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Apr 27, 2006



I wish I understood what you mean by 'drama' (also BWL, AQ40, laws, bills...)



I agree with Jorn. "Drama" needs more defining. It's feels like you're onto something here, but I can't quite get my finger on it. It also feels like it could be a useful concept to nail down, but it might be better to dump an existing and potentially confusing term like "drama" for something without the existing baggage of that one. Maybe you mean to invoke "drama queen" and role playing connotations, or maybe you mean something else. If the former something rooted in drama would work nicely, but if the latter it's probably better to ease away from it.

The one thought that leapt out at me most was the question: "Is there an optimal "bandwidth" for human relationships? And is that optimal bandwidth less than full, constant, real-life contact?"

That one intrigues me. My immediate reaction was yes! But that's a subjective response based on personal anecdotal experience. (With full constant contact in real life I tend to get either annoyed or bored with most people :P, limit that to occasional contact and I find I can enjoy the company of most people!) I feel pretty strongly that it certainly is the case in SOME relationships, to whit both "absence makes the heart grow fonder" and "familiarity breeds contempt." I've long argued that it's easier to get to know people well online than in person. But that's only true where both parties want that to happen. It's also easier to roleplay when bandwidth is limited. A lot of external distracting data is pruned away.

I'm not sure it's easier to detect lmeant to say above). I think the absence of that cloud of apparently unrelated and inconsequential data actually eliminates potential giveaways. It should be easier to lie in limited bandwidth. It's easier to control the whole information stream.

But, somewhat ironically, when both parties want to open themselves and be truthful, I think the elimination of all that distracting other stuff is also positive. The data stream in a more limited bandwidth CAN be purer.


Very nice article.

I think part of what you are recognizing here is not the power of limited bandwidth in a traditional sense, but the power of games to produce deep, complex experiences through constraints. You have developed these rich relationships with your guildies, at least in part, because WoW is a limited domain - a toy world.

Once again, I am arguing for the idea that the "artificial" status of games - their condition as being separate, limited, constrained and "carved off" from regular life - is not a deficiency but a source of great power.


This idea lends itself to the entirety of non-face-to-face communication; by being able to both present what you want to whom you want, as well as, by social convention, being afforded a greater amount of response time in order to calculate your response, it becomes easier for communication itself to persist without devolving due to misunderstandings.

This is not to say that contextual clues no longer exist, but rather they have been supplanted by things like emoticons. Emoticons have been adopted so widely that to disregard the contextual state they imply is just as socially contravened as to use them inappropriately -- as in, to indicate a contextual state contrary to the author's true motives.

As far as deceit goes, I think it is much easier to portray what you want when you want, but as long as continuity of image is upheld, is it lying? Can truth be derived from artificial constructs? I have always thought so; I don't think anyone has the right to care about who someone is IRL so long as who they present themselves as is consistent and they don't try to use online interactions to manipulate IRL events, but that is perhaps another topic entirely.

In closing, I think it is a convergence of trends that has led to the Internet success of outcasts and housewives, as it were. Games have reached a point of much broader accessibility and appeal, while the variety and means of communication have multiplied beyond simple text missives...


So, what game are you talking about?


Electrical Resistance (ohms) = Electrical "Pressure" (volts) / Current (amps)

Drama (?) = Social Interaction (?) / Social Synchronization (?)



As a former guild leader of a server uberguild of a different MMO, I wholly agree with you. Human drama is the principle enemy at the end game. Every human interaction creates iotas of drama, and this becomes the black matter that pushes members of a guild inevitably apart. Guild leadership is a constant struggle to keep drama at bay.

From my gut, I say the more ease in which people may interact, the greater the risk of drama. The less people know about each other, the easier it is to accomplish tasks which require huge groups of people. Not anonymity, but uniformity and heirarchy are the proper structures to thwart the human drama.

This has been historically proven over and over in known history. Just look at military heirarchies for the model examples of shedding rivers of blood, amassing great hoards, and achieving epic goals.


I am getting somewhat tired of seeing so many questions concerning MMORPGs framed in World of Warcraft terms. The OP didn't mention it by name, but by focusing on large scale "raiding" the implication is there. To be fair they could be talking about Everquest as well I suppose. I don't play either, having tried both and concluded that they are subpar games with an unenjoyable experience from my point of view. I am afraid there is still a sizable population of gamers out there who do not play WOW and thus do not understand the politics and drama of arranging large scale raiding etc (nor in my case the point of it).

