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News & Features Discussion  » General: Outside the Box: Social Rewards in MMOs

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  Stradden

Managing Editor

Joined: 7/08/05
Posts: 6729

 
OP  3/20/07 9:16:15 AM#1

Garrett Fuller attended a session at GDC hosted by Jack Emmert from Cryptic Studios. What Emertt did was prove that designers can also think outside the box.

Many of the sessions at GDC last week were very long, drawn out, two hour ordeals that put people to sleep. On Friday afternoon, I had some time to kill and decided to attend one of these ordeals. Jack Emmert of Cryptic Studios only had twenty minutes for his scheduled session. Wow, twenty minutes, what could he possibly hope to get across in twenty minutes? Jack's topic was called: To Reward or Not to Reward? How to Create a Positive Community in an MMO. Well, in the twenty minute time frame, Jack was able to present plenty of ideas to potential developers and even have time to answer a few questions. Here is a brief take on what was said.

Social groups are certainly an important aspect of MMOs. Your guild, corporation, crew, team, or whatever you call them, really help the lifespan of an MMO. Jack pointed out that many people leave MMOs because their friends leave the game. Knowing this fact, developers continue to push content and achievement type rewards for players. When what really keeps players in the game is their friends.

Read the whole column here.

Cheers,
Jon Wood
Managing Editor
MMORPG.com

  Dreneth

Novice Member

Joined: 4/11/05
Posts: 709

3/20/07 9:44:12 AM#2
Very interesting read, it's nice to see ideas such as these being presented to developers.  Innovation should not simply be done with the visual aspect of game development, but new and interesting ways to interact with a game world will improve player retention by leaps and bounds!  New content should not simply pass out a new map with new mobs to grind.  It would be nice to see new concepts being brought to the table...  original and interesting new ways to play  that don't break the old ways... would be nice to see far more often.

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  Kaalinn

Novice Member

Joined: 1/25/06
Posts: 122

3/20/07 9:46:23 AM#3

I see a problem with that because it once again mixes different sub-systems of an MMO. Many people already say that they only want PvP to give rewards useful in PvP and raiding only give rewards only helpful to future raids. Now here comes socialization, another system, and now socializing shall yield rewards that help you with PvE or PvP or crafting ? IMO the problem would be much much bigger for socialization than for the other systems, because the moment people stop doing this because they want to, and start doing it for the rewards, it will all become really really crappy and reward-driven. The way to go would be rewards that are solely social. But the developers cannot grant that. It actually already IS granted the moment you step up and take on social duty. You lead a guild, or raids, or PVP assaults. People join in, and see youre doing it, youre leading them, you might lead them to victory. Your name is known, your deeds are too. Same goes for crafting, helping newbies, or whatever area of socialization you want. The social rewards are given out by the community. This, in the old days, lead to a raid telling the raid leader that he should pick an item for himself out of everything the raid got, to show appreciation for his work. So yes this was indeed some kind of item reward that would help in other systems, but it was gained via raiding, and only the advantage over having to lotto was gained by socializing.

IF people arent rewarded for taking up social duty, no one ever thanks someone who goes to great efforts to make thinks happen, no newbie feels grateful after being pointed in the right direction, or people just see it as your absolute duty to make the raid work and dont ever praise you but complain out loud when somthing goes awry, then that social reward system is not in place. But its because your community is such a bad one that they alienate or abuse the ones sacrificing themselves for others. They would surely jump at the idea of getting advantages for leading a guild, but it wouldnt change their nature in any way, they'd be just as abusive and reward-driven as before, making the social systems youre trying to create nothing but corrupt. I cant see how such a community could be changed, they'll just stick it out, thinking theyre the tough guys and everyone else isnt, making newcomers feel unwelcome, and will slowly die down and take the game with them.


Now after all this, some more practical social based rewards i could see would be the ability to make really cool or fancy (maybe sparkling or rainbow colored) textboxes if you talk a lot (like 1 million lines written to unlock or something, and i mean real lines of text, not spam), or extra emotes if you socialize a lot in certain locations like taverns. (Kinda like the SWG entertainers progression to unlock new dances and songs). Anything else, especially tapping into other aspects of the MMO, would be rather damaging, as stated above.

