Friday, February 15, 2008

Where a Guild Can Be a Guild!

6 months ago, I attended the most recent SOE Fan Faire in Las Vegas. One of the most exciting things to come out of that event was news of Guild Halls - REAL guild housing.

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!

Monday, February 4, 2008

We're only going to score 17 points?

There's a great many reasons I haven't had time to write in nearly two months. The distractions of this year's NFL awfulness was only a minor part of that, but a part nonetheless. Football isn't a game I play, but it's a game I watch as much as possible!

For my part, my team is the Philadelphia Eagles, and I actually do owe that to being a gamer. I grew up in Wisconsin but HATE HATE HATE the Green Bay Packers (hate), so I didn't watch much football. Playing Sega Genesis at my friend's house, however, I fell in (guy-)love with one Mr. Randall Cunningham while using his digial representation in the Madden Football '93 video game. I've been an avid football watcher and Eagles fan ever since.

This season kinda sucked for us Eagles fans. Last season was full of drama, but it was drama that led to a playoff berth. This season...not so much. The only drama this year was the Patriots and their trek for "perfection."

A lot has been made of the cheating controversy from early this season, even though, as many have pointed out, what was done was only barely breaking rules compared to what other (all?) teams videotape from different locales. HOWEVER - cheating is still cheating, and the murmurs around the league are that this piddly crap Bill Belichick got caught for is only a scratch on the surface. I, for one, totally believe that. When you do "whatever it takes" to get another tick in the win column, there's probably a whole helluva lot you aren't getting caught at.

For the last three weeks (leading up to the Green Bay game - did I mention I hate the Packers?), I've been rooting for the Giants. Sometime within the next week or two, this will wear off and I will go back to hating them in favor of my division-rival Eagles, but for now....well, for now, life is pretty sweet.

That game last night was AMAZING. Mouth-breathing man-child Eli Manning put together just enough brilliant plays (most notably THIS ONE) to outscore the Patriots, but the game MVP really should have been a shared award to the Giants' defensive line. I've never seen Tom Brady get hit so much, and it was beautiful!!!

Why would I take such delight in Brady's downfall? I really didn't care much about Brady before this game. At worst, throughout most of the season I had a sneaking suspicion that most of his success was due to his offensive line, and that he wouldn't be such a hotshot under pressure. That proved correct once the Eagles' own Jim Johnson showed the whole NFL the way with his awesome blitzing schemes. Still, my dislike of the Patriots was all about Belichick...until...

THIS HAPPENED. When asked his prediction for the game, Plaxico Burress responded, "23-17." Tom Brady hears this and is shocked and offended. "We're only going to score 17 points?" a surprised Brady said Wednesday. "OK. Is Plax playing defense? I wish he had said 45-42 and gave us a little credit for scoring more points."

That's enough for me - he needed to go down. I'm happy to find that the forces of Karma agreed with me. And wowie-wow-wow, down he went.

As for other Patriots...

Some of them I feel at least a little bad for. They played hard all season, and lost the big game. I'm sure most of them are perfectly decent people undeserving of my scorn.

Some of them already won 1 to 3 Superbowls in recent seasons, so I hardly care if a non-Eagles team wins repeated championships.

But I'd like to call out a couple special friends:

1) Randy Moss. With the Vikings my 2nd-favorite team, I used to cheer for you. A lot. Then you went to Oakland and blah blah whatever. But that's actually the problem, isn't it? No matter what else went on during your time there, commentators all over the place had you figured for a has-been. You stopped caring - you stopped trying. We all thought you had lost your spark that made you a great receiver. Suddenly you show up in New England and you have all your speed and skill back that you were missing the last couple years. Randy Moss, you give up when things aren't going your way. You quit on your old team. You deserve no titles; no rings.

2) Junior Seau. You never won the big game in your long career, and despite have received all sorts of other fame and accolades, you just couldn't let it go. You "retired" from football, only to hop right back in when a seeming sure-thing offered you a chance. Sorry if it sounds cruel, but to me that's not deserving of fame. Not that you can't still throw a good tackle, but hopping onto the bandwagon when you were otherwise ready to retire is kinda pathetic.

That's about it, really. All the rest of my hate is for Big Billy Belichick. I was actually afraid for Tom Coughlin for a few minutes there. When Belichick stormed across the field to meet him, I was sure that he had a shiv tucked away in the front pocket of his hoodie and was about to stick Coughlin like a pig. I guess he figured that was a bad idea with the cameras watching. I pity whomever was the first person or otherwise punchable object he saw when he got into the locker room.

What a night. A "perfect" season turns into meaningless overhype in the last two minutes of one of the most intense football games I've ever watched. Of course, a lot of that intensity was due to the overhype, but what I feel is important is that the overhyped team lost, and their rat-bastard coach finally got the comeuppance he deserved. I do love me some justice.