Certainly any human social activity which requires organization will result in "drama" of some sort. The more opinionated and egotistical the participants the greater the "dramatic pressure" (to coin a phrase). It is possible for a large organization of a sort to exist without this drama though.

Until shortly after the New Game Experience changes arrived in Star Wars Galaxies, I established and ran (as mayor) a city in SWG (High Plains on Tatooine, Tarquinnas if you are interested). I had 75+ citizens, about 15 crafting types with a few well established businesses running there. It was the most successful city on Tatooine at the time in fact. The town was very successful from its inception and during the entire time I was mayor. During that period of about 8 months there were relatively few dramatic confrontations of any sort. For the most part the settlement was peaceful, cooperative and successful, meeting the needs of its participants. I think the key element here was that they were not in direct competition for resources (ie loot) for the most part and even the crafters had focused on different areas of business. We arranged some hunting parties, helped people level up and get equipped and maintained an active democratic system (I encouraged others to get political experience in elections and eventually ensured a successor was elected. Eventually this became moot because SOE handed out free "Master Politician" status to all characters).

In short, if you are seeing dramatic conflicts, its due to the nature of the organization and its purpose in game. If people are better able to resolve problems in chat seemingly than in person, its because those problems are also limited in nature by the limits of the game world. Personally, I think that chat is a poor medium for conflict resolution because it conveys little emotion, although perhaps as well it also permits less emotional grandstanding and due to anonymity allows for less of a blow to one's ego if they lose a discussion point.

In short, while I think its interesting to posit a unit of conflict and call it a "drama", there is in reality no viable yardstick to measure it by and that makes it meaningless for the most part. While its possible to have highly conflicted and argumentative organizations, thats not the only way things can exist.


Once read a book on how to write a play. The only thing I remember getting out of it was “there is no drama without tension”. Tension, dramatic or otherwise usually centers on conflict. So... conflict = tension = drama. The good thing is that once conflict is resolved, it creates a recognizable path to do it again. The bandwidth you speak of is limited, so you either get with the program or log off.


At its core, politics is about how we distribute limited resources. Your solution--don't add additional people unless there's enough resources to support them--is certainly the least interesting one.

And one that's not available to raid groups. The number of upgrades on any given run is much smaller than the number of people required to have a successful run.

Contra Joshua's original post, in which he sees "groups of people who are not in real life leaders, leading" my experience with guild and raid leaders is that of people who are not in real life leaders making the same mistakes I see from inexperienced managers &c. in RL. It's mitigated when things are going really well--when you've got a DKP system everyone obeys and people are familiar with the encounters--but when things go bad... For example, I was in a raid that was seemed pretty solid; then we started wiping over and over on Garr (WoW endgame dungeon 1 boss 4, pace Warren) and the social weakness of the group and its leadership failures became pretty apparent.

It seems to me that that's the point when people start saying "lighten up, stop complaining about thing X, it's just a game," using the virtual nature of things to try to paper over real political failures.


Drama is, I think, a bad term. Because drama can be a good thing. We use the term in a negative way when we mean "too much" drama, but we like "dramatic" sequences and events, precisely because they bring the kind of tension and resolution necessary for a great story. When you strike a match to your heel, you want it to light on fire. You just don't want it to do so while it's still in the pack...

The term used, in general, for "bad stuff happening that keeps me from getting where I'm going" is "friction." And we already use this term for people stuff as well as Newtonian physics stuff. "There's a lot of friction between the Sales and Marketing departments," for example. Although there are obviously good uses for friction, too (car brakes), they are more rarely used than bad cases of drama. Friction is generally seen as "not a good thing."


Andy: that reminds me of a post I saw in some indy (pen & paper) RPG forum somewhere about how hard it was to make RPGs set in 'real life' situations, since our instinct is to avoid drama. It's good when it happens to other--particularly fictional--people and we get to watch, but not so cool when it happens to us.

Um... an example: your character and their hated coworker at the elevator? Instinct is to wait for the next, or if that's impossible, an uncomfortable civility.

I forget their solution; I think it was a mix of encouraging players to seek conflict for their characters and work by the GM to set up situations where conflict was unavoidable. There was a fear of that being too artificial and breaking the illusion--the elevator can only malfunction so many times when you're on it, y'know? But trying to railroad players without it feeling artificial is a problem we in electronic games are familiar with, at least.

(there are magic circle questions, too, I suspect. remember the last time someone tried to justify a ninja-looting on you by 'role-playing?' yeah.)


