One thing I haven’t seen in an MMO since ye olde A Tale in the Desert is oldschool name recognition.
That is, the ability to become famous or familiar to each other and be known for various things.
If I played Eve Online or Star Wars Galaxy, that might be different, I’m given to understand that such things can occur there. But in most typical MMOs, everyone runs around in a nameless anonymous crowd, barely knowing or recognizing each other.
At most, one joins a guild and gets to know the group of people inside that in-group. Other guilds or what other people are doing, unimportant in the greater scheme of things, let’s just focus on our PvE, our raid instance, our PvP battleground, or what-have-you.
There’s even a current debate in the blogosphere, prompted by Syp’s post on Playing Together Alone Together, about how much GW2’s pro-social measures help this or fail to.
Speaking just for myself, I am definitely encouraged to be more social by the design. Which is quite amazing, given just how antisocial a loner I tend to be in most other games.
A lot of this perception is in the eye of the beholder, I feel. I don’t mind the wordless ‘being alongside’ each other in normal play. Most will stop to help fight a mob, or revive each other and so on, and the rudest thing that happens is someone who just dashes past the veteran mob you’re fighting to sneak a node and dash right off. I just shrug, probably a WoW-trained person.
I’ve had spontaneous friendly encounters on difficult vistas, jumping puzzles and mini-dungeons. Some of them are acquaintances of the moment, that you may never see again. Some others may simply be names that get more and more familiar the more time you spend on the server. I’ll give a named example, since some people are pouting that we bloggers talk along in generalities, but never in specifics.
(If anyone named is uncomfortable with this, and want privacy or some such, feel free to contact me and I’ll edit you right off.)
So. Isle of Janthir. When I was leveling in the Charr lands, I always saw another Charr running about in the same leveling zones. Vanilla Parfait. I was always extremely amused by his name. He and I have never met directly, just perhaps encountered each other in zone from time to time. Eventually, while forums surfing, I realize that he is one of the contact points for the guild Aegis of Janthir (AoJ), a group I see quite a lot in WvW.
Then there’s Malkier, who seems to have paused in his gameplay, but I have him on my friendlist (which is usually empty in most other games save a real life friend or two.) We met in the Font of Rhand mini-dungeon, he was leading an entire flock of followers to the champion boss, but I noticed that no one made a turn for the sword which was the key to a gate later on. Having learned the secrets of the place with another group exploring in beta, I side trekked to go get it and caught up with the group in time for that inevitable question which arises, “Who’s got the sword?” *confused silence* “What, no one’s got the sword?!”
“I have the sword,” I replied calmly, lugging it as I entered the room. And from there, the two of us guided the rest of the new ones into how to take down the crazy Flame Legion Charr boss, whom I personally suspect was driven mad by having to stay in an underwater room all day.
When he finally died, and chests popped in joyous abundance all around us, there was great rejoicing and much exchange of friend-ing each other.
It turns out that despite that burst of goodwill in a mini-dungeon, most of our timezones and gameplay speeds do not match up, which ultimately, is one of the great deciders of how close friends you can become with someone in game, but still, why not? We can have different degrees of friendship and familiarity, can we not? Not everyone has to be a bosom buddy or a drinking pal. Even if it was a one-off experience in the history of my leveling this Charr, it was a positive social experience and unique to his ‘personal’ story in a sense. When I level another alt, I will not have met the same people.
Perhaps this is the curse of the post-launch frenzy. Slower levelers are by definition more casual in their gameplay style and less inclined to be online long enough to constantly bump into the same people. As folks move through the zones and end up in the higher leveled ones, or start new alts and are now stopping to smell the roses in the really low leveling zones of a race they haven’t seen yet, there’s more of a gap in the middle where perhaps, some are feeling things to be… more quiet where they are.
I hate to say it, but the bots are out in force also. That can no doubt make it feel lonelier when your only pals are a bunch of weirdly named guys known as ‘fdhasd’ ‘fadsh’ ‘fdddhst’ running around in a programmed circuit and you end up stopping and staring at them, trying to decide if there’s someone behind them or an AI, and becoming more and more certain by the time they repeat the seventh loop around the same area. The silver lining is it is quite a fun minigame to click on each one of them, right click their names and report. (Because I’m a big stickler for such things and they’re giving multi-boxing such a bad name, to the point where GW2 makes it against the rules *sighs* Oh well, I have other games that are okay with it, and it’s probably a dumb idea to try with such a movement/dodging focused game anyway.)
Then I need to point out one other thing. Proponents of the ‘forced’ group makes you ‘friends’ philosophy are evidently missing, or not playing parts of the Guild Wars 2 game where you do need groups. Or are strongly encouraged to have them.
Try soloing a dungeon, hey?
If you opt to do dungeons on a regular basis, I should think that one would eventually have repeated encounters with similar people with similar interests or the same goals (must have glow-in-the-dark greatsword…) and perhaps even become friendly with them. Or at least, end up finding a guild which feeds that need, and again, ending up with similarly dungeon-oriented people.
I see nothing wrong with leaving the leveling game as the most casual choice, enjoyable and peaceful even for soloers, with the option to play alongside, and even, if you’re feeling brave and want to use /say to say hi, playing -with- someone who responds back in kind.
Then let’s talk about WvW, where I suspect the slower leveling casual folk have lost most of the level 80s to, on the higher ranked servers, at least.
It’s been one of the best places for me to repeatedly see the same faces and get more familiar with them.
Heck, I even get to recognize ‘celebrities’ in a sense, or at least, people that are active in some way on forums, blogs, guild leaders and so on.
I’ve seen many more people, Kylia Deprigen from Avatar Dynasty, Darkshaunz from Twelve, Flake, Thalantyr, Grishnakk and Yan Weng from The Kelly Gang, and lots more besides. Just no screenshots yet.
It’s got to the point where I, one of the most antisocial people I know, feel at least…positively inclined towards those names, rather than thinking that they are all strangers and unknown and scary. It’s barely been a month.
Trust and friendship may take a longer time or never (I would be that silent and clumsy Charr lunk in the corner – Finder Blazebane [uA] because I can’t type and fight at the same time, falling off cliffs and walls and doing stupid shit until I figure stuff out) but we are at least, for better or for worse, server mates (until someone transfers off.)
If you yourself don’t pay any attention to the names that you are seeing run all about and around you on your own server, well, whose fault is it?
ArenaNet’s? Must they implement a voice-over that reads out the names of those guys you encounter in your play for you to notice them?
Must they be in some kind of party UI in order for you to see them? And which game have you been playing that you’ve been focusing more on the UI than on the world?
If you don’t read forum boards or take the trouble to read the guild list of your own server or notice the preponderence of such and such guild tags around you, then how can you hope to be friends if you didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention to begin with?
I don’t believe in artificial friends. I don’t need people fake smiling at me making nice because they reallly need me to tank or heal (“plz plz u’r so gooood.”)
Read between the lines. It says: “I want my loot. I need you to get me my loot.”
That’s not friendship.
That’s just making use of people.
I’ll take playing alongside each other, together, without words, with the people I see around me any day.