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MMORPGs: Material interdependency amongst players ruins the social aspect.

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MMORPG: Material interdependency amongst players ruins the social aspect. What is material interdependency?: This is when players depend on each other for getting good items. Forcing players to play together because of material interdependency just ruins the fun, it makes gaming resemble your workplace or something. Interdependency amongst players encourages pseudo-social-behaviour instead of sincere friendships. It is an important social aspect of a game that a player is able to show that he/she is not playing with you because of the material advantage you give but because he/she likes your company. But the material disadvantages(the fact that you can only get crappy items) of playing solo or in a small group of players inhibits the social aspect of many if not all existing MMORPGs. Perhaps female gamers care much more about this than males do. I myself being a female gamer find this aspect extremely important in the process of making friends. [Edited by - MissPickyGamer on January 25, 2006 8:08:33 AM]

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An interesting point - but I think interdependency on others for good items is a neat thing to include - providing that the opportunity is there for everyone.

I genuinely liked looking around for my favourite blacksmith on UO, and getting all my stuff custom made. I liked the dependencies in Star Wars Galaxies (before they effectively killed player crafting) - decent items required decent materials, which had to be got by hunting, and they'd always pay a premium for them.

Mutual benefit is one of the prime social factors in MMOs (you group to survive against certain mobs, you get material A for person B who can then give you C), and I think they're generally required to drive interaction between players, who initially are strangers. These things are also the force behind any game that has player crafting. Those dependencies are required to drive the virtual economy.

Besides the material dependencies, which are all well and good in a materialistic MMO, I like the idea of task dependencies - Bloodspear, the game project I'm working on based on the libraries that are my main project, has a VERY complex social system based on player dependency - to get to the top of certain heirarchies, you need to delegate, and you need to trust and be trusted to do your job correctly. Screwing around can (and probably will) get you assassinated - possibly by the players beneath you, or even above you if you're proving to be a destabilising influence. But this also can force interactions like getting assigned to a military task along with a whole bunch of other recruits you've never met before. There's no material dependency, but everyone has a vested interest in getting the task done and therefore helping each other.

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Everquest 2 tradeskilling is the perfect example of this (or at least it was when I played it a year ago). It feels so much like work. And what's even worse is you have to begrudgingly establish a network of work contacts just to do your job.

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I think part of the problem here is that it is too tempting to model real life in simulated social systems. In the real world, I rely on untold thousands of other people to provide various things for me, which I then "consume" at a high level; that's how a capitalist economy works. The only really obvious alternative, where every "player" has to be totally self-sufficient, sounds like too much work to possibly be "fun." We don't want people to be islands, and we definitely want some social interaction... so the easy and obvious solution is economic or materialistic dependencies. People use each other to get to the top. Isn't it really that way in real life, too? How many real-life human interactions are genuine friendly relationships, and how many are people grudgingly acting nice to each other, because we both benefit from it?

Of course, that doesn't mean that it's "fun" or even excusable to build a virtual society around the same pattern. But it's familiar, and it's easy to tell when it's working, so I think that might be a large part of why we see the pattern so heavily in most online games (and even online communities outside of gaming).


IMHO it's pretty clear that this is a serious shortcoming in virtual society systems today, but how do we get past it? What can we do, in terms of design, to bypass a selfish, I-don't-really-like-you-but-at-least-we-both-will-get-paid sort of model? How do we go from point A to point B?

I've never actually subscribed to any MMO type games, or heavily social games. The closest I've ever come is routinely playing multiplayer games with a group of friends. I do that because I've already got the friends; I tend to not mess with "artificial societies" because, in general, they don't connect me to the kind of people I feel like playing with. Statistically speaking, the odds of me jumping into a new MMO and finding a like-minded player with whom I genuinely get along are basically zero. I can't jump into an MMO world and have a way of finding new friends; I have to "Get lucky" and hope that the "friends" I find aren't just ripping me off for the good quest items. (Of course, I'm probably very spoiled by getting into role-playing via "real" RPGs. You know, the ones where you have to use a pen and know arithmetic.)

