GW2: Strength in Unity – Building Community

This is just a thought that’s been floating around in my head for a while, steadily building up as I read forum posts (aka complaints) on seemingly disparate things like big guilds being favored by guild mission design, big dragons being a mindless loot pinata for the masses and WvW heavily skewed in favor of zerging.

I’d like to take us down a philosophical “what-if” road of game design.

What if small guilds and loners were equally favored or had an advantage doing guild missions?

What if big dragons were really tough to kill and required an organized group to take down (and for added chaos, an inexperienced unallied player passing by could wipe the group?)

What if WvW favored the small group roamers and the solo/duo gankers?

Here’s my guess as to what would happen.

Everyone would form their own private guild of one to do the guild missions for the goodies. Or at best, hang around with their small guild buddies and not have any reasons to interact with anyone else out there.

People would flock to an organized group for the sole purpose of dragon-killing (aka raids) and woe betide the poor n00b passer-by who unknowingly committed the egregious sin of “not supposed to be doing that, u dumbass.”

WvW would become an open world PvP land where no one would venture in besides the few wolves looking around for their fights (and now whining on the forums that there’s no one to kill instead of too many.)

In other words, Guild Wars 2 would turn into any other typical MMO – your standard cesspool of insular hardcore elitism ruling the roost while the not-so-hardcores, casuals and dabblers just get by with amusing themselves until the next big MMO launch.

Perhaps the most interesting (if slightly sweet and sappy) underlying theme that runs through the GW2 storyline is that there is strength in unity. That despite our various differences, it is worthwhile coming together in common cause.

I’ve been observing my server in WvW for a while now as a sort of “embedded correspondent” (though I’ve gotten lazy on any actual reporting and have been just enjoying participating instead) and one of the things that most impresses me about Tarnished Coast is how united everyone is (comparatively, anyhow.)

Guild members from different guilds regularly hop into each others’ guild channels and aren’t automatically shunned or made unwelcome. Guilded and unguilded militia alike blend seamlessly into zergs led by commanders from any WvW guild, producing very respectable performances (ideally anyhow, and it’s gotten noticeably better as time creeps on.)

Yeah, there’s still the odd ‘pugs’ comment here and there, still a couple players with more hardcore ideals. so do put a little thick skin on if yer gonna venture into WvW but on the whole, it’s not at all a toxic environment. People work hard, but still remember to have fun and do silly, absurd things for the heck of it.

It’s most telling to me that most commanders reacting to a poor performance tend to go into a sort of quiet frustrated despair and exhaustion, then look around for other constructive things for the group to do, or take a break and switch things up, or spend time teaching and instructing, rather than vent onto their team or let it all hang out on chat channels. It’s a very mature response to a loss.

And what this builds in the end is respect and loyalty, as well as an accepting and tolerant community.

(Now having been part of a server that imploded on itself, I’m not going to say this will last forever, one would have to be a very idealistic seer to predict that. Sometimes all it takes is the wrong spark to set off a firecracker chain reaction.

But based on the example and culture of other roleplaying servers from other MMOs like LOTRO and CoH, one is at least hopeful about it. Which is pretty optimistic for a obsessive paranoid like me.)

And to get back to my original point, I wonder if this would have formed without ArenaNet’s hand in the design?

If game success did not favor coming together and community building, anyone who did so would be making an uphill effort.

Weatherstock in LOTRO would never have happened without the music system to begin with.

Maybe we need to recognize that in GW2, coming together in groups do have clear advantages (but hopefully never forced, so everyone always has alternate, if somewhat-less-advantangeous options) and this is in the design for the long-term purpose of building communities.

(I know I soloed pretty much my entire GW1 existence, minus an out-of-game friend or two.)

And if one has issues with this, perhaps one is playing the wrong game.