Farewell, WAR

newtitle14I’m sure you all heard, but Mythic finally pulled the plug on Warhammer Online.  The studio is citing the end of a licensing deal with Games Workshop as the reason, although, y’know, who are we kidding here.  It hadn’t been making much of any money or headlines at all in the past few years and never went F2P to give it a second shot.

I’m absorbing the emotional blow of this right now.  No, I haven’t played WAR since… late 2009, maybe?  So it’s not the loss of something immediate, but the death of an old friend morelike.  WAR meant a lot to me: It got me started in blogging, it put me in touch with many great friends, and it gave me a couple fun years of gaming.  As I just said to a friend, it wasn’t an awful game, it just was awfully bungled.  And I don’t really care to dwell on the negatives right now, because I suspect this will be my last-ever post on WAR here.

There was just something so special and energetic about the WAR community and blogging scene, especially leading up to launch, that I’ve yet to see copied elsewhere.  The shared excitement, the analysis, the journeys, the frustration, and the laughs drew many of us in.  There’s barely a shadow of a hint of that today, with no WAR blogs out there that I know of and a much diminished playerbase.  But for a time, it was a great ride.

Perhaps it’s time for WAR to go.  Five years isn’t an incredible run, but it is more than what some MMOs get.  Whether a game is shut down or we leave it, all that’s left behind are the relationships, the memories, and the screenshots.

I invite any of my former WAR blogging colleagues or fellow players to leave a note on this post.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I’ll end with sharing two things if you’re interested in a little WAR nostalgia: my recent column on Massively sharing my favorite things about the game, and a list of greatest hits from my WAR blog, WAAAGH!

The last dregs of WAR’s keg

frenziedsquigUntil recently Werit was the last one of the graduates of the Warhammer Online School of Blogging who was still playing and writing about WAR.  He left and is now despondent over the future of the game.

It’s been about four years since I was blogging about WAR non-stop — that was over on WAAAGH! — and yet I still carry warm feelings about the game.  Ultimately, it didn’t succeed to either be a firestorm PvP title or a mainstream PvE hit, for many reasons.  But that first year ride of anticipating it, blogging about it, and finally playing it was a heady rush.  There were many things I loved about WAR, which is why I’m sad to see it slumped over and limping toward the inevitable conclusion.

I don’t think there’s any hope for this title right now.  I’m not saying that it’s irredeemable garbage, but that there’s no path forward remaining.  I have no idea who’s even left on this project, as its last big name, Lead Developer Keaven Freeman, left in April, followed quickly by its CM.  The company has eliminated the six-month subscription and hasn’t done anything productive for the game since a Return to Ekrund event this past January.

The obvious course of action would have been to convert WAR to a free-to-play title in order to get that nice boost of publicity, returning/new players, and (hopefully) influx of cash.  But that opportunity seems to have passed by a while back, and one of Mythic’s bigwigs outright said that the cost of doing a conversion is too high and wouldn’t likely be recouped with the results.

Beyond just WAR, Mythic appears to be a mess.  It’s lobbing these get-rich-quick Hail Mary schemes that aren’t panning out.  It tried to jump on the MOBA train with Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes, and couldn’t keep that going long enough to even make it out of beta.  Its latest enterprise is Ultima Forever, a mobile dungeon crawler that’s been getting raked over the coals for its aggressively bad monetization scheme (in short, your gear degrades so much that you end up either farming lowbie content to afford repairs or just pay real money to heal up).

So you have a studio that’s handling three aging MMO properties (UO, DAoC, WAR) and is not investing any serious time, money, or effort in bringing significant new content for any of those, but is instead pouring its resources into the latest fad in hopes that money woes will be solved.

It just feels like such a bad way for WAR to go out.  The game had its initial issues and certainly didn’t live up to the lofty promises that the devs were making in 2008, but it’s a solid title that should’ve gotten a second lease on life with F2P.  Instead, it’s wheezing and fading… and I think soon shall be gone.

