that guild drama in my first WoW guild was caused by people developing in different directions, or at least at different speeds. It is very hard to have a guild in harmony when some players are developing into hardcore raiders, and others barely budge from their casual roots. Real life constraints often cause that even if the casual people are willing to raid for friendships sake, they aren't as available or prepared as the really determined players, and just end up slowing them down.

My current WoW guild has a slightly different concept, beating the problem of differing interests by simply being huge. With nearly 200 people in the guild, there is always somebody around with similar interests. The downside of that is when those 200 people barely get two Karazhan teams together, and sometimes have to cancel 25-man raids because not enough players turn up. With everyone basically doing whatever they want, there isn't much of a sense of common purpose. With me not knowing when and how much WoW I will play in the coming months, such a guild suits me just fine right now. But such a losely organized guild doesn't do much to keep people playing beyond the point where they get bored with the game.

I don't know whether it is the atmosphere of LotRO, or the smaller guild with a common purpose, or the fact that its a roleplaying guild on a roleplaying server, but right now I feel a lot more comfortable in my LotRO guild. There is very little of the "have to keep up with the others" feeling, which makes WoW guilds feel like work sometimes. The big advantage of roleplaying guilds is that roleplaying doesn't require you to have a specific level, talent build, or availability in larger blocks of time. It's nicer if you are available for planned events, but if you can't, at least you don't feel as if you just lost out on DKP and future loot rights or raid spots. And if you show up, you're included. There is no "oh, we don't need a second rogue for this, sorry" argument that keeps you from playing with the others.

Nevertheless I don't regret having hung out with the raiders for some time. It turned out that I'm a decent enough raid healer, quite respected by the other raiders. At the very least that gives me the confidence that selecting my personal playstyle is a matter of preference, not ability, which makes the sometimes rude hardcore raider's comments on this blog easier to bear. Raiding is fun if you are in the mood for it, and it's not rocket science, most people would be able to do it if they have the dedication. I just did enough of it to last me for a while, and just don't want to do it any more. I now enjoy hanging out with different people, doing something completely different.

So, how is it for you? Are you doing what you are doing because that is what you always wanted to do? Or did you just find a group of nice people, and followed their lead? If your current guild changed focus and started doing something different, would you switch guild, or stick with them?

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