I’ll try and visit some possibilities to encourage group play in modern MMORPGs. I’ve given reasons for ultimately playing solo most of the times and still like playing in the genre. The thing is, i’d also like MMORPGs to be a social experience where one can chat with people you know and get to know new “players”.
I think, one reason for social networks being so successful in these days- or even messenger apps like WhatsApp- is their asynchronous nature. If i want to contact one of my friends, i can do so- it doesn’t matter if they’re working at that time, taking care of their child or whatever. When they are free to do so, they’ll read my message and reply.
So, one possibility to encourage social play in MMORPGs could be to give asynchronous options- i’m not the first one to mention this, of course, and i could point you to Mark Kerns column over at MMORPG.com, where he mentions this idea. The whole column is worth a read- even if you’re thinking “why didn’t he apply this to Firefall?” half of the time. He mentions an asynchronous communication method that could be implemented in the games. But as i sat here and tried to come up with my own ideas, one thing came to mind and wouldn’t let go, even if it probably has some problems and will be a rough idea- i’m no game designer, after all.
Let us be our minions!
The minion/follower system of Rift and World of Warcraft is liked by many. What if a game would allow you to give these tasks to friends and guildmates instead of NPCs/trading cards? The idea started small, but the more i think about it, the more possibilities come to mind. The easy way, of course, is to have 1-person tasks that could be handed out to friends and guildmates. But you’d also have to think about a reward. So how could it work?
Simple Tasks, rewards for both parties
The easiest way to do this, as mentioned, would be to give players the ability to assign tasks to friends or guildmates. These tasks could range from gathering resources, crafting of items to just killing mobs. If we’d take the easiest road, kill-quests would probably be it. You’d also have to have ingame rewards for people to use this system, and i think there are games that already have nice ideas.
Such as FFXIV and Wildstar. In FFXIV, after a dungeon run using their dungeon finder tool, you can give a recommendation to one player. They can later use these recommendations to get some rewards. In Wildstar there’s a similar currency, though i think it’s used more often there and it is gained by simply grouping up. Now that i think of it, SWTOR does have this system, as well, though i’m not so sure what players get out of it.
So, the player who’s assigned to a task gets this currency and also XP and loot from stuff he or she is killing. Since the currencies in Wildstar and SWTOR didn’t really encourage more group play, the rewards for doing these “Minion-Tasks” would have to be huge- maybe even as good as, say, raid loot.
The player who’s assigning these tasks could get XP, of course, and maybe ingame currency as well as the “social currency”…and maybe even get some kind of “Task Master XP” that allows him or her to assign bigger/harder/more rewarding tasks in the future.
I know this is themepark talk- i’d do it differently in sandboxes (more economical, less xp and special currency. Also, i wouldn’t provide a user interface tab but something like player vendors who stand in the open world).
Basically, this would be a player-to-player quest system.
Now throw in gathering, crafting, maybe searching something as well as the potential to use special tasks for certain character classes/professions and maybe even group tasks, and there should be a lot of possibilities.
The group tasks could be sequential, consosting of mutiple steps, with each step tailored to one class/profession or both. Or they could consist of only one step designed for more than one player. And here we are again, you’d need group areas in the open world for this. Suddenly, there’s the possibility to meet other people doing the same task, maybe socialize, expand the friendlist and so on.
What game could do something like that?
I really don’t know. Maybe those who already have the Minion/Follower system in place; World of Warcraft, Rift, maybe Star Trek Online and SWTOR. And i think it would be becoming in most sandboxes.