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For some particular reason this week I had flashbacks to my days at primary school (“elementary school” for you Yanks). As a student in Year Two (“second grade” for you Yanks… “tom-ay-to” “tom-ar-to” I hear you saying now) I remember my teacher, Mrs. O’Reilly, teaching us about “community” and how it’s very important to society. Quite innocently, the definition of “community” back then would have read something to the effect of “a group of people living in the same area” or “a group of people who like or do the same things together”. As time has gone on, of course, my own understanding of the word “community” has changed and become seemingly more complex. In my reflections about my last issue of Mitra’s Method, I thought about how an online community should work and how members of it should communicate, but on the realization that the game’s release draws closer, I pondered what it means to be part of the more closer-knit communities: the guild, the microcosm of the MMO world.

One of the best things I have personally enjoyed about playing an MMO is being part of a global community, knowing that often hundreds of thousands of people from around the world are jacked in to a particular virtual world for a common purpose or a multiplicity of them. As one of my Primal Fury guildmates, Khetri, put it:

“Online communities are the social clubs of the 21st century and as such suffer all the drawbacks and benefits of real world groups.”

A lucid statement to say the least and it’s true. Just as people who have a passion for reading might join a book club, or someone who is good at cricket might join a cricket club, the gamer that enjoys MMOs will subscribe to a game that they have a particular preference for. But now that that gamer is in the game, where do they go after that?

It’s no good for a guy (or a gal) to be alone, so it’s usually expected of an individual to find a place where they belong. So knowing this person’s own interests, goals, play-style, and so forth, he [sic] begins the task of finding a group of like-minded individuals, playing for the same reason(s), and with common interests. A guild is a place where its members should feel a sense of belonging and identity: “This is home – this is who I am”. Now I’m not going to talk to you about how to choose a guild, that’s already been discussed here (thanks, Lexion) and you’ve by now already good a pretty good idea since most of you Mitra’s Method faithful are already in an ‘Age of Conan’ guild.

Over time, the guild you’re part of should start to feel more like an extended family, and what do families do? They look out for each other, help each other, keep each other accountable, and make sure that there is no one going in need. The communities of old would either pool their resources together to provide for the needy, or ensure that skills and crafts could be traded as a means of favour or currency. The community would also meet on a regular basis to discuss issues that affected its people, but also to make sure that everyone was doing their “fair share” in the building of the community. If a person was found to breaking the laws of the community, they would be reprimanded and given the chance to make amends, or depending on the gravity of circumstances, cast out so that the community as a whole would not suffer. These communities also had a leadership body, be it an individual by right of claim or by election, and this was to ensure the original vision of the community was being manifested and as a result its growth prosperous.

What does this have to do with being in an ‘Age of Conan’ guild? Thanks to the many awesome features Funcom have put in to ‘Age of Conan’, a player is able to fully immerse themself in an online community akin to the one described above. The player, as a result, is also given the unique opportunity to take themself back in time and learn first-hand how the small communities of old (guilds) functioned in their time. It’s something you’re probably not going to be consciously thinking about; it probably won’t even make you say, “By Jellekers! I’m contributing to my guild just like a native [insert race name here] would have done in his tribe, [insert tribe/civilisation name here], [insert number of years ago here]!” But if anything, it will help you understand the importance of community even in an online setting.

Each guild will be led by a leadership body, which would consist of only one individual or a hierarchy of few or many, depending on the overall size of the guild; the amount of leaders should be proportionate to the amount of members within it. Many guilds will have a charter that is drafted by the leader(s), which is basically a document outlining things from the guild’s vision statement, its identity, what its primary in-game foci will be (PvP, PvE, raiding, Roleplaying, etc.), and probably a code of conduct for all members that will inform all members and those considering this particular guild what the expectations of all members are in terms of activity, communication, behaviour, conflict resolution and so forth. A good example I’ve found of this in my web searches, is that belonging to the Snowhawk Clan, an already established and very well-known RP-PvP guild on the official ‘Age of Conan’ community forums. Established leadership and effective communication from those leaders ensures the smooth running of a guild.

