[MUD-Dev] Why Socializers are our Comrades (long)

Sam Axon mysticranger at earthlink.net
Fri Jul 14 03:51:17 New Zealand Standard Time 2000


Here I come, emerging from beneath the rock I lurk from and saying something
for once. =)

Brian Green wrote:
> According to the online Bartle-quotient test
> (http://www.andreasen.org/bartle/), I'm an SEK; I rank awfully close to
> Damion Schubert, according to the test.  (I'm still wondering if this is
> good or bad. ;)  Now, I find this a bit odd, because I'm not much of a
> MUSH player, I actually played LP MUDs exclusively in college.  Nor am I
> a huge fan of plain chat.  I also love offline games as well as online
> games; I've been neck-deep in Diablo 2, which is really little more than
> exploring random maps while waiting for your stats to increase. :)
> Anyway, online I'm mainly a socializer even if I have achiever
> tendencies in general.
>
> Now, I think the distinction between online and offline play styles is
> important.  When I log onto a MUD, I like to socialize and explore my
> surroundings.  Why do I like to socialize?  I think the main reason is
> because socialization only happens with other people, something I don't
> get in most offline games.  Don't we put our games online to add the
> extra dimension of human interaction to the game?  And, socializers are
> the people that provide the friendly face to this interaction in our
> games.  All this seems brain-dead obvious, but is it really?

According to that test, I'm an EKS. Not a hint of acheiver in me, but I
still enjoy such games as Diablo. However, when I'm playing a multiplayer
game, I tend to immerse myself in the dynamics of the world. After all, in a
single player game, there's very little to do but kill monsters - in a
multiplayer game, I can truly entertain my natural playing style.
Benefits of a multiplayer world that change me from Acheiver to an EKS
include an everchanging world as far as things to explore and statistics to
uncover, to real people to talk to. Also, I enjoy the challenge of a human
opponent.
Yes, it does seem brain dead obvious. Yet it's easily ignored. The problem
with socializers is that that class of players has direct conflicts with
every other class of players when you're designing the game. I'll get to
those situations in a minute.

<snipped a couple paragraphs to get right to the good stuff>

> Even though the community happens automatically, the job of the
> developer is to help shape it to the extent they want it to fit into the
> game.  We have trouble with some of our current communities because we
> did not take an active hand in developing the community we wanted.  If a
> developer chooses a hands-off approach to forming community, he or she
> should not be surprised when something unusual (or unpleasant) forms.

Your suggestion to put a more active hand into communities sounds
reasonable, but consider this:
By putting a hand into the community, especially a larger one such as one
that appears in a MMORPG, you cause ripples as if you were putting a hand in
a pond.
As you try to lead your community, you'll railroad certain other players
with your side effects.
I agree with what you're saying here, but you have to be very careful to
define and consider exactly what kind of active hand you're going to use. An
admin or developer must keep a balance among the different players. You
might hurt the group you're trying to help. You should take a subtle
approach, not a very active one, in guiding your community, because if you
take an active approach, you could crush your delecate structure that would
otherwise maintain itself naturally.
I think perhaps the solution to a good community is found in initial game
design and not so much in a guiding hand.

> In Meridian 59, when a particular new server was opened up in the early
> days of the game, some of the developers allowed an established,
> friendly "guild" of players to play on the server first.  At least one
> of the former developers believes this is the reason that server
> remained strong even when others failed; the established guild had
> enough of a foothold to keep the "bad seed" in check.  Even though the
> "undesirables" were present, they couldn't counter the group that was
> already established within the game.  Given this, I think that
> developers cannot absolve themselves from considering how the community
> will form.  And, by applying Bartle's research, we know Socializers are
> the foundation for a strong community.

Given Meridian 59's rules regarding PvP and such, this was a wise move in
administrating the server, especially on a small game like M59. However,
acheivers would despise this idea. Acheivers tend to be very outspoken
people, and would cause you no end of pain, as EverQuest message boards will
prove.
The larger the game is, the more difficult it is to maintain that balance,
and to avoid serious problems when an outspoken group of people is unhappy.

