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[Column] General: Make Friends & Influence People in MMOs

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 17,584MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

Every game developer loves to talk about putting social into games. Usually this amounts to some token integration with Facebook (shudder) or Twitter from inside the game, or looking for group systems. But to me, what I’ve been describing in my last two articles as the decline of socialization, really means the loss of ability to form friendships. Friendship means meeting new people in-game, and refers to the surprisingly strong bonds you can form with people inside online games.

Read more of Mark Kern's Make Friends & Influence People in MMOs.


Associate Editor:
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom



  • FoomerangFoomerang Portland, ORPosts: 5,592Member Uncommon

    In a virtual world, nobody cares how you look or how much money your make, where you live or what color skin you have.

    If that were true, game communities would be doing the exact opposite of what you claim they are. Sadly, online gaming communities are host to some of the most racist, misogynist, homophobic, and hate filled people you can find.

    I wish with all my heart that what you wrote was actually true though.

  • KiljaedenasKiljaedenas New Westminster, BCPosts: 468Member
    A chunk of the problem of lack of heavy social interaction also lies in the fact that a lot of MMOs don't have complicated-enough gameplay to allow for large-scale coordination on a regular basis. The only MMO I've ever played that really has all the tools needed for constant massive long-term interaction (and friend-making) between lots of players is Eve Online...but Eve is a very complicated, viciously cutthroat game that makes most new players that try it piss themselves and run screaming. Large scale coordination requires large scale complexity to challenge people with that kind of coordination, and usually the "average" gamer doesn't want that kind of complexity.

    Where's the any key?

  • TheLizardbonesTheLizardbones Arkham, VAPosts: 10,910Member

    I can not remember winning or losing a single debate on the internet.

  • RobokappRobokapp Dublin, OHPosts: 5,294Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Foomerang


    In a virtual world, nobody cares how you look or how much money your make, where you live or what color skin you have.


    If that were true, game communities would be doing the exact opposite of what you claim they are. Sadly, online gaming communities are host to some of the most racist, misogynist, homophobic, and hate filled people you can find.

    I wish with all my heart that what you wrote was actually true though.



  • MumboJumboMumboJumbo LondonPosts: 3,219Member Uncommon

    Thanks Mark, I've read your article even if I've not commented previously and you're providing some quality consideration. Yeah, in my limited opinion, I believe this is the gold standard for the mmo genre. A lot of other genres seem to have picked bits and bobs from the genre for their own uses, but the mmo collective interactions is the defining component of this genre, probably darn hard to get right, but EVE, the evergreen exception that proves the rule demonstrates. I mean there's comics of the live stories, there's a history documentary coming out about it, it's the threshold of a medium promoting story beyond other more established mediums.

  • FoomerangFoomerang Portland, ORPosts: 5,592Member Uncommon

    Originally posted by Robokapp
    Originally posted by Foomerang   In a virtual world, nobody cares how you look or how much money your make, where you live or what color skin you have.
      If that were true, game communities would be doing the exact opposite of what you claim they are. Sadly, online gaming communities are host to some of the most racist, misogynist, homophobic, and hate filled people you can find. I wish with all my heart that what you wrote was actually true though.

    cool vid though

  • KiljaedenasKiljaedenas New Westminster, BCPosts: 468Member
    Originally posted by Foomerang


    Originally posted by Robokapp

    Originally posted by Foomerang  

    In a virtual world, nobody cares how you look or how much money your make, where you live or what color skin you have.
      If that were true, game communities would be doing the exact opposite of what you claim they are. Sadly, online gaming communities are host to some of the most racist, misogynist, homophobic, and hate filled people you can find. I wish with all my heart that what you wrote was actually true though.  


    cool vid though


    1) Don't make this a political or human rights rant. There have been far too many of those.

    2) All of your posted links are related to the same game, the one most extreme example in all of this. Don't make one extreme example paint people's opinions of the entire MMO genre.

    3) Don't blame games at all for what people do in them. These games didn't say anywhere "Hey, come on in and be the most racist bigoted prick possible"...the people that have these views are out there in the real world. It's plain simple fact. Some countries, or sub-states of countries, literally teach and raise their children to be racist, homophobic, etc...some countries have actual real laws that state being gay is a crime punishable by death, other countries are constantly at war with each other because due to religious fanatacisim they believe they must obliterate the "infidels of an inferior race", or whatever.

    Human beings can be the most caring, helpful and benevolent things on this planet, or the most sadistic f*ckups you can find anywhere. That is not an MMO's fault. People raised in these areas, truly believing these beliefs, will let their opinions be known, whether it's in an MMO or not. MMOs are not "safe havens" for these freaks, nor do they attract them like a magnet; they just happen to be playing them for different, independant reasons and stating their very ass-backwards opinions within them as a sidebar.

