Another MMORPG trend of late appears to be tools that ‘facilitate’ the player’s gaming experience. The question is, is more lost than gained?
Is the Design Bad?
I stand firmly in the camp that anonymity runs contrary to accountability. You cannot achieve cohesion without accountability. There is no inherent vested interest on a personal level. Sure, you can seek out material investments, via currency etc, but different people place different value on these things, and that will ultimately lead to a breakdown in the failsafe. ‘Well people place different value on their identity’! This is true, however, if you discriminate the identities of known perpetrators, it matters not what material goods they offer. The reciprocal doesn’t hold, as whatever material discriminator used can always be acquired.
Can the Design be Good?
It depends on what is defined as ‘good’. Success varies depending on the yardstick used. If I remove challenge from the equation, and open the gates to the ‘zerg’ concept, then it matters not what sort of groups form much less how they are formed.
If I keep challenge around, by derivation I also keep around frustration and the need for coordination. In the setting of a group, only personal ties between players facilitate coordination and shield the group from frustration. Other solutions might exist, but none that I can think of that couldn’t eventually see breakdown or abuse.
This is a [very old] post that outlined the difficulties in dealing with a gaming population that sought accessibility [for all]. (Upcoming post on barriers to entry). Namely, smaller raid sizes. There are lessons to be learnt from the question in the OP, and an answer provided by poster # 6. It’s ok, I’ll wait before going further while the post(s) is(are) read.
You’ve read it?
The question here is different, but the answer is the same. The question is ‘why is player-formed grouping superior to designer-formed grouping’? Of course, since you read the links, you know the answer.
The succession of power is a concept too familiar to world societies. Those having an established institution for it are stable. Those that don’t… The population needs to agree on their representation. This involves trust. The representation needs the population to be confident in him/her. This involves competence. Adam indicates as much in his OP on the matter.
The only way that you can ensure a solid group forming is ironically to keep your hands out of the batter. People will sort themselves out, and in so doing, will devise systems of trust around competent people. But it requires failure as well: learning who is competent, who is dependable etc. The fact of the matter is you cannot offer an path that offers an easy reward void of the hard lessons and expect it to not backfire.
As a game designer, you play the role of God. If you design the mechanics you wish to see take place, you fail. You are patching effects, not causes. If you design the environment, the setting required that allows the mechanic to blossom, and provide the tools through which to act on, then you’re winning. (Duh).