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[Column] General: Social Hooks & MMOs

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,580MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

How many people do you interact with reasonably often in your current MMO?  How many of those people are outside of your guild?  Assuming you have played MMO’s for awhile, is your pattern of socialization today similar to that back when you started?

Read more of Ryahl Smith's Social Hooks & MMOs.

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

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Comments

  • AcorniaAcornia Spring Lake, RIPosts: 176Member

    I use to play with many friends back in the days of EQ / SWG, but today I find myself playing solo with no friends in game.

    One of the biggest things that turned me into a solo play was the introduction of gear ratios and parties only wanting you if your gear ratio was above a level that they wanted for what they were doing.

  • FelixMajorFelixMajor London, ONPosts: 576Member
    This was a great article. Thanks for the read.

    I understand 100%. Playing modern mmos really just feels like walking through a populated city like Toronto - lots of busy people and little to no social interactions and connections.

    I do miss the communities of older games and gamers. I also think that is a key that a lot of people forget about the "good old times". It wasn't just the games, it was the players that made it happen.

    Originally posted by Arskaaa
    "when players learned tacticks in dungeon/raids, its bread".

  • SEANMCADSEANMCAD Houston, TXPosts: 5,348Member

    answer:

    zero

    why do I play MMOs then? because of the depth of the game and to share with others what I have done (crafting wise).

    Although to be fair, if a single player game had as much depth as the MMOs I play then I would likely stop playing MMOs

    Correlation does not imply causation

  • aesperusaesperus Hamshire, NVPosts: 5,128Member Uncommon

    Great article!

    Fascinating topic that has been around for a while now. I hope people actually listen to (and understand) your points, because I often find people completely misunderstand this subject matter, and elect to only 'understand' the aspects most convenient to them.

    Either way, well done, and I'd love to see more articles of this caliber on this site!

     
  • TheLizardbonesTheLizardbones Arkham, VAPosts: 10,910Member

    I think just allowing people to join multiple groups or guilds in an MMORPG would go a long ways towards creating those links between groups.  That and giving a preference to friends and guildies when queuing people for instances.

     

    I'm not a real fan of forcing people to do stuff, or even being pushy about rewarding them for doing something, but things that seem to just happen naturally that bring like-minded people together seems like a good idea.  If there is going to be something pushy, I think economic incentives and mechanics are the best way to go.

     

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

  • thecapitainethecapitaine West Chester, PAPosts: 401Member Uncommon

    Thanks, Ryahl, for your enlightening article.  It's this sort of article that helps elevate the discussions here on the site.  I'm glad to have a different lens through which to peer at where MMOs have been and are going in terms of social hooks.  So often it feels like an echo chamber here that resounds with the same old dogmatic ideas about what made early games social and the One True Way that will bring socialization back to future games.

     

    I have a feeling that the developers who can best design unique, holistic, and rewarding social hooks will have a game that's as influential to the genre for the next ten years as WoW was for the past decade.

  • MarcelinoMarcelino BlackburnPosts: 116Member Uncommon

    When playing MoP atm, i only react with my guild mates when i log in to say hi and my best friend (who hardly plays anymore as he is playing Wildstar). So i would say in wow in its current state, i can play a whole evening without talking to anyone, and thats even when i do 3 instances of LFR.

    When i played back in 2005, leveling in westfall I couldnt do anything without talking to people. Finding a team for deadmines caused me to make 3 new friends on my friends list that liked my healing and said they wanted to team with me again. They are good friends today and I chat to them on Social media regularly (even tho they have given up wow)

    That is the difference between wow back then and wow now.

     
  • FoomerangFoomerang Portland, ORPosts: 5,564Member Uncommon

    I'm a socialist and I think deep down a lot of mmo players who yearn for community are socialists at heart. Problem is we live in a capitalist society and our mmos are built as such.

  • YoofaloofYoofaloof Somewhere oop North...Posts: 66Member Uncommon

    I prefer playing solo. If I do group then it's with friends I know IRL, and if I have to group because the MMO demands it, then I'll endeavour to get the job done without the chit chat and small talk that goes with it. 

    Playing solo I can level at my own pace, I hate rushing through content. I join Guilds primarily for the extras.

