At the time of the announcement, we were told that Guild Halls were 9-12 months out from being released, because work on them had JUST begun.
That means we're 3-6 months out from actually seeing them in all their splendor. With fingers crossed on the nearer end of that range, I think it's time to really ponder what Guild Halls should be and do, as well as what they shouldn't.
I think one of the most important questions to decide is: WHO gets to build a Guild Hall? It seems to me that the answer certainly shouldn't be "everybody." In this day and age, after the nerf on Status Item turn-ins and the subsequent de-valuing of the lower-tier trinkets, the early levels of a fledgling guild are easier than ever. I expect if I started a new guild today, I could reach level 10 in under 1 platinum, while saving all my precious Heritage Quests for later levels.
The SOE Dev Team needs to not only come up with a huge, enticing list of features to be offered with Guild Halls, but they also need to space the perks out from minimum-purchase level through GL80. Because of this, I think a fair minimum level for Guild Halls would be GL30. Prior and up to GL30, other housing options become available, so it would seem natural for GL30 to be the jumping-off point for the most basic of Guild Halls.
Furthermore, let's talk about guild SIZE in relation to housing. I'm hardly one to take any sort of elitist stance regarding the breadth of guild rosters; if a guild of 6 is tight-knit enough to maximize their members' enjoyment of Norrath, I say kudos to them! What has always bothered me about the guild system in EQ2, however, is the lack of cleanup. Guilds of less than 6 members not only exist, but are actually quite common. All-too-often have I seen someone in Qeynos Harbor or East Freeport shouting out requests (sometimes even with promises of payment) to have people help him form his own, personal guild, with no intention of keeping the other 5 founders on the roster.
I can understand SOE being hesitant to delete undersized guilds due to possible customer service issues regarding loss of status contributions and guild banks. I don't totally agree (deletion after X days/months under size?), but I do understand.
Guild Halls are to be extra-special, though, and I've already seen some on the official forums chatting about how they need to solo their me-only guild up some more levels to make sure they have access to good perks. That's just really really really annoying. Really. If your roster can't keep the intended minimum of 6 accounts (maybe even active accounts?), then you shouldn't have access to Guild Halls. If your roster falls below that minimum at a later point, you should temporarily lose access to your Hall. I really can't fathom the idea of Qeynos or Freeport allowing single citizens to build personal fortresses. Really.
Ok I've said my peace about guild sizes. Let's move on to what key features the Guild Halls should offer.
Here's the thing...
SOE doesn't want the major cities to become "ghost towns." SOE wants the cities to be vibrant centers of commerce and socialization.
The problem is that they aren't this NOW, haven't been for ...ever, and probably never will be.
Does anyone consider "clusters of people standing at broker NPCs" to be either a center of commerce OR social? I don't. The only common sources of player interaction in any of the city zones are either special holiday events or asking for teleports. As it stands, if someone is moving around a city being non-AFK, they're probably A) On their way to their house, B) Tradeskilling, C) Turning in collections, D) Grabbing writs, E) Shopping at the broker or F) On their way out of the city.
None of those are social activities. None.
The social aspect of tradeskilling that came in with the epics has been best served in non-aligned zones like Teren's Grasp. Since Kunark, even writs become a non-City activity for the large, high-level player base, because they can be grabbed at Kylong Plains docks.
The only thing lost by giving the Guild Halls city-like amenities is the APPEARANCE that the cities of Norrath aren't ghost-towns. That may be important for new players, but there'll always be SOME people in the cities. If you want to make the cities seem more social from a newbie perspective, start by remaking them into Kunarkian super-zones. That way newbies can easily chat with each other via ooc and shout, as well as have a chance(!) to interact with non-newbies that happen to be in the cities for various business purposes.
Hm. Little tangent there. Back to the point, what should Guild Houses offer?
- Broker. This is one of the key things missing from houses now, which in turn have prevented me (and others) from being able to make my own guild housing. People don't come to guild houses if they can't take care of their most important business items there.
- Banker. See Broker.
- Access to House Vault. This CAN be done in makeshift guild housing now via the Friend access level, but it's a bear to manage due to the lack of a guildwide setting.
- Tradeskill Fuel Vendor. This also should provide a good place to sell junk loot. Tradeskill trainers should remain city-bound.
- Bind point. Binding to guild houses should be done via a separate skill or item than the Call Of <> skills. You do still want people going to the cities sometimes, after all, but you also want Guild Halls to provide a real social outlet. If you want to make it more interesting, make Guild Hall Recall Shards into a craftable item, where the recipe itself is a available on the Guild Hall Fuel Vendor (above), and the main ingredient for the Shard is a no-zone item pulled from a Guild Hall purchased fixture. Make the Shard poof if you deguild.
- Harbormaster/Boats. At the Fan Faire, it was stated that Guild Halls would likely reside on the shores of Antonica and Freeport, near the cities proper (in the case of Freeport, this is the only option). There should be some backyard area of the halls, for outdoorsy decorating, and with that it would also be nice to have a personal guild dock. For a price, of course, and probably a more expensive price than what's available in the cities (volume pricing), there should be a set of dock bells to locations around Norrath. Perhaps high level guilds could also purchase personal boats to Faydwer and Kunark, which would be a really nice touch (and a great money sink!)
- Artisan involvement in customizing. I admit bias a Carpenter, but frankly I don't think I'd want the job of doing all or even half or a third of building and decorating a full Guild Hall. Carpenters should certainly be involved (a project leader?), but the recent crafting epic quests and resultant Artisan Raids really have me salivating. Divide portions of Guild Hall construction amongst the 3 crafting classes (brainstorming): Outfitters can plan the aesthetics of room layouts and structure, and Craftsmen can handle the masonry. Scholars can work on anything mystical in nature such as bind points and portals, and maybe social aspects like the hiring of NPC employees.
- Purchase pooling. More for Status Points than money, but useful for both, Guild Halls need an expanded version of the escrow accounts currently available for individual housing. Members should be able to contribute their currently-underused status points to the Guild Hall for both rent and item/perk purchase, as needed.
Guild Level should influence purchase entry-points of these various features, as well as maximum Guild Hall size and the unlocking of heraldry-like visual customizations.
No Guild Hall should include trainers of any sort, in my opinion, writ-givers, collectors, or key world objects like Druid Rings. Teleports to new areas should be handled with care, lest we wind up with an EQ1 Plane of Knowledge style of transport that sucks all purpose of exploration out of the world.
Ok, that's it for now. If I think of anything else later, I'll be sure to add on!