Exploring Star Citizen's Organizations
(Citizen Star News/Crusty Collins) - 2014-09-07 - Almost nine months after the birth of Star Citizen's organizations system, there are incredibly varied organizations out there (as you can see in our 'Org Profiles' section) which support many different play styles. From the expected trade & hauling, piracy, electronic warfare, escort & security services, to unusual for an MMO Red Cross styled initiatives, journalism, exploration even xenoarchaeology, and many others.
Although it may seem that big organizations are dominating, the numbers do not support this thesis. At the beginning of August 85,626 Citizens were organized in 19,282 guilds (numbers courtesy of LindyNet - link see below). Removing one-man organizations, the average is only 7 members per org. And while there is quite some controversy surrounding organizations with up to 70% affiliate members, only 16.7% (14,271) of people involved with Star Citizen guilds are actually members in more than one guild. Nevertheless, big organizations spark a lot of discussions and I asked myself whether bigger generally means better or stronger.
That's why I talked to 'Checkmate' - an MMO and guild veteran, who founded 'Pan Galactic', a small guild with a very strong social focus.
With still a long time to go until the persistent universe (PU) is released, I often take time "browsing" different organizations and while there are many specifying 'social' as one of their two main activities, I came across many mentions of 'divisions', 'org charts' and that guilds want to become 'one of the most' influential/powerful/successful/insert-your-goal-here organizations in Star Citizen.
Am I mistaken in seeing many MMOs offering more features supporting competitive gaming (e.g. battle instances, raids, faction battles) and feeling that guilds have become more competitive over the years and emphasizing achievement (e.g. controlling an area or resource node, accrueing equipment/gold/influence/power)?
At Checkmate's 'Pan Galactic' RSI page I stumbled over the following:
We remember, back in the early days of MMORPGs, orgs were places where members gathered and were genuinely interested in one another, outside of what happened in the game.
Checkmate has been part of guilds since 'Star Wars: Galaxies' and certainly knows what he is talking about. So, I asked him for an interview.
Obviously, it is harder to make friends when you are part of a guild with hundreds or even thousands of members. In consequence, they tend to feel less social. You are meeting a lot of different people every time you are taking part in clan play. And you may never get to really interact with people from completely different divisions, not to speak of the vast differences in play-time between hardcore players, strong regulars, regulars and casual players.
Therefore, you are just one of many, or as Checkmate put it in our conversation: "I'd feel that I was in a large group where I might know some people, but didn't really have a good grasp on things overall." He continued pointing out that hundreds of members become a faceless mass trading on numbers & size as their main selling point. Some people do like this very aspect of being part of a big number and enjoy that all those other members 'have their back', so to speak. Naturally, that's absolutely fine - every player shall enjoy their preferred play style. But does Star Citizen really cater to such big guilds and what are the 'social disadvantages' of too much focus on achievements?
For example, Checkmate reminded me of the heavily instanced StarCitizen universe (especially regarding combat), where advantages of size & scale will probably get lost in the game mechanics of everyday play or will at least weigh in at much less than what big organizations might hope for.
His guild's statement with regards to meta-gaming also touches on an interesting aspect.
We think filling the pre-game vacuum is necessary, but many orgs indulge in a kind of metagame to keep their members engaged that just tends to burn members out, which helps no one.
Before founding his own organization, Checkmate was part of an organization where meta-gaming was in full swing. He told me that it reached a point where officers would 'pull rank' and meetings would last for hours - and that was even before the hangar module was out. "[One] officer was coming down hard on other officers for 'not living up to their obligations' and not completing work assignments he'd set them." Eventually, many members felt exhausted and left.
This view, that too much meta-gaming is detrimental, is shared by Mark, aka CallMeMorphe, of The Convoy, which is in the Top20 of the largest organizations. He feels that there's an overdose of drama in highly competitive orgs. He also told me that they haven't made pre-emptive alliances, as that would be diving into the metagame "without context or direction", which is "not worth the time, effort or drama".
Regarding the subject of guild focus, Checkmate shares my perception that "as MMO-style games have become less 'social simulators' and less 'sandbox' and more goal-oriented - and more like, well, games - guilds have adapted to become places where you go if you want to team up with people and achieve things." Mark, on the other hand, puts it down to a more varied supply of different orgs and play styles: "There is just greater access to groups that are goal focused [...]. It's just density, social orgs still exist. Role play orgs are also seeing a resurgence nowadays."
When talking to Mark and one of his co-chairs Bossman, I found their own view of their org very interesting & surprising. Mark: "We are currently 800+ members and I believe that is both untenable as a social org & likely to self resolve as time moves on." They expect that when the real gaming starts some members will move on or realize that The Convoy is not a great fit for them. They told me that they are not trying to be a big organization (e.g. they are not actively recruiting) and Bossman stated that their main goal is "to have enough critical mass [...], that in any instance, someone who wants to partner with another hauler or escort can do so through The Convoy. This structure allows friendships and small groups to form organically."
They reckon their sweet spot is around 250 members, which they still find manageable as a social org. Checkmate would probably disagree, as Pan Galactic believe the sweet spot for an organization lies "between 25 and 100 members interacting".
So, what do you think? Are orgs much more goal-focused than the guilds of 15 years ago? Where do you see the sweet spot in terms of membership numbers? Let us know in the comments.