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Engineering Relationships

The Mechanics of Death

Beyond specific game mechanics, the world of EQ is also more dangerous than the world of DAOC. In EQ, when you die, your items stay on your corpse and you must travel to your corpse to retrieve your items. There is the chance you may not find your corpse, and also a chance that you may lose all your items if your corpse decays, apart from the frustration of having to retrieve your corpse instead of gaining XP. Both teleports and resurrection can only be cast by one or two classes, so dying is a very "expensive" event in EQ. DAOC is much safer in comparison. Your items stay with you instead of the corpse when you die; everything is a horse-ride away; you canít de-level because of experience loss; and resurrection is a low-level spell that several classes have. Trust is forged through dangerous and high-risk situations. You donít ever need to trust anyone except when the situation is dangerous, and EQ does this much better than DAOC. The game design decision to make death easy in DAOC also makes players more nonchalant about dying. Dying is a trivial event in DAOC. But because trusting friendships are forged from dangerous encounters, the mechanics of death actually have a huge influence on how relationships develop.


Of course in listing all these differences between EQ and DAOC, one has to keep in mind that game design is about compromising among multiple objectives, and Mythic purposely chose to streamline certain game features while Verant streamlined others. One might get the sense from the above contrasts that Mythic made poor decisions. This is not meant to be the case at all, and it must be pointed out again that game balancing oftentimes leads to compromises such as the ones mentioned.

In single player and limited multiplayer games, system rules and game mechanics mainly have an impact on how fun and engaging the game is. In MMORPGs, game mechanics have more far-reaching effects. Differences in game mechanics influence how an economy develops as well as how social relationships form. As upcoming MMORPGs provide integrated real-estate and player-elected governments, one could imagine using these worlds as social or political simulations in an attempt to understand large-scale human behavior without the fear of inflicting real world consequences. Or perhaps, we might come to realize that the rules of social interaction in online environments are so different from those in the real world that we need new theories to understand these phenomena.

Questions for Readers: Are there other game mechanics that influence the formation and development of social relationships or social networks? What other interesting large-scale behaviors or phenomena do game mechanics affect? (comment below)



Did EQ pay you to do this?

There is an immense sense of community and sharing in DAoC. In fact all the EQ player feed back you quote has happened in DAoC.

Posted by: Cadieve on March 31, 2003 11:45 AM

No, my research isn't funded in any way. As stated in the opening paragraph, this is more of a theoretical opinion piece rather than an empirical piece.

I drew from my own experience with these two games in writing this essay (I have had characters around level 40 in both games).

And of course I'm not saying that relationships/altruism do not occur in DAOC, but in my experience, the community and relationships within DAOC felt qualitatively different from those in EQ.

Any players who have tried both games who agree/disagree with this?

The point isn't that DAOC is a "worse" game (something I emphasize at the end of the essay), but that compromises in game mechanics design probably do have an effect on how the game plays. The question isn't whether one game is better than the other, but whether the difference in game mechanics affect the way relationships form.

Posted by: Nick Yee on March 31, 2003 12:20 PM

There is a new game that was recently released that might be of interest in your survey. In Shadowbane, players can build their onw cities and governments and can also destroy each other's cities. The game is also entirely PvP. There are not nor will there ever be a non-PvP server (ever). A PvP game i think would have different interactions and such, simply because someone can walk up and kill you. In fact, it might be that players arent as nice in shadowbane. In everquest, all you could be was nice, there was no choice to kill or not to. In SB you can walk up to someone or a group that just had a tough battle and is low on hp/mana/sta, and kill them and take all their loot.
It could be that while in EQ some players are motivated by other people being nice to them in early levels to continue playing, but in shadowbane many players might be fueled by revenge on a higher level player that "ganked" or killed them when they were a lowbie and took all their gear.
Also, it is definately the case that the PvP element inspires even MORE player to player interaction than everquest, simply because of PvP. I played in beta for about a year and a half, and i cannot tell you how many times people ganked by PKs formed a group or two to get revenge (and their items back) upon the PKs. In fact, entire guilds have been formed on the PK/anti-PK idea.
Also, the guilds in SB are much more interactive (player to player) than in EQ (i played EQ for about 2 years).The Tree of life, a place where players bind to and respawn when they die (u cannot bind just anywhere), increases the interaction immensly. It creates a sense of belonging that i simply did not feel in my guild in EQ.
Also, because cities can be destroyed and guilds lost, people must help defend and also to recruit new members, because more members=more defense and a bigger guild. Whenever our city was attacked, all players were immediately REQUIRED to come back to the city and help defend.

