SOE Influencer Group
Last Updated: 11-14-2008
In the fall of 2008 the SOE Influencers group collaborated with the Community Relations department to develop a general document of Influencer guidelines for guild tools in our games. This document is the direct result of that collaborative effort and identifies areas of specific concern and need that our Influencers have in our games.
This document is not a comprehensive listing of everything that our customers expect of our guild tools in games, but it is a solid baseline of expectations that our tools should meet at a minimum if we are to satisfy the needs of our customers.
A consistent request from our influencers is that any future guild tools are both simple to use and flexible to their varied needs. Not every guild involves themselves in our games in the same way, but every one of them wants a guild tool that meets their individual guilds needs. A key request to supporting these multiple styles of play is that the guild tool is customizable and not a “one size fits all” presentation.
An additional and well supported request is the availability of every guild tool within and without the game. Roster management, event management, live communication and beyond, all of these are elements that need to coexist inside and outside the game, and update in real time.
In the pages that follow, we will explore the feature requests that our Influencers consider baseline for any guild tool in any game. Guild tools that lack these features, at launch, will be viewed as incomplete. Meeting these expectations, and anticipating further ones in the context of an individual game, will go a long way toward ensuring that our future products not only meet, but exceed the expectations of our audience.
Formal or informal, every guild has events that are important to them. They could be scheduled and structured raids that focus on gameplay, or informal gatherings within the game space to chat and have fun. The common point between all of these activities is that the guilds need an event planning system that actively serves their need to communicate about these events to their members.
The key resource that the Influencers noted in their discussion of event planning tools was a “Guild Calendar” that would exist inside and outside the game interface and list all upcoming events for the guild. A further request was that the entry page for the guild tool should list upcoming events in the immediate future.
Specific feature requests for the guild calendar are as follows:
Guild leaders should be able to create events on the guild calendar that are viewable by all guild members. Access to creation of guild level events should be limited by the guild tool and controlled by the guild leadership.
The individual members of a guild should also be able to enter their own events that are not broadcast to the guild at large. This creates a synergetic relationship between the player and the guild calendar as a tool that can help them organize their play within the game space and makes it a communications hub.
Available Outside the Game
The guild calendar is a key item that the Influencers would like to access outside the game. Being able to see what the guild has planned for the day is a large benefit that encourages people to log in and participate. Being able to add new entries and modify existing ones via the web also allows guild leadership to provide updates even when they can not log into the game.
News and Information
MOTD as a “Page”
Many online games support basic guild informational tools such as the “Message of the Day” or a login welcome message from the guild to its members, but this is no longer enough to serve the communication needs of online guilds. Our Influencers would like to see us to the next step and advance beyond a one-line MOTD.
Expanding the MOTD space to instead essentially be a customizable web page for guild information within (and without) the game space is the key to serving this need. Giving guilds the ability to post more extensive news than a MOTD text line can support; as well as actual articles of interest related to the guilds needs furthers overall guild identity and group awareness.
This need not be an actual web page with full customizations, but does need to support basic communication needs on the same level that our forums allow. This includes, but is not limited to the posting of text with hyperlinks (that do open an in-game web browser), images, audio, video, or other related internet media. This level of media support would allow guilds to upload images from their own scheduled events and celebrate their achievements.
Extending on this idea would be to tie the guilds news page to our existing “Players” pages and providing RSS support so guild members can blog about their actions in-game and have it show up on the guild news feed.
In addition to the internally faced information, guild leaders want to be able to write a standard guild description which would be displayed on an informational window of members when examined by other players. This information would enable guilds to display a few lines about who they are and how to apply.
Communication is the key bonding element for most online games. Without the ability to converse, by any means with your fellow guild mates they become nothing more than NPC’s with very intelligent AI. Enabling deep and meaningful communication for or players with their guild is a central element to fostering strong guilds.
Not Game Dependent
A key request for all forms of communication within a guild is the option to participate in the conversation even if you can’t jump into the game to play at the same time. Enabling communication out of game and inside it for every level of communication that we can support is expected in future releases.
Voice, Text, Mail, etc.
If it’s a method of electronic communication, we should support it in our guild tools. Station Launcher allowing text chat in and out of the game client is a great first step. Providing voice chat via Station Voice is another. Having in-game mail is also high on the list and something we already do – having it reach outside the game is the next requested step.
The key points for feature requests surrounding communication are for us to continue to offer new modes of communication, and to extend those communication outlets outside the game space. By doing so, members can actively engage with their guild at any time, even if they can’t actively log into our game when they engage.
In addition to live communication, it has been requested that we support an alerts system that guild members can opt into. The desire for this system is that a guild leader could send an urgent guild message out to the entire guild (unless members have not opted in) and each member would get an email or text message (their choice) containing the message.
Being able to control how wide of a net the message is allowed to cast is a related feature request. If the guild has an event and urgently needs a healer, allowing a guild leader to instantly reach out to all guild members who play healers (who have opted in) and request their presence in game is a very welcome idea. Allowing for this creates a heightened awareness of an individual members place within a guild, and how they are wanted. It also helps the guild at large find people to fill desired roles for their events.
