Monday, April 28, 2008

Who does that epic belong to? - More on guild hopping

It was my pen & paper roleplaying evening last night, so I didn't have much time to write. Due to current events I want to talk about guilds, loyalty, guild hopping, and related subjects this week. My crazy mini-post certainly got the discussion started. :) But as many people remarked, any solution where bop epics end up in the guild bank and can be picked up by somebody else aren't viable. And as somebody might get kicked out of a guild as easily as leaving it, the guild shouldn't profit from anyone leaving. So lets look at the problem methodically:

Before WoW, people were leaving guilds most often for reasons of not getting along with other people in the guild. Guild drama and people in a guild getting into fights is as old as guild themselves. But World of Warcraft added a new element: guild hopping for epics. This is due to the fact that if you are among the best equipped characters in your guild, your further progression slows down significantly. The guild as a whole progresses not at the speed of the first raider, but at the speed of the 25th. If you have for example full Karazhan gear, but the rest of the guild isn't as well equipped, the guild still needs to do a lot of Karazhan runs, in which you will gain nothing except badges. If you are wearing the same Karazhan gear but the rest of the guild is better equipped than you, the guild will be going to TK/SSC, and you'll have a good chance of getting better gear, plus you'll see new bosses. As a consequence people who raid the most in a guild and get ahead of everyone else get frustrated with progress, and leave the guild to join another guild that is more advanced in the raid circuit. They are guild hopping even if they personally got along very well with everyone else. But while this guild hopping speeds up epic gaining for the guy who left, it slows down the rest of his previous guild. Some guilds took forever to get from Karazhan to SSC, and had several throwbacks back to 10-man raids, because every time they had enough well equipped people, the people with the best gear left, taking that gear with them.

Of course the radical idea that they should leave the gear behind if they left is crazy. But the underlying question isn't that crazy at all: if you gain an epic in a guild raid, does that epic belong 100% to you, or should there be some notion of collective ownership? Most guild have loot rules which are designed to maximize the utility of an epic for the whole of the guild. You couldn't have gained that epic alone, without the guild raid. The guild assigned the loot to you because they thought that by giving it to you instead of somebody else it would do most good for the overall progress of the guild. And now you are free to take it with you to another guild? If you have ever been in a guild which suffered setbacks due to the people with the best gear leaving, you'll be able to understand the feeling that this can't be totally fair.

Of course any system to remedy this has to be much more carefully designed than yesterday's idea. But in the comments there were some good approaches. What if you had some sort of reputation score with your guild, gaining reputation points for every hour in a raid, every wipe, and every boss kill, and the stats of your raid epics would depend on your guild reputation level? To get maximum effect of your gear, you would need to be exalted with your guild, which involves raiding with them a lot. The day you leave the guild and join a new guild, you're back to neutral, and while you keep your gear, it loses a lot of stats due to decreased guild reputation. You can gain everything back by becoming exalted with the new guild again, but that'll take some dedication and work. So if somebody parts from some guild due to personal disagreements, he'll be able to recover. But hopping from one guild to the next every couple of weeks to maximize shiny purples wouldn't be viable any more.

There should be some in-game reward for guild loyalty, and the ability to resolve problems by other means than /gquit. A guild raid is very much a collaborative effort, and the epics you receive are a reward for that collaboration. Willfully ending that collaboration should incur some sort of penalty. In the old days of Everquest, where leveling up a character took much longer, and changing server or character name wasn't supported, people switching guilds often would find themselves blacklisted, with no guild willing to take them any more. Why would a guild invest itself in the personal progress of one of its members, if that member was leaving soon anyway? World of Warcraft has made it far too easy to screw your guild for selfish reasons, by giving you absolute ownership of the epics you only got through your guild. Some system that forces people to select their friends more carefully and encourages them to stick together would do wonders to the social cohesion of WoW.

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