  Dreneth

Novice Member

Joined: 4/11/05
Posts: 709

3/20/07 10:02:03 AM#4
Originally posted by Kaalinn

Now after all this, some more practical social based rewards i could see would be the ability to make really cool or fancy (maybe sparkling or rainbow colored) textboxes if you talk a lot (like 1 million lines written to unlock or something, and i mean real lines of text, not spam), or extra emotes if you socialize a lot in certain locations like taverns. (Kinda like the SWG entertainers progression to unlock new dances and songs). Anything else, especially tapping into other aspects of the MMO, would be rather damaging, as stated above.


I am going to have to dissagree with you Kaalinn...

I would much rather see a reward system in place which encourages positive social interaction than rainbow colored textboxes.  In fact, the idea of seeing someone run by with "chat bling" in a fantasy adventure MMO would be someone out of place.  Developing ways to reward people for helping others enjoy a game will inspire more people to be helpful, and perhaps cause less burnout for those  that go above and beyond.  The key is to balance the system with the rest of the game.  Any system that is simply hacked together will doom it.

Farming is damaging...  social rewards might be rather nice if done well.

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  Kaalinn

Novice Member

Joined: 1/25/06
Posts: 122

3/20/07 10:13:30 AM#5

Well the textboxes were a quick straight out of the head idea, but things like more interesting clothes or something might be less immersion breaking.

Another thing i could see would require a lot of staff effort, but would actually be one of the nicest way to make the social rewards possible....

Give the outstanding players social status. Make them Lords or Masters, Loremasters, Storytellers, or something other purely social. Why not declare that well known druid with a compassion for helping others the Keeper of that forest area. Why not make the guy relentlessly leading raids against the toughest monsters out there the Lord Protector of a frontier outpost. They could help drive the story, take on roles in events, etc. etc..
This system was practiced in much more detail on UO RP shards usually, with the person in question actually being able to have power over that region, raising taxes or otherwise influencing it and the people in it, but for a full-scale MMO the aforementioned things would already take enough staff effort.

Mainly the company running the MMO should act as a helping hand for the "big social" players and help them realize things. Say that druid that was made Keeper of the forest wants to establish a grove in the forest that happens to be a starter area to show new guys the way, or the lord protector of the frontier outpost wishes to offer support to crafters even far away from the capital. Since theyre "big social" players you could count on at least some other players reacting to that, maybe getting crafters or resources to the frontier area, or acting as newbie guides in the forest, but if the company were to add an actual grove in the forest, or something to help crafters at the frontier, that'd be the best option. This of course cant be applied as broadly as a standard reward system, and takes much more work, but if the developers deem those socializers as valuable as said in the article, them being the main force that keeps people playing, it wouldnt be too far off. It's really far away from the initial idea of a reward system, and TBH i couldnt see that happening but really only the social status stuff like the declaration of titles and lore related stuff, but its still better than making a broadly acessible standard listed reward with not very complex goals that must be met to achieve it, because social things always are complex.

  Dreneth

Novice Member

Joined: 4/11/05
Posts: 709

3/20/07 10:37:14 AM#6

EQ2 experimented with giving titles for certain things, but it wasn't really social.  It was sort of a random passerby type thing, and I remember a few of my friends feeling a little left out since there was no real way to gain the titles except being "lucky".

Titles would be one way of adding a social reward, though I wouldn't mind seeing a wider range of rewards introduced.  Rewards appropriate to the achievements, of course.  And an extreme attempt at maintaining balance within the game should be a priority.  But anything which will retain players and improve the community is welcome by me.  :)

While a social rewards model might be complex, I would love to see what can be done with the concept.  Moving away from simply kill-quest grinding to a more social gaming model might be an interesting step to see MMO gaming take.  Add a new type of play... Player vs Player Environment.  :D

Less static... more dynamic.

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  Atrayo

Apprentice Member

Joined: 1/08/04
Posts: 38

3/20/07 10:42:18 AM#7

Hi All,

I remember last year some time that here in MMORPG.com they reported that some company was interested to make a service like X-Fire not needed. In as much where multiple MMOG game world friends lists are maintained and you don't lose buddies from past MMO game titles.

Since many of us have buddies that are very game specific and hardly lend themselves to rolling over to a new game. Unless of course your in a meta-guild community for your gaming hobby.

