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Officers' Quarters: Cataclysm's benefits for guild organization

the scrapped guild talent trees
Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook, available now from No Starch Press.

As I predicted back in the summer of 2009, Cataclysm changed WoW's guilds and the guild experience more than any other expansion in the game's history. Many of these changes were a boon to officers, but even the positive changes sometimes had unfortunate drawbacks. Other changes were not as welcome. Let's look back and see how each of these shifts in game and guild design have affected us as officers over the past year and how Blizzard could improve them in the future.

What we didn't get

Every expansion has its list of announced features that don't make the cut. Two guild features that eventually got the axe were guild talents and guild currency.

Despite arguing in favor of guild talents, replacing them with universal perks was probably the right move for Blizzard at the time. With all the other upheaval that guilds had to endure during Cataclysm, choosing talents would have been one more unwelcome source of stress for officers. However, I still believe that providing us with more in-game ways to distinguish one guild from another is desirable and good.

Forcing officers to choose between PvE and PvP talents isn't the right way to do it. Guilds should be able to support all gameplay preferences equally if they so choose.

If guild talents are ever reconsidered, they should be more fun and less functional. For example, give us a talent tier that lends our guild's support to a faction leader. Choosing Sylvanas lets us summon val'kyrs once a day to deal damage, rez you, or drop your opponent off the side of a really high tower. Make it completely overpowered -- and unusable anywhere but in the open world.

The demise of guild currency

Guild currency was a clunky idea from the beginning. The original concept allowed guilds to unlock the banners, pets, mounts, and so forth that we earn through reputation and achievements today. The currency would have allowed us to purchase certain crafting materials, as well as guild heirlooms that could be given out to members. The heirloom item would default to the guild bank if the player left the guild.

Tying rewards to rep/achievements and letting players buy their own heirlooms are better solutions. Even so, it would have be pretty nice right now to trade currency for feast materials that always seem to be in short supply.

Where I'd eventually like to see this currency idea reappear is for guild housing or guild airships. Allow guilds to earn currency and use that currency to upgrade their stuff. Gold is too easy to obtain, and begging your players for contributions would be awkward. Thus, a form of guild currency would make sense for housing or vehicle upgrades.

Puzzling reputation design

Blizzard's replacement for the scuttled currency system is guild reputation. It's so bizarre to me that this is essentially a solo rep grind, similar to any other NPC rep in the game. I get that doing solo stuff also helps to level your guild, but this system could have been so much more. The current implementation is a huge missed opportunity to reward players for actively supporting guilds.

Leveling and Achievements: A mixed bag

When Cataclysm first released, leveling your guild and earning achievements was a fresh and exciting experience. Guildmates cheered as their organization dinged, providing everyone with handy perks. Earning achievements to unlock mounts, pets, and crucial raiding recipes like cauldrons and feasts brought guilds together toward a common purpose. The nerfs to certain achievement requirements early in the expansion were a welcome change, especially for smaller communities.

Game-supported methods of investing time and energy to improve our guilds lends additional value to our communities. Knowing what it takes to max out a guild means that guild leaders will hesitate to disband them when things go sour. That is healthy for both guilds and the game.

However, these improvements were not completely positive for guilds. Newer guilds have had a more difficult time getting off the ground than they otherwise might. Players in max-level guilds have been spoiled by a cornucopia of quality of life improvements. Foregoing those to take a chance on a brand new community is daunting.

To combat this, I would like to see newly formed guilds have their own set of temporary perks that last for a month or two after the charter is completed. They don't have to mirror what a max-rank guild would have by any means, but right now the complete absence of perks contrasts too starkly.

Finally, finally -- UI improvements

I complained about the horrible old guild UI for at least three years. Before Cataclysm it had not changed since the launch of the game in November 2004. The new UI could stand a few improvements, such as identifying alts within the roster window, but overall the interface has been massively improved. It's a welcome change for guild leaders and officers everywhere, and I hope that Blizzard continues to refine it.

The Guild Finder fails

Much like Blizzard's in-game voice chat, the Guild Finder tool is essentially a nonfeature. I haven't heard about too many guilds using it successfully. I've tried to encourage guilds to make use of it, since recruiting is such a perennial problem. However, I really don't blame people for ignoring this option. It's simply too limited in its current form, particularly when it comes to touching base with the recruit in question.

I'd like to see Blizzard offer more and better options to support recruitment in the future. Using the official Guild Recruitment forum is an unorganized nightmare for both officers and recruits alike. Blizzard continues to improve matchmaking for dungeon and raid groups -- maybe some day you'll be able to click on some preferences, hit a button, and the game will find the perfect guild for you while you grind out your dailies.

Next week in part 2, I'll move on to the big game-changers for raiding guilds in Cataclysm -- the controversial new loot and lockout systems and the Raid Finder.

/salute

Recently, Officers' Quarters has examined how strong new leadership can create a guild turnaround, the pitfalls of promising more than you can deliver, and lessons learned from Scott's own guild demise. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to scott@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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