Guild UI Changes I’d Like to See

Cataclysm will bring a number of changes to guilds.  Some of these are completely new functionality (guild experience) while others are improvements to what we have today and could arguably be introduced independent from the new expansion.

Today, I’d like to draw up a wishlist of guild tools that I’d like to see added to WoW in the future.  As we haven’t heard much beyond the snippets from Blizzcon, some of these may even already be in the works.

First, let’s quickly recap the changes we know are going to be part of Cataclysm.  I’m only talking about changes to the guild user interface and things that provide utility, so I won’t be going into depth on things like talent trees and guild currency.

  • you will be able to inspect the professions of guild members without them being logged in
  • you will be able to invite other guilds to your events (rather than the individual members of that guild)
  • you will be able to set recruiting options for your guild, including the type and level of members you are looking for.  People can search for guilds in-game much as they search for groups in the pre-3.3 LFG tool

Now, on to what I’d like to see added:

Communication

Getting information to your members has always been a challenge for guild leaders.  The in-game tools are so lacking that an outside forum is the only place to post anything of substance.  Getting your members to visit the forum regularly is like drawing water from a stone.  Either you make the website integral to their in-game experience (by only inviting members to raids if they’ve signed up via the forum) or you spend a good deal of time saying if you’d just read the forum, you’d know _blank_ in guild chat.  There is more than enough room for improvement.

Guild Warnings

I’d like to see an /gw command that works the same way as /rw does in groups today (though with green text by default, naturally).  The ability to spam a guild warning would be controlled by a new permission bit, or at the very least be restricted to the same people who can edit the message of the day.

Depending on how many channels your members are in, and the amount of social chatter going on, it is all too easy to miss something in guildchat that your GM or officers say.  Whether you’re trying to get people’s attention a few minutes before raid invites go out or enforce some level of control on guild chat gone crazy, the large text and accompanying sound will help.

Notification of MOTD / Guild Info Changes

If you’ve used a Ventrilo server before, you may be familiar with the MOTD window that pops up when you first connect to a server.  And every time thereafter, unless you tick the checkbox that reads “only show me the MOTD when it changes”.

The MOTD and Guild Information Pane are useful places to put information for your members, but neither are very effective at getting information to members the next time they log in.  The MOTD can easily scroll right off the page if you have a few addons that spam startup messages, and the guild information pane is so infrequently accessed by most that you can only put reference material there – links to your forums, your voice server’s host / port / password, etc.  Some addons (epgp) even use the guild information pane to store configuration data on the assumption that when people do infrequently open it up they can visually filter out the addon data.

I’d like to see an option where changes to the MOTD or Guild Information panel prompt members as to whether they want to see the changes.  Much like a software update, offer choices like Yes, No and Remind Me Later.  If you’re online when the change is made, it would be best to wait until you’re no longer in a group to display the prompt; otherwise you see it as soon as you log in.  Once you’ve acknowledged the changes, you don’t get prompted again until the information changes again.  That way guild leaders could put some basic announcements and communication that members would be all but forced to read.

Ability for Members to Change Their Public Note

I’ve never understood why the guild permissions are set up this way, but the permission bit to “change public note” allows you to change anyone’s public note.  As such, it’s only appropriate for officers to have.  I know many guilds who use the public note for nicknames, or tracking of alts, or just forms of self-expression like a very small Twitter update.

Either all of these changes have to be mediated through an officer, or anyone can screw with anyone else’s message.  I’d like that permission bit to be split in two – one that allows you to change your own public note and one that allows you to change anyone’s.

Addon Data

Addons are an amazing part of WoW.  Anyone who has used addons for a while will know the pain of going back to the standard UI, or even just losing a few favourite addons for a few days after a major patch drops.  Worse still is when your hard drive crash, or you accidentally delete your UI settings while using the repair tool.  For a user, this means anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours of reconstructing a user interface.  It hurts, but very little is lost that cannot eventually be replaced.

Addons that store information for the guild are much more important though.  If they store loot standings, they either need to synchronize their settings among multiple members to ensure that a backup is readily available, or offer some kind of “upload to website” functionality.  To avoid this, some addons take over the guild roster – the EP/GP addon uses the officer note to store loot standings, and gets runtime configuration values from the guild information pane.

While this works, it does restrict the standard use of those fields by guilds.  Let’s say that they added the “user can change their own public note” feature – your officers might now want to store information that only they can change in the officer note field.  But if you’re using EP/GP, that field isn’t available to you.

What I’d like to see is an arbitrary data field that addons can access – one for the guild and a smaller one for each member in the guild.  Access would be controlled by permissions, just like access to the officer note and guild info panel is today.  The size would need to be limited, and I’m not quite sure how to mediate access by multiple addons, but the benefits that this would give are clear.

