Major Guild Improvements Dropped from Cataclysm
Well, this is a bit of a kick in the teeth. After waiting patiently for a chance to play the beta, or get information from those in the beta on the guild changes coming in Cataclysm, it now seems as though there will be far less of those changes to test and report on.
Blizzard held a press event. I can't find the original post, so I'll link to the copy on worldofraids.com.
There's more than just information about guild changes in there, and to be fair some of the changes are positives. But the changes to guilds are pretty much negative across the board.
Removed: Guild Talents
This was the feature I was most excited about. Guild Talents were going to differentiate the huge number of gentry guilds from each other. You'd choose a guild not only based on their progression and policies, but the perks that the guild had selected for themselves. When you were thinking of moving guilds, you would have to consider what the loss of said perks would be. Perhaps you'd gotten used to not buying buffing reagents, or getting more gold from enemies, or the free repairs that having a neutral bonus cash policy entailed.
Well, forget all that, because they're gone. They are being replaced (in a fashion) with guild rewards and guild reputation, but those will be the same for everybody in every guild. Your decision when moving will now simply be "do I want to grind reputation with my new guild or not?".
Removed: Guild Currency
Guild Currency was to be generated in lieu of experience when your guild hit maximum level. The maximum level is now 25 rather than 20. In my mind, the point of guild currency was to keep people doing things that earn the guild experience even after hitting the max level cap - much as you keep doing dailies once you hit 80 to fill your personal coffers.
Now, guild rewards will be purchased with gold. So not only have you lost this "free" alternate currency (because you received it for doing things you would do anyway), you now need to consider how much of your personal wealth to invest in rewards that come from the guild.
This makes the job of a guild master simpler, to be sure. How were you to decide who had earned the right to use guild currency to purchase a guild-specific mount? What about guild hoppers? Sure, if they left the guild the item would return to the guild bank, but as the purchased item, not the guild currency used to purchase it. What if nobody else wanted the item?
By making everything use gold, Blizzard makes daily quests the primary source of advancement at level 85, just as it was in Wrath. This doesn't help the gold selling problem (gold sellers couldn't sell you guild currency), and it gives a boost to anyone who goes into Cataclysm with a large gold stockpile. I suppose the upside is that the news comes early enough that anyone who doesn't have 25k gold or more can easily make that between now and Cataclysm.
Added: Guild Perks
Guild Perks will be awarded every time a guild levels up. No details as to what these perks will be were part of the press release, so I wouldn't be surprised to see some of the previously-announced talents make a re-appearance. Perhaps at guild level 10 you'll just start getting more gold from monsters. Fair enough, but as I mentioned above the specialization from guild to guild is gone.
Added: Guild Rewards
Guild Rewards are the items that used to be purchased with guild currency - things like mounts, tabards and heirlooms. You will unlock them by completing guild achievements. We finally have some numbers as to how many members of a raid have to be from the same guild for these to count: 7/10 or 20/25. At least that lets guilds PUG a few when required without losing the benefit of a guild achievement.
I can easily see certain PvE achievements unlocking the ability to get certain mounts. Hopefully these won't replace the mounts that are rewarded for completing all the hard modes of a dungeon, as once an achievement is awarded to the guild anyone can purchase the reward, even if everyone who participated in the achievement leaves. It's also not clear whether said mounts are considered to be heirlooms (and thus revert back to the guild bank if you leave the guild).
Guild mounts will have the guild's emblem on them, but you purchase them with gold that you earned on your own, not with currency that your guild leadership gave you. So if you leave, are you giving up the money you paid for the mount? Will you get the gold back? Or will the space for the emblem just go blank, as a guild tabard does when you're not guilded?
Hopefully the guild mounts will only be special in that they have the emblem, and otherwise be mounts that you can source on your own. If they are unique or desirable in ways other than showing guild pride, I see the potential for abuse where guilds offer invites for a set amount of gold, letting someone purchase an unlocked mount before kicking them.
I'm less clear on what kind of achievement will unlock guild heirlooms. Perhaps you need to have 5 people hit the max level in a given profession to unlock heirlooms of that armor class?