Phew, i had more to say, but figured the post has gotten long enough already. I really hope you look into SB in a couple of months (not right now, the game is just now getting off its feet). There are still some bugs and such, and in a few months i believe it will be ready to look at as a social model.

Posted by: Stratios on March 31, 2003 1:16 PM

whoops, i had no idea where to put this post, so dont think it was a response to the two above it (lol)

Posted by: Stratios on March 31, 2003 1:17 PM

Along with the dependencies of EQ (needing other classes to do things for you) can bring a lot of pain. Lately the EQ people have put in a lot of systems for players to transport themselves around without needing a port most of the time.

While dependency can help forge relationships, it can also bring a lot pain when you are jumping between two zones to find groups, and can't find a group, and you ended up running around for 3 hours and get no experience and have to go to bed.

Posted by: general_anders on March 31, 2003 4:07 PM

I have some experience with both games, and I agree that the mechanics of EQ leave more room for relationship-building than DAoC. Like Nick already stated, this doesn't mean relationships aren't formed in DAoC. However, there is a lot of downtime in EQ which forces you into doing something with that time, and the easiest thing to do to pass that time is talk with group-mates, guild members, etc.

The first time I quit EQ and moved to DAoC, I found I could get a lot more done on my own in a given amount of time and without the need to interact with other people. While I still could have found other people to build relationships with easily, I wasn't forced into it, like I felt I was with EQ.

Posted by: Nick Simpson on March 31, 2003 4:50 PM

The RvR aspect of Daoc is never really considered in the above article. In my opinion, the 'point' or end game of daoc is RvR, while in EQ the end game still rests upon killing mobs.

While the end results might be the same, I think its faulty to compare the PvE experiences of the two in the same light. Certainly EQ promotes more character dependency in PvE, for its the 'point' of the game. If one wants to be successful in daoc, RvR player dependencies probably reach the level that those in EQ do, (or far surpass them depending on your point of view).

However there still isn't much time for chatting during RvR. That said, I believe there is a very large amount of time for chatting while on horse rides, waiting for the port, or while crafting. However, this communication is strictly for the most part held within guilds or alliances, and I believe that is a major difference between EQ communication. In EQ, you are almost forced to talk to people you wouldn't regularly talk to. In daoc there is rarely a reason to ever talk to anyone outside of your close circle of friends/guild. I believe in the end that daoc promotes just as much guild unity and friendship as EQ does, but not nearly as many external relationships.

Posted by: Trias on March 31, 2003 11:45 PM

i think to get a good sense of the community in DAoC, you should take a look at the VN Boards, esp. the Roleplaying servers. the communities found on the RP servers are very tight knit.

Guinevere, Percival and Nimue are the servers.
Link to Guinevere (my primary server of play though i play on the other two RP servers as well):

on both Guin and Percival, there have been players that passed away, in which the communities specific to each server have come together to give their condolences and lend support. truly an inspiring thing to see.

some are even trusting enough to share RL problems (giving them the benefit of the doubt), and people do give help and advice.

so, perhaps you can take a look at the RP servers in DAoC, and see how things are very much different on thr normal servers.