Now if SOE had such an internal IM system with all their MMO game worlds that would be neat. With my over arching Sony Station account all my buddy lists from inactive / active accounts in: EQ, EQ2, SWG, Planetside, and now Vanguard would be lumped together. Making a neat SOE Worlds IM system be viable, not just with PC users but perhaps with "transmedia" platforms like cell phones or game consoles.

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  Dreneth

Novice Member

Joined: 4/11/05
Posts: 709

3/20/07 10:45:26 AM#8
I believe SoE did indeed incorporate just such a feature just before I left EQ2.  Last I knew, you could IM people cross server and cross game if it was an SoE title.  May have changed since then... but it was possible with chat commands.

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  Atrayo

Apprentice Member

Joined: 1/08/04
Posts: 38

3/20/07 10:57:22 AM#9

Hi Dreneth,

I remember that system which debuted around the time of Pre-NGE in SWG. It wasn't developed as a feature, but discovered as a bug, lol. Where one can speak to others across several SWG shards. Which later became possible as you cited above via chat commands in text via the other online game titles.

This suggestion i offered in my last post would polish that up quite a bit. And perhaps hook in with other IM programs, be it: X-Fire, AIM, or MSN. Unless SOE gets smart and contracts out the job to "X-Fire" for example instead of trying to reinvent the wheel themselves.

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  Dreneth

Novice Member

Joined: 4/11/05
Posts: 709

3/20/07 11:04:02 AM#10

Hey there Atrayo,

I agree... it would be a pretty decent feature.  I had friends who played a few different SoE games when I was in EQ2.  It would have made my life a fair bit easier to be able to chat with them all without having to use those chat commands...  lol

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  Bountytaker

Novice Member

Joined: 1/09/07
Posts: 323

3/20/07 11:06:24 AM#11

I don't feel like the article gave a good recap of Jack's speech.  Very few details, but a lot of personal opinion.

 

As for the topic:  IMO, the next gen MMO's are going to have to focus on a lot of factors outside of combat (PvP and missions) in order to attract an audience.  Games like the Sims series, and even Second Life serve as examples of what attracts "casuals" to a game en masse.

One area I think that MMO's can improve are in the "events" department.  Hosting more events would not only make the games more dynamic, but would also provide opportunities to appeal to multiple gaming styles.  After all, everyone celebrates a "holiday" differently, right.  So, instead of the occassional monster attack to coincide with Halloween, throw in more parties, mysteries, sporting events, politics, and the like.  Highlight the social aspects of a genre that's "massively multiplayer".

By making "events" broader, you keep the development time on these niche designs down, but at least recognize those styles, and maybe attract the bigger audience that's out there.

 

Just my opinion, though....take it for what it's worth.

  enaz13

Novice Member

Joined: 8/30/06
Posts: 92

"What doesn't kill you, isn't worth doing"

3/20/07 1:35:39 PM#12

This kind of reminds me of something from city of heroes (maybe something else been on so many games i forget). But could lower self to another persons level (or them to yourselfves)to be able to play with them.And yes i know one main reason be so can play with a frined who just started and you have been on for a while.But the idea i like was if you mentored enough hours you got a title (or badge i think) that you were a person that like to help people and to me was nice having something visible people can see and know i like to help people.And also would give newer players something to look for..if they see someone with a "mentor" title they know it be someone they know could ask questions from proably and  be a bit of a guide. During my yrs on EQ1 i tutored literally hundreds of people how to play especially when the interface was preluclin and was harder to learn and been a nice reward i think to have gotten some kind of title at least to show that work i had done.

Also i had thought of events to encourage socialism and reward it. Can do about any type of event but key being a GM would announce in a zone would have to be finished quickly and must be done in at least a pair. Worded soemthing like "Make a friend today in next 20 mins if you and one other person group together and one person collects "x" number of items "b" and teammate collects "y" number of items "h" and turn them into me will get reward.Idea being that event happens to quick for them to try and bring a friend and they have to grp with someone they dont know and work together and they are rewarded for that socialization.

Just couple ideas i thought of. I do think it be great to somehow reward those who help and socialize with others.And it woudlnt have to be some great item that cause people to try to do it just for the reward could be simple as a title.People who truly help just because they like to help dont look for rewards though be nice if developers could least do something nice for them to show they are appreciated.