Five MMOs on the endangered list

473I think that City of Heroes’ (and to a lesser extent, Glitch and perhaps Lucent Hearts) shutdown has caused some people to pause and wonder which MMO will be next on the chopping block.  Not to get maudlin or delight in “failure,” but let’s be honest: We all do think about it from time to time.  Whether a game’s shut down because of a lack of players and funding or because there’s a legal issue or a studio closing, it can and will happen.

So what MMOs do I think are most in danger of being sunsetted?  Five titles come to mind:

1. PlanetSide

Honestly, there’s just no reason for SOE to keep this game running.  It’s the only title in the studio’s library that hasn’t been converted to free-to-play, it has a F2P sequel that just launched, and it’s pretty long in the tooth.  Maybe SOE will keep the lights on for the sake of the dedicated few that stick around (and keep coughing up a subscription fee), but I don’t see that happening.

2. Warhammer Online

It pains me to say it, but I really don’t think WAR is long for this world.  Mythic is helming a leaking ship with no apparent hope for its future.  BioWare’s siphoned off several of its devs, DAoC is really old at this point and not going F2P, UO is even older, there aren’t any new titles in the works that we know about, and WAR feels like a game that they’d rather you not notice.

The fact that Mythic has outright said that it’s just not financially realistic to convert the game to F2P speaks volumes about its future.  Then you add on the fact that the studio also said that its MOBA version of the game will probably never leave beta status because of a terribly small playerbase, and I just don’t see WAR pulling out of this tailspin.  It was a great if flawed game in many ways, but there’s no hope left.

3. Guild Wars

NCsoft isn’t known for its bleeding heart, and if it sees that most of the Guild Wars fanbase has made the jump to GW2, their accountants are not going to look at the continued cost of operating GW1 fondly.  Hey, maybe those are very minimal costs and why not.  But GW1 can’t have much of a future making money for the company, and that leaves me with a bad feeling about it.

4. Final Fantasy XI

This one might be a bit of a stretch, but hear me out.  Not only is FF11 nearing senior citizen status in MMO years, but the studio is really desperate to make FF14 work.  Could it see FF11′s closing as a way to “encourage” the remaining players to make the switch?

Really, I have no idea what Square-Enix is thinking most of the time, and considering how volatile FF14′s history has been so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if the studio just tried to back out of the online space altogether.

5. Anarchy Online

Gah, it hurts me to even suggest this — especially considering I’ve just put it back on my computer.  But with Funcom’s recent staff layoffs and the rumors that it might be shopping around for a buyer, I have to wonder just how stable AO’s future is.  I mean, it’s not just old but there’s little left to draw new/returning players back in until or unless the team can pull off that graphics update.  And raise your hand if you think that’s honestly going to happen?

I don’t think all of these games are destined to be shut down in the next couple of months, I just think that these are the five titles I’m most concerned about right now.  Put them on the “endangered” list, so to speak.  What do you think?

Bobbing along in a sea of news

When I woke up this morning I had no idea it was going to be one of those “news explosions” days, although maybe I should’ve anticipated it considering that Gamescom is kicking off and all.

Anyway.  A half-dozen highly urgent news posts later, and I’m just starting to wrap my head around everything going on — and the implications that follow.  Let’s jump in!

The Secret World announces release window

Launching April 2012 with beta sign-ups starting on August 26th.  I’m seriously geeked about this game and its possibilities — I love the setting, the ideas, and especially the non-leveling, make-your-own-character approach.  It’s awesome that we have a launch date, although man… April seems forever away now.

Honestly, I don’t want to get in on the beta, because this is one of those titles I have *no* intention of spoiling.  So head in the sand I go, but grinning all the way.  Yay TSW!

Warhammer Online goes… MOBA?