Drama! Being in a fairly hardcore WOW guild (we raid 7 days a week 4 - 5 hours a day) I'm accustomed to end game content more then most people. The relationships you build with guild members is deep and complex and you can spend many many many hours together in a compressed amount of time. In an orginization like ours in which it is mandatory to raid 12 - 15 hours a week and most members play 30 - 40 hours a week, burn out is high and motivating individuals is highly challenging. There are constantly in game and out of game issues that need to be disputed and mediated between different members. The reasons are numerous; from time conflicts, play schedules, skill levels to personal issues between members (many peope know eachother in real life).

Any organization formed for the purpose of progressing through WOW's end game content must be prepared to deal with a variety of issues that themselves manifest the initial requirements of "raiding". The most obvious is simply being able to get 40 individuals online to play together for 4 hours every night of the week. The "drama" this creates can be a setback; i've known many characters who have left and complained about the "drama" surrounding our organization. But if im understanding you correctly, you assert that this drama is just a natural byproduct of the conflicts between individuals with different opinions and isn't necessarily a "bad" thing.

I think i'll have to agree with you.


What I want to know is that this can not be a WoW-only problem. There must have been the same drama/friction back in the days of EQ (which also had a heavy raid-based end-game). What were the good and the bad?

There are many that came to WoW with no prior experience in leading. When the sky is blue, and the grass is really green after we kill this next boss, the raid group is really motivated. But when poop hits the fan - surely there are lessons people have already learnt.


It's not a "problem", it is a cheap and ugly design choice. A strategy to keep subscribers who should've quit a long time ago by increasing the socio-emotional investment costs...


Google rocks. I'm interpreting BWL as Blackwing Lair and AQ40 as Temple of Ahn'Qiraj. The WoWWiki has some of these.

The traditional term used to describe this "social bandwidth" appears to be "monkeysphere", or "Dunbar's Number".

That said, you're talking about something that definitely goes above and beyond Dunbar's number; it seems to refer to the ability of people not to merely maintain relationships with other people, but further, to tolerate them. Friction in weltanschauungen causes people their relationship to erode to the point of intolerability. From there, it's only one more step to breaking the relationship off entirely.

Sounds like a thesis for a social scientist...


Joshua Fairfield>end-game content is limited by the human ability to form real social bonds over limited bandwidth

It may well be in WoW, but that doesn't mean it has to be in virtual worlds in general (or at least, it doesn't mean it has to be worse in the endgame than it is in the rest of the game).

I realise this may come as a shock to many people who read Terra Nova, but there are other virtual worlds apart from WoW and SL, and they can do things differently there.



Warren> "I am getting somewhat tired of seeing so many questions concerning MMORPGs framed in World of Warcraft terms."

WoW has become the canon. It will define this era of gaming. MMORPG literacy is going to require that you know WoW. Even though I don't really enjoy WoW any more, I am still trying to slog my way upward, trying to get to the end-game content, because I think my work is going to require that expertise. I think pretty much all the academics here have characters beyond 50 by now, while my highest is only 39. I have to get to the endgame to be able to participate in the conversation. For example, Josh's insights are kind of lost on me - I've never been on a raid.


Although I have had my share of drama. Too much.


The problem with the creation of drama in virtual worlds is that people originally choose a virtual world to escape reality. Not to say that players in a virutal world do not want drama they just want a virtual form of it. Players want to be able to be dramatic about how the horde/allinace are a bunch of jerks or how hard it was to get their 1.5 armor set. Unfortunately like how it has been mentioned earlier, no one truly roleplays all the time. Eventually, that virtual world drama might become real drama. Not only was that epic item hard to get but it was hard to get because someone in the guild was impersonating learoy jenkins.

I would say that a dose of virtual world drama would be healthly for any end-game raiding guild however I would warn to keep eyes open for real world drama such as: Feuds, romantic relationships, money, politics, and religion. Any of these can be funny and help build up the bonds of a guild when they are used in the virtual world context. However they can be devasting and tear down a guild if used in a real world context.

Examle: A paladin praising "the light" as he vanquishes undead in Stratholm. Funny and dramatic. Now if the paladin praised a real world deity and claimed superiority because of his god, people are going to get offended and the real world drama rolls in. Part of the fun about a virtual world is people are pretending to have preferences in those sensitive topics. No one should in reality be offended about virtual world drama/choices. I love teasing my friends who play the opposite side in WoW but I dont really think they suck cause they play alliance or horde.

I would conclude that drama in a virtual world should be about virtual objects or opinions in that world. If not then you are playing around with the same forces that prevent the real world from just getting along and playing a game. This is why so many people follow the "magic circle" rule in virtual worlds.