Posted by: Darryl / Ashlifem on April 1, 2003 10:27 AM

It might be worthwhile to look at A Tale in the Desert, a recent (and quite different) MMORPG. Since I've been playing it quite a lot lately, the latest survey left me feeling a bit cold... The game is almost purely social, and ideas like "would you like to be seen as a strong warrior" just don't apply at all!

In any case, it's an interesting new development. You can find more info at and fan sites.

Posted by: Anax on April 1, 2003 9:33 PM

I'll agree with Trias, that the end-game of DAoC is very different from what I understand the end-game of EQ to be. I disagree, however, that there is little time in RvR for conversation. My RvR experience is taken from playing a level 50 character in Hibernia and while occassionally the action comes thick and heavy, a large part of RvR time is spent either 1) travelling or 2) waiting. During these times, one typically converses at length with one's fellow group-mates/guild-mates. As a result, the RvR community which develops is quite close-knit. One advantage of DAoC's faster leveling process is that characters move into the end-game at a much faster rate than in EQ. This makes sense from a design perspective for Mythic as the focus of the game is the end-game, rather than the leveling process.

The analysis of the PvE aspects of DAoC vs. EQ are probably right-on, but in order to truly appreciate the qualitatively different situation produced by RvR, one must play as a level 50 character (i.e. when the majority of your time is spent in RvR).

Posted by: Aaron on April 2, 2003 12:30 PM

"Any players who have tried both games who agree/disagree with this?

... The question isn't whether one game is better than the other, but whether the difference in game mechanics affect the way relationships form."

Yes, I'd somewhat disagree. The examples cited are methods of character interdependence in EQ. Can exactly the same scenarios be seen in DAoC? No, as you pointed out, death has a different meaning in DAoC. But, but the same token, DAoC has opportunities for interdependence that EQ does not.

For example: buffs. In EQ, a buffer can, let's say, hand out a hundred SoWs over the course of an hour. In DAoC, the buffer can have a maximum 20 buffs active. So, should someone wandering by get three buffs from a buffer -- the wanderer has gotten a LOT. The "economics" of buffing in the two games isn't the same, just as death isn't the same.

Likewise, EQ has significant barriers to group interaction, namely levels restricting the experience earned in groups. DAoC has considerbly more flexible group experience. Also, smaller "realms" in DAoC ensure that players interact with the same group more often (smaller communities). Battlegrounds and RvR encourage these communities to work together. Crafting creates an indebtedness from the buyer to the crafter.

Do the relationships form "differently?" No, not that very different. You work together to form interdependancies and indebtedness. The methods may have some small differences though. Perhaps EQ uses a method of greater and less frequent indebtedness (the high cost of deaths and rezzes), while DAoC uses a method of continued minor idebtedness within a smaller community (minor resses that are more frequent, buffs, crafting ...).

Posted by: Tanandae on April 2, 2003 5:05 PM

Tanandae, you have some good points, but in my experience, asking for buffs is not really a part of the DAOC "culture" whereas it is a big part of the EQ culture. (I haven't played DAOC recently - has this changed?)

The other thing is that a few big acts of altruism are more powerful than the combination of frequent small rezzes/buffs. They aren't linear and 4 small DAOC rezzes don't equal one EQ rez. In a way, minor indebtedness never gets anywhere.

What bonds people are memorable/moving acts, and this is what we should be comparing.

Posted by: Nick Yee on April 2, 2003 5:38 PM

DAoC's concept of realm versus realm also enforces players to gather in massive numbers. Dragon raids or often consist of 150+ people. Relic raid in fact need the whole realm to act coordinately, which might be 200+ people. Even people from different time zones are forced to cooperate if they want success in relic raid.

The relationship between different realms also brings new interesting issues. Perhaps a task for next survey? :P

Posted by: Marc on April 3, 2003 2:05 AM

WEll, I used to play EQ, and did so for about 2 years. Recently I made the switch to DAOC and love it. DAOC's mechanics make the game much more fun, unlike EQ's lack of focus in the "noob" stages, DAOC really is fun from level one to level fifty. This fact alone makes the game a better all around game.

