For all it’s done to remove barriers between players, Guild Wars 2 has some odd eccentricities that pull people apart in weird ways. Allow me to explain.
I’m going to start with a situation that isn’t unique, but won’t be a problem that everyone faces. As a guild leader of a small to medium size guild (up to 18 online concurrently, 60 active members), dungeons are both great and a pest. Our members love them and do them daily. But because they require exactly 5 people to complete, they tie up a relatively large number of online members with consequences for others wanting to do other content with people. And given the horror stories (and experiences) with PUGs, there’s an understandable reluctance to go there, which presents a problem.
There are currently 2 ways forward; to grow the guild or make connections to other guilds and share members. The former isn’t really an adequate solution as it changes the nature of the guild. The latter is the better way forward (it worked for Guild Wars 1) but the game limits this kind of integration. The makeshift solution at the moment is to be a member of multiple guilds, but the 5 guild limit causes problems for leaders and officers looking to network.
In an ideal world, I’d love to see alliances return. A communal chat channel for multiple guilds, with the ability to name the group would do. Alliances allow guilds to make up for their individual deficiencies by complimenting each other. It’s a win win scenario. In the meantime, I’d love it if an account could join 10 or more guilds to stitch together these spider web alliances, even if there was a gold fee involved in doing so.
I won’t be surprised if (or should that be hoping that) at some point in the game’s life players are able to hire NPCs for dungeons. They’d be great for that last spot or two in the group, even if they cost a few silver to hire. Sure, you might not want to do Arah with them, but it’d allow you to do Catacombs without bringing a PUG. A pie in the sky idea maybe, but I think it could work.
A scenario that may be more common to others is grouping in the open world. You’ve got a few friends and you’d like to enjoy a shared experience exploring the world. Trouble is there’s 7 of you, not 5. You have to split into 2 groups and hope you manage to stay together and I can tell you that isn’t what happens. One group is inevitably faster than the other, and as there’s no quick way of locating them on the map, the groups start drifting apart until they’re have 2 separate experiences. I’m bewildered by this because most events will happily scale past 5 people while remaining a challenge. This is especially true in Orr, where taking the god shrines is a fantastic guild event that takes a large number of people to achieve.
The WvW commander book comes in handy for these kinds of events and is exactly why we had a whip round a couple of months ago so I could get one. In my experience in PvE, squad functionality is lacking. The only kind of interface is using /squadinfo (which isn’t detailed in game) which tells you who is in the squad and how much supply they have. There’s no way to remove someone who has joined, or way of seeing where others in the squad are. The only real benefit is that everyone nearby gets a beacon as to where the squad leader is and a shared chat channel.
The functionality has helped us when it comes to big events. In December we ran an event uncontesting all the shrines in Orr which we loved and gave us a bit of love from others nearby. But becoming a commander is a heavy handed solution to the problem. I wouldn’t know where to start in WvW and would rather not have that functionality, but there aren’t any other options and I think the game would benefit from them.
Generally I think it’d be great if you could see people on your friends list who were in the same zone as you. I understand the overhead may be high for this though, so I’d like to also suggest either a modification to squads in PvE to make them a little more in line with parties (e.g. kicking abilities, tracking where others are). I think there may also be an argument for party boosters which allowed you to have (for example) 10 people in any party you lead for 24 hours. Of course, if you tried to enter a dungeon it would tell you you couldn’t unless you had 5 or fewer people – no unfair advantages wanted here.
Allowing larger party sizes might also be an advantage in WvW. ArenaNet have made some grumbles to the tune of wanting people to zerg less and party more, but 5 isn’t enough for many objectives in WvW. Being able to have parties of 10 may encourage people to split up into groups more. Or allow commanders to access the squad abilities without broadcasting the tag to others so they can lead people without inviting a zerg that draws more attention.
Ultimately however, the combat system is the biggest limiting factor to socialisation. Combat is so much more intense than other games that there is no time to type during combat (I’m talking about level 50+ here). Players get tunnel vision on the mob they’re fighting and the next one ahead, and forget there’s a box in the corner to speak to people. This first came to my attention during the various server surveys I did before release – people noted that the servers were quiet even though people they met acted in a friendly manner. People didn’t need to speak because the game let them play together without barrier or need. It’s gotten worse as time went on.
Yet I am happy that this is the cause of so many problems, as intense combat leads to a more engaging experience. If it leads to a more entertaining game is up to the opinions of individuals. This does bring a temptation to put more emphasis on voice communications within a guild but this brings more problems. Not everyone has the means or wants to sit on a voice server all the time they’re playing. And when you consider how many times you talk to someone you randomly meet going about your daily business, it’s more an echo of art imitating life than anything wrong (in my opinion).
So there you have it. My take on why Guild Wars 2 drives people apart as much as it brings them together. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, so please do leave your comments below or get hold of me on Twitter.