So Chris Mancil from Trion Studios flew several Guildmasters out to this year's Austin Game Developers Conference (AGDC) for a panel where we could interact with game developers and community managers. It was an interesting trip to say the least, and I'll give my version of how things went. I'm sure Sinister and Combine will write up their version as well, so be sure to check up on their sites too. Here's the link to the panel audio: http://www.mmorpg.com/showVideo.cfm/videoId/1541 The Session: Ok here's some things I learned from the AGDC. 1. Most gaming Executives don't care about guilds. We're considered small fries to them. However I realized that these executives don't truly understand how many players that guilds can bring into their games. We were not aware of anyExecutives that attended our panel. We did get some marketing directors and community directors though. LotD as a guild contributes up to $45,000 per year of subscriber revenue to a game. The revenue generated by guilds who follow us to a game to game to play with or against us is approximately $540,000. That means LotD alone could have a $585,000 dollar impact on a game, and that is NOT assuming box sale revenue and secondary accounts for LotD or any of the guilds that follow us. Sinister and Combine both have similar footprints to LotD. If you use the LotD numbers times 3, then having just those three guilds in the game could have a minimum revenue (subscription only) impact of $1, 755,000 dollars a year. That isn't chump change, and there are plenty of other guilds out there who can draw numbers of players like we can. 2. Most Community Managers do understand and do care about guilds, but don't understand the full potential of how many people guilds truly bring into their games. I heard a few times that guilds were "small" portions of the playerbase. 3. The disconnect between developers, gaming vision, and how players actually play games was pretty obvious. In the modern age it seems that many devs work with QA teams, but those QA teams don't provide the same level of feedback on gameplay that a real experienced guild can provide. So many developers don't see the big picture until their game launches, and things go horribly wrong. By the time the game launches and they find out how players are really playing their game, these studios find themselves in a constant reactive mode while trying to put out 1,000 fires. Many gamers no longer have the patience to wait 1 year for a game to get things fixed, and I think that has contributed to the massive subscriber attrition rates we've seen with Age of Conan and Warhammer Online. In my opinion, games were better developed when they had feedback from real guilds. An experienced guild is going to be more comprehensive from a PVE and PVP standpoint than a handful of QA dudes who probably don't delve too deep into the guts of a game. The Questions(With My Answers) 1. Panel Introduction of the Guilds and the panel (Chris) Chris went through and talked about how all of our guilds had been around over 10 years, how that was unique, and really talked us up. 2. Guild Introduction: A brief history of your guild’s founding, games your guild’s have played, and what your guild is currently playing now. All the guilds had been around a while, and we basically gave a short version of what had been in our guild history. 3. Question: What has been the best MMO game(s) for you in the past ten years and why? We were limited to 1 game within the last decade. Out of all of those games, our WoW chapter was the longest running. While WoW has its issues, I did have to list this game due to its stability, amount of content, measurable PVE progression, and decently designed PVP systems. If we had been able to list additional games I would have said: DAOC: For the RVR COV: For the PVP and Sidekick systems AOC: For the Guild City Building component WAR: For the Guild Leveling Concept 4. Question: What was the worst MMO game you have played in the past 10 years and why? I answered Age of Conan due to its launch with an unstable game engine, lack of content between levels 21-60, and a horribly broken sieging system. If I had been able to list additional games, I would have said: Shadowbane: Poor gaming performance WoW: Loot drama + rigorous raiding schedule WAR: Poor PVE/Leveling and broken T4 RVR 5. Question: How does your guild decide to play a new MMO game – what factors do you consider? Here I described our beta evaluation process which consists of a technical review, a gameplay review, a guild mechanic review, and lastly a vote to move to retail. 6. Question: How important is a beta test to your guilds – does it impact your decision to play post launch? All of the GM's told the audience that a beta was basically a demo, and that from the beta we could all tell whether or not a game was right for our guilds. None of us expected a beta to be stable, but we let them know that their betas told us enough about their games to make a purchase decision. 7. Question: Why Has World of Warcraft Dominated the MMO Space? I'll summarize my response here, but it boiled down to WoW being: Solo Friendly Quest Designs - generally good End Game Raiding - gave players things to do PVP Systems - Multiple server BG's and Arena All the other games that have come out since WoW have generally messed up in 1 or more of those core things. People do not have the patience that they used to have, and that is why recent games have spiked initially. The large spikes show that there is a desire for a WoW alternative, but the quick die off in subscription numbers also points out that those games had some major concept or implementation failures. All these companies are trying to be the next WoW and they want WoW subs immediately. Instead of marketing to their niche market and growing, they try to Out-WoW Blizzard. Because they try that they end up launching with watered down versions of their game, the game feels too much like WoW, and people would rather go back to their nice WoW characters rather than start all over in a game that feels too much like WoW. 8. Question: What went right and wrong with Warhammer Online and Age of Conan? Age of Conan - Wrong A lack of a middle game (21-60) Poor gaming/gameplay performance Bad siege design Bad siege performance Age of Conan - Right Good newbie zone (1-20) Interesting Guild City building concept Warhammer - Wrong Poor character progression strategy Boring PVE/Leveling from T3 to level 40 Public Quests were not concentrated around flight hubs Broken T4 RVR endgame concepts Bad R4 RVR gaming performance Scenarios without multi-server queuing Class imbalances Warhammer - Right Good starting zones (1-10) Public Quests (the concept) Scenario PVP PVP Experience PVP Progression AOC sold 1.2 million boxes, and 6 months later it was down to 9 servers. WAR sold 800k boxes, and a year later its down to about 10 servers between the US/EU zones. Both of those games had over 60% player churn, and did not fix the core issues with their games fast enough. 9. Question: How do you guys handle cheating & exploits in beta and in live? LotD answered that it didn't condone hacking or exploiting, and that we would boot members if they continued such behavior after being warned. 10. Question: In the game, do you think lore and in-game events are important? In short, we don't care. 11. Question: What is your dream MMO game? DAOC 2.0 with the following: No Trials of Atlantis grinding With DAOC New Frontiers RVR systemm WoW's solo friendly leveling War's Public Quests done right War's Guild Leveling system with better rewards AOC's Guild City Building concept COV's sidekick system PVP Arena's with multi-server queuing Detailed PVP stats ---by player ---by guild ---achievement recognition PVP progression systems for items PVE systems with 5-10 main raid content Titles and trophies that provided passive bonuses Gear that has durability and wears out Conclusion We had a decent sized audience and several questions were asked. That told me that at least some of the people in the room cared about what guilds think, and how we make our purchasing decisions. I do think that more interaction between guilds, devs, community managers, and gaming executives needs to take place. Guilds can help steer games and help studios avoid common pitfalls. Until guilds are utilized more, then I guess the gaming executives will keep wondering why tons of players bought their products but didn't stay very long. This wasn't your typical conference where people were advertising games. Instead it was mostly vendors selling their stuff to the gaming studios. So I didn't get a lot of good pictures, but I did manage to get about 4 that were worth posting. All in all it was a good trip, and I would like to thank Trion and Chris Mancil for making it happen.