    Don't get me wrong I would really love to be more sociable in game, group  up and chat but I really find it hard to interact  as the vast majority of players are so immature, you can tell that just from the in game chat.

    Why do I play? I love the genre, but would rather see characters played by real people moving about than NPC's walking a set route. And if that isn't a contradiction in terms, I don't know what is.

     

  • DaveyColeDaveyCole New York, NYPosts: 85Member

    I was enthused to play Landmark after reading that it was a socially oriented game. After logging in and running around for a while, I realized that most players were not interested in talking. There were little links to facebook and twitter on the screen to share what I've built in the game. This is what they meant by a "social" game.

    I was told that there was a swap meet on Fridays where players get together to share items that they've built. This rekindled my hope in the expectation that people would be more sociable in a predetermined location. Instead I was only able to talk with a single player, as most people were just running around copying items to use later. Once the event started I was startled to find out that nobody was talking. One of the people said "hey we're all on twitch right now." Great...more "social" interaction.

    I think that games are becoming less traditional in their social format. People are less interested in talking and more interested in "social systems" or "networks" where discussions can be measured and gauged. Even the simplest element of speech has become monetized by "likes" and "subscribers." Everyone wants a piece of the pie, and this is just another piece.

    Gone of the days of people sitting outside Britain Bank en masse or sitting around the East Commonlands tunnel just seeing what people are selling.

  • RyahlRyahl Houston Metro, TXPosts: 47Member

    Thank you for the comments everyone.  This article has been in works for awhile and I took some efforts to try to bridge a research topic into the MMORPG environment.

    Special thanks to @lizardbones, multiple guilds is definitely a social hook I left out.  It's very much a design element that caters towards the small world efficiency of a large community!

    Ryahl - writer of eye-bleeders
    FFXIV Fansite | TSWGuides
    Follow me on Twitter

  • SpottyGekkoSpottyGekko RotterdamPosts: 3,845Member Uncommon

    I haven't interacted with other players much in any game since I stopped playing EVE. There's no need to interact in any of the standard fantasy themepark MMO's nowadays, and none of my RL friends play online games.

     

    The Repopulation or perhaps Star Citizen may change that for me though. Hopefully...

  • RylahRylah Tribal VillagePosts: 193Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by FelixMajor

    I do miss the communities of older games and gamers. I also think that is a key that a lot of people forget about the "good old times". It wasn't just the games, it was the players that made it happen.

    It was near 100% the games. They not only encouraged social behaviour, they enforced it. Most modern games do the opposite. They say they encourage social play, but in fact they discourage it and make it a subpar way of playing.

    The whole design of most modern MMORPGs (if you still want to call them that) is aimed at an excellent solo experience and made to fit for casual solo players at that. There is no social behaviour needed, when the game mechanics automate everything for you.

    And it is not only Raid/Group finders, the antisocial design goes much further. Combat logs for example take social awareness out of the game and replace it with some more or less (mostly less) relevant numbers. Quest markers and all the niftiy ways to bring you to your questing area... only thing most games miss is autorunnung to quest-area, autocombat and then auto-run back and auto-turn in. People playing in the early days of EQ and WoW had to actually think and in some cases even talk to each other to solve quests. Now I am not a big fan of this quest grind, but still it was much more fun before Thottbot took hold. But even then it was much more fun than now where you cannot go amiss if you try hard.

    Game designers went the way of casualizing games which is a very 2 edged sword. It brings in a lot of initial sales given the IP and hype are big enough, but most games then start to dwindle away, since the "community leaders", meaning persons and guilds / clans who are able and willing to organize servers and have the resources to be the icebreakers in unknown waters so to say  don't find a challenge in those casualized games and usually leave very soon. Many casual players think is this a good thing but find out very soon, that without some people and groups being either organizers and leaders  in games with PvP or at the very least the ones who write guides (nowadays: make videos)  - the games become bland. To be a dramatic hero it is not enough to have some cinematic characters repeating your awesomeness ad nauseam. It needs challenge for the sense of accomplishment and it needs drama which only results from interaction with others - both good and bad.

    TL;DR

    Older games enforced social behaviour by game mechanics, newer games do their best to remove each and every social aspect.

