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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: Where's the Social?

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  SBFord

Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 13493

 
OP  3/28/13 2:55:29 PM#1

Many MMO veterans have noticed a subtle shift in the way players interact with one another: Namely, they don't. In today's Tingle's Touchy Subjects, we take a look at that and explore possible reasons why. Read on and then leave your take on the whole subject in the comments.

When I started playing MMORPGs back in the grand old days of the late 90s, there was a wonderment about the possibilities of the Internet. If you passed someone else in your game, generally you stopped, circled each other warily, and finally somebody starting jumping to break the ice. Hours later you would be shooting the breeze, ducking in one another's line of site, and racing each other to see who had the fastest Internet connection.

But that was many, many moons ago.

Read more of Adam Tingle's Tingle's Touchy Subjects: Where's the Social?

Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

  BigHatLogan

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 1/09/06
Posts: 695

3/29/13 2:27:22 PM#2
I really enjoyed this article as it touches on some important issues with MMORPGs.  I disagree with some of the author's conclusions.  I am asking MMORPGs to take a step back.  It would be really nice to see some games with harsh death penalties and difficult content.  MMORPGs nowadays measure play time, not skill.  Anyone can solo their way to the cap without issue.  If the mobs were, smarter, tougher, and capable of inflicting harsh death penalties people might actually communicate and group up to play the game.  The danger of loss of that sacred "progression" or whatever people call it will make all combat meaningful.  People will fondly remember close calls, and lament disastrous losses.  The successes will be legendary.  They will feel emotion, and tell stories of the game long after the developers pull the plug.  No one cares about stories from modern mmorpgs.  No one cares that a player got killed by a mob and lost a grand total of 2 minutes of their life running back to their corpse.    MMORPG developers need to take a page of Dark Souls, or DayZ, or EVE.  Those games have great stories, and great communities, because playing these games means a lot more than simply putting the time in. 

Are you a Pavlovian Fish Biscuit Addict? Get Help Now!

I will play no more MMORPGs until somethign good comes out!

  Trudge34

Apprentice Member

Joined: 8/08/12
Posts: 389

3/29/13 2:31:28 PM#3

I feel the same way 100%. I played EverQuest for about 3 years or so during the Velious - Gates of Discord expansions. I ended up moving on when there was a bit of a falling out with the guild that I helped gear and progress from Kunark through the first few teirs of the planes. Since that social web got broken, I just kind of lost my way and ended up quitting not long after.

Now I can't seem to stay wih a game for more than a month or two at a time because, like you said, I may as well be playing with NPCs. Everything during the leveling process is so easy, done without any contact with others and then at end game I'm supposed to all of a sudden group up for dungeons and somehow know how my class operates in a group even though the leveling to max was made so easy and quick I never bothered to. Rift was like that for me. I played with one other friend, didn't even realize there were any other dungeons before max level because no one said anything about them and really didn't know what my class was supposed to do in a group setting. What buffs are expected? What is the assist key even so I know I"m attacking the right thing?

I'm one that doesn't like to have to read a novel to learn about every bit of the game and relies more on social interaction and word of mouth to learn, but there's absolutely zero of that today. The games simply aren't forcing you to learn at all when they should be. Most I've found out you can autopilot to max level within a short time, not say anything to anyone and just start queueing up for dungeons and raids. Not quite my type of game and not what I'm really looking for when I look to play an MMORPG when there are single player and multiplayer games giving the same, yet a more polished and better experience without having the MMO label. 

Played: EQ1 (10 Years), Guild Wars, Rift, TERA
Tried: EQ2, Vanguard, Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Runes of Magic and countless others...
Currently Playing: GW2

Nytlok Sylas
80 Sylvari Ranger

  Dogblaster

Advanced Member

Joined: 3/14/12
Posts: 505

3/29/13 2:32:07 PM#4
true ...
  Dauzqul

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 2/10/12
Posts: 1266

3/29/13 2:36:00 PM#5
No point to being friends with anyone, as MMORPGs are just slefish solo-fests.
  Sozza

Novice Member

Joined: 3/23/13
Posts: 4

3/29/13 2:46:38 PM#6

True back then friends where vital and mmorpgs where mmorpgs now

they seem to launch single player games as mmorpgs  well they build them like that.

O and the playerbase now have no clue what a mmorpg is.

Then when getting the wow and future players clashing into  EvE Online I cancelled my subs... They have no mmorpg spirit at all.

 

 
 

Daoc 00-12,EvE 03-13,and more ...

  kjempff

Hard Core Member

Joined: 10/12/04
Posts: 702

Make worlds not stories

3/29/13 3:23:10 PM#7

Gamers are generally not that social by nature, or we wouldn't spend so much time infront of our monitors. With that in mind combined with games removing more and more reasons to have contact with others, we simply often choose the easy way out.