For some time now I've been feeling the same way as Warren -- it just didn't seem my place to say so. Now that it's out there, though... yes. What he said.

I understand that an academic studying people needs to go where the people are. (And in particular that if you're trying to study mass behavior, you have to go where the masses are.)

But so many of the threads here lately are so WoW-focused (or, as Richard points out, SL-focused) that a new TN reader could be forgiven for thinking there are no other virtual worlds worth academic exploration. Focus can be useful, but too much focus risks distorting conclusions, reducing their value. I don't know that that's happening here, but it would be a shame if it did.

The World of Warcraft is not the only world worth studying. Neither is Second Life, although it at least is so open-ended that it's more about player behavior than about player pathologies driven by developer design decisions, which is what so much WoW-talk seems to be about.

Again, I get the Willie Sutton aspect of this. It's just a bit too much about RBIs and ERAs and other inside baseball statistics for a web site I thought was about sports.

But maybe I should just be grateful that the conversation is about something other than RMT.

Oops. ;-)



I detect a slight disconnect about the term "drama" as used by the original author and how others have interpreted his meaning.

In my MMORPG experience, the term "drama" is used as a shorthand form for "melodrama." Drama, in the traditional sense, does not cause teams or guilds to break apart but a fair dose of melodrama will do so without fail.

While I lack any empirical data outside of my own observations, I agree with Joshua that most interpersonal in-game tensions surround the limited nature of in-game communications. Written text (e-mail included) is a great way to quickly pass on information but it really stinks as a form of communication. Even "Teamspeak" only provides the verbal portion of communication. So much of what we mean about what we say is through non-verbal cues. If given enough time and space, the written word can convey what we really mean but, unfortunately, no one can effectively type that fast -- 60 words per minute typing versus 200-300 words per minute spoken. I would be willing to bet good money that every MMORPG player has on more than one occassion been so frustrated with trying to type a response that they end up talking at their computer.

Without an in-game mechanism to provide full scale communication, people may resort to exagerated statements or reactions -- melodrama. This type of behavior tends to overplay their hand and others respond in kind. Tension builds between the players and, unless released, can result in an explosion of emotions which usually kills all interaction between those players.


Frank: zomg, 200-300 words per minute??

Try that. Even for 30 seconds.

From my experience, TeamSpeak always inevitably leads to drama, because it is one step further removed from the immediate illusion of the game. It's on the other side of the 4th wall. People end up talking about RL and then it's all downhill dramarama from there.


zomg, 200-300 words per minute??

Actually, the average stated wpm appears to be roughly 150. 200-300 might be an exaggeration, but spoken wpm is at least double typed wpm.

The value of written conversation, however, is in its re-readability. I personally favor IM conversations, because I can review what I said previously before speaking again; the other person can quote what I said previously to point out a contradiction. So while written conversation conveys things slower than spoken, it also conveys things far more clearly, which is why transcriptions are made of things like public addresses. Not because it's a legacy from the days when we didn't have streaming video, but because then you can read the thing.

Granted, this does not typically happen in MMORPG chat, but I have managed to spark philosophical discussion once or twice in MUDs that seems to fail to hold in real life.

Incidentally, I suggest that the WoW-fixation be opened up as a different thread. Talking about WoW is quite valid, as I'm sure everyone knows, but there are some opinions that sound like they should be aired without derailing Josh's thread. =)


Taking Wow-fixation elsewhere: Agreed, and thanks, Michael. This is an interesting thread, and I apologize for briefly sending it somewhere else.


Ted: I think pretty much all the academics here have characters beyond 50 by now, while my highest is only 39.

Ted:... I've never been on a raid

Same here. Level 33, no raid. :-(

Anyone know any good Alliance Guilds on ThunderLord?

I think it's kinda crappy that I've got to do this too - all the raid vids (including the funeral gank) all look like a blast compared to the grind I've been playing. Actually - the for last 5 sessions I've given up leveling for some solo PVP in contested areas - it's the only exciting content I can find.


Some people have questions about using the term "drama". As a participant in WoW's end-game instances perhaps I can add some observations...

Joshua's post uses "drama" because that is the common-usage word used in-game. (e.g. like "china farmer" -- you may argue against the appropriateness of the term, but it's usage is already widespread and has significant context in-game).

Guild "drama" roughly occurs inversely proportional to the seriousness of the guild. As Joshua points out, the most serious guilds are composed of 80-120 hardcore players (30-50 hrs/week) and only these groups are capable of getting to the end-game content because of the coordination/experience/gear requirements.