Also, in your essay you mention how it is easier to form relationships in EQ through rezzes, etc. I found in EQ that i NEVER got a rez because most clerics/pallies just didn't care OR wanted enormous ammounts of plat. In DAOC the people are more generous due to the fact rezzing doesn't take alot of power, and many classes have it. So this makes more people rezzing thus making more bonds. And already in DAOC ive made friends, and got into a very great guild (Celtic Fury). When you group in DAOC its like creating a kindship with all the poeple in the group and very often you group sometime after that again with the same people.

So in short I think DAOC's mechanics and gameplay make it easier, and quicker, to make bonds with other players.

Posted by: Chris on April 3, 2003 10:31 AM

I agree that the grouping situation in DAoC is better, but that is my opinion. They have better tools for finding a group in Dark Age (At least, its better than when I quit EQ). One thing that Ive noticed in DAoC is that as a new person playing from 1-10 your chances of having someone give you money, or a guild to pick you up and give you money are much higher than in EQ. You rarely ever see beggars in DAoC, where as last I checked it was quite diffrent in EQ. The affect of that is as that player lvls they see that person that gave them some coin at a lower lvl around and may form a relationship with them.

Ive also noticed that people in general are nicer in DAoC, maybe you could look into that? if some more people agree of course.

I had some friends of mine try DAoC who had played EQ before and one of their complaints was that you couldnt shout over zones, personally, I like this feature. but they never played far enough to get into a large guild who was a member of a large alliance. I know some alliances are strict in their chat but the one Im in is very open with it, and its constantly going with 250-400ish people seeing it.

Also, another thing at low lvls, is that your much more likely to recieve left over items from crafters in DAoC than you are in EQ and the items are much more useful, again, with the reciever possibly forming a relationship with this person.

Ive start toons on a couple diffrent servers and I have made new friends on each one simply by finding someone that is playing the class I want to be (This is if I dont know much about the class) and chatting with them about it for a while about what to spec and so forth, this is also something that doesnt happen in EQ cause you dont have to spec in anything, its all wide open.

But thats just my experience.

Posted by: Erich on April 3, 2003 9:25 PM

I have played EQ, UO and DAoC. There is social interaction with all 3 games to varying degrees. The degrees are based on the what the writer has stated. EQ has major down times and allows alot of freetme to chat nd interact. DAoC comes in second for the social gamer and UO is last.

UO is last because alot, of what I remember of it, you could do solo once you were a 4-5X GMer. I played a 5X GM warrior/healer and there wasnt much I couldnt do alone. No real need to group up. Even against PKs I got my vengence. (there were tricks, exploding potions to break root etc)

In DAoC I play characters on 2 different servers and a member of guilds on each. Alliance chat and guild chat are always going with shouts for help here and there and groups forming for this and that. RVR is the end game in DAoC but it's nothing more than a mass gaggle of players rushing back and forth at each other killing and being killed for realm points. Rarely have I been in a RVR group that had any cohesion or tactical sense of how to fight. On the rare occasions that I find a group that does RvR is fun fun. DAoC is "EQ for dummies" (dont be offended I still play it) I just mean that its considerably simplified when compared to EQ.

Bottom line is you are going to play what you like to play, I liked all 3 and still play 2 of them.

Posted by: Joe on April 4, 2003 10:50 AM


I wrote a paper about supporting communities in MMORPGs by game design. It is discussing some of the same problems as this essay. It's a pity I did not find this earlier. Please let me know if you want to discuss about the subject :) (I left my e-mail address here)


Posted by: Elina Koivisto on September 4, 2003 6:04 AM

You may want to revisit this subject reviewing the new games out. In particular Star Wars Galaxies. I read some interesting developer notes not too long ago that kept creeping into my mind as I read your article. As I recall, the developer notes mentioned that there are many SWG constructs designed specifically to force player interaction. And particularly, player interaction between players that have very different styles of play.

