[MUD-Dev] Methods to Foster Relationships?

Nick Yee contact at nickyee.com
Thu Apr 4 11:25:29 New Zealand Daylight Time 2002

The desire to form meaningful relationships and the number of
meaningful relationships a player has formed was found to be a
strong predictor of hours of play per week in the Facets study
(www.nickyee.com/facets/home.html) mentioned here before. EQ players
who score in the top quintile of this factor play 12 hours more each
week than those players who score on the bottom quintile. None of
the other explored factors, such as desire to achieve goals or
desire to be immersed in a virtual world, came close in terms of
predictive power.
I come from a psych background, so my question is whether there are
accepted methods used in the industry to foster these relationships
in MMORPG's. What are constructs you can build into an MMORPG that
encourage meaningful relationships to form? What has and hasn't
worked in the past?
Ones that come to mind in comparing EQ with DAOC are:

  - Have enough downtime between battles: Even though players are
  together in a group and inclined to talk to each other, they can't
  really develop meaningful relationships easily if there's not
  enough time to talk. The little downtime in DAOC battles might
  thus be a bad thing in the long run.

  - Make players more dependent on other players: Force players to
  interact with each other in non-grouping scenarios. A lot of times
  in EQ, you meet someone new by asking for a bind, a clarity, a
  SoW, a teleport, or an Invis etc. The more people you meet and
  talk to, the more likely you'll form a relationship. Whereas in
  DAOC, binding is something you can do by yourself, public horses
  take the place of teleports, and many utility spells like SoW
  cannot be cast on non-group members.

  - Make it easy for players to help each other: Buffs and utility
  spells that can be meaningfully cast on others allow random acts
  of kindness that don't revolve around money or items, which are
  more costly for the giver. Random acts of kindness build trust at
  the community level, so the more ways to help others the
  better. The other thing is that because battles go by so quickly
  in DAOC, it is often impossible to save a stranger from being
  killed by a mob, whereas this happens much more often in EQ.

  - Create high-trust actions: Allowing your corpse to be dragged is
  one of those high-trust events that can instantaneously create a
  solid relationship. In contract, DAOC feels very safe - dying is
  relatively inexpensive, everything is a horse-ride away,
  resurrection is a low-level spell that several classes have etc.
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