In many ways, guild "drama" is often motivated by the same constrainted bandwidth that provokes flame wars and instant messaging arguments -- someone says something in jest, but the humor/sarcasam is lost, response is seen as hostile, argument ensues, etc. etc.

But the end-game is also fairly unique: you fight for the rarest items in the game, however you need to cooperate in order to get the rewards. You may wait *months* to get a specific item.

All of this creates a certain amount of stress. Any small mistake or unfairness (whether percieved or real) is magnified a hundred fold. Most people like to believe they are unbiased and want to make decisions fairly -- however everyone is human and after waiting months for specific items... well it gets very real.

Small example: network lag results in a healer not quite saving a main tank during a fight -- as a result, the entire raid wipes (down 60-100g), plus time spent. Given the extreme relative cost its easy to see how small incidents can spin out of control (i.e. "I've been waiting months for that drop and now we won't be able to get to the boss before the instance resets tomorrow because YOU BLEW IT!")

Whether or not the person really blew it or was a victim of poor bandwidth -- doesn't really matter -- I've seen this kind of thing spiral out of control first hand and result more than a couple times in people leaving or being kicked out of a guild.

A bigger example: our guild used a simple DKP system, however it became apparent that rampant inflation and uneven distributions were occuring. So we switched to a zero-sum DKP system (see Wikipedia for definitions of DKP). While this change seems fairly academic, the actual politics of switching systems and factoring "conversion" rates between the old point systems and new point systems was heated. Several people left the guild to form a new guild because of disagreements about the new system, after all they had invested months of time into their "points" only to have them revalued? (does this parallel world concerns over exchange rates, etc.?)

Guild "drama" like this has really opened my eyes to the nature of conflict in constrained resource situations, both real and virtual, small and large. You can start with a team of well-educated rational people and still splinter off into factions for entirely real but competing concerns.


Of course this is all purely academic to me, since if someone is so focused on the loot that drops in a game that they would be willing to argue over it - I don't think I want to play with that person, or play that game :)

I can't believe the detail of discussion and systemization of the DKP system as described on wikipedia. I really have no desire to play any game that would require me to spend that much time and effort in acquiring loot. Its honestly rather pathetic to my mind.


Also pathetic: the obsession with getting to the last square in Candy Land. I mean, who really cares? That game would be a lot more fun if it involved rolling the dice and exploring the board without the mad rush to be "first".


Inaccurate, Frank: the pathetic obsession is with the need to be first. Getting to the last square is just the final stepping stone to achieving that obsession.



Frank Lantz > "Also pathetic: the obsession with getting to the last square in Candy Land. I mean, who really cares? That game would be a lot more fun if it involved rolling the dice and exploring the board without the mad rush to be "first"."

Ah but there is a difference. In a standard competitive board game such as Monopoly, a computer game such as Starcraft - or something like your choice of Candyland (which I had to look up mind you but I didn't miss the implied insult that if I am not a lootwhore I am a "carebear", thank you for your immature comment) - you are pitted against each other and the object is for one person to win over the other. There are clearly defined rules that make it clear when that victory has occurred. They are finite games with achievable victory conditions.

With an MMORPG this is not the case. There is no definite end to the game, there are no clearly defined victory conditions, although you may beat another player in PvP, the victory is at best ephermeral as they will be back competing several seconds later in all likelihood. Furthermore there are a host of ways in which you can choose to play an MMORPG, and direct head to head PvP is not the only such choice - nor the most popular one. Similarly, the concept of "loot" is not present in all MMORPGs, nor is it the sole focus of all players (contrary to what some seem to think). It should come as no suprise that people play MMORPGs for a variety of reasons, and in a variety of manners, and all of them are perfectly valid, no matter what the opinion of the elitist types who focus on any specific style(s) of play may choose to believe.

For instance, I currently play City of Heroes/City of Villains. In part, this is because the game has no loot. I became sick of listening to people flog loot over channels in EQ, DAOC, and SWG. I became sick of games that required me to spend countless hours camping for certain items just to be competitive - or to spend vast amounts of ingame money to purchase them from other people. While other elements like the terrific gameplay also attracted me, the complete lack of an economy and lack of loot in COH was a major factor in my enjoyment of the game. I have read of people who could not play the game for the same reason - they are so focused on loot that they claim they could not enjoy a game that wasn't built around that concept.

