Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 12, 2009
MMO Community Enhancement

Trenton sent me a link to his long, but very thoughtful and well-researched article on MMO Community Enhancement. It contains some great proposals, like an automatic "ally meter", which measures how much you interacted with various people, and acts like an improved friends list. Nevertheless I don't think he covered all the potential problems, or that his solutions are valid for every game.

One example is his proposal to let players join multiple guilds. Sounds great on paper. But in World of Warcraft the one thing that would make this difficult to implement is raid IDs / lockout. Even if I wanted to raid with two different guilds, I couldn't, because of raid IDs locking me out of participating to raids with a second guild.

Trenton is right on in his chapter on Crafting Attitudes Through Motivation, that is whether and how people play together depends on their motivation to do so. But his solutions here aren't complete, or not fleshed out enough. He is right to say that in a much more difficult game like Everquest, where you *need* a group to earn experience points, cooperation is stronger than in a game like World of Warcraft, where you can solo all the way up to the level cap. But I don't think that difficulty is the only parameter here: Rewards are at least as important. World of Warcraft could have significantly more groups forming voluntarily, if only grouping would give better rewards than soloing. As it is, you gain more xp per hour while soloing than when in a group, thus you only group for content that is too difficult to solo, like group quests and dungeons. But if you expand on Trenton's solution of "share results", and would make everyone in a group gain full xp for every monster killed, instead of xp divided by number of group members plus a small bonus percentage, then players would want to group much more often.

In any case, Blizzard would do well to read that article. There are a lot of tools in there which they could implement into World of Warcraft (or their next game) and make it better. WoW's guild tools for example are rudimentary at best. But I do think one thing WoW got right is how everyone *wants* to be in a guild, because raid content is very much linked to guilds, the occasional PuG raid notwithstanding. I often felt that I needed my guild a lot less in other games, even if that game had better tools.
While I think this is an awesome study and something I'm going to be sitting reading for quite some time yet, I currently do not believe that MMO designers can do a whole lot to make their players well, frankly... not be such arseholes. It's pretty much down to human nature.

I think the root problem comes from the fact that people who really don't get the point of MMOs are playing them because they're currently one of the most popular forms of entertainment. Players that would naturally gravitate toward MMORPGS will understand that social interaction, teamwork and the living environment are what makes them fun. Not the loot, not the personal achievements, not the ability to 'pwnzor noobs'. Players who 'don't get it' will unfortunately continue to pursue what they believe is 'fun', all the while complaining bitterly about the grind, noobs, lack of loot\XP\gold, nerfs and how overpowered every other class is.

They will become bitter, they will blame their fellow players. They will blame the game and its developers and they will continue in this fashion without realizing that the actual problem in most cases is that they are simply playing the wrong game for them.

You can discourage bad behavior and offer very slight encouragements for good community, but ultimately human nature and stupidity will cause things to go pear shaped. Designers can do damage control, that's about it.
Actually XP/hour is much higher if you play together with 1 more person. Most of the XP comes not from the lousy monsters but from quests. The kill 12 wolves quests can be completed 2x faster if you are with another like you and 3-4x faster if you are an AoE capable team like moonkin-healer or tank+AoE DPS. Faster quests: faster quest XP. If you add that you never-ever die in group, no time is wasted on corpseruns, you see it worth to group.

The main drawback of the group is waiting for the other. If he is AFK, you can only wait. That's why 3 men groups are not as effective as 2 men groups. 2 other people= 2x more waiting. I always quest up with my GF, not because I'm so nice, but because we can finish Zul'Drak in an afternoon.
There's no reason that multiple people from different guilds can't raid together. Raid IDs aren't stored via guild IDs. Any 25 people from anywhere can get a shared raid ID.

This is more common in Europe, I think, where smaller groups of guilds got together and would get raid groups to form. Shared chat channels and message boards, but different tags.

It would be nice to be able to get all the mechanics of two or more guilds simultaneously, but I don't think the writer really understands that people do what he wants anyway.
I'm not entirely on board with the idea of multiple guild membership but I am intrigued by the idea of being able to make guild chat channels available to outsiders. We already have a system of channel hierarchy built into the guild system (officers v. general) it shouldn't be that much harder to split the /guild channel into /guildpublic and /guildprivate. The only problem is how to handle subscriptions to the /guildpublic channel.
I would expect that one guild would be your raid/progression guild, and the others would be mainly socially oriented. Just like you have different circles of friends, but only one is your career progression circle - usually your work friends. But sometimes it's trade associations etc.

It's no different than all the different chat channels you have now, except you'd have guild functionality built in, like being able to find people, see where they are, organize group events with addons, etc.

Also moving a a raid id per boss mechanism like LOTRO would help people raid with multiple groups. that's already a problem for people who want to help their casual friends.
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