Wanna Be My Friendster?

Wanna Be My Friendster?
The Contrarian: Growing Out of the Stone Age

John Scott Tynes | 28 Feb 2006 11:04
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Meeting Places: There's usually a tavern in town, but if anyone's there, it's probably AFKers or people making drunk emotes. What if no local chat was the default for everywhere except in taverns, so they became the places you went to find other players to game with?

Other forms of departure lounges would be useful. A group leader who is ready to go out on a mission could play a looping emote that caused them to raise a glowing beacon and advertise their desired mission underneath their floaty name on mouseover. So, if you're looking for people to do a specific quest with, you'll spot them easily and can gather 'round, then head out.

Good Gaming Bonus: Some tabletop roleplaying games let players vote at the end of each game session for who was the best roleplayer that night. If someone at the table had a particularly inspired conversation with an NPC, give that gal some XP! While players can technically hand over bennies whenever desired, there's nothing to suggest that they do so. Twinking is something players do to the disadvantaged. Instead, how about twinking for the gifted, to reward those players who made your latest dungeon crawl more entertaining or successful? It's easy enough. At the end of a mission, all group members would receive a UI where they can pick the MVP for that mission. Let each member of the group decide what he or she values - tactics, humor, RP or whatever. Whoever gets the most votes is awarded a little XP bonus, and the leader breaks ties. Stats keep track of how many bonuses you've earned, so players can see who the talented ones are.

Guild Plots: Making missions for MMOGs shouldn't be that hard. Open up the content creation tools, just a little, and enable players to create missions for their guild. Given how intensely unsophisticated most MMOG missions are, this should be trivial. Let them pick an existing spawn in a known location, write up some profanity-filtered text, assign XP/loot rewards based on the existing spawn, and let them daisy-chain the results together to make a story. Pick a source and destination NPC for FedEx quests and supply their dialogue. Request X of some crafting material and reward those who deliver.

RP fans already do a lot more with a lot less. They create alts just to play NPCs in their own storylines. If they actually had in-game missions, even just delivery/hunt missions, they could forge endless storylines out of those base materials. Let them offer those missions to their guildmates, restricting them by guild rank or in exchange for guild donations. Tax them a bit to support the content so it becomes a money sink. In no time you'll have players constructing 60-mission storylines that feed directly into guild events and RP, with special rewards for completing major guild storylines.

Soon, you have guilds competing not just on the basis of reasonable players but on excellent content. A writer who can spin a compelling storyline out of a stock mission generator becomes literally worth his or her weight in gold, turning out new chapters in the guild's saga in exchange for sweet loot.

When storytelling becomes a form of crafting, game developers can officially go on vacation. The players will take it from here. In the meantime, find the right friends to game with and don't let them down. Until somebody invents holographic peer-to-peer Doritos, a good group makes everything more fun.

John Tynes has been a game designer and writer for 15 years in tabletop and electronic gaming with Pagan Publishing, Chaosium, Atlas Games, West End Games, Steve Jackson Games, Wizards of the Coast, Acclaim and Bungie. He works as lead writer and game designer for the MMOG Pirates of the Burning Sea and is a columnist for The Stranger, X360 UK and The Escapist. His most recent book is Wiser Children, a collection of his film criticism.

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