> So, how do we attract and retain Socializers?  Really, there's nothing
> new or earth-shaking here, we just need to apply what we already know
> with more vigor.  Communication tools are obviously an important part of
> retaining socializers.  As I stated in my last rant, you need to make
> sure you include both instant and persistent communications in both
> individual and broadcast forms.  Each of these types of communication is
> important for the Socializer to keep in touch with their friends and
> meet new people.

I beliver that extended communications options such as you suggest are not
the answer, and are intrinsically a bad idea. (You know I believe this
though, I can't count how many discussions we've already had on this very
topic *laugh*).
It, for one, means information travels faster. This takes away rewards from
exploration or experimentation to find new items or spells. You want players
to be rewarded for exploring and discovering new things for themselves - but
when you have open communications, news about just about everything there is
to know is heard all the time, and everyone is put on equal ground in
regards to knowledge about the game.
Also, for PvP scenarios such as factions and guilds, the more global
communication you have, the less seperated people are into their factions,
clans, guilds, allegiances, or cities. This crushes potential PvP scenarios
because people begin to make friends across the globe and refuse to fight.
People became so attached to everyone in the world, that they no longer
permit any form of PvP scenario where ANYONE might get hurt, and all that
happens is a painful conflict between socializers in killers in which they
drive eachother away from the game. I saw this happen in Meridian 59, and
it's what destroyed the game in the end.
There are no real conflicts between this idea and the acheiver playstyle,
though.

<'snip' goes a paragraph>

> Tying this back to "Advancement Considered Harmful", we need to make
> sure that Socializers can interact with a wide variety of people.  If a
> low-level Socializer can offer nothing to a high-level player, then
> there is little possibility for interaction.  The more this is the case,
> the less chance the Socializer will have of making friends and staying
> with the game.  This interaction is vital to the Socializer, and the
> bond must be able to be maintained in the game, preferably without
> forcing a focus on achievement on the socializer.

"Therein lies the tale", as they say. That's enough of an answer right
there. The answer is to remove barriers in level. The reasons for this are
as follows:
We can't attempt to restrain killers, because socializers need killers to
talk about. Socializers also need to talk TO killers because they need that
wide variety of people you mentioned. Plus, killers are the only people that
will kill annoying people that frustrate socializers. (That sounds silly,
but it's true).
In order to please Explorers, we must expand the world size. The bigger the
world gets, the less practical global communication becomes. Furthermore, by
adding any form of global communication, we take away the sting of an
Explorer's talents and playstyle because information becomes free and well
travelled into ears of all shapes and sizes.
If we allow lower and higher level players to have more in common somehow,
this doesn't impact anyone's playstyle in a dramatically harmful way, and it
allows the socializer to socialize with people of all levels of power
without having to 'acheive' any more than they want to.

<snip>
> Of course, there are some limits on this.  I am certainly not advocating
> that we focus on Socializers to the exclusion of all others.  As I said
> before, I'm not a huge fan of plain chat.  We need the Achievers,
> Explorers, and Killers to make the MUD a game.  It is also important to
> realize that sometimes tradeoffs are made in the game.  Perhaps you
> eliminate instantaneous communication for whatever reason ("not
> realistic", or "don't want players giving info to enemies", etc); a good
> developer realizes that this change accomplishes the goals of the game
> yet at the same time realizes it will hurt the Socializers.  Each
> developer must decide if this is a good tradeoff in the game they are
> working on.

Righto. The way I see it, the ultimate situation to to attempt to localize
players into specific towns (EQ accomplished this, if nothing else), and
supply them with a town-sized broadcast. When they are in town, they can
meet new people. When they leave town, (to hunt mobs, players, or
information, depending on their style) they can also meet new people in
their hunting grounds, as well as converse in distant tells with the
townsfolk.
In the meantime, allow a level five player to have something in common with
a level 30 player, so when they do meet in a town, they can at least
*communicate* on the same level, even though they don't *fight* on the same
level. The question is, what do you give the level five and level thirty
player in common?

 >So, it's time for MUD developers to remember the Socializers.  We must
> consider this group in designing our games, give them the necessary
> tools, and present them with the situations they desire.  By
> intentionally including Socializers, we create a game that truly takes
> advantage of the online medium.

A well thought out post with a good conclusion.

~ Sam Axon




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