  • MadFrenchieMadFrenchie Eglin AFB, FLPosts: 651Member Uncommon

    I agree almost 100% with you article.  Seriously, it is well-written, even using objectively studied social phenomenon to back up a claim that social ties, interaction, and socialization in MMOs helps create longevity and contributes to an overall healthy MMO.

     

    That is, in a word: awesome.  And I truly hope MMO designers move back towards this in exactly the way you mention: through encouragement and a rewarding system for interaction.  Soloing should not be overly difficult or cumbersome; it also shouldn't be the best way to progress through a massively multiplayer game.

     

    However, I'm not sure how I feel about cross-server or cross-realm play.  One of the reasons players in older MMOs ran into each other so often was because the servers were their own, cut off from other servers and concentrated among smaller content areas.  This didn't mean everyone farming the same mob (though sometimes it happened).  In my experience, it simply meant that you saw many of the same guys either in your dungeon group, or in another group farming another part of the dungeon you were currently in.  This kind of concentration highly contributed to grouping and seeing the same folks over and over.  It also naturally provided (virtual?) face time with players who kept the same play hours as you.  It naturally led to acquaintances that were frequently available to interact with.  With the advent of phasing and megaservers, this happens much less, even if you and another play share the exact same play hours (and progression rate).

     

    I remember players running by with multiple mobs in trail, his group having wiped save for him.  And I also remember my group pulling these mobs and handling them for this guy (when we weren't busy with our own mobs) just to help the guy out so he could rez his members and continue their farming in another part of the dungeon.  It was a nice gesture, and only happened because the dungeon we were currently running provide multiple wings filled with different mobs and, yes, different rewards.

     

    All in all, I think this is an excellent article bringing up a huge point that Mark Kern hit on: socialization and interaction in MMOs is key to longevity.  Folks who have some buddies they play and laugh with often play much longer, even if it's just the same content over and over.

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  • WereLlamaWereLlama Lubbock, TXPosts: 243Member

    I agree that social hooks help keep players invested  and playing in the post-attraction phase of the game.

    In the game we are working on, we have a traditional friends list with a twist.  Your friends list is similar to a deck of cards that gets reset every 24 hours (or more often if they log in).  

    A friend can buf you (even if they are offline), heal you,  or allow you to summon their pet (trap,animal or other things they possess).  

    If you use them, they are rewarded.  We are attempting to reward the social hooks you suggest makes the game more fun,.

    -WL

  • MeltdownMeltdown Home, NHPosts: 1,184Member Uncommon

    Seriously great article, all the praise here is well deserved. I agree with everything you said. I believe though, there is a group of players who seek out the punishment form of social hooks as experienced within the two MMOs you mentioned (FFXI and EQ). I consider myself in that group, not because I'm a glutton for punishment, but because I'm an introvert who only seeks out social interaction as a last resort. And games that force/enforce this behavior often can elevate an introvert into a social system that they may not be completely familiar with, but one they can contribute and be a part of, something that probably is not common in their real lives (sorry for generalizations, using myself as an example here). 

     

    While I haven't loved all the new information coming out about the future of WoW, this certainly has nabbed my ear and it gladdens me to hear a serious publisher talk about and admit to some faults of their own making. 

    "They essentially want to say 'Correlation proves Causation' when it's just not true." - Sovrath

  • iixviiiixiixviiiix GSPosts: 832Member Uncommon

    I interact with many because my favorite is support classes.

    Even in nowadays game where people mostly solo , support class always easier to make friend with other .

    Everyone love free buff and free heal lol .

    But i have to say that in nowadays MMORPGs , the links between players are weak compare to strong social link in earlier MMORPGs.

    Nowadays link easier to break , just little difference in progress and the links all gone .

     

    Make it short , why tiger hunt alone while wolfs hunt with pack ?

    If you can answer this question then you can understand why social links between players are weak nowadays.

    And i believe this question wasn't hard .

     

    Also i have to say that old MMORPG are true massively multiplayers game because of the natural Open world design.

    Nowadays "MMORPGs" are singleplayer game (quest hubs leveling part)with 5-10-20-40 multiplayer option (instance dungeons gears treadmill ) disguise as MMORPG too catch people's attention.

