“It is good to have friends, is it not, Mr. Garibaldi? Even if, maybe, only for a little while?”
“Even if only for a little while.”
— Londo and Garibaldi, Babylon 5
In City of Heroes, guilds were known as supergroups.
I didn’t join any for a while.
Not because I didn’t want to, but mostly there was no pressing need to (everyone did pickup groups) and I think I was hoping to get lucky and stumble across a perfect match like in my MUD days.
Turns out that an MMO is a lot bigger than a MUD.
It’s hard to be a known name or recognizable, and you sure didn’t seem to see the same people twice in your pickup groups.
I did eventually end up meeting a rather nice chap on the Justice server, who sent me an invite to his Instant Heroes supergroup, and I joined to be nice about it.
Alas, I started running into the problem that would plague me for the rest of my MMO career. Timezone issues.
Back in the MUD, I was mostly on American soil, playing with hardcore folks who would stay online for 9-16 hours a day (and possibly bot the rest of the time too.)
In an MMO with a larger casual population, more people play more sedate periods of 1-4 hours a night.
My primetime was not their primetime. As a result, the guild tended to be very quiet when I logged on, and they probably never saw me log on either, until the weekends.
Then I ran out of character slots on Justice and moved onto sampling a new server, Freedom, which had developed a more powergamer-type of community.
Around the same time, in 2007, supergroup bases became a thing. The new update was going to allow guilds to earn a currency that could be used to design-your-own-guild-hall.
Supergroup recruitment messages plastered the forums, every group clamoring for new recruits for self-benefitting purposes.
It was also going to be an awful waste if I remained guildless and kept playing, while I could be earning that currency for a guild. Powergamers abhor inefficiency, after all.
And the inveterate explorer in me was intently curious on -seeing- this new content, even if I had no interest in designing or building rights. Just being able to walk in was fine.
So I randomly picked a nice guild recruitment message that appealed and was in the same server that I was currently playing in, and found myself part of the Top Ten supergroup.
Oh, it started out promising as all these things do.
We had our guild meetings in a brand spanking new HUMONGOUS superbase. We had our guild colors.
We assembled everyone together to take guild photos with artfully arranged emotes.
Memory fails me, but from scattered screenshots, I think we even had guild events where we assembled enough to do a hamidon raid or visit the PvP zones for some random fun.
I’m sure you know the ending of the story by now.
People got distracted by other games, Found other things to do. Stopped logging in.
We lost officers. The events dried up.
Day by day, the guild population got smaller and smaller.
Again, I ran out of character slots and the l33tspeak powergamer tendencies of the Freedom server were beginning to get to me as I kept mellowing down further.
I kept the global channel the supergroup was using, as I enjoyed the chatter, but stopped logging the character that was in it since there was nothing much to do but farm for fun after hitting max level. (Loot was still not a thing beyond some supergroup crafting items or what-not.)
I had moved on to the roleplaying server, Virtue, with new characters to level and was enjoying the concomitant increase in community maturity level.
And NOW loot became a thing. Inventions happened. A guild supergroup base made a really good bank storage given that characters only had ten slots to store stuff.
Except that one has no storage rights being a member of a big guild in a server far away.
Enter the family and friends guild.
Well, -one- friend.
They fancied themselves quite the supergroup base designer.
It worked out fine. I left most of the design to my friend, continued to play my way and earn supergroup currency for us, and made use of the amenities – including hogging a bunch of storage containers for my packrat tendencies. He got to put the prestige earned by two very dedicated players to good use, building elaborate architecture to his heart’s content.
Attrition still happened.
I stopped playing City of Heroes around six months before the end. I think my friend held on till NCsoft booted him out. Though he also had bouts of dissatisfaction from time to time, he held a bit more loyalty to the franchise than I did.
I had other games, and other guilds.
CoH was not the sole MMO I played. I had it on constant sub for years, while jumping to the next newest and greatest and shiniest at the time (and a few odd ducks besides):
- Guild Wars – Ironically, I joined no guild in this, playing it as a single player game for the most part, enjoying myself thoroughly with my heroes and personal solo challenges.
- Dungeons and Dragons Online – The required grouping and timezone issues killed this one for me at launch even before I could think about maybe being committed to the game long enough to perhaps join a guild.
- Lord of the Rings Online – I think I did join a random fellowship at one point. You know the sort. Advertised over mapchat. Filled with people doing their own thing and occasional guild channel chatter looking for group while the game was still popular. At the time, I didn’t need much more than that. I attrition’ed with everyone else and must have got booted at some point. I wouldn’t know. I was having more serious issues, like not being able to get out of Moria. Ever.