    Where's the any key?

  • CrusadesCrusades Columbus, OHPosts: 480Member
    Life Lessons  in Gaming - chapter # 857 lines 75 -77 - to make friends and influence others, you must gain their respect. This is done by through a variety of methods, but the one that transcends from gaming to real life and is rule #1 - having an attitude of service.
  • iixviiiixiixviiiix GSPosts: 895Member Uncommon

    It not like in MMORPGs people don't care about your skin color or the money in your wallet , they do.

    But the most thing that make friendship last long in MMORPG because MMORPG help people show they "true" natural.

    Some will able to hide they natural but soon or late it will come out when the time come.


    That's why when you make friend in MMORPG , special after long time playing with other , you know they natural pretty well .

    From they daily story to they problem , they hobby and the darkest secret.

    That's how friendship form in MMORPG.


    That's why i love MMORPG , people show how they are , what they want to become and how they want to do (but unable to do so in real life).

    It make things become interest ...



  • KeatlorienKeatlorien Seattle, WAPosts: 37Member

    I hope some of these ideas are implemented into Landmark and EQ Next. Perhaps they will be able to figure out how to transfer the asynchronous group building gameplay of Landmark into EQ Next. Not sure how this would work exactly, but it could be really cool.


    There could be certain zones where the players must work together to build forts and settlements. These zones could be separate from the normal housing zones so that when the settlements are attacked and destroyed by monsters the players wouldn't lose all of their stuff.

  • WereLlamaWereLlama Lubbock, TXPosts: 243Member

    Agree completely.

    If we want to grow online inter-dependency (grouping) in these modern times, we need to do it in an asynchronous manner.

    In the game our team is working on, our friends list acts as a deck of cards.  Once a day, or more if the friend logs in often, they can invoke the player's help as an NPC(AI).  The offline version of the friend will follow the player and help him/her on various tasks (healing/fighting).

    We are working on allowing the invocation of even more friends during raid events so theoretically, you can raid bosses with a bunch of your friends.. All completely asynchronously.


  • thecapitainethecapitaine West Chester, PAPosts: 408Member Uncommon

    Oddly enough, there's already a game with several aspects of these asynchronous guild activities.  It's called Star Trek Online.  Guild leaders decide on projects that players contribute to in order to improve their starbase, unlock guild-wide perks, and, of course, get access to some of the best gear and ships in the game.  It's non-trivial stuff and it really does reward people for being active and dedicated to the game and guild.


    It's more than a bit idealistic to think that people don't bring their RL baggage into MMOs with them.  A quick glance at any game's global chat will reveal this and youtube abounds with clips of people behaving badly behind their keyboards.  That's not to say there aren't good people and that these games don't provide better opportunities for people to sometimes be themselves when they otherwise can't.


    The biggest obstacle to improved socialization in games isn't, I believe, related to the game or systems at all.  It has everything to do with an internet that has matured technologically, a mainstream playerbase whose demands have very little to do with making friends in games, and an overabundance of tools which are far better suited to scratching the socialization itch than anything Blizzard or SOE could design.

  • WizardryWizardry Ontario, CanadaPosts: 9,066Member Uncommon
    No way can any game create a social aspect when their design is quest grinding,that is a design for failure and resorts back to single player gaming not a MMO.

    Samoan Diamond

  • Ragnar1337Ragnar1337 Atlantis, ALPosts: 70Member Common
    Really? How is it that the game this guy just got fired from had none of the social aspects he talks about? Firefall was one of the least social and most awkward games ever to try and play with anyone. I can't really take any of this seriously from someone who does the opposite of what he's telling other people to do with their game designs. 
  • NephaeriusNephaerius Baltimore, MDPosts: 1,548Member Uncommon
    Every time he mentions real life social media in this article he goes out of his way to indicate how much he hates it and then goes on to suggest adding an in-game version of it.....  An in-game version of FB or Twitter makes me cringe and I have no problem with real life social media.

    Steam: Neph

  • Zephir62Zephir62 Easton, PAPosts: 1Member

    I think that MMORPG games need more ways for players to interact with eachother, other than PVP/PVE. Games such as Ultima Online were really cool, because Origin provided tons of different ways for players to interact with the world and other players other than hurting them! They could play board games, create automated shops, spend their whole game experience crafting, etc. 


