[MUD-Dev] Reward system for social gaming?

Sean Howard squidi at squidi.net
Wed Oct 5 03:45:08 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005


"Martin Gundtoft" <martingundtoft at itu.dk> wrote:

> We're a small group of students who are interested in examining
> the possibility of creating a system for rewarding "socializers"
> or encouraging people to use social skills in MMORPG games.

Why? I mean, it's not like social people won't be social without it,
and non-social people won't suddenly enjoy crowds because of it.

>  We believe that (MUD) games in general encourage people to
>  socialize but > that there are no strictly "game mechanical"
>  system in any game that > actually rewards the player
>  directly. Of course one could argue that > large raids or certain
>  other actions would be impossible without a social > game
>  mechanic like the chat box, but what we are looking for is a more
>  > direct way of rewards than such a secondary relation.

I'm a non-social person. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I
really dislike people (as a group, not individually). Not only do I
find the standards for social interaction tiring and more than a
little bit confusing, I absolutely resent people enforcing social
behavior against my will. But that's not your main problem,
irritating people like me.

No, you're main problem is going to be that such attempts will fail
spectacularly. For instance, in the 70s or 80s, they created a
camera on arcade games to take the picture of high scorers. They
thought it was a great idea, but within minutes of it being up at a
test site, somebody mooned the camera, and the high score showed an
image of some kid's ass.

The problem you are trying to "solve" cannot be solved in the manner
you are hoping for. Social interaction is not a gameplay device. It
cannot be.  If it does, you'll see the worst, most dispicable
behavior that mankind has EVER been capable of, played out in
glorious technicolor.

> We have been discussing different approaches like a strictly skill
> based system in which the skills your avatar would be able to
> access, and the levels or skill percentage he would obtain, could
> be based on the way he reacts to other people. Maybe this could be
> implemented through some sort of voting system.

One thing you really have to understand going into this is that any
system you create will be minmaxed on standards other than social
behavior. For instance, if you reward people for the number of tells
they get from people, you'll have two friends set up a script to
send tells to each other constantly as they play. If you make it so
that it has to be from strangers, they'll send insulting racial
slurs to random people to guarrantee a reply. Create a voting
system, and people will buy votes.  Whatever system you create, it
will ALWAYS be easier to screw over another player to beat the
system than play it.

The last thing you want to do is make social interaction a
"game". Let me put it this way: Machiavelli was a gamer. You can not
allow people to minmax society. You can't have players manipulating
each other to get ahead. It's a recipe for disaster, and before you
jump into this attempt, please, please, please try to understand the
worst behavior mankind is capable of and why it happens before you
reward it. The last thing we need are MMORPG concentration camps -
and I am serious.

> Basically what we're looking for is some system that could reward
> other forms of skillful play (in particular social) than merely
> being a good player in the traditional sense (killing monsters,
> other players etc.).

Some MMORPGs already have this kind of thing. The merchants in SWG,
for example, have already learned how to control market forces, even
doing stuff like all armorsmiths banding together to raise the price
of armor, advertising (ugh), manipulating supply and demand, and
even buying low from players and reselling for four times the price
at their player store.

Granted, this behavior may be consider despicable, immoral, and even
illegal in real life, but hey, it's just a game, right? They are
rewarded for price fixing and the game allows it, so...

> The reason I'm writing to this list is that as of right now, we
> don't really have any litterature or articles that deals with this
> topic.

Look up the article "A Rape in Cyberspace" or the full length book
version "My Tiny Life" to see the dichotomy of gamplay and society
are at odds.  Also, read up on the articles from LucasFilm's Habitat
and Clube Caribe days. These don't make quite as graphic
illustrations, but they do show how players aren't just players
online.

I know this isn't the response you were looking for, but this is
something I feel strongly about. You cannot make social interaction
into a game. Try it. Go on to WoW and ask on the general channel for
the players to play some social game, and then see the results first
hand.

- Sean
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