  Endemondia

Apprentice Member

Joined: 3/29/05
Posts: 232

In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king - LAST OF THE MOHICANz

3/20/07 3:58:41 PM#13
Originally posted by enaz13

This kind of reminds me of something from city of heroes (maybe something else been on so many games i forget). But could lower self to another persons level (or them to yourselfves)to be able to play with them.And yes i know one main reason be so can play with a frined who just started and you have been on for a while.But the idea i like was if you mentored enough hours you got a title (or badge i think) that you were a person that like to help people and to me was nice having something visible people can see and know i like to help people.And also would give newer players something to look for..if they see someone with a "mentor" title they know it be someone they know could ask questions from proably and  be a bit of a guide. During my yrs on EQ1 i tutored literally hundreds of people how to play especially when the interface was preluclin and was harder to learn and been a nice reward i think to have gotten some kind of title at least to show that work i had done.

Also i had thought of events to encourage socialism and reward it. Can do about any type of event but key being a GM would announce in a zone would have to be finished quickly and must be done in at least a pair. Worded soemthing like "Make a friend today in next 20 mins if you and one other person group together and one person collects "x" number of items "b" and teammate collects "y" number of items "h" and turn them into me will get reward.Idea being that event happens to quick for them to try and bring a friend and they have to grp with someone they dont know and work together and they are rewarded for that socialization.

Just couple ideas i thought of. I do think it be great to somehow reward those who help and socialize with others.And it woudlnt have to be some great item that cause people to try to do it just for the reward could be simple as a title.People who truly help just because they like to help dont look for rewards though be nice if developers could least do something nice for them to show they are appreciated.

I like this idea a lot. There should be many ways to reward someone from a socialistic point of game playing. Even a simple mechanism like rewarding both a new member recruited to a society and the recruiter. This was done quite well in Project Entropia where by taking some one unde your wing could reward you with a valuable commodity depending which skill they excelled in - bare in mind everything in the game has real monetary value. This would work best where by instead of guilds or crews or netwroks of friends gamers joined a religious group based on the principals of the gods/goddesses or the pantheons' values. A psuedo religious guild structure where by allegiance to the group would be demonstrated by giving money/power/allegiance/gifts/etc to the god i.e. the leader of said group structure. Guilds are forced to construct thier own rules and regulations and surely a good games designer could pre construct the laws in game so that allegiance had a real meaning even beyond friendship. Please shoot me down but gaming has a lot to do with escaping the mechanized post industrial world we live in and returning to the values of bygone days/mad max apocolyptic enviornments. Build a game world online with pre built religious pantheons law/chaos, good /evil, nature/progress and set standards e.g. the head of a religious group can speak directly to the godhead or even be a god/demi god. Some have pointed out that giving structure to a social grouping will be counter productive in that it removes the naturality of human socialising. I believe because mmorpg design is still in its infancy pioneers in the industry should contribute to teaching the newcomers a better defined social grouping system....shit and i am an under cover anarchist...maybe this article says more about me than i am trying to say about the original article...to conclude gamers play online for many different reasons and enhancing the social aspect in any way possible has got to be good for games design as well as sales/marketing.

  Kaalinn

Novice Member

Joined: 1/25/06
Posts: 122

3/20/07 4:07:24 PM#14


Originally posted by Bountytaker
I don't feel like the article gave a good recap of Jack's speech. Very few details, but a lot of personal opinion.

I'm feeling the same way. I'd like him to maybe offer some more detail or actual ideas for this, but as stated in the article he had very little time there. Hopefully he'll come out with something more elaborate somewhere written on the net.

  Ceylous

Novice Member

Joined: 11/23/05
Posts: 124

3/20/07 4:30:37 PM#15
hmmm... a mentoring system...... interesting. So long as you dong force the mentoring for uber gear then were straight.

I've played EVE online and in my short time there. (3 mo.) I have seen the whole spectrum of what an MMO community could act like. From the veteran player who's helping someone out on the help channel because hes spending 10hrs with his fleet bloobing up a gate. To the scoundrel who will gladly help you help himself into your wallet and rip you off. I've never been with a community of people who cannibilize each other like in EVE online. Cannibilize not in PvP, but more like PvN. (player vs. noob)  People are so willing to help you but then rip you off at the same time when your not mizerly looking over your shoulder every 5 sec. That  just did it in for me in EVE.


