WildStar Wednesday: Social Systems
By David "Scooter" Bass - August 08, 2012
Welcome to WildStar Wednesday! This week, we'd like to introduce you to Victoria, one of the members of the Social Systems team here at Carbine. As the Community team, we're pretty partial to anything that encourages players to be more social, so we asked Victoria to drop by and tell us what it is she does and why. Enjoy!
Hey WildStar fans! My name is Victoria Dollbaum and I am the Social Systems Designer for WildStar. You've probably heard it mentioned in previous interviews that we have one designer that's entirely focused on the social experience in WildStar.
I design all of the features that allow and encourage you to form relationships in WildStar, including how you connect with your current friends and how you are incentivized to make new friends. My systems are intended to make you as the player an immersed inhabitant of the world of Nexus, not just a transitory visitor to another virtual world.
My experience as an avid MMO player and guild master influences my designs greatly. It's one thing to know how guilds form, grow, and break apart and how that affects your player base. It's another thing entirely to experience it from the inside when those people are close to you, and you just want to keep them engaged in a game you love. Joining a new MMO nowadays, it's a very difficult task to get an established older guild to join and stay as a whole group. It's an even more difficult task to recruit new, quality players when there are so many established guilds out there. With so many challenges introduced by the burgeoning social scene of newly released MMOs, and with so few of those games providing the tools that would allow players to make the connections (new and old) that keep them playing, it's been important to us to keep those challenges in mind as we develop our social systems.
Our goals are pretty simple: we want to make it easy for you to begin your WildStar experience with the people you know, from the first moment you land on planet Nexus. Then, from the safety net of your inner circle of friends, we'll give you the opportunity to make new friends who have similar play styles and interests as you.
I formed my guild (or linkshell as it is known in FFXI) in Final Fantasy XI almost 10 years ago, and since then, there hasn't been a game that has facilitated the significant social connections like the ones I made in that community. Among experienced MMO players, there's a lot of nostalgia surrounding the older MMOs because the social systems they offered, provided, and forced upon players were vastly different than the systems found in current MMORPGs. These systems inspired loyalty, friendship, fear, hatred, camaraderie, competitiveness, pride, jealousy, adventure, love, sadness, and other powerful feelings in players. Somewhere along the way, MMOs have pared themselves down to a few basic social tools (chat, guilds, grouping) and a primary game type (solo play and questing) that no longer inspires those powerful feelings. Players overall are less involved, physically and emotionally, in the games they are playing.
My goal is to create systems that will bring back these feelings in players; to bring them into the world as inhabitants in a real way. The goal is to build a community that we'll be proud to have created and be a part of--to build a community that players will want to BE a part of, and interact with, on a daily basis.
Now, I know that the older MMOs can be brutal. The reason that players were so social is because they waited 3 hours for a boss to spawn. They had the time to socialize and get to know each other. We're not going to be giving you grindy, time sink tasks in order to make you socialize. Instead, we'll give you the tools and the incentives to meet your fellow players, join them in their adventures, and hopefully make some lasting friendships (or enemies!). We want the feeling of old school MMOs without the brutal punishments that those same MMOs often doled out if you didn't want to play their way. We offer the carrot, not the stick.
If you don't like carrots, maybe we can find another flavor of carrot you would enjoy...carrot cake, maybe?
Social systems are entirely opt-in, that's important for you to know. My intent is to provide systems that you want to participate in, and that you're sufficiently rewarded for choosing to participate. There are those of you out there that are so fundamentally against systems such as housing. It's a common player worry that these systems can take away from the development time of other features such as combat or content. Let me ease your worries in that I am strictly a Social Designer, so all of my love and attention goes into providing you guilds and housing and other crucial social features without interrupting the development of all those other features that are essential to you.
There are those who feel they aren't social, and wouldn't use features such as housing. In some other games, housing is a standalone feature, an afterthought that was weakly tied into core game systems, if at all. We want all of our social systems, especially housing, to be useful to our players and tied into the rest of the game and, more importantly, to your interests. Do you like tradeskills? You'll be able to grow and harvest materials on your property, and then turn them into crafted items right there. Do you like to raid? You'll be able to store and receive buffs, show off raid kills in your trophy room, and even have quick access to a dungeon or a raid. Is there a holiday event going on? You can definitely participate in the event in the open world of Nexus, but you can also find special housing specific events and rewards right on your property. Or you can host your own events- it's your house, after all.
WildStar is all about playing your way. You can choose to play solo. You can choose to not have a house. You can choose to make your housing property entirely private. You can also choose to be social, and connect with your friends properties (or even the ones that don't want a home of their own!).
We believe that the freedom of choice is what helps build a rich and rewarding MMO community.
Personally, I miss the social side of MMOs and I want to feel once again like I'm contributing to a living, breathing world. Allowing the community to experience all of the rewards and challenges that come through the interactions between their fellow WildStar players is a part of that.
These are the kinds of social features that our team is working to create for you in WildStar, and we can't for the opportunity to share more.