But we still want the selected socializing, that is when we want to - Unfortunately, that is a one way thing and since most are selective socializers, often there is no contact at the moments we ourselves are "open for socializing".

To me it is simple, the more a game requires and give reasons and time to socialize, the more....

  bliss14

Advanced Member

Joined: 4/01/11
Posts: 529

Ahh devil ether.

3/29/13 3:26:18 PM#8

Not to say it is very in depth and doesn't coalesce into in-depth conversations about feelings and such but in some maps on GW2 there is quite a bit of bantering back and forth while I'm on and I engage in it as well.  On top of that my guild has 498 members last I checked with about 30-40 on at any reasonable time so there is quite a bit of chit chat there too.

Social activity is what you make of it.

  Iczer

Apprentice Member

Joined: 11/10/04
Posts: 105

I want a world in a sandbox ... not a theme park!

3/29/13 3:41:10 PM#9

I agree fully, my enjoyment of mmo's lately has also waned largely due to friends playing other games that dont fit my taste. Sure I can still get missions or quests and run them but it all feels very empty.

Over the years I have met a lot of fun and interesting people (sme even IRL as a result) who at one point or another shared my love for the game we were playing. I even enjoyed my co-op sessions in Guild Wars 1 back in the day with random strangers. Without that social element its exactly like playing a SPOG (Single Player Offline Game).

 

 

  zekeofev

Novice Member

Joined: 1/28/11
Posts: 224

3/29/13 3:54:47 PM#10

I really miss mechanics that made people want to find a specific person or group and play together with them rathere then a random person.

 

I miss EQ corpse runs. I miss the patron/vassal/allegiance system from AC, I miss my elite world pvp crew. I miss my DAOC team for RvR battles.

 

I miss the marriage mechanics that granted buffs when the couple was grouped together.

 

Please bring back a reason to return to group with people you know rather than the random person who would rather prefer to be solo. I feel like every MMO experience is more like solo queueing for a matchmade game rather than arranging a team to best suit the situation.

 

This is a huge reason why I have not stayed very long in recent MMORPGs.

  Eaderbreca

MMORPG.com Streamer

Joined: 4/04/12
Posts: 44

3/29/13 4:09:03 PM#11
So well written. I feel the same way.

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  Beatnik59

Elite Member

Joined: 11/23/05
Posts: 2233

"Playing things I shouldn''t be playing since 1977."

3/29/13 4:11:26 PM#12

What I'm about to say may be somewhat counterintuitive, but I think it's worth thinking about...

I'm thinking the problem with the games over the years is that they made the successful completion of chained quests a rather high stakes affair.  In other words, you had to successfully complete a content chain with a limited number of set people in order to get the reward (loot, an unlock, etc).

What this did was the following:

1)  Since you could only take a limited number of people in a group, and you needed everyone in the group to punch at or above their weight for several encounters in a row, you gamed with the people you knew.  If you didn't know them, you made them do an "initiation" (download the voice app, fill out a guild application) before you would game with him or her.

2)  The games rewarded consistency over sociability.  Since one screw up left you and the group with nothing, you didn't take chances with "pick up friends" or people shouting LFG.  Why take the chance, when they might drop out to catch dinner, leaving you shorthanded?  Why take the chance, when they could die or mess up?

3)  "Lockout timers," "wipe fails," and similar mechanics raised the stakes in the uberloot raids and quests.  It wasn't condusive to new people jumping in and out at whim.  Once you signed in, you were in it for the long haul, or you and the group would get nothing.

See, when you look at a game like WoW (at least the WoW that rose to prominence), the incentive structure was real hostile to meeting new people.  You had to do marathon raids with a set group from start to finish, and you needed to do it repeatedly for everyone to get loot.  It wasn't a good setup for creating a friendly community.  It was a setup that valued a group of set friends you could trust.  It's the same with EVE, where you could lose it all by taking a chance on someone new.  It's no wonder why both these games have a bad reputation for friendliness and sociability.  Misery does not like company.

In contrast, City of Heroes had always had a great, friendly community.  But you could see that the incentive structure in that game was different.  The stakes were lower, so people took chances on strangers.  It did have chained quests, but the chains weren't long, dying wouldn't knock you out, it would scale to the changing dynamics of the group, and everyone got a reward at the end.  In short, the "stakes" were much lower, and so people weren't so squeamish about taking chances.

So, in short, high stakes grouping creates an unsociable game.  Low stakes grouping creates a sociable game.

Does that make sense?