In that game it is not uncommon to find very large groups of people hanging out for hours in cantinas. They have no shared goal and some do not progress at all while there but still there is an attraction to being "social".

Anyway, I thought you might find that interesting.

Posted by: Travis on December 2, 2003 9:53 AM

A more interesting point of consideration in addition to what you already have would be how the two games that you compared and contrasted adversely affect the development of true social interaction versus what is predominantly artificial social interaction. The mechanics of the two games play a large role in this. In EQ, if your character dies, you have to get your corpse before it rots, period. If you've invested a lot of time into the game, then your gear is a large part of your character, and you can't just let the corpse rot. I've seen people give up on doing things in real life in favor of finding their corpse and getting back the gear that they lost. This is a decided difference from DAOC. In EQ, if you die at the bottom of a dungeon, you're next few hours are going to spent looking for a way to get back there, if your group got wiped. In DAOC, if you die at the bottom of a dungeon, you can decided to hunt back down if you feel like getting back that half bubble of experience, or you can just log out and go hang out with your friends. The issue of social interaction generated by the death mechanism in each game is worth exploring, but that is also an important factor in the game. If you can lose your gear to corpse rotting or to another player, then you want to keep playing that game to get back what you lost, and your real life will suffer because of that, in a game like DAOC where death is a minor annoyance, you don't really have to sacrifice huge portions of time to returning to where you died.


The buffing system of the two games is very different, as some others have commented on. I would beg to differ on the idea that making the classes interdependent makes for a better game, however. The way that EQ devs decided to cope with different classes was by making certain roles necessary and then relegating these roles to certain classes. The issue is that the game is centered around combat, and not all of these roles serve to enhance a group in combat. There was the 'Holy Trinity' of warrior, cleric, and enchanter, and beyond that it was just icing on the cake. Considering the fact that this makes up a fourth of the available classes (if that), there is obviously a huge problem with the way that the game was designed. Druids, for example, had ports and SoW, but those didn't help a group in the middle of a fight. Their heals were second rate, their nukes were second rate, their buffs were second rate, etc. While this would make them seem fairly useful, remember that you're talking about a population of 2000+ people per server, which means that if you want a healer, then you get a damn cleric, not a druid. What your study of the class interdependency fails to mention (about EQ) is the fact that this 'interdependency' really means that everyone depends on the clerics for buffs and heals, on the enchanters for crack and mez, on the warriors to tank and damage deal, and the wizards to nuke and port (especially with the wizards' ability to teleport their targets to locations without going themselves. This leaves a large number of people out in the cold, unless they want to play one of those four classes. In DAOC, there is a similar amount of interdependency, but the proliferation of spells means that this interdependency is less based on a single class and more on who is available at the time to help, which is neither better nor worse, simply different. Since more people can do more things, there's less reason for people who want to be useful to cookie cutter their characters for the sake of the endgame.


As for the endgame of the two games, it is important to realize the giant difference between the two games in terms of their endgames. EQ provides an endgame that is only enjoyable if the player is in a large guild that can take down the mobs that become increasingly obscene as the EQ devs make harder and harder mobs that drop better and better loot. The cycle spirals out of control as the devs continue creating content for the uber guilds, leaving the lower level players to try in vain to catch up with their betters. If it turns out that a newb picked a class that isn't in the Holy Trinity? Well, it's up in the air as to whether anyone really wants them. DAOC's endgame doesn't require the developers to really develop the obscene spiral of increasingly powerful boss mobs for the guilds. Instead, since the players fight amongst themselves for Realm Points and keeps, it allows them to create more content related to the Realm vs Realm fighting. Also, as evident with most PvP games, the idea of going out to kill another player is more appealing than sitting around camping mobs. DAOC is built around the idea of RvR combat, where EQ added PvP as an afterthought. I can't think straight, so that's all I can do for now.... odd cutoff, maybe... but ... whatever...

