Ain’t talking ’bout love

Raph Koster made some notes on a talk given by Clay Shirky at the Supernova conference, and one of the sentences jumped out at me. The context of Raph’s notes were talking about open source software solutions, but I’m going to steal a sentence and transition to mmorpg’s.

“You will make more accurate predictions about software and services, if you ask not what is the business model, but whether the people who like it take care of each other.”

I can’t make this post without hyperlinks to other conversations, so buckle up and stick with me here. Kendricke’s had enough of the eternal debate over endgame raiding because it’s possible that game design cannot present a solution. Kendricke says:

“Ironically enough, the argument itself can’t die because the source of it’s angst is rooted in the very problem it complains loudest about – that most basic of human natures: competition.”

Raph’s talking about cooperation bringing people together on projets. Kendricke’s saying the eternal endgame loot debate is about competition. Is there a middle ground here? Is it possible that an endgame properly designed to encourage server-wide cooperation (or team-wide or realm-wide cooperation) would provide a more satisfying endgame experience?

If you read my post yesterday, you can probably guess my answer. At the end of the day, WoW seemed primarily a selfish pursuit, and a pursuit that by nature is designed to leave you unsatisfied. Sure, you might get a great set piece after hours of dungeon raiding, but there are always more set pieces, always more upgrades. Chasing the dragon is certainly exciting but eventually that constant pursuit of loot starts to feel empty. There’s got to be something else going on at the end of an mmorpg for people to continue to feel connected.

Before comments start coming in saying that WoW (or EQ or EQ2) certainly do depend on a large amount of cooperation for successful raids, I’ll concede that point. There’s no way you can succeed at any of those endgames without talented players working in tandem to solve complex dungeons. That said, the need for cooperation doesn’t extend much past getting good loot for yourself, or for your guild. There’s no larger sense of the effect those raids have on the entire community. Little persists beyond those raids except what you equip.

DAOC RvR and Eve Online in 0.0 space provide the need for broader cooperation. The effects of RvR or 0.0 wars do in fact persist and affect the community in a variety of ways. DAOC had Darkness Falls open for the realm that controlled the most territory. You got increased loot and experience for fighting near a keep that your guild controlled, and there were power bonuses if your realm controlled a majority of relics. Eve corporations in charge of 0.0 systems get access to deadspace complexes, rich mining opportunities and control key travel choke points. Your success or failure while fighting with your realmmates or corpmates has an effect that transcends just loot.

For me, I gained more satisfaction fighting for territory in DAOC than I did raiding in EQ or WoW. The rush of a realm succeeding was just so much greater than an individual raid succeeding. It seemed to matter more. That’s where Raph’s notes spoke to me. Don’t ask what model the endgame uses. Ask if the endgame model encourages the players, all the players in a realm or an alliance, to take care of each other. That doesn’t mean you can’t fight, can’t compete, can’t raid…but if there’s a larger goal, I think the raiding, fighting and competing maintains more significance then WoW manages. I think that cooperation and the broader significance of your actions builds more community and perhaps keeps people invested longer.

Let’s not get crazy, though. Ain’t talking ’bout love, or singing Kumbaya together over Teamspeak. I just want my raids or endgame efforts to have a broader effect then my next set piece.

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