The Guilds, They Are A'Changin
The latest live update, number 12, has many very welcome changes, many of which came as a surprise to me, and seem to indicate a change in direction for some of the game design concepts.
First and foremost in my mind is the change in policy regarding patrons and guilds:
- Guilds no longer lose status or levels when an established patron leaves the guild or ceases to be a patron. Thus, guilds never lose the levels they have already earned.
- Deguilding or removing patron status from someone who has been a patron for less than a week will result in a loss of that player's status contribution. The amount removed will vary based on how close to a full week that person has been a member. Guild leaders electing to remove a patron will receive a warning as to how this will impact their guild's status.
- Guild levels are now capped at 30. Additional guild experience cannot be earned until the guild level cap is raised.
- There was a bug causing many guild levels to show as one less than they really are. This is now fixed, thus guilds may notice their level increase by one.
- You can now (for a 5 silver fee) send an in-game mail message to every member of your guild. Address your mail to “guild.” You cannot attach items to the mail, and you can only send messages to the guild of which you are a member. Guild leaders can decide which ranks have permission to send guild mail.
- You will no longer be able to complete two guild writs at the same time by killing the same NPC.
- You can now receive a new tradeskill writ every 20 minutes instead of every 30 minutes.
- The Tradesman gear bought from the City Merchants is now wearable by all classes.
The real attention-grabber is the change in what happens when a patron leaves a guild or unpatrons. This marks the end of status decay. Guilds can not lose levels or progress toward levels any more.
In the old way of doing things, inactive patrons were a huge headache for my guild. We had several patrons who had accumulated significant status, then had to put the game on hold for one reason or another. Some had not been online for 90 days or more, and without any word from them as to what was going on. The philosphy we have with our guild is that Everquest 2 is just a game, life comes first, and life has a way of changing one's plans, so we're not really upset about this or anything, but patron math dictates that inactive patrons slow down the rate at which a guild levels. We didn't want to insult the patrons, or lose the level that this status contributed, but because the status contributed by any one patron is inversely proportional to the number of patrons, an patron who is inactive for a period of several months can cost her guild levels.
So, of course, last week we bit the bullet and depatroned a couple of patrons who had not logged on in 3 months. It cost perhaps a quarter of a level. If only we had waited another week. I'm not really upset, though, since we have another inactive patron with a much bigger status contribution, and we decided to wait a bit longer before depatroning him. Now, it can happen without harming our level.
Of course, that allows the following exploit: The most advantageous number of patrons is 12. So with the new change, it would maximize leveling to rotate through a larger number of patrons, patroning just before they finish a writ or heritage quest, and then depatroning them immediately after. But this is not really what the game designers had in mind, thus the loss of status to patrons who have been a patron for less than a week.
It is still possible to rotate characters through patronhood, but requires a lot more record keeping and organization than many guilds will be able to manage. Let's consider heritage quests, specifically, the lightstone HQ. One of the steps for this quest involves finding Rama'nai, the named lion spawned in the Commonlands. He's not that rare, but if you are from Qeynos, it might take you quite a while to actually find him and make progress. And you need a couple of rare orc spawns that can also take quite a while.
The obvious consequence is to leave a character off patronhood until they are ready for the final step. The final step is fairly easy, a turnin to an NPC, and then a brief combat which might require a couple of friends. So the logical thing to do would be to wait until all but the last step is completed, and then give that character patron status, making a note in the guild tool as to the date and time, and depatroning others, if possible to keep the number of patrons down to 12.
The question is, would this be considered an exploit, or an expected use of the new implementation?
There are some difficulties with this approach. Often it is more difficult to predict when status-gaining events will happen. With writs in particular, at some levels, with some classes they are still quite difficult to solo. So one must wait for the right group to come along. Also, not every player is reading spoilers off the internet and aware that the step that she is about to complete is, in fact, the last step.
I haven't tested, but I also have to wonder about the contributed status recorded in the guild tool. Folks with high totals take some pride in that fact. If they go off patronhood for two weeks because of a vacation, and then return to patronhood, will their shown status be reset to zero? Or will it reflect their previous total? More research will be needed.
Of course, once your guild reaches level 30, none of this matters any more, since the guild can't level past 30. Perhaps this will be increased in a future expansion, though.
All-guild mail is also a welcome addition, making it easier to alert all guild members to policy changes and upcoming events.
I don't really know why the decreased the time to get a new tradeskill writ to 20 minutes, but since one person working alone can't really do a tradeskill writ in 20 minutes, I don't think there's much problem with it. If a group of tradeskillers want to collaborate to knock out several writs, more power to them, tradeskillers can't really do heritage quests unless they are also adventurers.
One other related change was the addition of loot drops that can gain status. I'll be discussing them in a later post.