__________________________
"Its sad when people use religion to feel superior, its even worse to see people using a video game to do it."
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--Hellmar, CEO of CCP.

"It's like they took a gun, put it to their nugget sack and pulled the trigger over and over again, each time telling us how great it was that they were shooting themselves in the balls."
--Exar_Kun on SWG's NGE

  acidblood

Advanced Member

Joined: 1/13/06
Posts: 243

3/29/13 4:26:05 PM#13

Nope, not the only one. I'm not sure I've even opened the chat box in GW2, there is simply no need, you can solo all the open world content (other people just show up for the events) and instances just seem pointless because you level so damn fast that the gear / XP is already useless by the time you've got a group together.

The early days of Rift were probably my most 'socialable' time in MMOs, some of my friends played, but not enough for regular groups, so I often lead pugs, and my friends list filled up fast... then they went and released LFG, nerfed all the content and that, as they say, was the end of that.

I'm hoping WildStar will brind some of that 'social need' back with elite dungeons and 20-40 man raids that are supposed to be properly hard... I just hope they can hold off with the nerf bat long enough for the masses to realise that not have everything handed to them is actaully a very good thing.

  meesimma

Novice Member

Joined: 6/14/12
Posts: 4

3/29/13 4:33:05 PM#14

i find games with a much smaller playerbase you can still find and forge friendships... but whenever i forge off into a big game (like i tried gw2) the social aspect vanishs so quick... in a server of tens of thousands and vast space it's just how life evolves.

servers with just mere thousands and not so many maps you will come across the same people, repeatedly, and conversation happens. but we shouldn't have to rely on small games for this.

easy example is crystal saga, it's not a great game, it's actually fairly boring, very linear with almost no brain needed, but i played it for over a year because after a month or so you knew every single high level player on your server, and everyone helped each other (although there was always the same trolls and bickering problems that come in smaller communities)

  User Deleted
3/29/13 4:34:55 PM#15
I truley belive its due to lack of depth in the quests and adventure.
  Niamb

World of Warcraft Correspondent

Joined: 4/13/06
Posts: 14

3/29/13 4:39:32 PM#16

This article really hit home.  I started playing UO back in the late 90's and they had real, honest to God roleplaying.  The RP in MMORPG truly existed.  Of course UO had housing and RP villages of like minded folks and SEERS, volunteers vetted by EA who had god-like abilities to create role-playing senarios for groups, with special monsters and such.  There was a strong sense of community and I've never had more fun in gaming.  Then lawsuits forced EA to get rid to the volunteer Seers and GMs and games moved out of the sandbox, where players create much of their own content and games were driven by the developers' mechanics, rather than player imput.

But I was still having fun because I got involved in raiding and had a strong guild and we worked together to conquer difficult content and had a lot of fun doing it.  But people who didn't have a strong guild felt understandably left out of the action. Content got easier and now, even though I'm in a guild, the only raiding I do is using LFR and I often feel like I'm playing a solo game.  So now I'm playing less and less and starting to wonder if I'm getting my money's worth out of that monthly fee.  This article definitely touched on a sore point. 

  bcbully

Elite Member

Joined: 3/03/12
Posts: 7254

3/29/13 4:44:40 PM#17
Come to Age of Wushu. You will never complain about people not being social again.

When I eat chocolate chip pie it just doesn't feel like chocolate chip cookies. The texture, the consistency, it's just not the same and this is disappointing.

  zekeofev

Novice Member

Joined: 1/28/11
Posts: 224

3/29/13 5:02:40 PM#18
Originally posted by Beatnik59

What I'm about to say may be somewhat counterintuitive, but I think it's worth thinking about...

I'm thinking the problem with the games over the years is that they made the successful completion of chained quests a rather high stakes affair.  In other words, you had to successfully complete a content chain with a limited number of set people in order to get the reward (loot, an unlock, etc).

What this did was the following:

1)  Since you could only take a limited number of people in a group, and you needed everyone in the group to punch at or above their weight for several encounters in a row, you gamed with the people you knew.  If you didn't know them, you made them do an "initiation" (download the voice app, fill out a guild application) before you would game with him or her.

2)  The games rewarded consistency over sociability.  Since one screw up left you and the group with nothing, you didn't take chances with "pick up friends" or people shouting LFG.  Why take the chance, when they might drop out to catch dinner, leaving you shorthanded?  Why take the chance, when they could die or mess up?

3)  "Lockout timers," "wipe fails," and similar mechanics raised the stakes in the uberloot raids and quests.  It wasn't condusive to new people jumping in and out at whim.  Once you signed in, you were in it for the long haul, or you and the group would get nothing.