When I'm looking to expand my social network in real life, I know of a few places where I can find like-minded people, and have a good chance of meeting someone I can really befriend. College campus gaming groups, the philosophy section of the bookstore, etc. etc. In an MMO, I'd have no point of reference in which to start creating a genuine social network. I've always said that the only way I'd ever get into an MMO is if I already knew a good dozen people IRL with whom I could play on a regular basis. This all gets even more complicated when you factor in role-play (which, frankly, few players really engage in anyways). I have to not only find characters whose real-life players I can get along with, but we've got to be compatible in-game. For a real world example, I might play a Horde character on World of Warcraft, but all the people I really want to game with are Alliance. If I don't already know those players, I'll never meet them in a way that allows us to play together socially; in the best case we might PvP each other in a raid, but that's hardly a good "friendship" [wink]. We have a fundamental barrier to creating a genuine social network, and in the absence of that, we fall back to more pragmatic and selfish behaviors.


In general I think virtual social interaction is an incredibly young and unexplored field, so there's probably hope of all these things getting figured out and "corrected" over time. As my therapist says, recognizing the problem is the biggest step towards finding the cure [wink]

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That is a really good point. The idea behind 'material interdependency' is generally to encourage players to interact with one another. But in the real world, this kind of interdependence results in the formation of companies, not necessarily friendships.

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As much as I agree that working wih people because you pretty much have to is tedious, I sometimes find working with a freind even worse. It becomes stressful, your after this item and you don't want any mess ups, everyone is ordering each other it's not fun, it's business. But lets face it not everyone does want to make freinds. Many just want to play an online game for it's content rather than the social side. Also friends arn't always online and not everyone is patient.

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Original post by MissPickyGamer
MMORPG: Material interdependency amongst players ruins the social aspect.

What is material interdependency?:
This is when players depend on each other for getting good items.

Forcing players to play together because of material interdependency just ruins the fun, it makes gaming resemble your workplace or something.
Interdependency amongst players encourages pseudo-social-behaviour instead of sincere friendships.
It is an important social aspect of a game that a player is able to show that he/she is not playing with you because of the material advantage you give but because he/she likes your company.

But the material disadvantages(the fact that you can only get crappy items) of playing solo or in a small group of players inhibits the social aspect of many if not all existing MMORPGs.

Perhaps female gamers care much more about this than males do. I myself being a female gamer find this aspect extremely important in the process of making friends.


First off, I'd recommend reading this. I find it insightful. It's not canonical, but it certainly shares a view into online gaming which I think is fairly accurate.

Players tend to play online games for different reasons. Given that you seem to fit into the 'socializer' category (as opposed to the 'number cruncher', 'explorer', or 'killer' categories), you might tend to feel used if a character comes up to you and requests something from you without first saying Hello, or attempting to interact with you in a manner befitting of a social environment.

However, what game are you playing? Chances are, you're attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole. That is, the game you're playing was designed with the primary intent of a 'system' primarily targetted at 'number cruncher' players. I say this because it appears as though current-day games seem to cater almost exclusively to the 'number cruncher'. By its very nature, the game you're playing attracts one type of player; being a different type of player, yours and the other individuals' game-goals clash, hence your post here today.

I can't really recommend a remedy; you might simply try segregating yourself into a roleplayer's or socializer-oriented guild, and minimize contact with non-similar players. If your game of choice has a player-run equivalent, you might try looking for a roleplay-only server.

Good luck,
- m³

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Original post by MatrixCubed

First off, I'd recommend reading this. I find it insightful. It's not canonical, but it certainly shares a view into online gaming which I think is fairly accurate.

Players tend to play online games for different reasons. Given that you seem to fit into the 'socializer' category (as opposed to the 'number cruncher', 'explorer', or 'killer' categories), you might tend to feel used if a character comes up to you and requests something from you without first saying Hello, or attempting to interact with you in a manner befitting of a social environment.

However, what game are you playing? Chances are, you're attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole. That is, the game you're playing was designed with the primary intent of a 'system' primarily targetted at 'number cruncher' players. I say this because it appears as though current-day games seem to cater almost exclusively to the 'number cruncher'. By its very nature, the game you're playing attracts one type of player; being a different type of player, yours and the other individuals' game-goals clash, hence your post here today.

I can't really recommend a remedy; you might simply try segregating yourself into a roleplayer's or socializer-oriented guild, and minimize contact with non-similar players. If your game of choice has a player-run equivalent, you might try looking for a roleplay-only server.

Good luck,
- m³


I agree with you on everything you say and I find the article you linked to very interesting, I'm gonna read it through and get back to this thread in a couple of days. I'm pretty busy with my exams atm :)

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So what does help the "social" aspect of games?

