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Thanks for the comment!
I'm not advocating forced group play or elimination of solo play. I'm just proposing alternate ways for players to socialize that might be better than what we have now. The reason for doing so is to bring some of the friendship back to MMOs in a modern manner.
There are two ways to address the playstyle issue. The first, as you said, is to try to accomodate all players. This makes a game very big and expensive to make and harder to design. Another is to make a bunch of littler MMOs that cater to niche. EvE is one example of this.
I disagree that the genre is in good shape. I've seen too many friends and too many studios laid off from large MMOs to agree.
I'm also not advocating going back to the old ways of making MMOs. What I'm writing about is how to bring back the special flavors that we've lost, but only in ways that are meaningful and fun for current mass MMO players.
To the OP, we had no social problems in MMO's back in the 90's. It all started going down hill with the release of WoW. WoW was really the first MMO where groups would ditch someone for someone better and with that, started a domino effect. It's a real shame, because unless you got real life friends to play with, you can forget playing a MMORPG with random people, barely no interaction, if the group sucks, they leave. Sure you can join a guild, but then you need to be on team speak, be active, follow the rules. Jesus Christ man, I just want to play the game like we used to back in the 90's. Camping boss rooms or high exp areas for hours at a time with some buds scattered around the globe while sharing cooking recipes. Such a shame.
On a side note, FF14 : ARR is a great game if you're lucky as I was with finding a great guild that didn't cared if it took 200 tries to finish a instance. Only reason I left FF14 was for the same reasons my guild mates left. After the amazing story line FF14 offers, the game gets boring really quick. I could maybe give it another shot since I haven't played for 7 months. But I'm having way too much fun on Borderlands 2 and Planetary Annihilation was 66% off on Steam yesterday which grants Beta access. So yeah, really busy with my new goodies.
Thank you very much for your thoughts and ideas, Mark.
I have got a different opinion on this topic. I doubt that an asynchronous show-off of achievements or contributions helps to make friends. The only thing it does is to offer information. Information is always good and helps to create topics to talk about, but in some cases players might dislike such a feature. It creates unnecessary competition between clan members related to how beneficial they are to their guild.
Some of your ideas regarding asynchronous communication or guild systems already exist. Dark Age of Camelot had a social panel for the guil section. There you found information about guild and alliance members and their progress in-game (levels and realm ranks).
Released in 2004, Lineage 2 offered a deep clan system that allowed players to enhance their clans. Advancing to certain clan levels the clan members had to finish clan quests. For some of them you had to gather quite a big bunch of players. Also, the rewards were interesting. Levels 0-3 added basic enhancements such as clan chat, clan warehouse, clan halls, clan emblems and the possibility to declare a war. The more challenging levels 4-7 allowed to participate in castle sieges, to claim castles, clan skills or to recruit stronger guards for your castle.
The features you listed are "nice to haves" but not ground breaking when it comes to creating friendships in-game. If you compare both of the above mentioned MMOs, DAoC and Lineage 2, a strong similarity can be found.
Both games allow the player to progress solo or in a group. The interesting thing is that the class synergy in both games is extraordinary strong while maintaining a dependence between the classes when it comes to endgame content. You simply want class A to be in your group due to abilities X, Y and Z.
In DAoC for example, a Shaman can buff a Warrior to a point that enables the Warrior to quickly defeat much stronger opponents. Adding a Healer to the group, the Warrior becomes able to defeat even stronger opponents due to additional attack speed buffs. Throwing in classes with AoE damage, the Warrior plays the puller gathering hoards of monsters for the 2 AoE classes which then "bomb" the monsters into nirvana. The same goes for Lineage 2, a MMO which actually has an even stronger synergy and dependence between classes. BuffType1 class + BuffType2 class + Dances + Songs enables a polearm swinging Orc Destroyer to pull and kill huge mob packs.
A friendship can not be incentivized by "nice to have"-features. Most friendships in MMOs are based upon teamplay and a journey travelled together. As long as you allow players to travel alone or do not make it beneficial by design to team up, you will maintain to have isolated players.
Good points, and thanks for pointing out the games that had these features have existed before. I don't think that the nice-to-have features I listed is *the* solution, just a part of it. I think the real key is adventuring together "you gotta sweat together to get together." Er, wait, now that sounds really NSFW. But you get my drift.
Next article I'm going to talk about some ways to enhance synchronous play.
People easy become friends when they have things to share with other.
If you look at all the news game , the players base get cut apart by many difference.
Level difference , quests difference , and instances.
Look back to the early age , we share many things with other ,
from hunting spot to loots.
Few level difference but we can party and share our time with other.
Boss hard and take long time to re spawn so we share the item we get from raid.
Together protect the castle from the siege.
Without things to share with , there are no friendship
I doubt games with quest hubs , instances and gear treadmill end game are good game to make some new friends.
First I want to stress that the proposed show off features has got also their downsides-at least imho-, because such a show off feature can become easily an immersion breaker. Imagine a mmorpg with a medieval setting where you can watch videos of your friends adventuring the game world. This would totally destroy any immersion, because video streaming was not invented in the middle ages. In a game with a modern day scenario or science fiction one the problem is not so big, but if the video featuring your friend or guild mate pops out of nowhere and you can watch it in a separate window on your pc screen it is still an immersion breaker. You need in such cases a well and carefully crafted in fiction feature like a news channel broadcasting a program showing your friends' adventures. Immersion are not well handled in many mmorpg these days. Of course there are noteworthy exception of the rule, but I truly think, that immersion should be more carefully treated during the game's development process.