Earth & Beyond Updated Preview

Westwood is working on a new guild system for this MMORPG, and we've got the first details.

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The latest news from Earth & Beyond, Westwood's upcoming massively multiplayer space role-playing game, is an ambitious new guild system being implemented in the coming weeks. Recently, GameSpot had a chance to talk to Westwood Studios about the new guild features. The team says that it is "really supporting guilds above and beyond current MMORPGs. We recognize that socialization is the heart and soul of any massively multiplayer game, and features like grouping, chatting, and a guild system go a long way to making it easier for players to interact. Aside from the grouping features in the game, we're also adding a robust guild RPG system that actually rewards guilds based on individual members' accomplishments."

The big news from Westwood this week is that it is implementing an innovative new guild system in Earth & Beyond.
The big news from Westwood this week is that it is implementing an innovative new guild system in Earth & Beyond.

According to producer Eric Wang, Westwood has been brainstorming and planning the guild system for some time but wasn't sure if it would make it into the game by ship or not. Now that it will, the team is ready to talk about it. Says Wang, "We always had these ideas, but we didn't know if we could get them in for live. It turned out that we got some extra time, and we were able to fit them in. We didn't have a guild system until very recently. It will go live to the general public [in the next few] weeks."

The big news is thus Westwood's unique new guild system. So in addition to providing advanced chatting and grouping capabilities for those who create and join guilds, Earth & Beyond is also offering real in-game benefits to guild members and doling them out in a level-based system, with each guild member contributing experience to the guild pool of experience points, which can then be used to purchase in-game amenities for all members.

What Earth & Beyond will do is track the individual accomplishments of each guild member and then award the entire guild experience points. Every time a guild member scores a kill, the guild will get a fraction of experience points. If a guild member makes a successful trade, the guild will get experience, and so on. Just ascharacters gain experience, the guild too will record experience points in three separate pools for combat, trade, and exploration. Thus, a guild whose members all engage in combat will have high combat experience but low trade and exploration experience. Meanwhile, a guild filled with Jenquai explorers would likely have lots more exploration experience than anything else.

In this way, players who want to investigate guilds or join a prospective guild can see what sort of emphasis a particular guild has and what sort of members it values or covets. If you just like to shoot things up, then you'll want to look for like-minded individuals, and the Earth & Beyond guild system will list for you the guilds with the most combat experience. Likewise, if you enjoy trading more than anything else, you can search for trade-intensive guilds to join.

Guilds can be started with a minimum of six players. This group is halfway there.
Guilds can be started with a minimum of six players. This group is halfway there.

It's important to note that when you gain experience for your guild, those experience points aren't being taken away from you. Instead, you add bonus experience to your guild pool. So if you gain 5000 experience points from exploration, your guild might get five exploration experience points. As your guild gains experience, it will level up, just like a character. And like in other RPGs, the experience points needed for the next level will increase proportionally as you grow in level. Thus, to go from level two to level three, you will need more experience than it took for you to advance from level one to two.

So what does leveling up actually do for you? Those experience points you accumulate will then allow your guild leader to purchase amenities for your entire guild. Each time you hit a new level, you are awarded points to spend on guild bonuses. Only the guild leader will be allowed to make purchases, so there will be no interface or method within the game for polling guild members and casting votes. Westwood trusts each guild to make its own decisions about how to purchase amenities and, when the decisions are made, to empower the leader to finalize those orders. Says Wang, "The guild leader is the one who makes the purchasing. How they make the decision is up to them."

More on the Guild System

Westwood says that it has designed the guild system to benefit individual guild members. Thus, all the amenities bought will go toward actual bonuses to the players. Amenities include hardened hulls, to give each guild member extra ship hit points; fast ships, to increase the speed of each member's ship; and cargo expansion, for increased cargo space in each member's hold. You can also purchase a guild symbol, which you can then affix to every guild member's hull to show off their guild affiliation. Eric Wang says that the team will definitely listen to the fans, and if they want something, the team will seriously consider adding it to the game. So if some players push for the ability to purchase space stations or other such housing, they could be implemented as well. Says Wang, "The sky's the limit as far as what kind of things we will be able to provide. I am sure the list will grow constantly over time."

You will be able to purchase amenities for all your guild members with guild points. Some amenities might boost your ship speed or hit points.
You will be able to purchase amenities for all your guild members with guild points. Some amenities might boost your ship speed or hit points.

Earth & Beyond will also have a powerful means of tracking guild information while you are playing the game. At this moment, a graphics interface isn't in yet, so we can't get a good look at how you will see this information, but the designers are planning to offer lots of guild info. Says Wang, "We are going to put a UI in there. Right now it is a bunch of slash commands." Eventually, you will be able to use the in-game interface to see guild name, guild inception date, guild members, number of members, average member level, guild level, guild combat level and experience, guild trade level and experience, and guild exploration level and experience. You'll be able to see not only your own information, but also rival guild information. You'll also be able to see how much experience each guild member contributed to your guild.

Westwood is proud of the fact that the guild system will be massively supported offline as well. When you are out of the game, you can visit the Earth & Beyond Web site and get even more information on guilds. Westwood will support each guild by building a Web site for each one and hosting it on the official Web site. Says Westwood, "We will be implementing a huge Web presence of the guild systems--far beyond what current MMORPGs are offering. Essentially, we are creating an entire Web site for each guild, all of which will be linked back to EarthandBeyond.com."

You'll probably get more information on the Web site than you will in the game. And according to community manager Maria Hamilton, the information will be updated with up-to-the-minute information from the game's databases. Hamilton also says, "We know that a lot of guilds want to be able to track their rosters and show off their accomplishments on the Web. They want people to be able to see their guild and how they rank against other guilds. We are building a Web site that pulls data from the game's database. The EB Web site will be the one-stop shopping place for guild Web sites. There is a place for forums to be linked in. We are letting them upload their own logos. We are letting them post news. We are letting them customize the look of their page. We are really giving them the opportunity to take advantage of stuff we have already built so they don't have to go out and build a brand-new site."

Guild pages will also include guild rankings in various areas, such as kills, level, mining, and manufacturing. There will also be extensive information about each guild member on each guild site, including a member's race and profession, level, guild status, starship, avatar, and more.

Earth & Beyond's new robust and friendlier chatting, grouping, and guild features should satisfy the discerning online community.
Earth & Beyond's new robust and friendlier chatting, grouping, and guild features should satisfy the discerning online community.

While other massively multiplayer RPGs do have some robust guild features, Earth & Beyond is adding an extensive list of new features and is doing things that haven't been done before. But Wang calls for some patience. He says, "When we actually launch with the guild and RPG system, you might not see all the rewards, but we are going to be working really diligently to make the rewards more meaningful as we go along. We are really going to use this system. We are going to build the foundation and really flesh it out over the next 12 months." So while everything won't be fully implemented for the beta, or even the final release, Westwood is committed to working on the guild system and is continuously updating it to make it better and more rewarding for the community.

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