Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Some social assembly required. Friends not included.

The best feature of multi-player games is other people. The worst feature of multi-player games is other people. People have such a wide range of possible behaviors that they can brighten or darken your day. They can make you happy or unhappy. They can help you to achieve your goal, or they can frustrate you. For game companies that poses a problem. They would like to have positive player interaction, because they can basically monetize it. For example some people stay in a game they would otherwise have quit just because their friends are still playing. What game companies don't want is players leaving their games because of negative interactions. But they can't monitor all player interaction to step in and prevent the negative ones. At best they can put things like a "report" button into their game, or some player-run justice system, but none of this actually prevents players being driven out of the game by other players.

Destiny is trying a different approach, and it is an approach that pretty much every Facebook game uses: For certain parts of the game you can't interact with strangers, but you can interact with people on your friends list. The idea behind that is simple: People you already have on your friends list are probably more likely to have positive interactions with you than negative ones. Let's just avoid all these strangers! So Destiny simply doesn't have anything like local or general chat, because that would foster interaction with strangers, which could go wrong. The problem is that chat also could lead to meeting new friends, or forming groups, and by not having that option, you're less likely to group or make friends.

I feel as if those games should come with a disclaimer, "Some social assembly required. Friends not included.". My real friends play pen & paper games with me, and they play PC games (we all played World of Warcraft at some point), but none of them plays console games. My Playstation friends list has only one person on it, and that person hasn't played anything in months, and presumably doesn't even own Destiny. So I don't have existing Playstation friends that I could group with in Destiny. And as *making* friends isn't really foreseen in the game, there are parts of the game I can't play other than solo. The weird thing is that Destiny has a perfectly well working system of grouping you with strangers for other sorts of content ("strike missions" or PvP). But apparently they felt it was important to keep strangers away from the basic story campaign of the game.

I think that is a mistake. While some MMORPGs in the past certainly have made mistakes in game design which resulted in "grouping with strangers" being likely to ruin your game experience, that isn't the case for all games. Specifically in Destiny grouping with a stranger who is afk and not contributing anything would still be better than playing solo, because as long as the other player is alive, you can respawn. Strike missions in Destiny work perfectly well, because they don't actually require all three players in the fireteam to have an above average skill level. If the people you have been randomly grouped with aren't good players, you still advance faster by sticking with them than you would if you quit the group and looked for a better one.

As long as you don't give players to kill each other in parts of the game that are supposed to be collaborative, it is actually unlikely that grouping with strangers will be a net negative experience. And because not everybody has a big friends list to start with, meeting people in the game and making friends is an important option for a multi-player game. Don't ruin that by over-protective game design!

Most negative interaction with strangers doesn't come from their gameplay but from their chat.

Being AFK or outright bad is much less annoying than listening to how much fun he had fapping for the pictures of Jenifer Lawrence.
Unpleasant chat is easily just ignored or turned off. This is a problem that was solved years ago. And even in the most pleasant games around, I still don't turn on map chat.

Unpleasant behavior is what drives me away from games. Going afk or being bad isn't such a big deal, but I hate when players go out of their way to do something not to benefit them, but to frustrate me.

I don't see the enforced silence in Destiny as that big a positive. The game is already pretty good about not letting people negatively impact each other. If they provided a quick way to silence unpleasantness, letting us talk to each other would be an improvement.
It’s been awhile since I commented here Tobold. For the better part of my adult life I’ve played PC games, though I typically buy a console for racing, sports, and Final Fantasy games. I ended up picking up Xbox One with Destiny a few weeks back, the game looked good. That being said I only have half dozen friends and most don’t play Destiny.

The game is good if you’re looking for Halo with some gear progression. If you’re looking for a MMO this is not the game for you. The PvE parts of the game are fun, but they take a ton of work to get a group going. I had to search online for communities to hook up with random people in order to get groups for higher level content. This game lacks any sort of social experience which is what keeps people playing for 10 years, as of now this game is going to struggle to maintain its popularity through the end of the year.
" meeting people in the game and making friends is an important option for a multi-player game" is certainly a popular theory among people who have been playing MMOs for many years. I am not sure that the recent marketplace experience supports this as strongly as the veterans claim.

Since when do you care what some other idiot is saying in chat? You have said many times only actions matter, Internet words can't hurt you. A teammate being AFK can.
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