I also don't engage in PvP. I used to in DAOC, and to a limited degree in SWG, but gave it up after I decided that the majority of PvPers were not people I would associate with in RL and I had no desire to associate with them in a virtual world either. In short I liked PvP, but hate the PvPers who are for the most part obnoxious, offensive and unsportsmanlike. Now, I don't condemn those who do enjoy PvP, more power to them, but its no longer my thing.

I play an MMORPG for the *process*, not the endgame. I play COH to enjoy the process of playing through missions, cooperating in a group, meeting a challenge and overcoming obstacles, and when I finally get a character to 50, I waive goodbye and go play an alt because that character is done. To my thinking, powerleveling a character to 50 in COH/COV is simply cheating yourself of gameplay, because the only endgame offered - Substandard PvP, or Hamidon Raids for special enhancements (arguably the closest thing to loot the game offers) are not of interest to me at all.

Personally I find the whole concept of and "endgame" a bit suspect. Shouldn't a game ideally be designed such that it is enjoyable all the way through with no sudden shift to a completely new game at the end?


>> I didn't miss the implied insult that if I am not a lootwhore I am a "carebear", thank you for your immature comment...

The point of my comment is simply that game goals and rewards are always arbitrary. WoW loot is no more or less inherently pathetic then CoH badges and souvenirs, Monopoly cash, territory in Risk, or points in Tennis. This is true whether the game is a "standard competitive boardgame" or a new-fangled, never-ending, cooperative, role-playing, tights-wearing, grind'n'chat, 3D-trees-having "virtual world". Aesthetic judgements can and should be made about game *dynamics* and the different kinds of experiences they produce, but any game is going to have some form of loot - some mcguffin that is supremely desirable within the world of the game and basically non-existent outside of it.


Actually, Warren, I agree with you: games should be designed so that they're the same game all the way through. Unfortunately, the game I want to play is one with large group PvE encounters; I suffer through the part you like so I can play it.

The reason loot is so important at endgame (this shouldn't even have to be said) is that it's a form of progression that keeps going when levelling ends. Progression IS important, for both raids and individuals; nobody wants to feel like they're not pulling their weight, and there are challenges that can't be tackled if you aren't appropriately geared. There's more to it than just trying to impress your neighbors with gold-plated hubcaps.


It's a worthwhile point to make, right now, that:

1) MMORPGs are not a single game.
2) MMORPGs contain lots of games.
3) You don't have to play all the games.

The "endgame" is the one that players play after they've finished the "grindgame". I realize that most people don't see this distinction, but it's a useful one that compromises both views without losing anything.


I am afraid I reject the notion that MMORPGs must, by default:

* Have a "grind" to them,
* Have loot,
* Have an Endgame

It seems to me that people who dislike the PvE element of MMORPGs, or who value the loot they get highly - more highly than the gameplay involved in getting it, and focus solely on some different "endgame" goal, are perhaps approaching MMORPGs in the mental framework produced by a history of playing console games or arcade games where the goal is to *beat the level* and move on. There is no grind in an MMORPG for me, for the simple reason that I am not playing to level up as quickly as possible and thus finding the time it takes to do so to be a source of frustration. I don't mind acquiring new powers or abilities, and I don't object to progression in my characters but I don't focus on it as the primary and only goal worth contemplating. I don't view leveling in a game as an obstacle to be surpassed - by exploiting if necessary - and to be completed in the minimum amount of time with the minimum effort like many Powergamer types seem to think is the only way to play a game. I am content without loot in COH/COV because I am tired of having my character defined by drops that it took endless hours of camping to acquire (and that does represent gameplay I find boring as hell and equally pointless. I did it in EQ and I did it in DAOC and I think it represents some of the worst quality gameplay ever perpetrated on hapless players). I don't see the necessity for an Endgame at all. The game should be the game, and it should provide entertainment to you when you play it, or something is wrong somewhere. I don't think anyone should be playing Game A just to get to Game B in the end. That only results in them being completely frustrated with the Game A part of the process.

It seems to me that a lot of people who are playing a game such as WOW, and "grinding" their way to 60 (or whatever the max level is) just so they can go do 500 hrs of raiding to get the bare minimum equipment necessary to go "pwn" in PvP, would be much happier playing a game that didn't involve leveling up at all - Planetside perhaps which has only minimal leveling, or first person shooters where you can go directly into combat with no leveling at all. I am curious, if this is true, why they feel compelled to play games that involve hundreds of hours of PvE gameplay that they do not enjoy at all, just to play the supposed "endgame" which they do enjoy? Why bother with the self-torture of playing the PvE, if you only enjoy PvP and there are direct-to-PvP games available? Its an honest question, not sarcasm. I have met so many people playing DAOC or COH/COV for that matter, who boast of getting one of their characters to the max level in so many hours like it was an achievement to bypass the core part of the game, the part I find the most enjoyable. I have a complete disconnect with that frame of mind I am sorry to say.