Is there an MMO that out there that isn't affected by Xao Ping Wang and their money grubbing macro bots?

http://wow.stratics.com/content/features/editorials/mf/
Just say no to ingame money/mob farming.... the site says it all

  damian7

Apprentice Member

Joined: 4/20/06
Posts: 4514

why must i be nice to people that have no clue, are lying, or are just stupid?

3/20/07 4:54:57 PM#16

i think i missed the point of this article.   i caught jack emmert and only thought (nerf nerf nerf) then i noticed that the op plays wow because he likes to, not because of his wife liking it or anything.

 

 

could we please get correspondent writers and moderators, on the eve forum at mmorpg.com, who are well-versed on eve-online and aren't just passersby pushing buttons? pretty please?

  kabana

Novice Member

Joined: 10/21/06
Posts: 34

3/20/07 5:57:48 PM#17

 

  I think a social rewards system is a good idea to explore.  It might be easy for players to take advantage of a badly planned reward system, so fairness would be important.

 There have been times in a game where someone helped me out and I had no way to thank them.  So I would like to see a way for the player who recieves helpfulness, to be able to reward the charitable player who helped them.  Maybe an item that has no value and can't be traded, but when X of this item is collected, you can trade them in for a choice item.  Players are allowed to distribute a certain amount per level or some other sort of restriction.    You can't give them to yourself, or recieve them and pass them on, or sell them!  

The problem with this would be that people would give all of them to their friends first and have none for the random player who helps them.  For this idea, player's friend list and guildies would be disqualified from recieving them from you.  There could be a separate reward for guilds.

 Anyway,  I just like the idea of thanking people who help others just because.  I don't think there's anything wrong with rewarding players who put time and effort into others and improve the game world as a whole.

Great article btw.

 

 

 

 

 

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  Poldano

Novice Member

Joined: 12/22/06
Posts: 245

Those who stand on the shoulders of giants should not complain about the view.

3/20/07 6:48:40 PM#18
Originally posted by enaz13

...

Also i had thought of events to encourage socialism and reward it....


Be careful in how you use the word "socialism". It doesn't mean what you want it to mean here, and will get some people in a dander even if they just glance at it, which does not help you get your ideas across. "Socializing" or "social activity" mean what I believe you want to say.
  Poldano

Novice Member

Joined: 12/22/06
Posts: 245

Those who stand on the shoulders of giants should not complain about the view.

3/20/07 7:27:23 PM#19
Originally posted by Kaalinn

I see a problem with that because it once again mixes different sub-systems of an MMO. Many people already say that they only want PvP to give rewards useful in PvP and raiding only give rewards only helpful to future raids. Now here comes socialization, another system, and now socializing shall yield rewards that help you with PvE or PvP or crafting ? IMO the problem would be much much bigger for socialization than for the other systems, because the moment people stop doing this because they want to, and start doing it for the rewards, it will all become really really crappy and reward-driven. The way to go would be rewards that are solely social. But the developers cannot grant that. It actually already IS granted the moment you step up and take on social duty. You lead a guild, or raids, or PVP assaults. People join in, and see youre doing it, youre leading them, you might lead them to victory. Your name is known, your deeds are too. Same goes for crafting, helping newbies, or whatever area of socialization you want. The social rewards are given out by the community. This, in the old days, lead to a raid telling the raid leader that he should pick an item for himself out of everything the raid got, to show appreciation for his work. So yes this was indeed some kind of item reward that would help in other systems, but it was gained via raiding, and only the advantage over having to lotto was gained by socializing.

IF people arent rewarded for taking up social duty, no one ever thanks someone who goes to great efforts to make thinks happen, no newbie feels grateful after being pointed in the right direction, or people just see it as your absolute duty to make the raid work and dont ever praise you but complain out loud when somthing goes awry, then that social reward system is not in place. But its because your community is such a bad one that they alienate or abuse the ones sacrificing themselves for others. They would surely jump at the idea of getting advantages for leading a guild, but it wouldnt change their nature in any way, they'd be just as abusive and reward-driven as before, making the social systems youre trying to create nothing but corrupt. I cant see how such a community could be changed, they'll just stick it out, thinking theyre the tough guys and everyone else isnt, making newcomers feel unwelcome, and will slowly die down and take the game with them.