Wow, did NOT see this coming.  Instead of going free-to-play or adding that third faction everyone wants, the Mythic team juked and did something unexpected: to make a second game using elements (especially scenarios) of WAR, only this time make it a MOBA (massive online battle arena) instead.  Fixed “heroes”, 6v6v6 battles, free-to-play.

It’s interesting (and Werit’s got all the details), although my general disinterest toward MOBAs extends to this one.  I think it’s a good sign that EA’s not ditching WAR but looking to utilize the assets it already has in order to appeal to a wider playerbase, and we’ve never really seen something like this come out of a major MMO before (to my knowledge).  If they play their cards right, the titles will synergize with each other to boost profits — and, more importantly, long-term survival — all around.

Age of Empires launches today

I’ll admit that I’m a little interested in this free-to-play title, so I’ll have to check it out.

Kingdom of Reckoning to releazzzzzzzz

EA was trying to hype up the Reckoning trailer and release, but my impressions is that that game couldn’t look more fantasy-generic, and the trailer doesn’t do it any favors.

World of Battleships announced

Honestly, Wargaming.net is proving itself an unstoppable monster and we should all just bow to it and give it our fealty lest we be cast into exile once the coming revolution occurs.  Out of the three “World of” titles they have or are working on, this one interests me the most.  Naval gunplay!

Blogsplosion2011: Gaming grudges

Proving that more than one blogger can have “sy” in their name, Warsyde handles all sorts of MMO topics over at The Babbling Gamer.  I gave him a loaded bomb with this assignment written on it: “Pick three long-standing MMO grudges that the community just… won’t… let… go, and discuss why we can’t move on from the past.”

The MMORPG genre has been around long enough now that it’s starting to develop a distinct history.  That history includes, shall we say, “disagreements” between players and developers, players and other players, developers and publishers, publishers and retailers, and just about everything else you could possibly think of. Many of those disagreements have been lost to the sands of time, the rage has blown over and life has continued on as before.  Some of those disagreements though, have turned into grudges that many members of the community just can’t seem to let go of, and quite possibly never will.

Sony and the NGE

Early in the last decade Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) released a little MMORPG called Star Wars Galaxies.  It was hyped as the savior of the genre and was going to revolutionize the way we played MMOs. Plus, you know, STAR WARS!  It . . . didn’t quite live up to the hype, and after a while the player base had dwindled to the point that SOE felt the need to invigorate the game by shaking things up.  They did so by instituting the New Game Experience (NGE).  The NGE essentially took many aspects of Everquest and pasted them into SWG.  The game went from a classless, skill-based sandbox to a class based themepark/sandbox mashup. Not only did everyone’s characters change dramatically, some characters were impossible to recreate under the new system (goodbye Creature Handler) leaving many players with a character nothing at all like what they had before. A good portion of the MMO gaming community has never, ever, forgiven Sony for what they did.  For many people, “NGE” is a swear word.

Star Wars Galaxies for many people was a complex mix of shattered dreams and refreshing gameplay.  Many players weren’t happy with the way SWG turned out, and didn’t like the simplistic adventuring content available at launch.  Nevertheless, the crafting system was top notch, it was still Star Wars, and the skill based advancement system was interesting and different from other things on the market.  Even though many people stopped playing SWG, they held a soft spot for it.  Then Sony tore the heart out of the game and replaced it with something new.  This upset both current and previous subscribers, as the game they held a soft spot for no longer existed.  Even if the nostalgia bug bit and you wanted to go play SWG, the game you remembered was gone forever.  Current players were hit even harder, as characters they’d spent dozens or hundreds of hours developing were ripped apart and rebuilt in strange ways.

Still, plenty of people still play the game today, so why has it been so hard for many gamers to just forget about the NGE and move on?  Probably because the NGE represents a fundamental betrayal of the unspoken pact between players and game providers — that we, as players, will give money to the provider to play in a persistent game world with persistent characters we evolve over time, and the game company will preserve that persistent world and your characters with clear continuity.  The NGE shattered character and game world continuity, and broke the trust between player and provider.