Perhaps it's the "I spent the many hours slogging uphill through the snow so that I could be powerful" effect. That their entrance into the PvP arena is somehow deserved or justified because they have gone through the effort to get there.

It further reminds me of the videos I've seen of people beating Ninja Gaiden or Super Mario 3 from start to finish in X minutes. It's an amazing display of skill and planning, but it's a metagame. Valid in its own right, but not as a comparison to people playing the game itself.

That suggests that these players are metagaming, which means the designers are doing a rather bad job, if most people metagame, rather than game.

In the games I have played (none of which are listed explicitly on the sidebar), I don't see any endgames, though I suspect they are there. Instead, I view my progression as conceptualizing some goal and achieving it.

I've personally lost touch with the PvE component of MORPGs. To me, it makes no sense. Random spawnage of creatures vaguely defined as to-kill targets. If it were instead the traditional, literature notion of Protagonist versus Environment, then it's a question of survival, but that's definitely not what MORPGs use it as.



When a game becomes a canon.
When a canon becomes a frame of mind.
When a frame of mind becomes a guild.

We have then entered the religious fervor mode.
Shaved heads and thumb cymbals.

Why not: If it’s fun, do it; if it’s unfun, don’t do it. And then try to explain the difference.

Anarchy and anonymity > hierarchy and structure.

Play > drama.

Limited bandwidth = sneeze shield.


So, which game are you talking about?


It could be any game, I don't feel it's necessary or relevant in this discussion to attribute drama to a specific MMO.

I've seen it all since Ultima Online, to every following MMO, up to WoW. The politics, conflict, and ensuing catchall drama simply comes from trying to direct a group of people towards a goal while managing limited resources and diverging interests.

Much of the issues exibited by the group are actually as much as an effect of the games design as they are individual wants/needs.


Here's why: it takes 60 hardcore raiders to field a committed 40 man team to learn content endgame. People move in and out all the time. This means, at a rough guess, you need a "standing wave" of about 120 people to do endgame content (you lose some, you gain some, etc.)

Those numbers are extremely bloated. A hardcore PvE guild usually has around 60 accounts, a newer guild with members still learning endgame encounters will have around 80. Any more and you will have way more than 40 members show up per raid (especially on the weekend), which just won't work. If you're talking about a guild with 120 accounts, then the term "hardcore" shouldn't be anywhere in the sentence.


Hijack and possible bad taste / self-promotion warning.

I definitely understand drama. I'm an officer in a guild with about 200 accounts. In contradiction to the previous poster's comments, you can run a 'hardcore' large guild. At one point, we were fielding about 7 raids a week, with two MC raids and one hardcore group in WoW's Blackwing Lair (BWL). Hardcore is probably not a completely accurate term. We're 'serious' raiders, interested in getting people to all the endgame content, but not demanding 40 hours+ per week of activity. This means we don't get the endgame as fast as the no-life people do, but we're definitely getting there at our own pace.

Drama. Drama. Drama.

We've had:

- a 'stalkerish' guildie broadcast the cell number of his Internet girlfriend who dumped him.

- a 'rival guild', er, 'guild of jerks who weren't rivals but thought they were' who

... conspired to get one of our guild
members fired
... created a parody guild with very offensive
names of prominent members
... performed consistent griefing of guild
... performed consistent offensive emotes
towards guild members in game
... used guild officers' sexual orientation
against them as a social club
... conspired with the opposing side (Horde)
to monopolize world bosses
... posted any number of inflammatory threads
on the offical WoW forums
... captured recordings of officer's meetings
in our Ventrilo and posted excerpts to

- a subgroup of 'hardcore' raiders within the
guild who were finally booted for having
me-first attitudes, as opposed to a guild-
success-oriented approach. (We're now down
to about 4 raids per week, including BWL,
but the guild environment is MUCH friendlier.)

- These booted raiders are turning into another 'jerk' guild. Amazing how rejection can reveal a person's true nature.

- some amount of petty sniping amongst guild
members or even guild officers

We joke that guild members don't realize the secret power they have: "Root officer in Ironforge". Our mainline officers can be immobilized for hours at a time while responding to /tells from guild members who are having issues with another guild member or with the guild as a whole.

Large guilds can, indeed, work, if you can put up with the inevitable interpersonal stuff. (And the 40-60 man guilds are definitely not immune there.)

