How do we level up player relationships? We work hard at leveling up their skills with careful scaffolding of level difficulty combined with a slow drip of new concepts. We level up their virtual skills and sense of power with RPG style leveling schemes. But can we level up players from strangers to friends that cooperate?
In psychology, there’s numerous studies on how friendships form. They identify factors like similarity, repeated unplanned interactions (logistics) and the economics of reciprocation loops. All those are factors we can directly manipulate with our game designs. We do this already in a folk design fashion with blindly followed MMO conventions. However, we can explicitly design systems that methodically create positive human relationships. What are the exact tools? What elements should a crafted friendship leveling system contain?
This is a group that would require some research ahead of time. Collect some papers. Bring them with you. Let’s not just sit around and bullshit, but start with materials and distill out something real and useful.
Some initial reading and viewing that might be of interest
- Multiplayer skill atoms: http://www.projecthorseshoe.com/reports/ph08/ph08r5.htm A previous work group that looked at applying interaction loops to multiplayer games. Very similar to reciprocation loops and a good starting point.
- Governance in F2P: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1020771/Governance-in-F2P-Multiplayer Here’s a talk I did at GDC a couple years ago that covers some of the research around the economics of friendship creation.