Added: Guild Reputation
When asked for my wishlist of Cataclysm features, "grinding more rep" was not very high on the list. Yet that's what we've been given in the form of guild reputation. The best guild rewards will require exalted rep with your guild. This may be the protection required to avoid the abuse I predicted above - you can't just join and buy an amazing mount, you need to be active in the guild for long enough to get the reputation to buy it.
If this reputation is passive, then it won't be a problem - you'll get rep with the guild by doing the things you do anyway (as guild experience / currency was previously). If they implement it like the Wrath Champion Tabard system, where you have to do heroics while wearing your guild tabard to get more rep, then it becomes a grind you have to complete in addition to the new PvE factions you need to grind for rewards.
Added: Split Your Raid ID
These last two features are quite nice, and will give more flexibility to raid leaders. I mentioned in a previous article that if you started your raid week with 25 people but didn't have enough show up to continue on the second or third night, you could switch to a 10 person raid without having to create a new raid ID. The obvious problem is that if you had 18/25 show up, what do you do with the extra 8 people?
Now, you'll be able to split the 25 person raid ID into two 10 person raid IDs. Presumably you'll have to choose who goes in which raid, or at least who becomes the leader of the new 10 person raid. I'm guessing that everyone will then lose their 25 person ID and will have to zone in behind the original or new leader to get locked to the cloned 10 person ID.
This is a one-way decision though - if you split on raid night 2 and then have everyone show up for raid night 3, you can't combine the two 10 person raids into a single 25 person raid. The guilds who get the most benefit out of this will be those who lose people because their members don't like wipes, not those who have low turnout because of real-life commitments. If your have good turnout Thursday, lousy turnout Saturday because everyone's out having a real life, then good turnout Sunday, this feature isn't really going to help you. You may wish to re-think your raid schedule with this change in mind if this is what's holding you back today.
Added: Switching Raid IDs
This sounds neat, but I see a huge potential for abuse. The idea is that you can switch from one Raid ID to another, so long as it keeps you the same in progression or makes you fall back. For example, you can go from a 9/12 cleared raid to a 7/12 cleared raid, but not to a 10/12 clear.
This will be a huge boost if you find that your chosen 10 person teams aren't balanced properly. It will also give you more flexibility if some members needs loot from early bosses and you have someone to take their place in your progression raid.
What worries me is that there is no mention of limiting how often you can do this. The cap on valor points will make clearing everything you can, then hopping to a new raid and doing it all over again less rewarding, but you will still be eligible for the loot the boss drops, right? So if you need something off the first or second boss, guilds could choose to clear those over and over again for loot, even though they'd cap out their valor points fairly quickly.
This suggests that the cap on valor points might be lower than I had originally predicted. I suggested that you'd get the same valor points for doing two raids a week without any daily heroics, or one raid per week plus a few daily heroics (but not every day). No raids and every daily heroic might get you to 70% of the valor point cap.
What happens when they have a new gated instance? Back when ICC first opened, if you'd had the choice to run the first four bosses every day until the first gate opened with a cap on the number of Emblems of Frost you would have picked up, would you have done so? Right now you get 24 EoF for doing ICC-10 on normal. When only the first wing was available, you could get 8 EoF. If the valor point cap is static, then it seems like re-doing earlier content over and over again is more rewarding than doing a heroic every day.
Let's go hypothetical and say that valor points will cap at 30 per week, which more or less matches my predictions above. Would you rather do the first wing of ICC three times, or do the first wing of ICC plus ToC-10 plus the weekly and a couple of daily heroics? I fear that guilds will think the former option makes more sense, which puts us right back at the problem with ToC - you could do the same fights four times each week, and many guilds felt compelled to do so, much to the chagrin of their members.
When I first read about the guild changes in Cataclysm, I was impressed. That there had been very little information about those changes since should have been a warning that they were too ambitious. The raid ID changes are nice, but I have to think that those would have happened even if guild talents and currency had not been dropped. The direct replacements - perks, rewards and achievements are not a proper replacement.
Yes, there will still be an incentive to remain with your guild to avoid having to re-grind reputation, but amongst the gentry guilds where the available rewards will be more-or-less the same, anyone willing to put in the grind time will find the decision to jump guilds only slightly less simple than it is today.
What do you think?