People exchanging their time freely for mutual gain IS my definition of social.

(that's why socialism is the opposite of social).

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I think something that might help is players cooperating for the *prospect* of gain, rather than an absolute result, that is to say mechanisms that promote exchanges of trust rather than material resources. Of course, this could be viewed as an abstract form of 'gain' anyway. It's a question of viewpoint.

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I think its a good idea to play different roles in a "role playing" game. Thats exactly what material interdependency forces you to do. Also it gives you a way to make profits other than fighting an endless sea of respawning monsters for hours on end.

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In gemstone IV they are beginning to work on adding experience for artisan skills (forging, fletching, cobbling, more to come). This will never provide as much experience as hunting but it does allow for a nice alternative...

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I think part of the core problem here is the design philosophy of most "RPG" systems. Frankly, I think Dungeons and Dragons was simultaneously the best and worst thing to ever happen to role gaming.

The problem is, RPGs ever since have been perversely obsessed with classes, skills, statistics... all of this numerological gibberish to provide "gameplay substance" while creating a set of completely absurd artificial distinctions and delineations between characters. We want players to have a choice, so we go off and add more classes, races, special items, etc. etc. This is a lie. Adding more classes and races does not increase player freedom; it makes it ever more fine-grained and limited. The more classes there are in a game, the less access any one player has (percentage-wise) to the total sum of gameplay available. We divide the gameplay pie into many thousands of pieces, and so everyone ends up with crumbs instead of a good slice of pie. This might be excusable if the pie is the size of a planet and so a few thousand slices still add up to generous servings, but we don't have the money to produce planet-sized pies - RPGs cost too much as it is.


I wasn't part of the original tabletop scene, but I consider myself an oldschool role-player because I actually role play. I enjoy the experience of exploring behaviors and skills that I don't have in real life. That's great. But CRPGs do not encourage role-play; they encourage mechanical grinding and forced "social" interactions. (By the way, at the risk of being frighteningly rude, anyone who thinks MMORPGs are "social" activity needs to discover the world outside of computers.)

Clearly, real societies arise when humans do their thing. Real civilizations, nations, clubs, sporting franchises, and secret agencies. Obviously people will, given the right environment, develop a social structure. So why do online games have such a ridiculously weak excuse for social interaction?


I suspect that the core issue here is coerced, artificial behavior. Joe from Accounting doesn't know what an Orcish Warlord would do (after all, Joe is not an Orc - jokes at the expense of Accounting personnel aside), so when his RPG throws him into that role, chances are he's going to act like Joe, except maybe with more grunts and growls and smacking things around with a club. Yet our game designs naively - even stupidly - expect players to totally assume the role of their characters. You started a Hunter character, right? So obviously you never want to learn to cast magic spells, right? This seems all too "obvious" to most RPG designers, when nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the only online communities I know of where people role-play, have a social structure, and have developed a genuine microcosm of human society, is EVE Online. And I think that happened precisely because EVE does not use a class-based system. In theory, if you have the patience, you can learn any skill in the game, no matter who you are.

This is just one step in the right direction; as designers we must stop expecting players to play in our world, and instead give them a world in which they can play. The difference is subtle, but has profound consequences on how people conduct themselves. Joe from Accounting needs to be allowed to act like Joe from Accounting, not Grimthog the Orcish Warlord.

Suppose Joe isn't much of a role-player, and just got Uber Awesome MMORPG II because Bob from Security said it was great. Joe goes out and starts acting like Joe online. Suddenly he discovers that he can act a little bit differently than normal - and maybe he becomes Joe the Blacksmith. Joe learns to explore things, and eventually becomes Joe the Elven Blacksmith. Give Joe enough time, and he will adapt to the role-play possibilities of his game environment, and explore them at his own pace. Bob, being an avid role-player already, must be able to drop into the game and assume any role his imagination fancies - but Joe must be allowed to limit the differences between his real persona and his game persona to any degree he likes.

As MatrixCubed commented earlier, typical MMORPG fare (and any CRPGs, really) tends to attract number-cruncher types who enjoy level grinding and endless, repetetive questing. These games simply have no appeal to people (like myself) who aren't fascinated by watching our Hit Points increase when we put another point into Constitution. The design assumes that players will number-crunch, enjoy the grind, etc.; the design attracts certain types of players, and forces passerby (people with free trials, say) to either adopt the number-crunch mentality, or give up and go back to playing Flash games.

