There is a lot of talk regarding the mechanics leap between Guild Wars 1 and its successor. We already know that Guild Wars 2 is changing the series in a big way with the inclusion of large persistent zones and the lack of exclamation point-type quests. There are so many other mechanics questions remaining unanswered. Will our skill bar be as limited as it was in the original Guild Wars? How will professions work across all the races? How will we find events, which seem to replace quests? Ad infinitum. These questions are all important to the enjoyability of the game and the feeling of Guild Wars. I feel there is another far more consequential mechanic that should be duplicated to Guild Wars 2. That mechanic is alliances.
Alliances are a simple feature to explain. One guild, often times a straw man guild, rules the alliance, and that guild invites up to 9 other guilds to join the alliance. The alliance benefits include first and foremost a shared chat channel that can be seen and used by ever guild member belonging to the alliance. The alliance also allows guild members to access any other alliance guild’s Guild Hall.
Alliances were originally released as a feature for Guild Wars Factions. An alliance would pledge allegiance to either Kurzicks or Luxons, and a battle to capture towns would take place between opposing alliances. The focus on the Kurzick-Luxon war is now largely downplayed except for a few hardcore alliances, but the importance of the other alliance features has grown.
As Guild Wars nears its 5th anniversary and people take time off from their accounts, it can be harder to find people to group with. Alliances provide a vetted pool of active players. Even as active guild membership in the older guilds continues to wane until Guild Wars 2, alliances can fill the gap with some worthwhile people.
Many other MMOs can create an exclusive community through password-protected chat channels. Yet, this creates a voluntary construct that can be largely ignored. Often times there are a few people in each guild in the chat channel that have to relay the information to their guild. Those chat channels are also very fluid in nature. There is no sense of permanency or belonging in a mere chat channel.
Adding bigger guild caps is also not the answer to emulating alliances. My guild created an alliance out of necessity. We were nearing 70 active members with a guild cap of 100. There was no way we could sustain the close-knit guild atmosphere if we started branching out as a mega-guild. So we closed our borders and started looking for like-minded guilds. The best part is that each guild retains its own distinct identity, but we are all on the same level of maturity. So, even though one guild might be made of real life friends and another guild might focus on PvP, reaching out across the alliance divide will provide some quality companionship.
As time has marched on beyond the Eye of the North expansion, alliances have begun to solidify in to a community that is very permanent in nature. Yet for all its cohesiveness, many guilds still retain a strong personal identity. I am sure plenty of alliances will (or already have) collapsed into a single guild, but ArenaNet must be careful in shifting guilds and alliances from the original Guild Wars to Guild Wars 2. Too much of an upset in the community system can create an unstable community at launch. If the soul of the alliance system is retained for Guild Wars 2 it will ensure that many old players that have long since laid their accounts to rest can come back to the community they were used to.
Brawndo’s got electrolytes