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Outside the Box: Alt. Social Structures

Posted May 01, 2006 by Dana Massey

Outside the Box: Alt. Social Structures

Nathan Knaack's weekly column is back with a look at alternative social structures in MMORPGs. Every Monday, this former Rapid Reality developer pens a design-themed column for

We’ve seen many forms of social interaction in MMORPGs over the years, from loose-knit and temporary groups of people who come together with blind invitations to multiple game-spanning guilds composed of hundreds, even thousands of dedicated members. The internet will soon have more websites dedicated to MMORPG guilds than porn, it seems. It’s also no secret that game developers are starting to design content specifically for groups of 40 or more players, fully realizing that this puts most of that content beyond the scope of individuals, even those who might be willing to work with other strangers. In most games, it’s tough to keep a group of eight players together before someone crashes, leaves to do their own thing, or has to log off for some reason. In a game like WoW, where most of the high-end content requires a good-sized guild to conquer, there is a growing population of casual players, people with lacking social skills, or individuals that just prefer to play solo that are being left out.

What I believe MMORPGs could use are some additional social structures, different systems in place to give those people the option of getting involved in larger groups without having to wait in long cues, harass existing members, brown-nose their way into an elite guild. Some readers are already formulating their “don’t force anything on me” rebuttals, so I’ll remind them of the key word in this paragraph: “additional.” I’m not talking about changing or eliminating the faction/guild/clan/corporation structure of existing MMORPGs, but adding more optional structures that would provide more dynamic character interaction. I’ve spoken of this tactic before, referring to it as “tricking people into role-playing.” In this case, perhaps a more accurate description is “tempting” them into it.

You can read the full column here.


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