This is a terrible fallacy in a system that is supposed to support social interaction (that is, after all, the point of having multiple human beings in the same game world). Society is interesting because people are diverse, unique, individual. Class-system and race segregation is ridiculous because it doesn't increase diversity, it subdivides it into canned categories, and thereby destroys it. The very game design, by its nature, will attract only certain types of people. So the rest of us never participate, and there is no society - the differences between people is what makes the social aspect possible.

I think if we see a game environment where the world imposes absolutely no restrictions on how players are expected to behave, we'll see some of the social problems dissolve. We've long sinced developed solutions for problems like crime in the real world, so why are we powerless to stop PKers and griefers? Is it really that we need more moderators and PVP-only servers, or is it that the assumptions made by the game system literally preclude the development of a functional society?

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Original post by ApochPiQ
The problem is, RPGs ever since have been perversely obsessed with classes, skills, statistics... all of this numerological gibberish to provide "gameplay substance" while creating a set of completely absurd artificial distinctions and delineations between characters. We want players to have a choice, so we go off and add more classes, races, special items, etc. etc. This is a lie. Adding more classes and races does not increase player freedom; it makes it ever more fine-grained and limited. The more classes there are in a game, the less access any one player has (percentage-wise) to the total sum of gameplay available. We divide the gameplay pie into many thousands of pieces, and so everyone ends up with crumbs instead of a good slice of pie. This might be excusable if the pie is the size of a planet and so a few thousand slices still add up to generous servings, but we don't have the money to produce planet-sized pies - RPGs cost too much as it is.


I couldn't agree more. The more class-systems, skill-systems and special items(non-random items) they put into a game, the more the game "forces" a certain behavior onto the player, thus preventing the player to bring out/develop his own behavior. They claim these features give the players more choices but instead the features restrict a player's behavior.
E.G: Going on a boring dungeon-raid with 50 other players because it has some special item only attainable with the "help" of 50 other players, all hoping to get the item as well (not giving a damn about you).
E.G: Choosing the not so nice guy over a seemingly nice guy because he plays a class unsuitable with your own class.

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By the way, at the risk of being frighteningly rude, anyone who thinks MMORPGs are "social" activity needs to discover the world outside of computers.
Not frighteningly rude, but perhaps frighteningly close-minded? Have you actually visited the "world outside of computers" recently? It must seem very strange to you that many people who love to socialise are addicted to their cellphones. Socialising is obviously possible through many mediums, although some may be more preferable to others.

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Original post by Argus2
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By the way, at the risk of being frighteningly rude, anyone who thinks MMORPGs are "social" activity needs to discover the world outside of computers.
Not frighteningly rude, but perhaps frighteningly close-minded? Have you actually visited the "world outside of computers" recently? It must seem very strange to you that many people who love to socialise are addicted to their cellphones. Socialising is obviously possible through many mediums, although some may be more preferable to others.



My point is that the materialistic, selfish, and horridly finite "socialization" of MMORPGs is not sufficient socialization. Sure it is possible through many media (what do you think we're doing here?) but each medium has its limitations and baggage that will seriously color the nature of the interaction. (Case in point: I hate using the phone, because it precludes the use of body language. Discussing things on the Internet can be a remarkably frustrating exercise in futility because the nature of the medium heavily constricts the ability to interact.) I'm saying that the interactions found in online games are seriously crippled, and that genuinely social involvement requires extra work to escape the limits of the system, not that there are no interactions at all.

It seems to me that the line of thought is "MMORPGs involve more than one person, and you can interact, so obviously it's a social system! Hey, it's social, we're done, we can leave it alone and totally ignore the social problems because the social part is already done." Social interaction is far more complex than just people talking or running a dungeon and fighting the same enemies. We're doing our own players a disservice by assuming the depth of their social potential is so mundane and shallow.

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I brought up the point because your original (quoted) statement indicated that you did not believe MMORPGs involved social activity. After clarification, you mean to say that you believe MMORPG social interaction is extremely limited/simplistic/mundane/shallow etc.

Is the gameplay at fault for this? Or is it simply the fact that stat-based RPGs tend to attract the kind of people that aren't particularly social in the first place? In an MMORPG, people can communicate by voice, text, and visual actions/emotes, which is sufficient for socialisation on a level above that of many communication mediums. And it is not as though social events are impossible to create in MMORPGs either.

