Ravious (and the Fifth Telling) have me missing our camp from way back in the original A Tale in the Desert. It’s funny that guilds felt so much more meaningful in the game where you could have more than one, although maybe raiders appreciate their guild ties more.
An essential difference, as Ravious says, is collective rather than individual advancement. If I get a piece of armor, my character has a piece of armor, but if I make a charcoal furnace, everyone in the guild can use it. If we felt like it, we could set it up so that any passing visitor could use it; some guilds built public camps so that new players would have access without starting from zero. I made something and everyone benefited, even after I logged off.
I miss the commune. I have seen guild vaults used for collective sharing, but trust and space issues in large guilds tend to narrow that. Southern Star Guild (ATitD) had many shared chests and no assigned duties. You did what interested you, whether or not you needed the output of that activity, and there is a good chance that someone had already made the input you needed. Harvest that wood, someone will need it sometime. Reset the pottery wheels or the loom if you are going by.
Part of the benefit came from building something in the game world rather than having it attached to a character. We have all helped friends, I hope, and sometimes you help your friends and guildmates as a way of improving the guild. If the tank has a higher gearscore, everyone in the raid benefits. Back when we used to have */Regeneration Scrappers tank Hamidon in City of Heroes, I traded a non-guild Scrapper a Golgi Exposure (Health/Endurance, probably the most valuable thing in the game at the time) for something less valuable just because everyone on the server could benefit from his personal improvement. But how much more willing would you be to contribute to group success if your contribution really would be permanent, something that would stick around even if this person leaves the game? And would you be more likely to contribute to a moderate benefit for your guild or a small benefit for (potentially) everyone in the game?
What if you could build a crafting station somewhere convenient? Or some sort of permanent buff, always active in a zone? Would you wear a tabard that turned your faction gains into some sort of gain for the guild, maybe improving a guild hall or granting the enter guild faction status? Even if ridiculously expensive, these seem like good projects that can bring people together in support of them. We all celebrated when our Warhammer Online guild leveled; less so when our Lord of the Rings Online guild leveled, because that is simply a matter of time.
A Tale in the Desert has been very good for those collective goals, although I have no idea how much the new Telling will encourage them. You could have guild-owned property, so you build something for your group. You could donate property to the public, so anyone can use it (ideally things that do not wear out, due to the tragedy of the commons). There was research at regional universitites, and you contributed for the improvement of all Egypt or the glory of your region.
You see this occasionally in some games, although usually more in the form of a collective grind (like unlocking ATitD research). WoW had AQ, LotRO had Book 14 and the turtle.
Horizons Istaria had this baked right in, with players working collectively to unlock zones and races, and you could pay others for helping you build things by plugging in money to exchange for materials.
One thing I miss is project-specific guilds. Because you could be in multiple guilds, new guilds would form like corporations or subcommittees of the local civic association. The Nileside Cafe built a line of kitchens to help people perfect their gourmet skills. Groups working on a pilgrimage or megalopolis would form a guild for internal communication. It was how you formed groups that let people communicate and cooperate across days and weeks. (One assisting factor is how chat channels work(ed): the last X lines of text said in a channel were visible to everyone in that channel, rather than sending a message to everyone logged on. It was like having an in-game whiteboard for every guild.)
Back when WoW raids were heavily tiered and gated, did anyone ever try that idea of having guilds dedicated to each dungeon?
You’d have guilds like the Karazhan Dragons or the Knights of Serpentshrine, and all that guild does is organizing raids to the one dungeon they were made for. Once people have all the loot from Karazhan, they quit the Karazhan Dragons and join the Knights of Serpentshrine without guild drama, because now this is what is actually expected of them. Others might opt to stay behind longer because they like Karazhan as a place, or prefer smaller raids, and become the experienced raid leaders in the Karazhan guild.
Sadly, the standard guild monogamy makes you choose between this and your home guild.
We always talk about making games meaningful and persistent, letting players affect the world. Let’s talk about letting players affect the world together.