The Guild Bank

While the guild bank is a relatively recent addition to WoW (and thus shows a more advanced design than some of the five-year-old elements), it could still do with some improvements

More Controls Per Tab

I wrote an article on guild ranks and controls that talked about bank tabs a bit, and a commenter alerted me to something I didn’t know at the time: re-stacking items in a tab doesn’t eat into your withdrawal limit.

I had suggested letting your officers split up consumables into per-person stacks, then letting raiders withdraw one stack per day.  The problem is that you can re-stack 20 per-person stacks into one, then make that your single withdrawal for the day.  Not good.

I’d like to see a permission bit that must be set to allow someone to split or combine within a bank tab, because the idea of delegating consumable prep is sound, even if the implementation falls over right now.

Extra Withdrawal Controls

Guild bank theft can be devastating for a guild, even more so when it originates from inside the guild.  I would like to see the ability to restrict withdrawals for a tab using a two-person system.  You’d set a guild rank to tie a tab to, and when someone wanted to withdraw an item, some kind of interface would pop up for everyone online at that rank.  At least one person would have to OK the withdrawal for it to go forward.

This is a clumsy system, so an even better technique would be to tie withdrawal access to whether the person performing the withdrawal has an authenticator associated with their account.  Blizzard separates the authentication (who you are) and authorization (what you can do – in this case your character list) phases in WoW, so this might require some architectural changes.

Assuming that the server can have a flag set to indicate whether a game session was protected by the authenticator or not, then you could only allow withdrawals for people with authenticators.  This doesn’t protect against internal theft, but it does protect against one officer who refuses to get an authenticator getting hacked and bypassing the security measures the other officers have put in place.

Ranks and Social

More Flexible Rank Editing

The current rank system is incredibly annoying to work with, and the prospect of re-ordering ranks is one people shy away from.

Any changes to allow the editing process to be less annoying would be welcome, but I think the real solution is to move this (and other guild UI elements) out of the game.  More on that below.

Guild Alliances / Enemies

I think the ability to add other guilds (say up to 3 at a time) as “allied” or “at war” would be interesting, even if it just showed up as a note in the tooltip.  It would be even better if this showed up as another hostility factor beyond “friendly”, “neutral” and “hostile”.

Existing Addons

There are addons today that make some of the above possible.  The problem is that they require everyone to install them and keep them up to date.  If someone won’t or can’t install the addon, the impact can either be annoying (in the case of a guild alliance manager) to rendering the concept pointless (the two-person withdrawal system).

Some of the changes are impossible to implement as an addon – such as restricting withdrawals based on authenticator use.

The only way to ensure that this functionality is available to anyone is for it to be part of the core client and managed by the server.

Just a Few Bytes Times 100 Million

A big problem with my suggestions is the data size.  Adding a few permission bits (especially if the existing bits are packed) might double the amount of storage required for permissions for each guild.  Adding just 100 bytes of storage for addons to use to each guild member might not seem like a lot until you consider that WoW has 12 million subs, each of whom probably have an average of three characters.

It’s not as simple as “go buy four external hard drives and you’ve covered everyone in the world”.  Storing enterprise data has considerably more overhead than your music and photos at home, including replication, backup, indexes and the like.  When you increase the per-subscriber data stored, you also have to revise all your growth estimates to make sure that your hardware purchases aren’t scheduled after the point when you expect to exhaust the storage you have today.

I’m sure someone reading this has experience with enterprise data modelling and can back me up on this.

The Guild as a Manageable Entity

I think the time has come for Blizzard to consider the guild as a manageable entity unto itself, with much of the configuration pushed to the web.  Changing the in-game guild interface is difficult, has to be extensively tested, and if something breaks has to be patched on the client side, which is no small effort.

When you log into the armory on an account that is guilded, you have the ability to see the guild bank contents.  Why can’t the guild leader get another option to manage the guild?  Blizzard could provide a rich web interface for re-organizing ranks, setting permissions, promotion / demotion and mass-editing members.  Some of these things would still be available in-game, but the interface would intentionally be limited in scope to push people to the rich interface.

Because the entirety of the guild management interface would live on Blizzard’s web servers, they can easily make changes and fix any issues.  They could even provide multiple ways to make the same change – take promotion and demotion.  You could have a drag-and-drop system to move members from one rank pool to another or the more traditional move up / move down system.  At the end of the day the change in the data is the same, but the web gives you more options to effect those changes.

You Have One Wish.  You Ask For…

If you could change just one thing about the guild interface in WoW, what would it be?

Until Next Time

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