So I think the problem is really people like me - I'm generally anti-social, and you might call me a "number-cruncher" although really I just enjoy strategy in games (which is the fun part for me - eg. choosing which stat to increase). Your suggested alterations (where you take out strategic choices) immediately loses its appeal for players like myself. So it's a tough call for game designers - do you make WoW or Second Life?

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Exactly - as I said, the challenge isn't finding a way to interact with other people in WoW. There's plenty of ways to do that. The challenge is to find ways to develop a deeper, more genuine social interaction. Yes MMORPGs are "social" in that more than one person is involved, but to say that MMORPGs encourage the development of functional societies is a heck of a stretch, if not outright false.

Currently, designers seem to be favoring the number-cruncher constituent, and then wondering why the socialites aren't flocking to their "society." Maybe it's overly idealistic, but I have a hunch that there is a happy medium - a way in which to allow number crunchers to crunch numbers, without demanding a specific type of behavior from the socialites. It's definitely not an easy problem to solve, though - but I'm confident that the solution to the problem will fundamentally involve the replacement of the false illusion of choice (class/stat systems) with genuine player freedom. What that system will look like from a technical perspective I don't know.

Anyone have any thoughts?

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Original post by ApochPiQ
Currently, designers seem to be favoring the number-cruncher constituent, and then wondering why the socialites aren't flocking to their "society." Maybe it's overly idealistic, but I have a hunch that there is a happy medium - a way in which to allow number crunchers to crunch numbers, without demanding a specific type of behavior from the socialites. It's definitely not an easy problem to solve, though - but I'm confident that the solution to the problem will fundamentally involve the replacement of the false illusion of choice (class/stat systems) with genuine player freedom. What that system will look like from a technical perspective I don't know.

Anyone have any thoughts?


Thoughts on classes and groups:
A way to get rid of the pseudo-social behavior created by material interdependence, would be to get rid of the classes as we know them. The material gain of playing solo would be the same as when playing in groups and vice versa. This is a balance that must not be broken in any way. This means that the typical group-setup (Healer, Tank, Mage) we know from most MMORPGs wouldn't be present in our game. Instead the classes would be selfsufficient.
The only point of getting a group together would be the social aspect.

(I know there are so many more aspects to it, but hey it was a thought!)

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to say that MMORPGs encourage the development of functional societies is a heck of a stretch, if not outright false.
...
Currently, designers seem to be favoring the number-cruncher constituent, and then wondering why the socialites aren't flocking to their "society."
I don't think anyone has claimed that MMORPGs encourage the development of functional societies, nor have I seen any evidence that MMORPG makers are wondering why they don't attract more "socialites". Let's be serious about this: would you really spend millions of dollars on a very difficult game to design and architect, in order to attract a segment of the population that is in all likelihood going to prefer real world interactions anyway?

Decisions and payoff are fundamental to the concept of games. You call opportunity cost in a game (eg. having to choose which stat to increase, or which class to play etc.), a "false illusion of choice", and yet these are the only meaningful parts of the game from a game-theoretic standpoint. You say you want "genuine player freedom", but you offer no suggestions either on how to implement that OR how it would somehow produce a fun playing experience. Perhaps it isn't a game you are seeking?

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Eh, the socialization thing was mostly a knee-jerk response to a quip that I can't seem to locate anymore. In any case it wasn't the important bit [smile]


I don't like the concept of an artificial class system and a set of designer-imposed restrictions on how players behave. I don't think that's the only way to design a game. If these are really, as you say, "the only meaningful parts" of a game, is EVE Online meaningless with its classes skill-centric system? Part of the problem with modern RPGs is that designers have gotten obsessed with the numeric systems, apparently laboring under just this opinion - that it's the only "meaningful" theoretical way to construct a game system.

Skill-based systems clearly prove that this is not the case. In my mind, this suggests that there are other design possibilities that could be available, and possibly (likely, IMHO) superior to the class system or even skill systems.

I don't have any such design "realized" yet. If I did, I'd save a lot of work and just describe the alternate design [wink] However, I'm confident that such systems will eventually appear, and I suspect that their development will be led by people with just the sort of complaints about class-based systems as we've seen in this thread.

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EVE online must include opportunity cost if it is an "interesting" game (and we can assume it is, because people enjoy playing it).

