Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) is coming out with a pretty cool update at the end of this month. It has a new adventure pack, some new skills and what not, but the biggest feature, in my opinion, are the guild airships. The guild airships effectively take the place of guild halls and guild banks that appear in other MMOs. The guild airships feature coincides with a guild leveling mechanic that will also launch with Update 5. I think that in many MMOs guilds are one of the most overlooked features, and having a guild project will be a great addition to DDO.
I was a little spoiled with guild features with my first MMO A Tale in the Desert. Not only could a player be part of multiple guilds, but guilds themselves actually had purpose above and beyond an exclusive chat channel. For instance, one guild – let’s call it OilCo – was created to build a massive deep well, which would unearth petroleum. In the first Telling it required hundreds of man hours, and each slot in OilCo was bought like a share by main guilds. So not only did the main guild have a guild project in gathering the huge amount of resources necessary to buy a share, but OilCo itself had purpose in maintaining the deep well and sharing out the dividends. Nothing I have played since has even come close to the purpose given to guilds in A Tale in the Desert (although from what I hear EVE Online and Darkfall seem the closest behind).
In World of Warcraft, and similar games, guild projects are implied. The guild becomes stronger as its members become stronger. As the guild progresses in leveling and raiding decisions are made to funnel resources in ways that make the guild stronger. This is why the main tank gets first dibs because if the main tank is stronger, raids are easier for the whole guild. Yet, this guild purpose is not very collective. It’s ultimately individualistic and selfish in nature. Sure, Raider Bob could farm herbs for hours to make sure everybody gets a Potion of Noburn, but ultimately the reward for all the work is selfish to each raider.
In Warhammer Online, the guild projects are more explicit, but they are unfocused. A guild has a level, which is based on the amount of XP activity by guild members. A guild that RvRs all day will grow in level and power, while a guild of roleplayers will not. The rewards are tangible, but the purpose can be lost because a guild member can do nearly anything to advance the guild level.
DDO’s guild system seems to be an iteration or two beyond Warhammer Online’s. Details are still a little hazy, but the guild members will work towards gaining Renown for their guild in order to gain a guild level. At level 25, the guild can get an airship, which can be slotted with a lot of features, such as access to the auction house. At level 50 or so Renown noticeably decays. It is unclear if specific tasks will create greater Renown, or if it follows a Warhammer Online do-anything-to-level model.
It is a well-known fact that MMOs that have people playing together are more successful. The more purpose an MMO gives to players for their guild, the more likely a guild will work and stay together to achieve goals. An aimless guild is one that will not last long.