According to Blizzard the answer to that question is no, guilds should not have levels.
We got guild levels as part of the Cataclysm expansion, 25 of them, along with perks to go with those levels. Those levels were not easy to acquire back then. During Cataclysm our guild only managed to get to level 2. Granted, we left not very far into the expansion, but we were there long enough to see that progress was going to be slow.
Earl, who actually kept playing WoW while we were away got us to level 3 pretty much on his own over the course of 18 months.
Blizzard revamped leveling with Mists of Pandaria, turning the dial probably too far in the other direction, as getting a guild to level 25 went from something you needed an active raiding guild to accomplish to something I probably could have done solo between the launch of the Siege of Orgrimmar and the coming of the Iron Horde.
We got the guild back together just after Siege of Orgrimmar went live and popped up from level 3 to level 25 relatively swiftly.
It was enjoyable. It was nice to see those levels show up and get those perks unlocked.
It was something to celebrate, something that we could all help out with even if we were just doing quests with an alt. I thought it was great stuff and some of the perks were quite worthwhile. As a guild we were especially big on the perk that added some coin to the guild bank every time a quest was completed. It didn’t raise a ton of money, but it made for a nice guild repair fund.
But, with the coming of the Warlords of Draenor expansion and the 6.0 pre-expansion patch, Blizzard has removed guild levels. We still have a few of the perks.
Some of the missing perks have just been made part of the game. The speed between flight points perk got generally applied if I recall right and among the stats squished was the amount of experience you need to get to level cap, so the exp boost effectively went there. Others, like our little guild bank filler perk, disappeared completely. It seems that people were spam inviting new players to exploit them for this perk.
Blizzard took a while to make guilds something more than a name floating over your head and a chat channel. We didn’t get guild banks until… was it with Wrath of the Lich King? And then with Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, and Warlords of Draenor Blizzard fleshed guilds out more with levels, turned it to easy mode, then threw it all away. Bascially, over the course of four year, we went from no levels, to level 25 being a sign that a group worked hard, to level 25 being a sign that you had people playing, to no levels again. Boom, gone, we’re done with that idea.
Which is odd, because guilds having levels isn’t exactly a rare thing.
EverQuest II, for example, went live (before WoW) with guild levels in place.
Yes, the whole thing was convoluted in that way that only SOE can manage on a first try. You earned guild experience by acquiring status, but only designated “patrons” in your guild could earn experience for the guild, and the more people (or patrons) you had in your guild, the less of their status went towards guild experience. (Alts were thus not allowed in the guild, but when we made an alts guild, our guild leader got mad at us.) And if one of the partons left the guild, they took their applied guild experience with them. I remember our guild leader Wooflin being incensed when Oteb the Traitor, who we had vouched for because he was in our TorilMUD guild, left the Knights of the Cataclysm just after we had hit level 15, which at the time was the level where we got a status mount. Whoops, no mounts for us until we earned back that guild exp.
Eventually SOE fixed some of the crazier bits and the whole thing settled down. Earning guild exp got easier, but the fact that they kept piling on levels so that the guild level cap was always somewhere around the character level cap, meant that only the larger, more active guilds could expect to be at level cap and indulge themselves in all of the perks. Gaff and I managed to ramrod the guild we created on the Freeport server as part of our ill-fated EQII instance group adventure to level 30 mostly on our own so we could have a guild hall, but after that the level curve continued to ramp up and we capped out at 42.
But even at lower levels guilds got identifying marks, like guild cloaks. Small guilds can still have some nice things.
And as much of a pain as the guild levels were during the early days, I also remember them fondly (now). They represented a point where the guild was working together to accomplish a goal.
While I would readily agree that a guild should be more than just what the game mechanics dictate… a guild is a social organization and if you feel yourself constrained by just having a chat channel then maybe you aren’t doing it right… having game mechanics like guild levels that a guild can work on together and which reward the guild can help build the social bonds without which you are just a bunch of avatars with the same guild tag floating above your head.
And it isn’t just EverQuest II. While EverQuest never went the guild level route, other games have guild levels. Some of them are similar, as with Rift, where you get perks and guild tasks you can work on together.
Others are of… more dubious value. In Lord of the Rings Online kinships (guilds) have levels, but they are based on the age of the guild rather than anything anybody has done. So at this point, having not really played LOTRO in over a year, all of the kinshipss I am in on various servers are at max level, more due to neglect than activity. (See my guild review for details.)
And then there is EVE Online, which turns the whole thing on its head. In Soviet New Eden, guild levels you! Sort of. There are skills around running a corp, the EVE version of a guild, as there are skills for everything. So while corps do not have levels, as your corp grows the CEO must level up the appropriate leadership skills in order to accommodate the change. So The Mittani, CEO of Goonwaffe, which has 2,500+ members, might have had to train into Sovereignty, one of the Corporation Management skills, which takes more than 50 days to train to level I.
And I don’t even begin to know how alliances… groupings of corporations… work in New Eden. But that is straying off the point.
Guilds having levels and such is a reasonably established thing in the MMO market. And, in my experience, having levels that people can contribute to helps bring a guild closer together. So I am somewhat disapp0inted that Blizzard has decided to dispense with the guild level thing. Yes, we still have guild achievements, and those do actually unlock things. But those are also somewhat focused. You have to go do a specific thing in a limited group. There aren’t a lot of them you can help out with by leveling an alt… a couple, but not a lot. Killing a damn tauren rogue in a battleground, for example, would get us another achievement. Do people even roll tauren rogues?
Anyway, I wish Blizzard would revisit the guild levels idea again in a future release. And, Blizzard being Blizzard, if they do I am sure they will model it on an implementation that is already out there and working. So the question is, who does guild levels best? Who is totally winning on the guild levels front out there in the world?