Improving the social side of WoW

While pew pewing my way through an LFR the other night Gantagious from Skywall dropped a throwaway comment that immediately struck a chord with me. I don’t recall the exact words, but it was something along the lines of: “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a like function kind of like the opposite of /ignore which would get you grouped with good people more often?”

That idea, combined with an excellent article on WoWInsider today from Olivia Grace about rage and the social side of WoW, got my mind churning.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could favorite people (just like you can /ignore them) and you’d be more likely to be randomly grouped with your favorites? This, alone, would be awesome, but the idea could go much, much further and start to add some accountability to your actions in WoW.

The friends and RealID offering in WoW has always struck me as a very shallow social element in what is supposed to be a highly social game, with the rest being ignored as a “that’s what guilds are for” type deal. Guilds are great, don’t get me wrong, but there is more to the game than the group of people that you have typing in green in your in game IRC channel.

What if you could rate people (1-5 stars for example) against the following categories:

  • Skill at current role
  • Personal conduct
  • etc

With the resulting list of people filterable by you as pseudo friends list for pugs and planned dungeons or raids, but also used behind the scenes to influence both party’s likelihood of being grouped together again? This to me would start to build micro communities out of the inherently anonymous and transactional environment that is LFR/LFD/Random BGs (Let’s call it LF(X)).

Underneath it all, Blizzard could better track the bad stuff:

  • Kicks suggested, voted and received
  • Complaints
  • Ignores etc

…and find ways to systematically encourage better behaviour. Much like sites linking to each other help to police site relevancy in search engines, similar smarts could be used to make the system relatively self policing (some one giving heaps of bad reviews, yet receiving many bad reviews from 5 star players, would probably signify this person as a lightning rod for bad behaviour, for example)

PvP could benefit from this too – did someone swoop in and assist you while out in the world? Or perhaps an awesome player in a random BG and you teamed up to wreck havoc. If you rate each other, chances are you’ll start appearing together in Random BGs more and more. Seems legit to me.

With a system like this in place, your random groups would start to align towards the people who you’re rated (and vice versa) and the social side of the game would start to re-emerge. It would be awesome to to start seeing more of the people (albeit strangers) that you enjoyed playing with in LF(X) runs. On the back of a social circle forming from a feature like this, guilds, pugs, or planned runs could naturally coalesce.

In a full system like this, you could also be rated and commented on, to elevate your profile and standing in the community. This, combined with Proving Ground scores, and maybe some data-mined metrics from action runs you have participated in could start to provide a great player profile offering.

Back in the day, I formed one of these communities by using a private channel in game (this was back in Vanilla). People who you rated from a random run (Normally by spamming trade with LF2MLBRS type acronyms) were invited via whisper to a channel where runs of known good players started naturally forming outside of guild alliances (or obligations). It was awesome! On a wider scale as an in game system it could, quite literally, change the game for many casual players.

Services like OpenRaid provide this kind of community to some extent, but there is something inherently hard (or medium at the very least) core about an external service like that which would (I suspect) prevent many “normal” players from using it – speaking personally I have been a WoW fan since vanilla and have only just joined.

The folks at Blizzard have been very open about the challenges of LFR level content and the behaviour many people are displaying it, as well as the erosion or demise of the social aspects of these tiers of content. Could this be the answer? There are many possible solutions to this problem but I think this could be a real contender.

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