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Improving the group – group definition tools

July 26, 2008

The grouping concept is something that most people playing MMORPGs think is important to the games/worlds, but how much thought is given to improving the ways the game can support forming of groups?

In most MMORPGs there are typically three types of groups supported by the game itself:

  1. The party or team that is formed for multiple players to tackle some task, typically involving combat. Quite temporary in nature.
  2. The guild/clan, a more permantent and often larger group that sometimes have been formed for a purpose
  3. Informal groups covering specific zones, classes, levels etc. The only element that ties them together is a chat channel

A possible fourth type that I considered would be the friend list; but I decided to leave that out since that can not provide a common view for all its members.  Although it would perhaps be interesting with a six degrees of separation implementation for it, something like LinkedIn. But that is another topic entirely.

Looking at the three types, each and every one of them typically has a fixed set of properties. A property can typically be some of the following

  • Temporary for a session or persisted beyond a gameing session
  • Chat channel, voice chat
  • Show basic member information (name, class, level etc)
  • Show detailed member information (health, buffs/debuffs etc)
  • Shared spaces (storage areas, money, housing)
  • Shared missions/quests
  • Shared experience and income
  • Membership hierachies (leaders, trustees, plain members etc) – none, simple, complex
  • Membership types (characters, other groups)
  • Membership limit (max N members in group)
  • Access control (free access, invitation only, read/write restrictions etc)
  • Member modification (sidekick/apprentice systems)

So a typical team/party implementation will likely include: temporary, chat+voice channel, basic & detailed member info, shared experience & missions, simple hierachy

Except for the more informal groups, any character can typically only be a member of one of any of the defined groups – one party, one guild, one raid party etc.

Why is that limitation there? I certainly do not see the point with having a restriction of one guild for example. In real life I am a formal member of a number of different groups covering various areas of interest? Why can’t I be that in an MMORPG?

For practical and technical reasons the number of such groups would have to have a limit, but even a couple of them would be a big improvement over the current state.

And also, why not provide some of these properties as building blocks to let people defined what their groups can do? I may want to set up a group for raiding purposes and another one for crafting and a third one just for some friends to hang out. The properties used for each may be different.

There are of course restrictions on what properties can be used with a temporary or persited group, again for technical and practical purposes. Some properties would have to have member limitations for the same reason – showing detailed info on all members of a group of 200 characters would not be realistic for example.

But still, I would like to see that the group concept opens up for more group memberships for a character at the very least. Empowering the players with some group definition tools as well would be even nicer.

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Categories: MMO Games
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