    Another interesting socialization mechanic from that era, is Asheron's Call "Patron / Vassal" system. More experience players were encouraged to take on newbies as Vassals, guiding them through the game and helping them level when they needed it - even giving them free items and money if they were wealthy enough. Patrons were rewarded for this behavior by receiving 10% or so of the Vassal's earned experience, even while they were offline. 

  • Belly1974Belly1974 RedcarPosts: 20Member
    Not everyone wants to be social in games anymore. I tried... The last game I've truly made friends with was The Secret World on release... I recently went back to WoW after a long break. I remember about 5 years ago it was very east to make friends... Now it's full of people who are being racist, homophobic and just plain rude... We used to help each other all the time. But is it the games that changed or just the people on the internet in general? Are people the world over just becoming more rude, offensive and lazy because of the internet? I don't know, but it really feels that way. And if that's the case, then nothing you change in MMOs will help...
  • Po_ggPo_gg Twigwarren, WestfarthingPosts: 2,853Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by thecapitaine

    Oddly enough, there's already a game with several aspects of these asynchronous guild activities.  It's called Star Trek Online.  Guild leaders decide on projects that players contribute to in order to improve their starbase, unlock guild-wide perks, and, of course, get access to some of the best gear and ships in the game. 

    That was my first thought too, when reading that part...

    Also the chat and mail system is linked / shared so you can communicate with players from the other Cryptic games. And with Neverwinter's SCA you can play and advance offline, through a browser.

    (but AoC's guild city building is somewhat similar for example)


    These type of disconnections is in all of the columns... like the "downtime" one, I didn't even commented that one it was so off the chart. This 'making friends' one has the same issues. If it'd be about designing a niche indie game for the old-timer players, then it'd be ok (more or less).

    But the whole column is all about the "genre", the "mmo gaming", the "plague of modern mmo's", etc. etc. Newsflash, the playerbase is heavily changed during these 10-15 years...  and whether we like it or not, the genre is in a good shape, just focusing onto them and not onto us, because the numbers are with them.

    And a core difference between the two (difference related to this column), they don't play mmos to make friends. They're "socialising" 24/7 with crap sites like fb you've mentioned, they don't need a game to socialise. Some of them even turn off the chat because "it's annoying and distracting" while chatting through voice with buddies they're playing together with - buddies not from the game, from their own social circle.

  • egbert_mmoegbert_mmo los angeles, CAPosts: 5Member

    New business Models attract new people.   Today's industry standard is the facade "Free to Play"  with a mirage of behind the surface charges and costs to get ahead and win.  Community leaders are no longer gamers but people with the largest credit cards and this has all but erased the old school mmo community you are referring to.  Hand it to western capitalistic quick bang for their buck publishers and over seas developers for giving publishers just enough of an application to hang themselves with - for killing the online communities you are referring to.  There is no coop - it's "oh we aren't doing so well" break out the credit cards it's time to try to win - that's what the other guys did - we have to do it too. 


    People don't really play as much as they sit around and wait for the next big update ti feed their credit machine to.

  • XeevisXeevis F-MPosts: 8Member Uncommon

    Great article Mark, I like your ideas, but I'd like to point out kinda funny phenomenon I've been observing in Firefall.


    Firefall was social "by mistake", by bugs, can you even believe that?


    Thumping: You'd invite into squad everyone around because there weren't any drawbacks and you could do larger thumpers. Made lots of friends before it got "fixed" so resources thumper pulled from the node got parted, so more people in your squad = less resources for you from the node. And so from friendly, share-with-everyone, it become competitive for spots and desired to be done solo.


    ARES missions: Rewards were given to all squad members whether they were present at mission location or not. So people just grouped together to increase reward frequency by splitting up into different missions. Made lots of friends that way, before it got "fixed" and then before you even got to mission it got completed by someone random who you'd become mad at. No need to be in squad as they were incredibly easy.


    Other bugs (XP vallery, watchtower defense, Diamond head ARES): Everyone would naturally flock to anything that gave lots of rewards as fast as possible and just by standing around waiting for easy rewards people got to socialize, that was the only sure way you could get to know people from inside the game. Before all that got "fixed" too.


    Otherwise there was NOTHING, squad finding feature never worked and nobody gave a damn even tho I pointed it out numerous times, not that it would help because there was nothing you'd want to even do as a squad anymore. Forced group events like BWA or Invasions were more rewarding if you multiboxed them, you playing with yourself times 5. Armies were nothing more than a nametag and a chat channel.


    I don't blame you or anyone particular, but this is what I'd call worst MMO job ever in terms of socialization. And it should be used as an example, how things should never be done.

  • grummzgrummz Aliso Viejo, CAPosts: 56Member

    I completely agree. I created the concept of Thumpers and original ARES missions, but implementation and design went through many hands after I did the initial ideas. One of my favorites was when there was a version with more of a pause between waves where you had time to set up defenses and turrets, etc. That gave people time for socialization.