From what I have read, spending time developing a skill 'X' in EVE has the opportunity cost of not developing other skills during that time. You choose what skills to spend your time on in EVE, just as you might choose what skill point to increase after time spent (eg. level gain) in some other RPGs. The choice in character development is part of what makes RPGs interesting and addictive.

If we can agree on that, then consider the design decisions behind conventional RPG 'classes'. The choice of a class (and perhaps race) right at the start of a game immediately provides some interesting strategic decisions, which helps provide impetus for the player to play enough that they break past the learning curve. Interesting initial character creation also adds replayability for experienced players.

In addition, classes help to provide weaker role-players with a basis for their character, especially where the game world/story/cinematics can provide role-playing hints for particular classes/races. Forming a role from a blank slate is much harder than being provided with a few significant choices initially, and working from there. Remember that players can always 'reroll' as a different class if they find it not to their taste.

Class-based systems do have a lot to offer, and as designers we should consider their strengths before writing them off. Classless systems can work well too, but consider that designers have never been limited to classes: classless systems are not new technology, yet class-based systems have had far more success in the gaming world (consider WoW and AD&D).

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- Of course opportunity cost is vital. The point isn't to remove character development, it's to quit putting contrived boundaries all over the playing field and pretending that they make sense. D&D says that wizards don't use swords, so dammit, you better not want to use a sword! So what that this isn't D&D (or even using a D&D derivative system) - D&D said no swords!

- A lot of players (the so-called casual market segment) won't reroll more than once or twice. This means that if your class system doesn't match their expectations (aww, I wanted a priest who could swordfight) and fails to do so repeatedly, they probably won't play at all. Anecdotal evidence of this abounds in class-heavy systems.

- It's a fallacy to conclude that class systems have any inherent benefit over classless systems on the grounds that there are a lot of classed game systems out there. The proportion of classed to classless systems is very skewed, so naturally the number of successful classless systems is much smaller. Classed systems also have a long tradition - if you'll recall, CRPGs basically grew out of D&D players exploring a new medium. Never underestimate the weight of tradition. Finally, class systems are much easier to design and balance - the artificial restrictions and limitations make balance a breeze, and the strict, logical rule framework makes implementation fairly straightforward.

- Distributed, non-physical communities are a remarkably new creation, in the scheme of human history. We can't even begin to claim that we understand the dynamics of such systems. If they're going to go anywhere, we have to get away from this traditionalist obsession with mutated versions of D&D. Real life communities don't work like D&D. D&D managed to succeed with a class system because it was a unique formula: the imagination of the GM and players was the real gameplay, and the game system was just a way to make sure it all tied together. Nowadays, the art and world of the design team is the gameplay, and the game system just gets in the way of forming a society more often than not.

- You do make a good point that a class system gives a player some clue as to what they should do. However, that presupposes that they know what class to pick. In any case, games in general need to work on exploring alternative ways of giving the player a "purpose" without being legalistic and stubborn about it. Incidentally I've done some thinking on the matter, and you can read more of my view on that in my journal if you're interested.

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Original post by ApochPiQ
- Of course opportunity cost is vital. The point isn't to remove character development, it's to quit putting contrived boundaries all over the playing field and pretending that they make sense. D&D says that wizards don't use swords, so dammit, you better not want to use a sword! So what that this isn't D&D (or even using a D&D derivative system) - D&D said no swords!

- A lot of players (the so-called casual market segment) won't reroll more than once or twice. This means that if your class system doesn't match their expectations (aww, I wanted a priest who could swordfight) and fails to do so repeatedly, they probably won't play at all. Anecdotal evidence of this abounds in class-heavy systems.

- It's a fallacy to conclude that class systems have any inherent benefit over classless systems on the grounds that there are a lot of classed game systems out there. The proportion of classed to classless systems is very skewed, so naturally the number of successful classless systems is much smaller. Classed systems also have a long tradition - if you'll recall, CRPGs basically grew out of D&D players exploring a new medium. Never underestimate the weight of tradition. Finally, class systems are much easier to design and balance - the artificial restrictions and limitations make balance a breeze, and the strict, logical rule framework makes implementation fairly straightforward.