Posted by: Arradine on February 8, 2004 10:18 PM

[Are there other game mechanics that influence the formation and development of social relationships or social networks? What other interesting large-scale behaviors or phenomena do game mechanics affect?]

I think one of the biggest game factors that may assist in the formation of social relationships is world size. In a game like World of Warcraft, you can travel across the planet in ten minutes, in Everquest, getting to a place like Katta Castellum used to take me half an hour of running. With all that time spent on autorun, I had a lot of time to chat. Also, having company on those long treks really helped me to bond with anyone willing to go such a long distance with me to make sure I stayed safe, I was always very thankful. In WoW, there is almost no need for escorts or chat time, you can be anywhere almost instantly and all the zones you'd want to travel to are grouped together in effortless logical paths. (i.e. lv.1-12 zone leads to level 13-18 zone, leads to level 19-24 zone, etc.)

As far as overlying game mechanics that effect social interaction, exploration of the World of Warcraft Horde vs. Alliance setup would seem interesting. I've noticed from personal play that the Alliance tends to be more made up of goal/item based players, interested in climbing the ladder of gear and looking cooler. Whereas the Horde players tend to be more focused on the PvP aspect, and seem more helpful to eachother. Could the separation of attractive, more human, more recognizeable characters from the monstrous, less reocnizeable, more abberant characters be drawing some kind of line through two different types of players?

I wonder.

Posted by: ZeroTwo on November 7, 2005 2:23 PM

Star Wars galaxies did a very good job of encouraging socialization. I don't play the game anymore, so I can only describe what it was like when it first came out, but here are some of the things I noticed in that game:

1. Character interdependency. e.g. Fighter classes got wounds that could only be healed by doctors and battle fatigue that could only be healed by dancers; you had to teach skills to other players in order to get apprentice points before you could level your skills.

2. Plenty of down time. Healing wounds, waiting for a shuttle at the starport, decorating your house, etc. Plenty of time to chat.

3. Strong non-combat classes. I once played a dancer. I hung out at the cantina for hours, just chatting and dancing and trying on new clothes. Never had a single fight.

4. High levels of customization. Characters looked strikingly different from each other. Players could decorate their homes, and found excuses to invite people over to visit their homes. Players could create their own cities. It gave people alot of opportunity to express their individuality. People would strike up conversations just because they liked what you were wearing.

5. Encouraging socialization feeds back on itself. Once you allow players to create a beautiful city, then they want people to visit their city, so they host events, tournaments, weddings, parties, etc. People love to show off the decorations in their houses, or their newest weapons. If you give players reasonable encouragement to socialize, then they will run with it and make they social aspect even stronger.

6. Forcing players to congregate in certain areas. In SWG, there were certain cities or buildings that you knew would always have alot of people in them. I guess it was a matter of having alot of useful NPCs and resources in a small area (like Coronet City), or having a place that all players have to occasionally visit (like the hospital or cantina or starport).

Posted by: FruitPie on June 15, 2006 8:58 PM

Well I play Lineage II for quite some time... both on official and private servers. And compared to other MMORPGs I've played before this is one of the most cooperative games around - you simply can not progress without a clan/friend... even for crafting low grade items, you need a lot of mats that only a larger group of players can gather. Also, the whole game is fully pvp - anytime, anywhere (except for cities) you can attacked/be attacked by anyone... this means you need others to help you quite often.
I've actually met the guys from my clan in real life couple of times (BBQ and so on :-) - and it was fine... no dating so far though ;-)

Posted by: Salty Dog on October 10, 2006 6:49 AM

The point isn't that DAOC is a "worse" game (something I emphasize at the end of the essay), but that compromises in game mechanics design probably do have an effect on how the game plays. The question isn't whether one game is better than the other, but whether the difference in game mechanics affect the way relationships form.

Posted by: abby dreet on July 23, 2007 11:41 AM
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