Warhammer Online Hype

“Bears, bears, bears.”  It’s a phrase that will go down in MMO marketing infamy, and one that anyone who follows MMORPG games has surely heard.  “Bears, bears, bears” was used in a marketing video for Mythic Entertainment’s Warhammer Online while describing a system in which players wouldn’t have to wade through dozens of bear corpses to reach a quest giver, only to have the quest giver task them to go out and kill 10 bears.  Instead, the quest giver would go “Oh, I have a quest for you to kill 10 bears.  I see you’ve already killed 10 bears, judging by the gore, bits of bear fur on your sword, and 10 foot tall stack of bear pelts you’re lugging around.  Thanks, here you go!  Quest complete!”

Gamers rejoiced, because we’ve all killed dozens of a monster only to have some quest NPC fifty feet further on task us to go kill some for him.  Never mind that we just killed dozens right in front of him.  The issue, of course, is that Warhammer Online didn’t deliver on this promise.  Instead of quest NPCs recognizing your kills for “kill x” quests, there were special “task” NPCs that would reward you for killing certain numbers of a specific monster.  That’s not so bad, though not what they promised, right? Except, infuriatingly, there were numerous cases of quest NPCs standing right next to the task NPC, offering “kill x” quests for the same monster type, and they wouldn’t recognize you had killed them already even though the NPC right next to them would.  They not only failed to deliver, they rubbed players’ noses in the failure.

This was just one of many ways in which Mythic failed to deliver on their promises for WO, but the fame of the “bears, bears, bears” bit has made this the one MMORPG players will never forget, or forgive.  It was just so over-the-top, and so blatantly unfulfilled.  Gamers were bludgeoned with the hype for months on end, with all sorts of wet-dream features being promised left and right.  What we got was a perfectly solid game that failed to meet the pie-in-the-sky promises of Mythic’s marketing team.  Mythic’s reputation has gone from that of a sterling independent MMORPG developer to that of an over-bloated hype-monster that can’t be trusted.  Warhammer Online wasn’t actually a bad game, but the community is unlikely to let this grudge pass, and it won’t be surprising if Mythic never releases another AAA MMORPG.

Anarchy Online Launch

One of the grandaddies of MMORPG gamer grudges (yes, UO Trammel is older, but I didn’t play UO so I’m not going to write about it), the launch of Funcom’s Anarchy Online in 2001 was so spectacularly bad that people still talk about it 10 years later.  Players attempting to play in the first few days of the game were treated to lag and latency so bad that something as simple as walking across a courtyard could take 30 minutes.  I’m not exaggerating, I actually timed it when I was trying to walk my character from one spot to another.  Rubber-banding, freezing, everything you could possibly imagine about a bad connection was present, all at the same time, constantly.  It was actually easier to force-quit or unplug your computer than log out thanks to the lag.

Funcom has been tainted by the AO launch ever since.  Not that people think they can’t make good games, but rather there’s a vague mistrust of their technical competence.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, read, or participated in an exchange like the following:  “Hey, check out this new game by Funcom!”  “Oh, err, ah, aren’t those the guys that did Anarchy Online?  That game was horrible at launch!  I’ll give them 6 months to straighten things out before I even look at this.”  Of course, a game that doesn’t sell well in the first six months is generally doomed to a mediocre showing overall.  Funcom didn’t exactly allay everyone’s fears with the Age of Conan launch either.

This grudge isn’t going to go away because the launch was just so bad and so memorable.  People shelled out $50 to buy the game and were rewarded with something completely unplayable.  The Anarchy Online launch is a textbook example of what-not-to-do, and no launch since has been able to surpass its misery.  World of Warcraft itself had a pretty bad launch, but almost nobody remembers because comparatively speaking, it just wasn’t in the same league.  The Anarchy Online launch was so bad it’s become legendary.