Now after all this, some more practical social based rewards i could see would be the ability to make really cool or fancy (maybe sparkling or rainbow colored) textboxes if you talk a lot (like 1 million lines written to unlock or something, and i mean real lines of text, not spam), or extra emotes if you socialize a lot in certain locations like taverns. (Kinda like the SWG entertainers progression to unlock new dances and songs). Anything else, especially tapping into other aspects of the MMO, would be rather damaging, as stated above.

I think in general that better integration of different spheres of activity is a good thing. Nonetheless, your criticisms are very good warnings about the pitfalls of integrating things the wrong way. One solution is to make sure that there is no exclusive path to getting stuff that is believed to be required. I think raiding success would be a good way to add to, for example, diplomatic prestige when dealing with NPCs. At the same time, equally effective prestige should be obtainable by other means, according to what is considered important in the modeled social world. There is always a modeled social world, even for characters who do nothing but solo creature mobs, because they have to sell the loot the get somewhere, and that is by definition a social activity.

I can see non-combat activities' effects on combat proficiencies being the most jealously argued issue. I think this can be worked out in a way that matches people's expectations of fairness as well as their expectations of how an actual world would work. Blacksmiths, for example, legendarily sprout muscles profusely in the exercise of their trade. Would it be terrible if blacksmiths gained some appropriate advantage in combat compared to, for example, a raiding sorcerer? If the system were set up to ease the combat progression according to non-combat abilities, but not allow bonuses, then the system could be seen as fair by committed jealous combat types. Using the same example, blacksmithing might run the risk of becoming "de riguer" for tanks wishing to improve their melee skill progression, or casters wishing to buff their strength-related progression, but only if the trade activity bonuses could be achieved in less total time than a total commitment to combat. A greater risk is that certain skillset pairings across different realms will become "de riguer", for example casters always have to become alchemists because of the buff progressions. Again, the right design in anticipation of the risks can overcome the risks. The simplest solution might be the best: a general progression progress multiplier resulting from total experience and achievements across all realsm.

To use the raid example, supponse that certain raiding advantages could be acquired by multiple means. For example, guild leadership, NPC diplomatic activity, and actual raiding leadership could award gear or abilities that directly affected raiding capability, such as a group or multi-group buff. This would allow multiple paths to the same or near-equivalent achievements, and avoid the grounds for jealousy over prerogatives and rewards. The issue of properly balancing the various paths would remain, so as to avoid an obvious "grind" preference for one path, but balancing is always going to be an issue whenever there is more than one way for achiever types to do something.

Finally, the issues are almost totally based on a level-based progression system with strict classes. A system based on skill sets without constraining classes does not really engender these kinds of problems. An item-effect design where items allow characters to fully take advantage of their skills, rather than adding to their skills, also helps. Item-centricity is no longer an issue except for the most exceptionally skilled players who can make use of extremely potent items effectively.

  Alienovrlord

Apprentice Member

Joined: 2/28/07
Posts: 1528

3/20/07 7:31:35 PM#20
Originally posted by Stradden

One of the big questions that many MMO designers struggle with is how to keep people paying the monthly fee and logging into their game.


Here's a whacky idea.  Instead of making tedious, timesink game mechanics like grinding and XP debt and slow leveling curves how making a game that's FUN?   Maybe if the game's actually fun to play, people will *gasp* keep playing it.

Hearing Emmert give a talk titled 'How to Create a Positive Community in an MMO' is laughable.   I've never played in a game where the community was more bitter at developers than the CoH community after some of the infamous nerfs Emmert implemented simply because people were playing CoH in ways that he didn't approve and didn't match his 'vision' of the game (In other words, they were figuring out clever ways of making his tedious game mechanics FUN) 

I've played some CoH and CoV but I never got into the game that deeply, for which I'm thankful.   When I was playing I could still feel the resentment in the community long after the nerfs had been applied.

Building a community is a responsibility of the developers as much as it is the players.   The article seems to imply that just rewarding community-minded players is the answer.  That's only half of it.   The developers HAVE to listen to their community, and if they're saying something they don't like they have to put their egos aside and listen to their players.  

 

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