    XP valley was very cool. We should have explored what made it fun and formalized it as a system in the game.

  • OminousDawnOminousDawn New York, NYPosts: 75Member


    The article has good ideas from the perspective of a player who advocates group play and socialization.  While there is certainly a good point to be made regarding MMO's being all about socializing with others, the reality is that even the most social of us do not want to be social all the time.  So yes, by all means, go ahead and have at it with the implementation of all of these group play activities such as raids and forced grouping treadmill functions.  While doing so, however, you would be remiss to disregard the need that many in the player base have to be able to solo play from time to time.  Developers understand this and that is why social functions are so easy to advocate for in articles like these yet so difficult to implement in live MMO's.

    The preferences in game play in the MMO industry now days is so vast that it is guaranteed that no game will ever satisfy even a 51% majority.  A quick perusal through recent threads in this forum alone produces dozens of threads  with posters expressing their different game play preferences and rarely is there ever universal agreement about how a game should be developed.  Instead of accepting a game for what it is, everyone wants what they want in an MMO and very few are ever willing to compromise.  So they flood game forums and unleash an onslaught of bashing, trolling and criticizing simply because a game does not cater to their personal preferences.

    Why can't we have options?  Yes, group play is good, but solo play is OK also.  So why not implement content that can be played solo as well as in groups but when played in groups the contents difficulty and reward escalates accordingly.  That doesn't sound like rocket science, does it?  It has been done before.  If I remember correctly, DDO did this very well.  Their dungeons could be played solo as well as in groups. 

    In closing I'd like to propose a novel concept.  How about we just accept games for what they are and play the games we like, and leave the ones we don't for those who like them. 


    The game you are looking for requiring no PvE completion and where you can just jump in and start mindlessly shooting at people is that way - >>>>

    ... it's called an FPS.

    Quit ruining the MMORPG genre with your constant "PvE grind" whines.

  • megakoreshmegakoresh KirkkonummiPosts: 3Member

    Most of what you are saying with the exception, oddly enough, of being able to asynchronously receive PMs exists in a game called "Warframe". A clan has their own instance called a Dojo, in which they can invite other players from alliances, other clans and well just about anyone, and to which all players can contribute in terms of construction of the rooms and decor.


    While a nice system, I, from a personal, now quite deep experience with it, can not say that building something is necessarily a thing that bonds people. It's not integrated enough for people to care. Maybe there's just not enough of it or maybe it's the lack of leaving your mark on a piece of decor that makes this just a gimmick. But it doesn't really help.


    On another note, as part of the (in)famous Tex community, as well as another rather popular Warframe-only community called Ghost Alliance (which is specifically known for being a very friendly and helpful community, that's like the first things newcomers seem to notice when joining), I can offer some insight into what I observed to make people care:


    The first and main thing is quite simple and ironic: egoism. We at Tex are a great and loyal to each other community because we have plenty of things which make us unique. Differ us from the rest. We have people who coded addons for Firefall. We have this IRC channel that we use to trash talk and sometimes discuss programming questions and other topics. We have forums that our member set up himself for us to organize events and have special discussions.


    We have a specific common style of playing: powergaming. Some more some less, but most of us like to Powergame like insane (hence our former ridiculousness in Firefall). We have a unique for a clan "horizontal" hierarchy system. That kind of stuff, logos, common themes. Stuff that makes you able to say "Yeah I am Tex-an. We do X and Y the Z way and we like to Powergame", is what people care about. What differentiates them from the others as part of a group with unique easily identifiable attributes.


    Same with Ghost Alliance: it has it's unique attributes. It has a LOT of very old and rich players, however the way it was set up the ones which liked the constant competitive activities have left for other alliances. In short we ended up with a lot of people who enjoyed helping each other and new players out. That attracted more players with that kind of attitude. In the end we ended up with a community known for players that like to carry newbies around endgame content, give free stuff, and just generally be less serious about stuff and more "fun and games" sort of attitude - different to most other alliances in the game. We also have one of the biggest amount of clans in this alliance.


    There's a reason I am telling you all this: these things can be directly linked to the gameplay and demonstrated to others. Programming can be linked to creating addons and searching for "Texploits". Powergaming can be linked to mass hoarding and searching for the most effective methods to get the "most stuff". "Noob friendly community" can be linked to trading system and giving mods and parts to fellow alliance members for free for them to play with these items to have a different gameplay - gameplay "marked" with these social... umm... attributes.