In every mode of conversation that we can support for our guilds we need to support private sub-channels of communication that help organize the flow of guild communication. This goes beyond a “guild leaders” private channel for administrative purposes and allows guild members to create, on the fly, channels for their narrow focus interests while they play.
An entire guild may not need to hear discussion of a raid that a portion of the guild is taking on. Those same raiders probably don’t want to be distracted by the crafters discussing resource procurement within the game system while the raid is on. Allowing guild members to create channels as needed, and make them permanent for members of the guild (even when the channel is empty) allows a guild to take on a wider diversity of people who share common interests even if they express it in different game related activities.
The Influencers would also like in-game support for a guild message board that can host static conversations. This message board should extend outside the game as well, and should function with the basic features that any message board holds.
The key differentiator that the message board should have over any external solution is that they should be an inherent part of the guild tool that exists within the game space and does not require the guild to acquire separate hosting to have these conversations. It should be an intuitive part of the guild experience within the game and be there as a base part of the guild tools design.
Presenting tools that allow guild members to understand more about who is in the guild and their level of involvement with the game is a huge opportunity space presented by the Influencers. The tools we have in place in EverQuest II are considered the default and absolute bare minimum for what we should have in future SOE games and the following enhancements were suggested as well.
The following information should be viewable, at a glance, in a simple and clean format to all guild members. This information should be viewable by guild members outside the game as well:
Extending upon the at-a-glance information, a full member database displaying detailed information about the characters in the guild would greatly enhance what we currently offer.
In addition to providing a larger view of the guild, members should have the ability to filter and sort the view to show only the information they are seeking, placing a higher value on the tool itself. Filter options should include:
As it is in EverQuest II, guild ranks should be customizable (guild leaders can create their own titles) and allow each rank to have custom permissions settings. In addition to the public ranks, guild leaders should be able to create, set, and view private ranking to clarify overall status of members. I.e.: new members could be marked privately as “pledge” such that guild leadership knows to interact with them and welcome them to the guild.
Sub-Guilds and Teams
Without actually altering the status of a guild member in the guild itself, guild leaders should be able to create and assign members to sub-guilds within the guild. These sub-guilds should have an open text descriptive field that allows guilds to identify that the sub-guilds are for. Examples would include: Crafters, Raid Team, RvR Squad, etc.
As Presented to Players Looking for Guilds to Join
Players looking to find guilds that they could join need to be presented with a full picture of the guild and who they are. A number of fundamental changes about when and how a potential recruit can apply are expected by our customers. The feature requests are as follows:
As Presented to Guilds Looking for new Members
Build on the option that would allow players to identify themselves to as “looking for guild” and give them a profile to fill out. Then give guild recruiters the ability to view these profiles and contact those players (directly or indirectly) through the profile page/data. Specific requests include:
Extended Guild Tools
Banking and Storage
A core need for most guilds is the ability to conveniently pass acquired items and resources across guild ranks to people who can use them most. Many online games grant guilds a group bank for this very purpose. The Influencers had a few ideas about how to further improve these banks and grant them higher utility to the guilds.
Access to the guild bank should be controlled by leadership via the “ranks” page that allows guild to set up ranks and structure within their guild. Using this same page to grant access to all (or individual parts) of the guild bank as it is in EverQuest II is highly valuable.
In addition to controlling access to the guild bank via ranks, it was also requested that the guild bank could be viewed and organized outside of the game via website (and secured logon). This would make it more convenient for guild leaders to clean and organize the guild bank, even when they don’t have time to log in to do so. It was not requested for the guild leaders to have the ability to move items in and out of the bank to their (or other) characters.
With many SOE games having high-end encounters such as raids in their advancement structure, having active support for issues related to raids is a tool of high value to those that do raid. Current solutions for guilds include manual tracking or reliance upon third party software to help them organize this element of our games.
Specific requests for augmentation to our guild tools include:
Multi-Guild Alliance Support
Support for larger-than-guild entities is also a desired by the Influencers. There are elements of play in some games that require cooperation and coordination beyond the scale and support structure of many individual guilds and a set of features that makes cross-guild collaboration easier to facilitate would be very welcome.
Allowing these “alliances” to communicate together as a larger entity, while preserving the individual structures of the member guilds is a strong step toward serving these needs. This allows each guild to maintain its individual identity while, at the same time, unifying multiple guilds to communicate and work together within the game space.
Additional support could include allowing the guilds to share data across the alliance such as rosters, events, etc. A key to this would be to allow the leadership of each guild to control what information is shared with the alliance, to protect the privacy level that each guild individually wishes; but provisions that allow them to choose to share information would be highly valuable to alliances or other multi-guild organizations.
As you can see, the “baseline” of expectations that our Influencers has for us is high. Whether we are creating new guild tools for upcoming products, or updating existing guild tools for products we have on the market, it behooves us to review this document and ask ourselves if we are meeting these expectations. If we are not, we should keep the suggestions above well in mind.