Conclusion

The theme behind all these grudges seems to be betrayal.  MMO gamers tend to be a pretty forgiving bunch in the long run (or maybe just forgetful), but the lesson seems to be that if you betray the gaming community spectacularly enough you’re never going to live it down.  Sony still has conversations about the NGE, generally along the lines of “we’ll never do anything like that again, ever, we promise!”  Funcom is still trying to convince people they’re capable of putting out stable software.  Mythic is, well, I’m not sure what Mythic is doing, but I’m sure they’re not letting their marketing department do it, whatever it is.

There are lots of other grudges out there, what’s your favorite?

Quote of the Day

“This post made me visit WAR’s website. I just don’t get what they’re trying to do here. The latest news on the front page shows a date of 9/1. They also have a link to ‘Paul’s Video Blog’ which shows 2009 as the most recent update. They keep saying ‘WAR is alive and well’ but their website screams ‘The game is dead!’”

~ Anonymous poster on a recent WAR article on Massively

My thoughts exactly.  It’s a really, really sad website.

WAR vs. RIFT

As a former and fairly prolific Warhammer Online blogger, my enthusiasm and coverage of WAR has become part of my online resume.  It doesn’t usually come up in normal conversation, but a week or so ago I noticed a few people dismissing my excitement over RIFT because I was (and this is paraphrasing) also excited over WAR and that’s tainted my judgment or somesuch.

Now I do try to keep my ego reasonable, so if you feel that you have to read my words with a healthy spoonful of wariness, that’s okay.  Nobody has the same tastes or histories, and at the end of the day, I’m just a gamer like you.  I’ve liked good games and bad games, I’ve dropped money on purchases I’ve regretted, and I have joystick thumb disease.

But the one thing I’ve always tried hard to be open about in my blogging is that I’d rather err on the optimistic side of anticipation and enjoyment of games than the pessimistic side.  That isn’t to say I’m blindly optimistic or have no capacity to criticize, it’s just that I’d rather look forward to games and enjoy this hobby — warts and all — than treat it like a hostile witness.

So this brings me back to the WAR vs. RIFT comparison, as I challenged myself to look back to my attitude in 2008 to WAR and my attitude now with RIFT.  Is history repeating itself with me and/or with this title?  Am I just getting swept up in the launch month frenzy without a rational synapse in my brain?

Let’s take a look at where I think history is running parallel here and where it is diverging:

Similarities:

  • I got hyped up for both titles.  Sure, it’s not like I hid this or anything.  Both WAR and RIFT got me excited in advance, and I particularly latched on to the new ideas (WAR’s Tome of Knowledge, Public Quests; RIFT’s dynamic content and soul system) that these MMOs were bringing to the table.
  • I purchased the Collector’s Edition of both, got into both betas, and was there for the head start of each.
  • I was/am pulling hard for the success of each.  WAR certainly had a gangbuster first month — 750K boxes sold — and the PR team had us convinced that it would do at least a million if not more, and take a good bite out of World of Warcraft.  Thus far, RIFT looks similar, with a massive media coverage, huge amounts of players, lots of servers, and little new game competition.
  • Both teams had big amounts of funding and a lot of great talent.
  • In 2011 as well as 2008, many gamers felt the time was ripe to steal WoW’s thunder as the WoW playerbase became listless and disenfranchised with Blizzard’s behemoth.
  • I liked both games at launch.  Don’t forget, I played and covered Warhammer Online for over a year (2008-2009), and certainly got quite a lot of gameplay out of it.  I took a character up to the cap, had a blast with the secret unlocks, and tried my hardest to get into the PvP.  With RIFT, I’m equally enthralled with what I’m seeing, and I’m in it for the long haul.