    So you can see sort of a link. You enter a community >> You see some of it's defining features >> You demonstrate these to non-members in gameplay >> They say "WOW that's ceeeewl!" >> You say "Yep that's how we roll" thinking "Oh stahp it, you!".


    Say you have some sort of thing in your community like, say, "Everyone says a dick joke to other community members every day". Yeah ok I could dig that. But it's not something I can present to other players in the game I'm playing as a defining feature of the community. Not because it's immature. Because it's in no way related to gameplay. HOWEVER - if there was a stupid clan item that emitted a pink cloud above a characters' head every time he typed "dick" in chat as long as he was a part of that clan and that item was unique - no other clans could get it, then it WOULD work. And it would contribute towards guild loyalty of that member.


    So given your context the most appropriate social features in a game with social aspects like MMO or some coop game with MMO elements like clans would be ones which let clans differ themselves from each other in unique and gameplay-related way. Not in some complex things like fighting and weapons, but just in something that lets members tell others  "That's how we roll". And have random players recognize the presence of that clan in a gameplay activity based on those attributes.


    This can include persistent event-based territory control, for example an event that frees up some space on the map and then lets clans claim it for a time. At the end of the event whichever clans still own parts of it, will have the ability to, say, create their own quest "decorations" for EVERYONE in the game to participate in - like Warframe dark sectors with more integration. For instance a dungeon on Tex-owned land has a quest that requires players to fetch an item from within.


    As being part of Tex I may alter quest's phases to have messages like "Retrieve Optii's shittalk dictionary before the dragon learns all of his insults!" and I can elect to put a giant dildo on the quest terminal board. I can also elect to give the player who does the quest a reward in form of a stat-wise good weapon with a very offensive description. Then other Texans can alter the other Tex-owned quests in this manner, creating a certain theme. Players who dig it will say "LOL Tex should own more land their quests are funny". Players who don't can say "Fucking immature bitches, how the hell did they beat VitisMyYTChannel clan?!".


    Addons marked by clan and various in-game visitable areas with "Clan achievement halls" where people can inspect what the clan has done, being it addons created, fan art contest wins, YT videos or streams, all that would also help. If it is visible in game easily. If it is visible to all.


    You are right. Facebook integration doesn't do shit for clans and for strong social bonds. Neither does Twitter or Mobile Apps or even leaderboards. But internal facility construction doesn't either. For something truly strong in terms of social aspect, the players must work together to differ themselves from the others. They must have an opportunity to "Own" their own little part of the game and own it in a big way. In a way that makes others nod their head and say "Hey! I remember those guys! They are the ones that killed Baneclaw with just the Dragonfly abilities without a single shot!". We had a member record it and post it on YT and forums for that. A game that wanted to improve social aspect of itself would make sure this feat reaches all players upon the next login in some sort of "Impressive feats feed" terminal inside player hub.


    This probably fits the size of it's own article, but you have good ideas, Kern, I felt that it was worth the effort. Shame that not all your ideas come to life, but whatever murky things might have happened behind the scenes of Red5 one thing is evident for me and hasn't really been disproved: you do know what makes games tick. The trouble is in getting down to the details of implementation from the concepts of creation.

  • BrefixBrefix vallentunaPosts: 18Member

    I agree with the asynchrounous communication ideas, have a in game forum would be pretty neat, a lot of gamers specially mmo players really do miss out on friendship bonding through the games forum, and having a community moderated forum in game, would be a great idea, as that also works well with the idea of asynchronous communication.


    But when you started to talk about guilds you also stopped talking about how to make friendship in mmo's the way we used to make friendship is mmo's.

    I might come off as wrong here, what I mean is that guild activities isn't something new, even the ideas you wrote down. 

    However I cannot really mention a game where I have created long lasting friendship, in an mmo without a lot of downtime.. 

    Maplestory is the game that I bonded with existing friends and new friend for majority of my teen life, and that all happened becuase the exp per hour ratio was about 10%/h for the majority of the time, and grinding levels was not something someone did for a whole day, some of the day would always go towards socializing and such. 

    But I can understand that is not a desirable way to design modern mmo's just to have that social aspect in the game. 


  • grummzgrummz Aliso Viejo, CAPosts: 56Member

    Megakoresh I believe that what a guild builds together has to serve the competitive nature of players, even PvE players in a PvE world. The cities that they build together would have to give them more gameplay abilities (for whatever type of game they are playing) and not just be house decorating. Cities should also compete with each other, and in PvP, go to war with each other.

    It would be interesting to see a little RTS and Clash of Clans creep into the MMO space, for instance.

    Thank you for taking the time to respond here. I really appreciate how much thought you put into it.

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