Sanya Weathers - who used the new job as a chance to cast off her maiden name Sanya Thomas - raised a lot of eyebrows when she left EA Mythic earlier this year and eventually landed at the previously unheralded GuildCafe (guildcafe.com). Usually, famous industry people move from websites to top tier developers, not the other way around. A self described "community nerd", Weathers sees her new job as a link in that community chain. The leap from Director of Community Relations at EA Mythic to this site was thus not as large as it may seem on paper. GuildCafe is hard at work on the foundations of a tool that they believe will eventually be an indispensable tool for MMO guild leaders and those that hope to join them.
First the disclaimer: Weathers told us that GuildCafe.com as it exists today is a prototype, which lacks much of the envisioned functionality. In other words, don't judge her by where they are now, but by where they're going.
Traditionally, large MMO guilds can spend hundreds of hours alone on recruitment. GuildCafe hopes to simplify the process. They'll allow individuals to create profiles for their gaming selves, complete with MMO resumes. Guild leaders can then sift, sort and filter to find the very best candidates for their group.
On the other hand, what Weathers calls a "guild purity test" allows gamers to audition guilds. Like a real purity test (Google it), this questionnaire determines the personality of a guild. If someone hopes to find a group of carebears, look for high purity. If someone else is the type that most recently harvested children in a certain FPS, then the purity test will find the guild for them.
This database of MMO gamers also acts as the "MMO facebook". The reason Facebook itself doesn't work is that no one uses real names in these games. If someone wishes to find that long lost friend from some old MUD they played in 1994, a search of the database might just do the trick.
"Guilds and guild leaders are the center pieces of the community," Weathers explained. The site may never have the reach of an advertisement in PC Gamer or on Gamespot, but it does preach to the very influencers that game companies need to convert. Weathers pointed out that an ad in a major magazine might only be of interest to one of ten people reading, while that same thing on GuildCafe could potentially reach more than the actual numbers of eyeballs if people bring their entire guilds in with them.
Another prong of this very Web 2.0 project is "Player Vox", their community magazine. There people will a wealth of member submitted content, such as guild spotlights and guides that are appropriate to guild leaders or members. On top of that, their news system is entirely player driven, much like digg.
GuildCafe also intends to provide website and forum hosting, but Weathers admits that it is not really a primary focus of the company. Plenty of others do it and do it well and while the option is there, it is not necessarily a major part of their strategy.
There are plenty of other ideas stirring around their Boston offices. Weathers envisions a kind of online history of MMOs told through chronological, player-submitted anecdotes. "The Internet can be a web," she told us with a snort. Another neat idea is an achievement system, not unlike what Xbox Live uses. The twist? While people can earn them through their website, they also hope to partner with game companies and offer badges linked to in-game characters and determined through XML feeds. Thus, potentially, a player could get a badge on GuildCafe for a new level in World of Warcraft.
The team at GuildCafe is currently hard at work on all these innovations and face tough competition in a specialized segment of the MMO community market, but with the willingness to invest in people like Sanya Weathers, they are definitely an outfit to watch.
For more information and a chance to see where they are today, check out GuildCafe.com.
Comments are welcome on our forums.