Weird Question of the Day

If we are lazy and resistant to being social in MMOs (the path of least effort, etc.), is it the game’s/devs’ responsibility to encourage — or even force — us to do so?

13 thoughts on “Weird Question of the Day

  1. Encourage yes. Force no. One of the (many) hallmarks of a good game is that it provides enjoyable gameplay for a variety of people. Ideally a game will provide an equally wide avenue of play for both group and solo players. Seven-hero parties in Guild Wars, I’m looking at you.

  2. Rubi’s got it right. Encourage, but not force.

    This is such a doozy of a question that it’s really hard to answer without writing up an entire blog post in response, but I will say the following:

    There’s no IEEE standard for the term “MMO.” You would think that developers would strive to encourage the social aspect (the second M) if they were to call a game an MMO, but really, are there hard-and-fast “requirements” for such a game anymore? Many people thrive in highly active guilds, raiding multiple nights a week – and many others (the majority, it seems, in games like WoW) do much better soloing with the occasional group-up. Why play an online game in the first place? The sense of taking part in a massive world filled with other people, with whom you don’t necessarily HAVE to interact. It’s a basic human instinct, as far as I’m inclined to believe.

    As for encouraging it: WoW’s dungeon finder tool is perhaps the greatest advance in “social encouragement” since being able to form parties. I think Cataclysm’s slower, more challenging approach to dungeons will help to counteract the current silent (save for the occasional “gogogo” or “lol 2k dps u suck”) blitzkrieg in Wrath dungeons.

  3. Nope. It’s not a dev’s place to tell me how to play. If they design the game to funnel me into an unavoidable situation where I have to group, then I feel railroaded. They’re welcome to make the game they want to make, just as I’m welcome to go support someone else who I feel offers what _I_ am looking for in my games.

  4. It depends on their design for the content. Since they are making the content and thus have some idea of how the playerbase “should” tackle it (in lines with their intentions), they can determine the solo/grouping ratio they are aiming for. If there is too much one way or the other, they can try to tilt the balance to correct it. Since in a sense they are indeed supposed to “force” it, but I would describe that more as “guiding” or “encourage”, just not too heavy handed.

    That being said I believe a nice mix or solo and group content is the best. I often solo and I’m OK with needing to group for certain things. If all I wanted to do is solo I’d be off playing a solo RPG.

  5. No. I get more than enough social engineering from my government, I don’t need it in my entertainment.

    Developers of virtual worlds need to understand the pull of whimsy and freedom that their games offer, sometimes the only place players can have the semblance of autonomy. (An interesting tangent thisaway:China’s War Beyond Azeroth) Forcing *anything* social beyond enforcing baseline civil behavior to keep griefing down is stepping over the line.

    Provide group-only content? Sure, since some players love that, but don’t make it a roadblock to other parts of the game that are soloable, or the culmination of a solo quest chain. (So a group-only raid that unlocks another group-only raid is just fine.) There’s nothing wrong with group-only content, but railroading players into it who don’t want to play that way isn’t a good idea.

    Guild Wars does it well by designing group-based content but allowing soloists to tackle it with NPC help. That way you can use group design as much as you want without being a control freak about how it’s tackled.

    Forcing people to socialize will not make them more sociable.

  6. Encourage maybe, force definitely no. MMORPG players are adults for the most part so allow us to choose our own desired level of social interaction to suit our mood.

  7. I’d say it’s the dev’s job NOT to DIScourage social play by making soloing too rewarding – but it’s also their job not to make soloing an unbearable slog. Ideally, the rewards for being in a good group should at least be on a par for those you can earn by soloing well (and that has to take into account the overhead involved in getting a group together) If players find themselves thinking “I’d like to group up, but doing that gimps my progress too much” then you’ve just killed the social element that makes for long-term subscribers.

  8. I would say yes IF being lazy means that we really do want to play socially but it’s too difficult. In that case, it absolutely is the developers’ task to look at ways to reduce the barriers, so that we can have more fun.

  9. Encourage yes, force, no. At the end of the day you are playing an MMORPG, it makes very little sense for you to login and be upset about having to socialize (at whatever level). Just like it doesn’t make sense for someone to log into the excellent Enslaved and say: “Where’s all the players at?”

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