Two weeks ago, Blizzard revealed all the latest updates concerning their game plan for Cataclysm. Among them were a host of changes to the new guild systems and a guild UI overhaul, which were originally announced at BlizzCon 2009. Last week, I discussed Blizzard's decision to axe guild talent trees in favor of automatic perks at each level. Most of you disagreed with me on the issue, and I wasn't surprised. Most people would rather have all the perks, and I understand that. I still believe that offering guilds a way to define themselves using in-game elements would be incredibly useful, but we'll have to keep waiting for that.
Moving on to another part of Blizzard's plan for guilds, I'd like to talk about guild reputation and where I'd like to see Blizzard go with it.
No more guild currency
Part of the announcement in mid-June was that guild currency as an idea has been scrapped. Instead, players will be able to purchase rewards with gold. I don't think anyone is mourning the loss of yet another type of currency.
To replace this feature, Blizzard is implementing guild reputation. Players will be able to earn rep with the guild itself until they reach Exalted status by doing the same things that help the guild level: killing bosses, winning PvP battles, questing and earning guild achievements. Reputation will, in turn, allow players to purchase rewards with gold, just like NPC factions.
Anything that helps to reward guild loyalty is, in my opinion, to be celebrated. I heartily endorse this system. I'm sure players will still leave and join guilds as they've done in the past when they feel it's necessary, but my hope is that spontaneous, anger-induced guild-hopping will be less common. In the past, switching guilds had very little consequence. Now there will be actual ramifications for doing so. Hopefully more players will think twice before doing something drastic. Time will tell if players actually care about guild rep, but I'm encouraged by this implementation. If nothing else, Blizzard wants players to care, and that is something.
Another missed opportunity
Much like the decision to move forward without a guild talent tree, I think Blizzard is missing a huge opportunity here as well. It's fine to give guild rep for actions that players would normally perform in the course of their game time. That way, players who don't want to think about it don't have to think about it.
However, the system could take into account so much more. Some players do want to think about earning guild rep. Wouldn't it be excellent to reward players who go above and beyond to help the guild? What about the player who spends an hour clicking bobbers in Wintergrasp every week to provide Fish Feasts for the raid? What about the player who takes raw gems out of the bank, cuts them and puts them back? Shouldn't these players be rewarded, too?
Maybe it's asking too much of Blizzard's code, but what if officers could provide weekly quests to their guild members? What I'd love to see is a system built into the guild UI that allows an officer to make a request for a certain amount of items, such as 10 Fish Feasts or five Eternal Belt Buckles, once per week. Players could pick up this quest from an NPC -- call it a "Guild Herald." When a player completes the quest, the items are placed in a specific guild bank tab known as the Quest tab. As a reward, the player could earn guild reputation, experience and, of course, gold.
These quests couldn't be just anything. The possibilities for exploits would be rampant, and the code would be much more difficult, if an officer could request any amount of any item.
In theory, the quests could be randomly selected from a pool of options just like the raiding weeklies. After all, there are only so many different items that a guild needs to function. On the other hand, by allowing the officers to control the quests, the leadership could address areas of need as they crop up. I also feel like allowing a bit of interactivity here would be beneficial for guild morale. A player could say to herself, "The officers needed some epic yellow gems. I helped them out and got a reward. Everybody wins."
For those who are more interested in lore or roleplaying, guild quests could also target a specific boss or enemy-faction NPC. Wouldn't it be more fun to send your members on a quest to kill the flight master at the Crossroads rather than doing it just to be jerks?
If you're not familiar with EPGP, there's a good summary at WoWWiki. Extrapolating on the ideas of guild quests, guild reputation and guild rewards, what we're closing in on is a way to implement guild-wide EPGP without using an addon. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I haven't used any addons for loot (as one commenter correctly guessed, it's because other officers took care of that during the time when we used a DKP system). Therefore, I am by no means an expert on how these addons work.
However, to me, if we take the idea of guild reputation far enough, couldn't Blizzard give us what is essentially an in-game EPGP addon that updates in real time? What if the reputation points you earn for killing raid bosses also give you loot points, provided you did so with your guild? Completing guild quests related to raiding consumables, equipment and costs could also give you said loot points. Perhaps you could even get points from zoning into the appropriate raid instance during a 20-minute window prior to any raid scheduled using the in-game calendar.
When loot drops in a guild raid, players could then bid those points on what drops. The game would award the item to the winner and deduct the points accordingly. Item values and point decay could be automatic or customizable.
Since it wouldn't work out very well with PUGs, this system obviously couldn't be mandatory. But it could be a UI loot option just like loot master or group loot from the drop-down menu.
Does this bring us back to another new form of currency? Well, I guess it does. Would it be worth it? I think many raiders would say yes.
Looking to the future
Hey, we all want to see Cataclysm go live this year, so no one wants Blizzard to try to pack in a bunch of new, unannounced features at this point. Still, I urge the developers to consider other possibilities for their guild reputation system in the future. I see great opportunities here to enhance the guild experience for everyone and to make life easier for officers.