Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Barbarians, Tribesmen, and Citizens

I just ran across a recent article by Jessica Mulligan and Bridgette Patrovsky about Managing Online Games. Ok, it's five years old, but if you're 3000 years old, like I am, 5 years ago is very recent.

Amongst a lot of other interesting stuff, the authors describe three general categories of players. I found I knew them well. First, the Barbarians:

The barbarians are the "problem children" of online gaming. Their objectives vary, but one thing is consistent: They don't care what you or anyone else thinks.


For some, the raw intensity of the "virtual psychopath" that many barbarians represent can be refreshing in its novelty. At first, some who encounter them react as though they are cute online versions of Hannibal Lecter. [...] They are more akin to the mass murderer in the Richard Pryor movie who, when asked why he murdered all those people, replied, "They was home."[...]

Reroute them or get them out of the game. It's that simple. The only players who will shed a tear at the banishment of griefers are other griefers.

I don't consider plat farmers barbarians, as such. Some might engage in barbarian tactics, but they have a purpose, and the smart ones have learned to disrupt the game of the play-for-fun players as little as possible. Players who have a poor experience due to a plat farmer camping the mobs they need will report them, and it will be time to level up a new toon on a new account.

There are a wide variety of game features that help shut down griefing. Encounter resets, and tagging-based loot and experience help. Oftentimes, anti-griefing and anti-powerleveling conflict. I say, choose anti-griefing, and don't sweat the powerleveling all that much.

The next category is the Tribesmen:

The objective of the tribesmen is to ensure that they and their personal micro-community (guild, team, squadron, clan, or Saturday morning coffee and killing club) have a great time. They are very team-oriented; it is not unusual for them to call each other in the early morning hours to get the tribe online for some objective.[...]

They can still cause problems in-game. For example, tribesmen have no trouble organizing "camping" parties. This is much like the big kids staking out the basketball court and not letting anyone else play.[...]

I've definitely seen this. There isn't a lot of it any more, mostly because of instancing, I think.

If another tribe or player annoys them, they can organize quickly and for long periods to attempt to drive that tribe or player out of the game. The tribe may use a variety of intimidation tactics. The goal: Make the game unplayable for the group or person they are angry with; in other words, drive them out.

About the only way I've seen this play out lately is basically social. Ostracism, reports to GMs about all kinds of trivial crap, constant harping in level chat.

Group dynamics can cause people to view rules differently. What players might not think is acceptable as individuals can change when it's for the good of the tribe. There can be a bit of mob mentality. If something is seen as an affront to the tribe, you could wind up with an entire group retaliating against the game, breaking rules as a way of fighting back, or the whole group may decide to pack up and move to another game.

There is beneficial power to the tribe as well. When happy, the entire tribe stays where it is. Listen to your tribes. Give them tools to facilitate group management and communication.

Keep in mind that your tribe leaders are your political lifeblood in the game. They influence large groups. If you disrespect them, you can turn entire tribes into barbarians.

Finally, they talk about Citizens

The citizen is the crown jewel of any online game. Think of these players as the good people you know in the real world. In a game setting, these are the people most likely to take new players under their wing, take part in role-playing events, lend their in-game cash and resources to a greater cause, and always have a civil word for passersby. [...]

They aren't your squeaky wheels (like your problem children), and it's easy to overlook them. Attention given to the citizens has a huge impact on the world. It benefits the entire community.

This highlights one of my long-time themes. Game designs must allow for altruistic behavior. The drive-by buff. The helping-heal. The "let me just jump in and kill those 3 adds" thing. Again, this makes power-leveling more possible. It's worth it.

This kind of behavior sets a tone for the server. If you've received help like this, you are much more likely to give it.

So I'd state the case about Citizens even more strongly. Not only must you give them attention, you must create ways for them to do their thing, because then everyone will win. Except the Barbarians.

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