[MUD-Dev] Methods to Foster Relationships?

Rayzam rayzam at travellingbard.com
Wed Jun 12 00:06:23 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: "Nick Yee" <contact at nickyee.com>

> 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.

It's predictive in the sense that the 2 are correlated, so if you
know one, you can predict the other. But that's bi-directional.

> 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?

Don't limit yourself to MMORPG's. Many of the smaller text-only
games have extremely strong relationships in their player bases. It
might in fact be best to look there to get a larger list of

> 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.

Or: have it so combat isn't a click-fest. In a round-based system,
or one that allows choosing of tactics, it's easier to oversee the
battle and still kibitz or toss off a soliloquy. That's one of the
strengths of a pen-and-paper session, still to be had over most
online games. 'I'm going to attack so and so with my whatsit
attempting to do the thingy. And while I'm doing that, I say: Avast
ye scurvy dog, I shall peel your sorry hide from your cowardly
bones, then tan it and give it to my cat as a chew toy!'

Banter between players is a big part of community building. Players
tend to party with others who have enjoyable banter, even if they're
not optimum.  Good banter makes the experience more enjoyable.

This is in opposition to having more downtime between
battles. Longer downtime leads to people going to get
food/drink/take a piss/read email. All things that are necessary,
but not more than say once every 30 mins. The rest should have less
downtime between battles, because that bores players.  Instead, have
more time to toss off comments throughout combat too.

perhaps the way to look at it is like a sporting event. The
announcers keep up banter between the action, and about it. That
really enhances the experience. You don't need everyone in the party
to be a Madden [and that's a good thing ;)]. But try watching sports
with the volume off. It's a lesser experience. Now, the commercial
breaks are the downtimes between battles.  Even if the commercial is
connecting with you, it's not enhancing your experience of the
show. You don't stay with the show because of the commercials that
sponsor it.

>   - 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.

Bring the game to the players. Have events that come after the
players, after their land, their possessions. That gets players to
band together, for the common good. This is different than making
them dependent on each other to go out and play. There will be
people who like to solo-play, and having things come after them gets
them to interact in positive ways with those that help them and
those they help. And without removing solo-play as an option. Which
seems to be what you're saying about the EQ side, allowing for
interaction without removing solo-play.

>   - 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.

Add forums within the game to recount tales. Make it so that if a
player only has 30 mins to play, they can be somewhere that they can
chat with other players, catch up on what has been happening and
tell a few tales. Just watch a dock: fishermen may go out by
themselves, but when they come back, they all want to know what each
has caught. Fisherman who couldn't fish that day still stop to chat,
and tell stories of previous days, or the next time they can
fish. And I don't restrict this to people who fish for a
living. This behavior occurs at any jetty or dock with public
fishing on a weekend. So there's an automatic camaraderie, which
builds relationships.

Within the game this may mean having ways to teleport/cross the
distances quickly. It may require safe zones. It is aided by props,
such as being in a tavern. It is aided with out-of-character systems
like general channels, or in-game communicators acting like ham

I add this point after the last one about the speed of battles,
because a lot of times there is a barrier to start adventuring. You
need X amount of time to get ready/get to the right place/get people
together/etc. If I don't have that much time, why bother logging
in. Instead, you want to set it up so that even with a little bit of
time, there's a chance for social connection to form. Once that
connection forms, you'll see people logging in just to say hi :)



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