The end of last week was a huge info dump in Guild Wars 2 with 6 blog posts detailing the guild system that is coming with the Heart of Thorns expansion. I admit with the extent of this information, I have not been able to process the entirety of it, but my gut reaction was that “they are bringing ‘guild’ in to Guild Wars”.
Guilds have been part of the lore since the pre-history of Guild Wars 1, where they were so powerful they started shaping the flow of kingdoms. The kings were not able to control them. They fought against one another. There was no peace across the land. It was in a way ironic to name the game after such a dark time. I wonder what some original concepts of Guild Wars 1 looked like; EVE Online perhaps? Finally, the charr invaded and the human kingdoms crumbled since the guilds, more powerful than any kingdom’s army, were already embroiled in conflicts of their own.
The power of the guilds never reached any similar level in the gameplay of Guild Wars 1. The closest it may have come to this prehistory might was a huge reputation grind in Factions, where a guild could “own” an outpost. The GvG system also helped a little in that a guild was an entity that fought on the leaderboards. It appeared that whatever powerful mechanics guilds would have imagined by early ArenaNet, they really did not culminate.
Guild Wars 2 had this inside joke: “where are the guild wars?” Guilds could claim objectives in World vs. World, which had little meaning to the attackers. Guilds joined teams for competitive PvP, but they felt like a shadow of Guild Wars 1 where people would sell off guilds that had won championships just to be able to have a cape trim. In Guild Wars 2 PvP teams will merge, separate, rename themselves and boot someone out without thought for the brand of that guild. A guild was a pretty bare social construct in early Guild Wars 2.
Finally, ArenaNet is going back to the earliest fiction and game concepts of what it meant to be a guild, and they are implementing those ideals in game.
For me personally, the biggest shift is with “the Pact in tatters”. The race-governed governments, and perhaps the melting pot of New, New Lion’s Arch, have created a Guild Initiative to mobilize guilds against the threats to Tyria. No longer are guilds a mere mechanical overlay to allow for grouping and chat; they are part of the story of the game.
In core Guild Wars 2 (“Pact Tyria”) everything revolved around either the racial/city-state government (human, charr, Lion’s Arch, etc.) or the Pact, where the three ultra-national Orders joined forces against the Elder Dragons. The player would become a commander of the pact, but guilds themselves were basically non-entities. The stage was too big, and apparently the power of the guilds was too small.
Now things have shifted. Tyria needs the guilds to pick up the pieces. It needs the guilds to mobilize against the threats. It needs these agile forces to reclaim parts of Tyria.
The biggest mechanical realization of this shift is the guild hall. The guild hall is basically a map that each guild owns. In game, these are places of power that the guild is defending from the Elder Dragons. A previous culture or civilization built the two guild halls available in Heart of Thorns, but they are gone now. The two guild halls coming with the expansion’s release, Lost Precipice (canyon cliff dwelling) and Gilded Hallow (cavern city of gold).
Beyond merely owning real estate, it appears the guild system has been refined to greater importance. Guild Teams can now be formed for PvP, which adds a guild progression and ranking system. Guild claiming in WvW is gaining greater importance as a guild’s ability to fortify objectives is greatly increased, and the tools a guild can create for WvW have been greatly increased, such a banner that allows allies to trample enemies, or the ability to call in a Pact Fleet bombardment to defend Stonemist Castle.
There is a fighting arena in the guild hall. There’s a new crafting profession for guilds. There’s a guild portal the guild can use to get their members transported to various staging grounds for guild missions or even Lion’s Arch. I am basically drowning at this point in how many extra there are for guilds, and I would tell you to definitely check out the Guild Wars 2 official blogs to get all the details. Dulfy as usual is amazing in her info gathering as well.
The “guild wars” in the Guild Wars series has always been a bit of a misnomer. Even “guild” in Guild Wars 2 has been but a footnote in the game. I really hope that with the start of the Heart of Thorns expansion ArenaNet is re-imagining the place for guilds in the MMO. I hope they continue down this road, and perhaps eventually we will get to the point where guild are fighting for power and influence as imagined in the actual Guild Wars.