See, when you look at a game like WoW (at least the WoW that rose to prominence), the incentive structure was real hostile to meeting new people.  You had to do marathon raids with a set group from start to finish, and you needed to do it repeatedly for everyone to get loot.  It wasn't a good setup for creating a friendly community.  It was a setup that valued a group of set friends you could trust.  It's the same with EVE, where you could lose it all by taking a chance on someone new.  It's no wonder why both these games have a bad reputation for friendliness and sociability.  Misery does not like company.

In contrast, City of Heroes had always had a great, friendly community.  But you could see that the incentive structure in that game was different.  The stakes were lower, so people took chances on strangers.  It did have chained quests, but the chains weren't long, dying wouldn't knock you out, it would scale to the changing dynamics of the group, and everyone got a reward at the end.  In short, the "stakes" were much lower, and so people weren't so squeamish about taking chances.

So, in short, high stakes grouping creates an unsociable game.  Low stakes grouping creates a sociable game.

Does that make sense?

Well I agree it rewards consistency. But I think consistency is social although I am sure you disagree with that. Showing up for a raiding schedule is dedication. Showing up so you can get your team pvp matches in is consistency. I think it breeds socialization though by creating an enviroment where you want to play with familiar players though.

 

I naturally seek guilds and guild structures though because I feel at home there although I understand the desires of the solo player I feel like way to many games promote soloing so much that a lot of the ties that promote consistenct->socialability->longevity are not there.....and thus games die out.

  Aeolyn

Novice Member

Joined: 11/23/08
Posts: 136

3/29/13 5:07:27 PM#19

Although I agree that the way mmorpgs have changed over the years allowing more flexibility in gameplay has impacted the social game in many/most of them, I think we have to take a hard look at ourselves for the real answer, the devs can only do so much before we have to take responsibility. 

 

Who has been scammed by other players, pretending to be a newb needing help or conversely by pretending to be some great addition to a guild team, then looting your guild house, bank, hall dry.  Who has been griefed at some point or another in a game by some higher level offering to help you then leading you into an ambush and then camping your corpse.  Who has trusted a high level crafter/merchant to deliver the goods then had some scam perpetrated either by using some exploit or just taking advantage of your trust... the list goes on and on.

 

For those who have never had the above examples happen to them, have you ever done them to others, deliberately exploited a game mechanic that has negated your fellow player's enjoyment by making their accomplishments worthless(ie made multiples of rare drops) or maybe even just clicked on that one link on a "trusted" website that ended up stealing your passwords/cc #s/life? 

 

Point being, a good community needs to revolve around the basic principle of trusting your "allies" and if even your allies can't be trusted then why in the world would anyone want to put themselves out there in a rl kind of way by adding someone to a linked friends list etc etc. like the current "trend" in games is asking us to do, let alone needing to actually speak to someone who is verbally abusive to anyone in earshot while doing raids/instances? 

 

Don't get me started on making voicechat pretty much compulsory for guilds/grouping, if I wanted to talk out loud, listen to or read someone else cursing about all that's wrong in their world or with the other players or game we're playing I'd log into youtube or just join general chat in pretty much any game.   Texting while doing runs may be more difficult but it also makes players plan ahead so you don't need to start screaming at each other during the event itself, plus it helps those true newbs that are doing it for the first time so they will be better should they get invited again.

 

So in conclusion, it's not just the way mmorpgs have changed the neccessity/opportunities for the social aspect of gaming, it's the gamers themselves that have caused this.  Yea, I admit I've been scammed a couple of times as well as harassed when some have found out that I really am female, so now I tend not to trust anyone in games because history has taught me that there's alot of other people that view me as no more than that of a npc, a source of entertainment for them and to hell with me, a real person on the other end of their unsavoury behaviour. 

 

Unfortunately, even though most games say they don't support such behaviour they really do seem to so perhaps that's the first step needed, for games to truly stand by their TOS and if that means losing a few goldsellers that keep adding to their numbers for investors, so be it.

 
  jmcdermottuk

Elite Member

Joined: 6/10/06
Posts: 824

3/29/13 5:31:24 PM#20

To all those posters who repeatedly tell us that LFG tools don't harm community, I would recommend you read this well written article. Sadly all too true.

The friendships formed in older MMO's were completely due to the difficulty of the content, the forced grouping and the requirement to sit on the sidelines typing LFG in chat. But once those bonds were forged it became easier and easier to get groups organised as your circle of friends grew. I remember getting to a point in EQ where I would log in and within minutes I would have half a dozen whispers inviting me to join friends in a group somewhere.

I don't even know why modern MMO's have a friends list. Really, what's the point when you solo all the "grind" content and click a few buttons to join a dungeon or raid run?

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