Level segregation: the problem with guilds

This duck is only level 5

This duck is only level 5

As I’ve jumped around from game to game this past year, I’ve always made it a point to be sure I have an active guild to play with. I did the same with every character I had on WoW. This morning, playing through Fallen Earth without a guild, I did some thinking about why this is and I’ve come to the conclusion that guilding is a pretty lackluster.

Probably the biggest reason for this is that it works against the level system. Guilding is all about being social and working together with other players; however, if a level 30 wants to group with a level 15, they’re going to receive some kind of negative impact in most games. Be it less XP, less reward, or what have you, that level 30 is self-sacrificing if they decide to help that 15. Those two players, more often than not, are names on a chat screen.

Mentoring systems help this but the unfortunate truth is that most games tack these on as afterthoughts to the original game. Many, like WoW, don’t even consider it worth their time to develop. Even when in effect, there is still little reward for that high level player and less incentive for the system to be utilized outside of cliques and real life relationships.

As a result level segregation, guilds also perpetuate the idea that the end game is where the “real” game is at. Why? Because that’s where the segregation disappears (or lessens, at least) and guilds begin to function at their

Mentoring in acton

Mentoring in action

intention. Two players at max level can plan and enact events, such as dungeon runs or PvP groups, and use guild chat as a means towards actual game play. This type of intra-guild grouping sets lower level players apart from the “real” guildies.

There might be a tendency to resent the cliques that come about because of this but the higher level players are not to blame. When it comes to value in a guild, higher level players can contribute more, and more often, where the

lower level players tend to expend their efforts towards leveling, reinforcing the stereotype of upper level dedication. In the end, you have a guild broken by level, larger than its core of raiders/pvp’ers, with outlier levelers scrabbling to get past the content as quick as possible to join their “friends” at level cap. Just like grouping, the problem isn’t the players, it’s the system.

Ironically, the way to circumvent this failing of the guild system is by stepping outside of the game itself and turning to third party programs such as Ventrilo. Voice is the great equalizer. It’s harder to ignore the person talking in your ear than scrolling by on guild chat. Likewise, the person on vent isn’t likely to point out that they’re 20 levels and two years newer than you. That doesn’t matter. When you hear someone’s voice, they become a person more than a character and the guild builds stronger bonds within itself.

The solution to the guilding problem is two-fold:

1. Introduce a mentoring system rewarding to the high level player.

If there’s a good reason for the 80 to help the 20 rather than run a 5-man, they will. Someone needs to make a system that casts level segregation to the wind and lets players actually play together without punishing them.

2. Introduce guild-wide voice chat.

When voice got introduced to WoW, their excuse for not allowing this is that it would create too much lag. I wonder about that excuse; however, there’s nothing stopping WoW from creating a separate voice chat app. that runs outside of the game. Blizzard’s acceptance of third-party applications as necessities is apparent when you look at the history of add-ons with the game; however, it’s not acceptable for a company to pass the buck. It’s lazy servicing and only allowed because the players have accepted it as the norm.

At the end of the day, I join guilds as a low level player because it’s nice to have other people to talk to in-game. When vent is available and used, that’s all the better. I don’t join guilds with high-end raiding in mind because, outside of WoW, it’s not a reality for a player like me. Yet, often, when I choose which one to join, I look at those things just in case. If nothing else, they make the game less lonely.

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