There is advice for the fools who would attempt to manage a large guild. One guild in particular, on a different server, has the maxim, "The people who complain are often the -source-, not the -target- of guild problems". In my experience, I would have to agree. Many of the hardcore raiders who left, and who demonstrably benefited from the environment provided by the guild in terms of in-game rewards (tracked via computer program) were often those who complained that the guild was unfairly penalizing them.

Yes, raid roster and invite issues ARE a source of quite some drama. You're great with a guild of 40 active raiders or 80 active raiders, but in between, some people end up getting 'benched' and it can be a source of drama, as can be accusations of favoritism (often warranted)

In a large guild, a DKP-like system is very helpful. But I must shamelessly self-promote. Having read the Wikipedia article on DKP, I would have to say that we've got a very unique take on the loot system (hope you can follow the link):


The highlights:

Raiders 'vest' over 6 raids into a balance of 1000 points

When an item drops, raiders -bid- their points to win the item.

The points they bid are redistributed to the other members present on the raid. The winner's balance drops a lot; everyone else gets a small points balance boost.

This system

- avoids inflation because the number of points in the system is (mostly) fixed

- allows the players themselves to place the value upon the items that are dropped. If you want it and have the points (and, for items that are in-game-limited to a specific class, are of that class), you got it

- relies on an in-game addon to run the auctions

- is starting to spread to other guilds on the server we're on and is crossing servers to some extent

This system has been VERY good at mitigating drama. It's not drama-free, but very, very good. Most of our drama has been of the interpersonal nature or, in the case of the schism, probably due to the in-guild formation of a tight social network (a guild within a guild).


Correction: it -does- look like the Wikipedia article does include the concept of auctions... just not in the Zero Sum Points section.

Furthermore, the class-points concept of SWAPS is covered as well in the article.

Guess there's nothing new under the sun!


Hopefully, reasonably soon we'll all know this stuff well enough to be able to go back to being able to talk about the topics we want to talk about, rather than discussions of the term of those topics that are neccessitated by the presence of WoW. Though this has been fascinating (not a high-end raider, here) is it still posssible to return to the consideration of what causes unexpected aspects of online social dynamics, and how to describe or even characterize them?


mjh wrote:

And one that's not available to raid groups. The number of upgrades on any given run is much smaller than the number of people required to have a successful run.

And that is, quite frankly, one of the biggest game design flaws with WoW, EQ1, and any other game where traditional "raiding" is involved.

How can it POSSIBLY be good game design to say to your customer:

"What I want you to do is spend 6 hours engaging in massively tedious activity (basically pressing the 1 button), and if you're lucky, one out of every 4 or 5 times you do this, you'll get ONE ITEM that you want."

Wow....... That's SO FUN! Not.

I am not saying that the idea of large group encounters is bad. That's fine. But the fact that it involves such an enormous investment of WASTED time - time spent with no reward - is just ridiculous. Additionally, the fact that most modern raiding boils down to 1 or 2 leaders herding cats, and the other 38+ pressing the "1" button is seriously flawed. Every person in the raid should have to think individually and react to situations intelligently rather than just following by rote whatever commands the leader is spamming to the raid channel.

Would you show up to work, put in an 8 hour work day, and at the end of the day, have a "lotto" to see what 10% of the employees got paid that day? Heck no.

That kind of game design caters completely to Edward's "catassers" whose gameplay time is not valuable (like the people mentioned in this thread with 20-40 hours a week to spend on a single game). With a wife, 2 kids, and a business to run, I certainly can't afford to flush 6 hours down the toilet and get nothing out of it. And sorry, the "experience" doesn't count - especially in a game (or at a stage in the game) where the only real point and progress is obtaining new items/gear.


Warren Grant wrote:

I am getting somewhat tired of seeing so many questions concerning MMORPGs framed in World of Warcraft terms.

I couldn't agree more.

Richard Bartle wrote:

I realise this may come as a shock to many people who read Terra Nova, but there are other virtual worlds apart from WoW and SL, and they can do things differently there.

Can you please post this about every 10 messages in every WoW thread here? Or could the above words be put in an animated, pop up & pop under banner that blinks in really gaudy colors so people don't miss it?

I understand that it is valuable to know WoW (and I do - I had 3 lvl 60 characters there), but the obsession with it really gets old. There are a LOT of games out there that have already solved many of WoW's design flaws. Sometimes it is incredibly silly to talk about them like they are these complex problems that need a solution when it has already been solved.


Bumping this so it gets above the worthless political crap recently posted.

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