Welcome to Guild Dynamics, an editorial dedicated to exploring the topics and issues confronting guilds in Star Wars: The Old Republic. In this editorial, we focus on the Legacy system and its potential impact on a guild’s sense of community.
Guild loyalty is a nebulous and often touchy subject, made all the more important for its unclear definition. Many guilds expect members to serve only in their guild and disallow player alts from joining other guilds. Overlooked in this requirement is a tacit sense of faction loyalty. After all, if player is expected to remain loyal to one guild, and that guild can only be populated by members drawn from one faction, then how can a player legitimately have an alt who is in league with “the enemy?"
The Old Republic‘s Republic-Imperial divide adds a new twist to this old problem. BioWare’s statements and actions have made it clear that they intend players to “traverse the void” and play multiple cross-faction characters. The company has also provided limited support to cross-faction guilds, particularly in regards to their pre-launch “Allies and Adversaries” system.
And yet, serious cross-faction guild support is nonexistent, and any guild who attempts to maintain both a Republic and an Imperial presence faces an uphill battle. With neither cross-faction tells nor shared chat channels, there exists no easy in-game way to coordinate what amounts to two completely separate guilds. Something that BioWare openly supports, is left in the hands of guilds to juggle and maintain. Some view it as something not worth the trouble.
However, this need not be the end. Look below the jump for advice on how a guild can maintain a vibrant, cross-faction community.
The Story So Far
Nothing better exemplifies BioWare’s stance on player faction-alignment than their flagship character Revan, a Jedi Master turned Sith Lord turned something more than either. Revan’s willingness to walk on both sides of Star War’s morality system has inspired many players. Retired BioWare writer Drew Karpyshyn has even mentioned that SWTOR players seeking “the full Revan experience” should first roll Republic characters, then Imperial.
BioWare has also tacitly acknowledged that cross-faction play can and will affect guilds. The earliest recognition of this fact came during SWTOR’s Pre-Launch Guild Program, which allowed guilds to nominate up to three other guilds as either their Allies or Adversaries. This option provided both PvE- and PvP-oriented guilds the chance to stake a claim on both sides of the faction divide. However, other than placing guilds on the same server with guilds they linked up with, nothing more was done for this feature.
More recently, Designer Damion Schubert stated that BioWare is aware that cross-faction guild chat is a feature that many players have requested and that the developers are taking these concerns seriously. Until BioWare makes a move introducing this, a cross-faction concept is left in the hands of guilds. Maintaining both a Republic and Imperial guild presence is a difficult challenge for anyone to undertake.
Effective guilds live and die by their ability to communicate with members. While SWTOR’s cross-faction communication is standard for MMOs, the inability to chat with “enemy” guild members risk weakening the foundation of the guild. In practice, both halves of a cross-faction guild function as two completely separate entities. Any coordination between the two entities must be done offline, or over a VOIP. Up until Patch 1.2 even equipment was unable to cross the factional divide.
Cause for Concern
In the days leading up to Patch 1.2, BioWare made it clear that the Legacy system would reward cross-faction play, including the ability to unlock faction-specific species for all classes. This gave players more reason to play on the opposing faction. Additionally, it put more validity into the debate about guilds experiencing the opposition. Guild leadership now would need to answer the questions, without raising fears for the future throughout the guild.
My own guild felt the pressures of this looming change. It is comprised of approximately 150 people, some who have gamed together for years. Despite this camaraderie, the patch posed a problem. We had defined ourselves as a Imperial-only guild; now the game was providing enticing incentives to go Republic. Members wanted to unlock various species, and experience a brand new story.
The species unlock system was a particularly notable source of discontent. There is great appeal in having options like a Pureblood Jedi Knight walking across Coruscant or a Miraluka Imperial Agent standing on Dromund Kaas. Unfortunately, unlocking these options requires either first leveling a character of the desired species to level 50, or spending 1.5 million credits. Neither of these options is too onerous for a committed player, but both draw on a guild’s most valuable currency — time.
Time is a valuable thing for a guild to waste. Guilds survive by doing various activities together like flashpoints, operations and PvP. When players spread their time out over multiple characters or factions, it becomes difficult to maintain a guild routine and keep a sense of cohesiveness. In turn, this may inspires more dedicated players to look for a more “committed” playing experience elsewhere.
The Way Forward
All of my guild’s problems boiled down to one simple concept, even more fundamental than time investment: communication. As members split time over both factions, basic lines of communication risk becoming muddled. Guild-wide communications would be next to nothing. Without guild leadership oversight, brush fires of drama grow into conflagrations of dissent and spiral out of control. Fears for the future of the guild slowly took over members’ thoughts, being the only thing they would talk about.
Fortunately, all concerns were worked out and everything was handled smoothly. People must understand that handling a cross-faction community is not solved in one day. With the lack of in-game support from BioWare, it falls on the entire guild to make it work. In theory, one guild becomes two when undertaking this challenge. Guild leadership needs help to get this idea off the ground and to make it work.
You guild can learn for our experience to make this undertaking as enjoyable as possible. Below is a list of tips and suggestions that will help your guild play, and have fun, on both sides of the Galactic Cold War.
- Find a way to communicate out-of-game. Many guilds already maintain Ventrillo – or similar program – servers and community forums. Both methods help foster community solidarity, but they become that much more important when your guild is divided into two halves.
- Discuss with your guildmates about what the direction you want your guild to take. Simply having the ability to communicate is not enough; you need to actually discuss what the future holds for your guild. Will a cross-faction guild interfere with your acclaimed PvP focus? Will you do RP events together? How will guild authority be delegated across both sub-guilds? Many questions will arise when discussions first happen, and down the road. It’s imperative to talk early, and often.
- Support your allies. When a member pitches an event, jump at the chance to attend. This is a two-fold solution. Not only does it increase the chance more people will attend, but it is likely the support will be returned to you. A staple for the guild could evolve from one of these events. There is no event that should be shot down, the possibilities are endless.
- Level together. If you are thinking about jumping factions, there is a good chance that someone else in your guild is thinking the same thing. Leveling with them is not only a fun experience, it also provides a way to keep the sense of community alive. Additionally it opens up options like flashpoints or PvP without having to slow down to find a group. It is worth nothing that setting aside a day to play the other faction is a time-honored solution that has worked for my guild. It allows a guild to spend time working on the new faction, while not abandoning the side it was founded on.
There will be growing pains when undertaking something like this. As a guild member, it is important to stay flexible and support your peers. If one half of the guild is struggling to run events, step up and help by jumping across the faction line. Just because you are loyal to one side doesn’t mean you can alienate to other side. Always keep in mind what you joined and why — and if you find you are unwilling to shoulder the burden, perhaps finding a new guild is the best choice for everyone.
Finding the right balance of commitment and fun has always been the core problem facing any guild. Patch 1.2, and more generally BioWare’s emphasis on cross-faction play, has not fundamentally altered that dynamic. However, it has intensified preexisting problems, most notably how to balance play across two factions that each offer very different storylines and playing experiences. If your guildmates and you can keep in mind the entire reason for a guild — having fun and playing with friends — then your guild will always survive, regardless of how many factions it is spread over. We would love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments below.