I have to constantly come back to the topic of social mechanics inside of World of Warcraft since it’s such a prevalent issue that comes up all the time. On one of the forum topics, I think I came up with an interesting idea that I wanted to expand upon here. But we have to start from the beginning of how the social aspect in World of Warcraft needs a massive overhaul.
First, we must start with addressing the notion of how World of Warcraft as an MMORPG emphasizes not just having players within the game, but fostering a sense of community. People from Vanilla often complain about the move towards solo content, LFG, LFR, and ease of leveling has created a detriment to the general community for servers. That’s the primary issue at stake and what we’re seeing is bad behavior and lack of accountability due to anonymous grouping.
I think when Vanilla came out, community had a larger impact because less servers existed, the content was fresh, the number of websites containing information were non-existent or poor in quality and certain other in game tools were not available. As the game exploded, more servers were necessary and the certain lessons were learned over time such as logistics in grouping. Also, sites like wowhead, youtube, etc. made content easier to tackle to the point where people essentially are forced to study beforehand for encounters. In addition, as the game has aged, people who, had the time to play or were involved much more heavily, more than likely have moved on, thus shrinking existing communities over time while new players of all types entered into the picture.
When you look at these elements, the community aspect has taken a massive back seat for convenience and just the maturity of the game. Despite that, community still needs to be considered a huge aspect to the life of the game. Community is what will ultimately determine the life expectancy of the game.
I feel that the motivations in the game at the moment do not provide a lot for much outside of raiding and PVP with regards to harvesting a social environment. Part of the problem in the game is that the way social mechanics are enforced are through the dynamics of the game rather than the UI itself.
What do I mean by that? Well, take raiding and dungeons for instance. These require numerous people to complete. If you do not belong to a raiding guild or lack people inside of your guild to do any of these activities, you’re practically forced to use tools like LFR and LFG. If you do not like LFR nor LFG, then you need to find a guild. But the Looking for Guild tool requires that you do not belong to a guild. It would be nice to explore guilds while belonging to a guild.
But that’s the point of this. We need to improve these in game tools. I think using 3rd party resources demonstrates the weakness of the game. It’s easy to tell players to go Google something these days, but we cannot make any assumptions about the player’s knowledge of the game. The game in that regard has to presume that someone starting out has absolutely no knowledge of the game and needs to be introduced to all the different aspects. While the game play itself with regards to interfaces is a topic in itself, I think what hasn’t been emphasized so well is the social/community aspect. So this is where I have some ideas.
The first is that each server needs to have a topic. They need personalities. There’s only a few that have real distinct personalities like Mal’Ganis or Moon Guard. Other servers are just too simplistic. Imagine a new player starting out and looking at this overwhelming list. When they see things like PVP, PVE or high/medium population realms, will it be clear what they’re getting into? Do they know what kind of people exist on the server?
Here, we need clear definitions of what these servers imply. Take for instance, Oceanic servers. The time zone difference is one contributing factor that may not be clear at the start. But add the actual players on that server and it might be a big selling point for those who want to interact with people from Australia or New Zealand.
In this regard as World of Warcraft is a goal oriented game, we need to define the goals of each server and the player. Perhaps, you could have a realm defined as a high end raiding realm where top guilds exist. Or a hardcore realm where competition is cut throat. Or maybe a very social realm where people who want to meet like minded gamers exist. Maybe quiet servers where players who prefer solo play can exist on a low population area.
Again, I must emphasize that the game needs a match making type of service at the realm and guild level at the very start. This is where the community can contribute in helping to define the goals of the realm. A survey which accurately describes players’ goals on a server can then define how the realm’s behavior is.
Guilds have this function but I don’t think it’s all that useful. For instance, I see requests all the time but there’s no easy way to invite people when they’re off line. So most of the time, these requests seem like a waste. Either that or the players end up finding another guild. Part of my criticism is that what gets defined in that aspect I believe can only be set by the guild master. Yet just having a bunch of check boxes really doesn’t provide enough information for an accurate match making service. It really doesn’t allow for easy inspection to determine if a guild is right for that person.
One thing to do is take the guild activity feed and make it more public. That along with seeing the number of people in the guild, the people online and general participation. You need some indicator to demonstrate if the guild’s description accurately is backed up. I think people might waste a lot of time guild hopping without finding something that suits them. Having a public sampling can provide insight as to if a guild is worth joining.
The other thing is that there’s little within the guild feed itself that’s useful. There’s no interaction. I feel that it’s just a gratuitous vanity feed that probably can be depressing for less active guilds. Also, the items that do get promoted are pretty selective like winning an epic or hitting a major level milestone. When that occurs, people might not even offer a “grats!” in the game.
So with regards to the feed, there really needs to be more involved. Make what people do more significant. Then provide something like a “Grats!” button to up vote the activity. Perhaps add a comment field and other Facebook-like features. I might even go as far as to say that they should integrate this into Facebook and/or Twitter. One feature that might be cool that goes along with this is a replay feature showing just how someone received that achievement. Perhaps it could be a micro clip that can be shared to one’s youtube channel or some other video sharing service.
Another thing discussed on the forums was improving Cross Realm Zones. I feel that the only major use for myself was when my friends on Stormreaver could join me and vice versa. Now, that feature is disabled as a result of the time differential, I feel that it’s just a buggy mess. My big problem with Cross Realm Zones is that the intent is screwed up. The only thing that the designers seemed to want is more people in a zone. But what’s the real point of that unless there’s positive consequences? For PVP realms, it’s utter hell. For PVE realms, you get resource nightmares potentially. Either way, it looks like a negative to me.
The problem I see is that people are forcibly dropped into a zone. But there’s no possible long term consequence. Sure, you *might* meet up with a player you like. However, I suspect that most end up just trying to solo content or battle for resources. My feeling is that your only mechanism for social interaction is a lame chat interface. The chat interface is too old and needs a massive upgrade. Anyone can start going /1, “Trolollololooolloll. umadbrah?” But what’s the point?
I’d like to see more of an in game bulletin board where people can show activity. For instance, let’s say there’s a central place where players can access a BBS (faction specific). That BBS would act like an advertisement. You can have things like, “Person XXX is on quest chain YYY.” Then like my improved feed idea, you could have people give +1, comments, an invite to group option, etc. Perhaps, there’s even an option to add as friend.
Either way, that dramatically improves using a crappy IRC interface for looking for people. Maybe the bulletin board can have a calendar feature similar to the calendar aspect on the map window. Let’s say you’re in Dragonblight and you pen in something like, “Nax run” which is then scheduled for Saturday at 2pm PST. When the event is about to happen, it’ll send you an invite alert. If Blizzard was smarter, they’d make this into a mobile feature which could notify your phone.
More complicated things could be taking the raid and putting up achievements that people want to accomplish as part of it. You could have +1 to vote on those who want to go for those achievements. Or maybe the goal would be just transmogs and/or legendaries (in the case of a Black Temple run).
When you sign up, you might have your profile linked. So here you can get a group that matches what you might describe in a profile you set up on your toon. I know RPG realms have profiles but these should do more than just have flat text description boxes to fill in what your toon is about. But once you have that information, players can then be grouped together based on goals and personality types. Overall, that might help in providing a better overall social experience.