Yesterday, I mentioned that one of the biggest issues in the modern MMO is that we are playing next to, not with, each other. In short, we're engaged in parallel play. Well, technically, it is associative play, since we're all playing together in the same activity, but that's not as well known a phrase. But, for the sake of accuracy, let's call it associative play. MMOs biggest hiccup is that, for the most part, in the grand scheme of things, we do not have a way for players to engage in meaningful cooperative play frequently enough.
Some activities are, by definition, cooperative endeavors. Instances and PvP are cooperative in the most basic form. Even then, I'm not really sure if it is really cooperative play in the sense that we're working together. Until you reach high levels of PvP, most of it is like watching 6-year-olds play soccer. Players just sort of move in a mass around or towards an objective. Sure, there is some rudimentary cooperation going on; healers are healing people, occasionally, a tank or DPS will peel someone off a squishy. But, for the most part, it is an excited mass of people either silently suffering through the match or raging.
Easier instances are kind of similar. I don't know if I'd really say players are cooperating in most of the early World of Warcraft dungeons any more. Before I stopped playing, you didn't really need a healer until, maybe, mid-40s if people had heirloom gear. You're still cooperating, but it is that empty, soulless cooperation that doesn't spark any actual gaming camaraderie.
Markets aren't really cooperative play either. Now, people just put things on the auction house. This is good; it is efficient, quick and you don't suffer having to /yell "Healing Potions, stack for 1k." Or /yell "My enchants, your mats." You can just throw what you want on the auction house and let the invisible hand bring you sweet, sweet profits.
Convenience is good for games. But, it is also separating players. There is lots of whining about dungeon finders; I don't think that they are necessary for a game to be good, provided you have other ways to get groups together for content. But, they are not bad. I remember the Burning Crusade with the rudimentary dungeon finder. We had a server community, sort of. I'll admit that, much better than anything I had in Lich King. I didn't get trolled as frequently or told to go die. But, I also didn't get to dungeons as frequently. It's an interesting trade off, being treated like a human being compared to playing a game. For most gamers, I think our ideal would be to be able to play content regularly without being treated like garbage.
The answer to that, of course, is guilds. Guilds of like minded people who also don't want to be treated like garbage. I think that might be the wave of the future. Find a way to integrate guild recruitment and the like into your interface. You want to encourage people to be able to join guilds easily and group them up easily. Of course, this means you may need to also try and encourage guilds not to have two week "application processes." Guys, I know you are an elite content destroying machine, but I wrote less to get accepted into college. Believe me: The raid content you are doing? It does not require more paper work than a government clearance or requesting a copy of my Social Security Card. Or, if you are going to ask me for a lot of paper work and to fill out some forms, at least, for the love of God, make it fun like these folks did.
Any way. I, uh, have a guild application to go consider putting in.
Make my MMORPGs more RPG please.