Differences:

  • I spent the better part of a full year writing about, anticipating, analysing and solely focusing on WAR as a blogger.  With RIFT, my attention only started to focus on that game two months beforehand, and I certainly did not talk about it to the exclusion of all else.
  • Because of this, I never became plugged into the RIFT blogging community as I did with WAR.  I still think that WAR’s blogging community was something incredibly special, and perhaps one of the best effects of the game was that so many terrific bloggers got their start with WAR and continue on today in various formats.
  • I saw, even back in 2008, that WAR was not nearly as finished in the beta as we’d hoped.  I think what some folks forget is that I and other WAR bloggers certainly levied a lot of criticism at Mythic and EA for faults as much as we praised them, and no one thought that cutting two classes and four capital cities for launch was a good sign.  In fact, WAR had quite a few more red flags at launch than RIFT does.
  • Something to keep in mind is that there’ve been a lot of MMOs released between 2008 and now, and I’ve played quite a few of them — and none have gotten me as buzzed as RIFT.  With experience comes the ability to discern quality and personal preference that much better, and I think I’m in a more mature place in 2011 than I was back then.
  • WAR was primarily a PvP game, RIFT is primarily a PvE title.  I tend to like the latter much more than the former.
  • And finally, it’s hard to exactly explain it, but RIFT’s release feels all-around much more spot-on than WAR’s.  I’ve read more enthusiastic and encouraging words on blogs for RIFT and far fewer criticisms (in fact, most people who don’t like RIFT — and that’s their preference — can’t fault it for not being properly assembled and polished in a way we haven’t seen major MMOs done for years).  With little on the horizon to take the spotlight off of it, RIFT has a good chunk of time to continue to gain an audience, and I think it will do so.

Ultimately, I can say this with assurance: RIFT is not WAR, and while it’s fun to try to draw parallels beyond “what Syp said/says”, predicting the future by looking at a different game in the past is a flawed approach at best.  RIFT may succeed huge or it may be a much more modest hit — only time will tell.  But let’s also not forget that for all intents and purposes, WAR is a success by the virtue of still being up and running 2 1/2 years after launch, still making money for EA, and still being a home to many players and several bloggers that I continue to follow.  We as a game community are so quick to judge a game as “failed” by the definition of “it’s not WoW/EVE/Guild Wars-type numbers”, but the fact is that any MMO that makes it to launch and retains enough subscribers to keep it profitable is a success story in this highly cutthroat industry.

Grand Dreams

Yesterday the MMO world lost two prominent community managers — LOTRO’s Meghan Jenks and Mythic’s Andy Belford.  I met each of them once, and have always felt that both people were excellent examples of how CMs should conduct themselves while performing their duties, and it’s a shame to lose them to (pick one: being fired, leaving voluntarily, nervous breakdown, finding a better job, wanting to move back home).

But their departures brought back that old voice in me that says, “I am so, so, so very glad I don’t work in the games industry.”

I mean, I write about games for both fun and a job, but that’s the highest my aspiration goes for being involved.  I think that most of us game fanatics are also armchair designers who always have a gem or two tucked away upstairs for this ideal game we’ll never be allowed to make.  But while some folks would leap at the opportunity to get their foot in the door at some of these studios, I’d pass, thankyouverymuch.

Getting past what the job is, even if it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, I see very little stability in the games industry, job-wise.  Most of the big name folks we know, from CMs and writers all the way up to the big wigs, usually find themselves out of work, swapping jobs, moving hither and yonder on a surprisingly frequent basis.  I can think of few things worse than spending years of your time and effort in a game only to be let go before it even launches (or shortly thereafter).  I mean, few jobs offer rock-solid security, but games studios seem to offer less than normal in exchange for more work than normal.

Maybe it’s an industry for the young without families who don’t have to be as concerned about moving or budgeting time, but it is an industry that seems to chew people up more than elevate them.  We get sad when we hear about studios having to lay people off, but few are surprised when this happens — it’s just a fact of life in this biz.

When I was a kid, I not only played video games a whole bunch, but I also spent a lot of time designing games — pen-and-paper RPGs, 5,000-line BASIC computer adventures, etc.  There was a thrill of being able to both come up with an idea and take it to completion all by my lonesome, but I think that ship has long sailed for many of us who aren’t insanely talented.  My folks always thought that I’d go into game design, but eventually my tastes ran to the consumer side rather than the creative.

