ArenaNet recently posted a design manifesto for Guild Wars 2, their massive multiplayer online role playing game.
Here’s an excerpt concerning a subject near and dear to my heart: the social dynamics of gaming …
MMOs are social games. So why do they sometimes seem to work so hard to punish you for playing with other players? If I’m out hunting and another player walks by, shouldn’t I welcome his help, rather than worrying that he’s going to steal my kills or consume all the mobs I wanted to kill? Or if I want to play with someone, shouldn’t we naturally have the same goals and objectives, rather than discovering that we’re in the same area but working on a different set of quests?
We think of GW2 as the first MMO that actually has a cooperative PvE experience. When I’m out hunting and suddenly there’s a huge explosion over the next hill — the ground is shaking and smoke is pouring into the sky — I’m going to want to investigate, and most other players in the area will too. Or if the sky darkens on a sunny day, and I look up and see a dragon circling overhead preparing to attack, I know I’d better fight or flee, and everyone around me knows that too.
With traditional MMOs you can choose to solo or you can find a good guild or party to play with. With GW2 there’s a third option too: you can just naturally play with all the people around you. I personally spend a big chunk of my time in traditional MMOs soloing, but when I play GW2 I always find myself naturally working with everyone around me to accomplish world objectives, and before long we find ourselves saying, “Hey, there’s a bunch of us here; let’s see if we can take down the swamp boss together,” without ever having bothered to form a party.
Of course GW2 has great support for parties, but they just don’t feel as necessary as they do in other MMOs, because your interests are always aligned with all other nearby players anyway. When someone kills a monster, not just that player’s party but everyone who was seriously involved in the fight gets 100% of the XP and loot for the kill. When an event is happening in the world –- when the bandits are terrorizing a village -– everyone in the area has the same motivation, and when the event ends, everyone gets rewarded.