(Run in circles, kill ten more goblins, pick up another quest, go back to the same place and kill 10 more different types of goblins. pick up yet another quest and visit the same area to click on some rocks near goblins, pick up still another quest to kill goblin leaders that may have needed a group or to be higher in level…. Yeah. I ended up taking pretty screenshots and logging off.)
- Age of Conan – Alright. Let’s get serious, I thought. Timezone issues were a massive pain. Let’s take the time to pick and choose my guild more carefully, and if I couldn’t find a local guild – which never tends to last in not so popular games – maybe an Oceanic Australian guild would work. So I shopped around, read all the ubiquitous guild recruitment messages, tried to pick a good fit one that actually bothered to request applicants fill out a casual application survey. (My MUD did that. Good way to weed out the utterly nonserious and the unable to type to communicate to save their lives ones.)
I got in.
Oh my god, it’s full of PVPers.
Ok, I kid, but not by much. It was full of and led by competitive Killer types, with a side helping of Achievers.
In hindsight, I suppose I should have expected that, being that I was playing an MMO that -advertised- itself as FFA PvP, hardcore-realistic battles and what-not.
They weren’t bad people, by any means. Friendly, supportive, band-of-brothers-y. It just wasn’t going to be a guild culture that mapped onto my interests very well.
I stuck with them for quite a while, all the same. Attempted a PvE raid or two, to discover that GMT +10 primetime was still different enough for someone in GMT+8 to have a really bad time trying to make the schedule and be on time (quite a few hasty commutes from work and skipped dinners.)
- Warhammer Online – This was the period where I think of the three MMOs in sequence. As AoC was drowning from exploits, bugs and laggard development fixes and patches, everyone switched their attention to WAR. I coasted with the same guild into the new MMO, where we had our fun-enough-for-a-time PvP trains and zergs while the crowds were still home.
- Aion - Just as rapidly, the whole Oceanic population jumped ship from WAR to Aion. I was already beginning to get quite cynical at this point, recognizing that Oceania/Asia seemed to have formed their own community of PvP-interested guilds that were less attached to a game per se, and more attached to each other as voicechat individuals. I envied guilds like The Kelly Gang whose timezones and playstyles matched well enough to stick with each other, regardless of game. (Small world, ain’t it?)
The guild I was in wasn’t bad, but we were leaving a few people behind with every jump and getting a little smaller and smaller via attrition once more. And I was burning out from all dat PvP. Oh, the endless I-kill-you-kill-everybody-dies…
And you know, Aion -was- grindy. Like, really really grindy. Like, I’ve killed so many mobs in the same place and still can’t seem to level grindy.
Not to mention, being an undergeared melee class in a game where players can fucking fly (ok, glide) from floating island to floating island may not have been the wisest choice for successful PvP. (And PvE was turning out to be an unoriginal holy trinity game of spawn camping world bosses for lousy RNG drops, with presumably ugh, raids in the future.)
No hard feelings, guys. It’s not the guild. It’s the FUCKING GAME. I moved on.
- RIFT – Having gone through all types of guild options at a rather accelerated pace, I though, well, what’s one more? Mega-guild time. There are only a couple of famous, super game-spanning guild communities out there, and mostly via random pick, I tested out The Older Gamers as opposed to say, Gaiscioch.
Which worked fine during the early launch days, providing sufficient chatter and crowds for my not-very-demanding needs, but I was beginning to suspect that the success of each individual game chapter of a mega-guild depended a lot on the shoulders of the leaders and officers that had volunteered to run it. If a community center didn’t develop, that was pretty much going to be it. (And it’s also tiring as hell for the people who are serving as the centers of community. I did it as a guild leader on my MUD once. Never again.)
As suspected, attrition yet again whittled down the RIFT chapter over time. I was losing interest in the game myself.
I never did participate much in the bigger game-spanning community forums. An unfortunate and untimely injected script into an advertisement incident scared me off frequenting their boards too often – valuable game hours are taken up by scanning for viruses, trojans and rootkits, y’know!
You get out what you put into a community. TOG was simply a little too big for me to connect with anyone. I found I preferred guilds that were game-specific, so that at least everyone had some kind of common interest.
To my surprise, it was in the niche games that I found more of a throwback to what I was used to from my MUD days.
Next up, Puzzle Pirates briefly and A Tale (of guilds) in the Desert…