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But let’s talk more of this community ideology. For a guild to prosper, it has to function like a well-oiled machine ensuring that all of its cogs and gears are turning. Each member makes up one cog or gear in the machine, each with a different task or ability but on the bigger scale creating actions that impacts on the guild as a whole. Thus, it is very important for all members in the guild to be doing their part, whether it be as simple as turning up to an in-game meeting, discussing an issue on guild forums, or helping a newbie member through a newbie part of the game, it’s all important. If you find that someone is not pulling their weight or just along for a free-ride, then it might be time to read-up on that guild charter or code of conduct and politely remind that particular member that is shape up, or ship out! If you’ve ever worked with a team before, whether it be on the sports field or at work, then you’d know all too well that such a person is nothing but dead weight, and will only bring the rest of the team down if nothing is done about it. It’s essential that all members are made aware of what their expectations are for as long as they are part of the guild.

The sharing and trading aspect of guild/community life will play a particularly important role, especially in ‘Age of Conan’. Each guild member is going to elect what type of crafting skill they’re going to go with, and so with the right number and organisation of resource collecting and so forth, a guild can essentially become self-sufficient. This helps on the one-to-one basis of guild member interaction also. Let’s just say that Bob is a new member of a guild, and Brodin is a seasoned player of the game. Bob is just starting out in the game and might need a bit of help finishing a quest, or earning a bit of money to buy some new gear. Brodin is a master weaponsmith and might decide that instead of Bob using his money on purchasing gear, he could make him some low level weapons so that Bob can save his money for something else. However, it would be expected that later down the line that Bob is able to pay back Brodin with something Brodin himself cannot do, or perform a certain task for the guild (perhaps organise an in-guild drunken brawling night, or something else to his liking) as a sign of gratitude for receiving help so early in the game. It might just so happen that Bob is interested in taking on the armoursmith crafting skill and decides that he will commit himself to providing other members of the guild with quality armour to assist them in their travels of Hyboria, and what’s better is that it would be at very little cost to the guild itself.

The overall picture that’s being painted here in particular is that when guild members become proficient enough in their chosen trade/crafting skills there will be very little need to spend money elsewhere on gear and equipment. The promise is that in ‘Age of Conan’, crafted gear will be just as good as purchased or dropped gear. It may not be the case all the time, but what you have are the foundations of a guild on its way to full-fledged self-sufficiency. When money does not need to spent on purchasing items, it can be used for the benefit of the guild in perhaps upgrading battlekeep defences, expanding the keep size, building additional structures, to even using that hard-earned money to purchase certain luxuries in order to make the guild a more comfortable or entertaining place to be in.

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I’m a firm believer in inter-guild interaction also, as I’m quite sure we all understand and can acknowledge the importance of an alliance or friendly relationship with another guild or a few. One guild may offer something that your own does not have access to, and if it’s something you want or need you shouldn’t feel apprehensive in requesting in that particular product or service. But as earlier mentioned, there are no free rides, so if another guild openly provides you with this service, expect to return the favour somehow, someday, and maybe even negotiate a trade system. Guild ‘A’ may have a particular knack for creating good gemmed weapons, and guild ‘B’ may be pretty good at running raids, so some middle ground may be found and a deal may be struck: Guild ‘B’ will help guild ‘A’ with a particular raid every so often, and as payment, ‘A’ will provide ‘B’ with gemmed weapons as often as the raids are run. “United we stand”, after all.

Now while I’m not trying to endorse any form of communal living or making it trying to sound that all guilds should live as the Amish do (“It’s three-a.m. and time to milk the cows, Jebediah!”), what I am doing in this time around is providing you with an insight as to how beneficial a community/guild lifestyle can be when you take full advantage of the features promised to you in ‘Age of Conan’. As another of my Primal Fury guildmates, lonewolf69, says:

“Community to me means meeting other people sometimes from all over the world and becoming part of something you can enjoy with others. Being able to talk and share your views, ideas and opinions with these people and in some cases make some friends along the way.”

In essence, community is about establishing a relationship with people before unknown to you that share a common belief, are driven by similar motivations, or have a similar goal. Through its functionality, ‘Age of Conan’ sets to establish a community that is knowledgeable, skilled, and at most times helpful to those with a particular need. With ‘Age of Conan’ will dawn a new age of community.

Until next fortnight, this is Stephen “weezer” Spiteri,

Out.

Want to contact me? Then email me here.
© Stephen Spiteri, May 2007

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