- Distributed, non-physical communities are a remarkably new creation, in the scheme of human history. We can't even begin to claim that we understand the dynamics of such systems. If they're going to go anywhere, we have to get away from this traditionalist obsession with mutated versions of D&D. Real life communities don't work like D&D. D&D managed to succeed with a class system because it was a unique formula: the imagination of the GM and players was the real gameplay, and the game system was just a way to make sure it all tied together. Nowadays, the art and world of the design team is the gameplay, and the game system just gets in the way of forming a society more often than not.

- You do make a good point that a class system gives a player some clue as to what they should do. However, that presupposes that they know what class to pick. In any case, games in general need to work on exploring alternative ways of giving the player a "purpose" without being legalistic and stubborn about it. Incidentally I've done some thinking on the matter, and you can read more of my view on that in my journal if you're interested.


Actually thanks to the 3.5 rules, its fairly easy for a wizard to start using swords. (I'm a D&D geek from way back and have a group of friends that I play with each weekend) And in fact the new rules use a class system to do exactly what you want. They added the ability to multi class. When you level you just pick a new class. Say you start as a cleric, just add rogue next level and you can pick pocket (then again you can do that with a cleric anyway...). So class systems can be the same as a classless one (in terms of allowing players to go their own route). Most MMOs however don't do this and force people into a single role.

Sadly that is one of my main complaints in most MMOs (the inability to customize my character). However I don't see it as hurting social interaction or hindering the formation of social circles. I'm rather confused by that statement. In fact I'd say it has the same problems as a classless one. If I spend all my time perfecting my sword skill but I can't heal, I'm still going to need a healer. But then again in a classless system, I can learn to heal and use my sword and not need anyone. Thus I can just go about doing my thing and ignore everyone. I'm confused how a classless system helps over a class system in this respect.

Really the points your making have nothing to do with social interaction. It has more to do with customization. You make it sound as though if people who can pick what they're going to be will roleplay more, which has been proven time and again to be false (AC, EVE, etc. do or did have roleplayers, as some of the classless games have now closed, but only a small percentage). And personally I don't think roleplaying has much to do with the overall social aspect of games. When I'm playing online with my friends, I'd prefer to talk about their children, work, etc. with the game just being a way for us to unwind and communicate.

I may have missed the point of your post, but it really did read as though your complaint is more with basic class systems than anything else.

As far as the orginal post, I disagree again. Well, sort of anyway. I've always based atleast some of my beliefs off of a couple philosophers. One such man is Herbert Spencer, although I've always found his theories to be incomplete. But he does bring up the point that the only reason we interact with each other is because we need something from each other (it may not be a physical need). I personally agree with this to an extent. Take for instance Star Wars: Galaxies. I played this way back for about a month, but the one thing I liked about it was the fact that I needed other people in the game. My character had the ability to skin creatures, other characters needed my skins to create items. They in turn gave me weapons, etc. Just from that I met quite a few people and gained some friends, not because I gave him stuff and he gave me stuff but because we enjoyed the same things. So to me it was a great way to meet people.

Most other games where the economy isn't that interconnected, I found that I didn't talk to anyone. I found that I could just go about my business and just do my thing without ever talking to anyone in game (WoW is a perfect example of this, I got to level 40 soloing the entire way before I realized that the game was boring [smile] ).

The only way to not make it the economy that interconnects everyone would be to allow PvP or you can combine the two (which is what EVE does), but then you still have the original poster's complaint. The real reason EVE has the socialization that it does, in my oppinion, is due to both the PvP and the economy.

Unless you make it a single player game with a chat room feature or a game where having 200 people on your side can't help you, I don't see a way around the current systems. Either you force them together to do a common goal or most likely no one is going to talk.

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Interesting that you mention SWG (Star Wars Galaxies). Second time in this thread.

The economy in SWG is now completely fubar. Trader and non-combat classes are marginalised, and contrary to the 3.5 D&D point, class mixing is no longer possible, so people are leaving the trader classes in droves, either by deleting their characters or by using (very rare) class-change items.

This would be fine if the game were designed from the outset with a fixed NPC trade based economy, but given the lack of available supplies for traders (creature harvesting has gone) things are drying up very rapidly.

What was a vibrant virtual economy, with true centres of commerce, friendly rivalry and competition between suppliers, has become a ghost town of individuals solo'ing quests. The socialising that arose from trade (chatting while waiting for buffs from entertainers / doctors, shopping at player vendors) has gone.

If you want an example how _removing_ material (and service) interdepdency ruins the social aspect of a game, check out SWG. A good example of how not to handle things.


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