First off, big thanks to Chris for letting me post here. I had this thought rolling around in my head, but no real spot to post it (my regular readership on my blog wouldn’t really get it). Unbeknownst to him, Chris actually touched on the problem I’m looking at in this post in his “welcome” post.
While doing some reading on various blogs, I read several different posts that got my brain working on the subject of guilds and raid teams. Guilds typically form as social constructs, ways for players to stay connected to friends in the game. Guilds also form as a means to connect with other players for a common purpose; the most common of those purposes being raiding. There are plenty of guilds that are purely social guilds and do no raiding whatsoever, but how many guilds do you know of that are purely for the purpose of raiding that don’t have a social element? Beyond the big famous ones, guilds almost always have a nonraiding, social component to them. After all, the raiding component of the game is only a subset of the endgame.
In his last post, Chris referenced the struggle of balancing the needs of the guild and the needs of the raid team. Unless the guild is built as a hardcore raiding guild from the start, the goals and needs of a guild are often in conflict with the goals and needs of a raid team. With a raid team, you know the numbers you need, the types of roles you need for each encounter, and a certain competence and commitment level from each individual raider. There’s a clear goal in mind when a raid team is formed: progression through raid content. In BC, nobody formed a raid team to go and wipe on Moroes for three hours a night. Whatever the pace, the goal of each and every team was success. Guilds, on the other hand, can either be as exclusive or as accepting as the leadership wants it to be. Regardless of its level of exclusivity, a guild, at its most basic level, is a social instrument. Success on a guild level can be whatever the guild wants it to be.
The mere existence of a guild invites drama. I’d venture a guess to say that the biggest cause of guild drama and guild implosions comes from raiding, and there wouldn’t be many who would dispute that. The nature of raiding drama has evolved as the landscape of raiding changed with each expansion. In vanilla WoW it was the pressure on a guild of maintaining a raid team capable of fielding 40 raiders. In BC, Blizzard lowered the raid cap to 25, but put a ten man instance as the entry-level raid. It took a long time for most guilds to make it over the hurdle of Karazhan. Now in WotLK, it’s the pressure of having both 10 and 25 man teams. While having the bifurcated system for all instances facilitates more raid progression across the board, it’s allowed raiders to jump guilds more frequently; in short, the guild as a raid-organizing body is becoming obsolete.
Though I haven’t had the luxury of experiencing the current endgame raiding content, I’ve kept tabs on friends raiding experiences and watched them be more or less successful in the content. One friend organized a group of individuals into a set team for the sole purpose of defeating endgame content on a time-limited basis. The team wasn’t created out of any single guild; instead, the team was formed independent of guild tags and was set by one person. Once the team completed its stated objective, the team disbanded and a new team formed with a different objective and different raiders. Though I am not sure exactly how well they’ve done, I’m fairly certain that they’ve been able to complete most of the 10-man content in the current endgame. This with high expectations and only a few raid nights per week.
Back when they launched Burning Crusade, Blizzard introduced a new gameplay element in the PvP Arena system. With it came a new organization method in the Arena Teams. As you know, Arena teams consist of two, three, or five players fighting a time with team rosters allowing for twice that amount (four, six, or ten) for the sake of versatility. The beauty of the arena team system, though, was the fact that the arena teams weren’t limited to guildmates; an arena team could consist of members from completely different guilds.
I think you know where I am going with this. What if Blizzard were to implement a system for raiding similar to the Arena Team system?
Instead of using the guild structure to organize the raid team, a raid leader acquires a raid charter from the “Raid Master” just like an arena team would visit the Arena Master to sign an Arena Charter for the preferred size. A set number of raiders sign the charter and become members of that raid team. Perhaps the allowed number could be double the size of the raid, like Arena teams, or it could be some other reasonable number. The raid leader could set the timeframe of a raid team, or perhaps there could be raid “seasons,” similar to the current Arena seasons. Just like Arena Teams, the raid leader gives the Raid Team a name. Just like an Arena Team, the Raid Team is not bound by guild structure; raiders from multiple guilds can belong to the raid team. Additionally, once formed, a raid team could have a dedicated chat channel through which to communicate (say, /rt or something?), even when not formed into an actual raid group. I have thoughts on other mechanics, but I’ll save them for a possible later post, since this one’s running long.
This would provide distinct advantages to the current “ad hoc” system WoW currently has implemented. The biggest advantage would probably be the segregation of raid organization from guild organization. With an Arena-style system, raid teams could organize and be tracked independent of a guild system. Guilds could focus on being social entities without worrying about the competing interests of the raiding component. Raids could organize around their goals free of the concerns of guild management. If a raid team wanted to be all in-guild it certainly could organize that way, but it wouldn’t have to. Additionally, an Arena-style system would allow tracking of raid accomplishments by Blizzard. The Armory system already tracks Arena Team accomplishments and progress. Instead of having websites that scour the Armory and produce data and “rankings” for raid teams, the armory itself could remove the guesswork from the system. We could easily see who was a world- or server-first for a specific kill. Who knows, Blizzard could even implement some personal titles or competitions for raiding, just like they have for the Arena system.
Well, there you have it. I welcome your thoughts.