I guess it’s good I ended up this way — I don’t like moving that much.

WoW: Guild Killer

Along with Cataclysm’s new zones and features is World of Warcraft’s version of guild leveling.  Now, like pretty much everything in WoW, enabling your guild to level up and gain new features is something that’s been done elsewhere and for some time now (for example, LOTRO has kinship ranks).  However, unlike some of these other MMOs, it seems as though WoW’s guild levels are going to cross the line between “nicety” and “necessity.”

How so?  Well, let’s use LOTRO as an example here.  LOTRO’s kinships have ten ranks that are climbed, and which happens solely based on the passage of time.  Furthermore, a Rank 10 kinship is not really that much better off, feature-wise, than a Rank 4 kinship (which happens a week after a kinship is created).  The added features are pretty much just titles, chat channels, increased membership caps, and kinship auctions.  If I was to look for a new kin today, I don’t think I’d be worried if it was Rank 6 instead of 10.

Likewise, Warhammer Online was big on its whole “living guild” system back in 2008, which offered a wider variety of features and levels than LOTRO.  Still, many of these features were meant for guild PvP, and interest in the system kind of waned post-launch.  In my year or so with the game, I don’t recall seeing a lot of players too concerned with guild levels when they were joining.  It’s that whole “what’s in it for me?” question that was mostly answered with a shrug.  The ability to be taxed?  Uh… guess that’s not so great.  Sure, there are a small handful of desirable goodies, such as better mounts, that were high up in the ladder, but Mythic was careful not to make it so that a new guild was at an incredible disadvantage to a long-established one.

For the record, I quite like the idea of a guild being able to level up, particularly if it involves the members of the guild all contributing to its advancement.  After all, that’s what guilds should do, yes?

The problem as I see it with WoW is that the goodies that a single guild member (versus the guild as a whole) gets from a fully-leveled guild is far too tempting and overwhelming to consider anything less.  Such as, y’know, a small guild in its early days trying to get going.

This isn’t an issue right now, because Blizzard put a cap on how far a guild can level in a day, but consider this about six months or so from now.  Say you want to get a guild going with a few friends and a vision to grow it into something great.  You get it registered and start recruiting.  The first tell you get back in response asks you what the guild level is… and the second… and the twentieth.  Suddenly, you’re absolutely struggling just to get enough people in the guild to help it level at all, but people won’t join unless you’re a high level.  Catch-22.

Maybe that’s an extreme way of looking at it, but many players aren’t charitable souls — they’re out for themselves, and they’ll be looking for what benefits them the most.  What can you offer them that’ll top what a level 25 guild will have?  I mean, we’re talking about perks including 10% more experience for everything, 10% faster mount speed, 10% bump in reputation earned, better materials gathered, more Justice/Honor points earned, and so on and so on.

Screaming Monkeys sees it the same way:

“Think about it for a moment. Put yourself in the shoes of someone looking for a guild to join.

If I was a prospective recruit looking for a guild wich guild would I choose? The new, unproven guild who has to pug to complete raids and has nothing to offer me or the well established guild who will boost my xp and rep gains, will make me mine more minerals, will shorten my hearthstone, bring cauldrons to raids and has mass rez to offer… Between the two unknown guilds… why the hell would I want to join the new one? Same goes if I want to find a nice, social guild. It would be nice to get the extra xp, rep while leveling yet another alt versus getting nothing.”

In a half year, it’s going to be really, really interesting to see if the number of guilds overall in WoW will be maintaining or even decreasing instead of growing.  Maybe not.  But maybe level 25 guilds will become the new Wal-Mart — pushing the “small guy” out the way as they consolidate their power.  Will Blizzard then have to provide some sort of new incentive for players just to start new guilds at all?