    They can have short success at box sell or F2P mode where you grab money "MMORPG tourists"

    But they aren't place to join or build good community .

     

    I call currents MMORPGs design with quest hubs and instance are "cash grab" design.

    I don't have any hate about it.

    I just give it a name to distinguish it with old "community build MMORPG" lol.

     

  • AsariashaAsariasha Somewhere inPosts: 218Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Rylah
    Originally posted by FelixMajor

    I do miss the communities of older games and gamers. I also think that is a key that a lot of people forget about the "good old times". It wasn't just the games, it was the players that made it happen.

    It was near 100% the games. They not only encouraged social behaviour, they enforced it. Most modern games do the opposite. They say they encourage social play, but in fact they discourage it and make it a subpar way of playing.

    The whole design of most modern MMORPGs (if you still want to call them that) is aimed at an excellent solo experience and made to fit for casual solo players at that. There is no social behaviour needed, when the game mechanics automate everything for you.

    And it is not only Raid/Group finders, the antisocial design goes much further. Combat logs for example take social awareness out of the game and replace it with some more or less (mostly less) relevant numbers. Quest markers and all the niftiy ways to bring you to your questing area... only thing most games miss is autorunnung to quest-area, autocombat and then auto-run back and auto-turn in. People playing in the early days of EQ and WoW had to actually think and in some cases even talk to each other to solve quests. Now I am not a big fan of this quest grind, but still it was much more fun before Thottbot took hold. But even then it was much more fun than now where you cannot go amiss if you try hard.

    Game designers went the way of casualizing games which is a very 2 edged sword. It brings in a lot of initial sales given the IP and hype are big enough, but most games then start to dwindle away, since the "community leaders", meaning persons and guilds / clans who are able and willing to organize servers and have the resources to be the icebreakers in unknown waters so to say  don't find a challenge in those casualized games and usually leave very soon. Many casual players think is this a good thing but find out very soon, that without some people and groups being either organizers and leaders  in games with PvP or at the very least the ones who write guides (nowadays: make videos)  - the games become bland. To be a dramatic hero it is not enough to have some cinematic characters repeating your awesomeness ad nauseam. It needs challenge for the sense of accomplishment and it needs drama which only results from interaction with others - both good and bad.

    TL;DR

    Older games enforced social behaviour by game mechanics, newer games do their best to remove each and every social aspect.

     

    I think you hit the nail and totally agree.

     

    In my opinion, todays MMOs do not deserve to be called an MMO. Yes, they are large scale games with thousands of players, but they all lack social aspects and interdependencies that raise an interest to actually make friends in-game. And this exactly is what in the past made a great MMO in which you remained as player for more than a month or two.

     

    It feels like the game designers equal the integration of social media buttons to a gameplay that fosters to socializing.

  • terratricksterratricks Sonora, CAPosts: 2Member

    I am a huge fan of taking current research and applying to game design. This also goes for looking at the good and bad of previous games.

    My first MMO was City of Heroes. This is only my opinion, but it felt like the best and friendliest community I have been a part of. I was social and grouped because it was fun.

    Looking back., the things I really liked were the Devs developed strong relationships with the player base. They were active on forums, and for 3 or 4 years they had Meet-and-Greets in the California Bay Area where you could talk with the development team. When COH was shut down abruptly it was amazing to see how many players were angry about how the dev team was affected, not just a beloved game was being shut down.

    The community policed itself. On the Protector server, I often saw players get chastised for inappropriate/rude behavior. It also helped that there was an in-game note and star system. If I played with a person that I did not get along with, I could make a note, and give them 1 out of 5 stars. These notes and stars could only seen the player, but it did allow for some social policing. If a player was cruel or unsportsman like, people would just make a note of it.

    Finally, COH used a global channel chat system, which I thought was brilliant. The channels were player made and moderated where the rules of the channel could be displayed or a message of the day. The channel was across all servers. What this did was built communities built on common goals (e.g., monster hunting) or similar likes (e.g., an LGBT channel). I met so many friends through these player made channels. I wanted to play with them because I got to know them outside of actual game play.

    My two cents.

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