Social Architectures in MMOs
Many respondents commented on death penalties and information databases because those were the two examples provided in the question prompt. Below, we will consider examples of other game mechanics that respondents suggested on their own.
Downtime / Pacing
Game pacing has increased dramatically. In EQ, it took significantly longer to kill mobs and there was also much more downtime between combat. As some respondents pointed out, the availability of downtime increased social interaction among players.
Relationships always seemed more based on the speed of the game and the speed of progress than anything else - EQ was so slow and had so much downtime that you had plenty of time to chat, help people in fights, buff passersby and answer questions. In WoW no one stops to look cos by the time they have stopped to see if someone needs helps it's probably too late. [M, 38]
I think the total lack of downtime where you rest and relax together before fighting the next challenge lowers your chances of having a good interaction with people. Without those connections, those hooks most people will never ask questions about each other or make commonality discoveries. [M, 35]
The significantly smaller communities of early MMOs also made it more likely that players knew other players on their server. Some respondents commented on how the small world phenomenon shaped social interactions.
In EverQuest, while admittedly dealing with smaller populations, there were such things as server reputations. If you got a bad rep as a ninja looter, or just as an all-around jerk, people knew your name, and there was a very real blacklist that you would find yourself on that would keep you out of any reputable guild and most pickup groups. Nothing of that sort seems to exist in Warcraft. [M, 36]
It's hard to decide if the stronger sense of community in EQ/UO came from death and grouping mechanics or simply from the fact that those games were smaller communities to begin with. [M, 36]
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