Bringing back decency and cooperation to MMOs

Tobold is upset about how bad the human interactions became in multiplayer games:

When I look at the list of Steam’s best selling games in 2017, it appears that this is what most people want: Multiplayer gaming today appears to be nearly exclusively about going to interesting virtual places, meeting interesting people online, and then killing them. In games that have some form of collaboration (to kill other players), collaboration is often the weakest point of the game, leading to much toxicity and hate. Hate towards your team mates, not the opponents, mind you. I’m a bit depressed about what our gaming behavior says about us as the human race.

Where are the massively multiplayer online city building games? Multiplayer online survival games in which people cooperate instead of torturing each other? Why did MMORPGs basically die out as a genre on Steam? How did humanity evolve and create civilization in real life, but fail to do so in virtual worlds? I really think that game designers missed something big here: In real life the incentives obviously favor collaboration over bashing each others head in; how great could a video game be if it could manage to reproduce those incentives and create virtual worlds in which people want to cooperate?

There was grouping and cooperation in the old MMOs and I doubt if humanity devolved in a decade (though there wasn’t “white privilege”, “manspreading” and “gender nonbinary” a decade ago).

The first reason is the removal of death penalty and hard content. Players were forced to cooperate as being outcast from the “society” for “being a dick” meant no progression in a game. A player in original EQ who was excluded from all groups for being horrible could pretty much delete his character. Now actions have no consequences, so there is no need for the other person, therefore no need for you to present yourself positively to him.

I have an obvious solution for this problem: bring back death penalty and hard content. However there is a reason these were removed. You remember fondly the old times where competent players grouped together and took on hard tasks. Arthasdklől was excluded from all groups for being a lolspamming, below-pet DPS player and he wasn’t that happy. While I do believe that death penalty and hard content is getting a renaissance in the form of hard survival games and ladder PvP games, I am resigned to that AAA MMOs that plan to have millions of players will not have these.

The other problem is that you can access any player via phasing, automatic grouping and megaservers any time. Even if you are an all out loot ninja, you can find new victims who don’t know you. And there are always “friends for hire”: goldsellers, account trainers, paid boosters gladly “cooperate” with you in-game.

For this, I have a perfect solution: limit trading, communicating and distributing loot to your guild. If you play with randoms, you can’t trade, can only use emotes to communicate and must use the WoW Personal Loot system. This would prevent players from being a dick to randoms and also forces them to work positively with their guild to avoid being replaced. Of course this would also need to limit guild sizes to prevent everyone just join a huge, lifeless guild.

The civility in real life isn’t a gift from above, but comes from the risk of punishment, both economic (be fired) and social (no one talks to you). Remove these in the name of “accessible gaming” and “casual friendliness” and you get a cesspool.

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Author: Gevlon

My blog: https://greedygoblinblog.wordpress.com/

7 thoughts on “Bringing back decency and cooperation to MMOs”

  1. While I agree with Gevlon’s solutions, I disagree with the statement that there are no cooperative games available. There are, but they aren’t as successful as these easily accessible, “casual ” games. As there really are no incentives to form a group are buil close in-game relationships with “co-raiders”, since games have been made so easily “accessible”, people no longer meet on TS, forums or discord to discuss strategies, develop battleplans and assigning specific roles/tasks to individual team members.
    No, today, you log in, meet anonymous players, barely interact with them and achieve anything the game devs let you…

    Ok, it becmoes more difficult for adults with a professional life schedule to meet on a daily basis, so games that would require “hardcore” cooperation would be condemned to being a niche game…

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  2. This doesn’t explain eve online where not only toxic still exists, but is actually rewarded economically and socially by the most toxic becoming space celebrities.

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  3. @Case: it does. Getting resources in EVE is trivial. You don’t need any other player to get any in-game goal, so you are free to be a dick with them.

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  4. T: Where are the massively multiplayer online city building games?
    In a Bin and their servers offline. SWG had cities, politics and gamemechanics forcing people to collaborate.

    T: How did humanity evolve and create civilization in real life, but fail to do so in virtual worlds?
    as if we are better in real life. We don’t kill someone not because we are hypocritically kind, tolerant and empathic. No we don’t kill someone in RL because of rules and heavy consequences.
    Same as in most western countries traffic has to make way for first responders (everything with flash light, siren going and moving 2-3 times faster as other traffic). They don’t do this because of altruistic reasons. if they fail to make way they will get heavy fines and in some countries they will see a judge and some sentence.

    in a virtual world there are no life altering ramifications. So when Bob comes home from a day full of fake smiling and pretending to have the best job to everyone at work. Most people like Bob will be depleted and just want to troll to wind out the day.

    T: In real life the incentives obviously favor collaboration over bashing each others head in
    early MMOs had this. We will see when WoW Classic finally comes how little people want this.
    RL didn’t favours collaboration that long. and not “all of RL” just the west more precisely Judaeo-Christian + Greek influenced west. After a lot of blood it gave a structure that favours collaboration out of rules that all end up in multilevel exclusion. It is easier to join or buyout oppose to kill and enslave today.

    I would like GGs changes.

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  5. The primariy reason for collaboration is that the individual can’t compete with a group. Therefore he is forced to join a group himself to stay competitive.

    In real live you claim a territory for ressources and kill anyone who fucks with you. This requires anyone who wants to operate in that territory to get on good terms or join another group to fight you. In mmo’s you can’t touch your fellow players. So it doesn’t matter at all – there can be 100 people and they can do nothing to stop you gathering alone. Same for dungeons&other content – instancing was created for this sole purpose after all – stop people competing for bosses. Next came the save loot features to prevent harm. Modern mmo’s shield players from other players and thus remove the value of joining a group.

    Instead of further castrating interaction to force people together we should rather allow players to harm each other. It will not only create incentitive but also make the game more interesting. Sterilised small guilds don’t make a mmo. Destiny 2 did that and it’s a failure in social interaction. You have guilds filled with people never talking to each other just using each other, just using other clan members like pug member cause there is no difference.

    lastly: There was a pure cooperative crafting/gathering mmo about building up a civilisation but it never got big. And limiting trading to guilds just means people will use alts as trading mules between guilds.

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  6. Depressed about the human race? Hey look, being friends with strangers is hard. The only thing depressing about that is that it doesn’t immediately leap to Tobold’s mind.
    If you want folk to act like friends, you have to give them a reason to get to know one another.

    Video games are built on the notion that someone who is excluded can never improve. They’re permanently an excluded-type person. Self-fulfilling prophecy: if games always change to accommodate the otherwise-excluded, there’s no reason for the excluded to improve.

    Consider that someone with a 9-5 job could meet a couple times a month with other 9-5ers, and go on a raid together. Only, at this pace, WoW will give them a gear reset before they’ve downed two bosses. Most folk don’t demand to be on the toplist at their idle hobby. WoW actively punishes them for not playing enough, even though they’re paying the same $15 as the no-lifer, but consuming like 3% of the server resources.

    Catering to the morons and slackers is not good business. It’s shortsightedness and ignorance of their own player base.

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