Friday, June 11, 2004

Player-Defined Organizations


Most MMOGs these days offer some form of long-duration and many-person groups. Whether they're called guilds or clans or corps or player associations, most MMOGs now offer some in-game tools offered to support these in-game community institutions.

However, something few MMOGs offer is to allow players themselves to define the forms of these institutions and -- more importantly -- the functional rules by which members advance within them. Instead, player associations are generally free-form and loosely defined aggregations of players, with all power to control the existence of the association held by one player. Players can simply say, "OK, you're the duke, she's a countess, and we're all knights," but basically you're just hoping everyone goes along with this kind of roleplaying because that's the only way it can currently be done.

This works, but I wonder if it's not missing some useful opportunities to make these associations a more active part of gameplay. What if these roles could be defined by players for their organizations? Even better, what if they could also define the rules by which players shift into and out of organizational roles to fit the organization's goals for gameplay?

"Player Organizations" is my name for this more general version of the player association concept. Here's how it could work.

Concept of Operation

Any player would be able to use a template to create a table of organization. You'd be able to specify the number of levels, the number of people allowed at each level (the "span"), and the names of individual levels (and possibly even groups of levels). Then you'd pick (from a predefined list of rules and triggers) the advancement criteria for going up to the next level.

For example, one person might create a T.O. on a military model: one Field Marshal [Army] who gives orders to two Generals [Brigade], each of whom gives orders to two Colonels [Regiment], each of whom gives orders to four Captains [Company], each of whom gives orders to two Lieutenants [Platoon], each of whom gives orders to four Sergeants [Squad], each of whom gives orders to eight Soldiers. That would give you an organization capable of holding 1207 people -- more than enough for most purposes, I'd think. If you needed more (and if you're the Field Marshal), you could always change the organizational definition to extend the span at one or more levels.

Rules of Advancement

In addition to the names of the ranks, the designer of a Player Organization would also be able to determine the rules for advancement. These would be selected from a predefined list of rule types supplied by the developers to avoid questions of subjectivity, as well as to reduce roleplaying requirements. (Although anyone who wanted to handle rank advancement purely through roleplaying could do so -- advancement rules should be optional.)

Moving up a rank in a military organization might be based on:

  • kills [something specific to a military organization]
  • XP earned in a particular skill or special organizational XP box
  • agreement of a majority of players at the next rank
  • available opening of the appropriate rank
The system itself would monitor "counting" or "trigger" rules to determine for each member of the organization (to whom those rules apply) whether the target has been met. Other rules would require organization members of the appropriate level and role to decide whether the terms of those rules have been met. The combination of these rules would allow the members of organizations to effectively control advancement within the organization. This would solve one of the problems with current "guild" systems, which is that the one person at the top of the group has all the power and responsibility for controlling position within the group. A Player Organization system would allow this power to be devolved into the organization. Players would not be required to do so; they could duplicate the existing guild approach if they chose, but at least they'd be able to create more egalitarian organizations if they wished to do so.

Organizational Diversity

Military organizations are an obvious application of the Player Organization system, but the beauty of the system is that it can be used to create any kind of organization.

Another person might want to form a crafting guild, and would set up her organization based on Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master levels with appropriate advancement rules. Yet another person might form an Entertainer's Union with his own set of levels, titles, and advancement rules; another person might form an organization like a modern business with a CEO, board of directors, VPs, Directors, Managers; and so on. The Player Organization system could accommodate all these and more.

Here's an example of how a player organization interested in crafting and selling products might be designed:









VP for R&D


Regional VP

Board Member

Resource Mgr.

Project Manager

Sales Manager




Account Rep.


(Naturally, at the top of the heap there'd have to be a CEO.)

So if you were interested in sales, you'd start off as an Account Representative talking to other players about the products available from your organization, and picking up any in-game skills that might be useful to that end. If your sales figures were good enough, then when a Sales Manager position opened up you might be considered for that position, at which point you'd get some kind of nice perks in addition to the new title. In return, you'd wind up spending more of your time helping to manage the activities of several Account Reps, and you'd be responsible for their sales to your Regional VP, who in turn oversees all sales in two or three areas and reports to the CFO of the entire organization.

Again, you could have similar hierarchies for any kind of player organization: military, commercial, entertainment, whatever.

It would be helpful to have a way to display these titles/roles within the game. This public recognition would help encourage players to use and participate in the organization-designing system. The system as I've described it would also allow you to have objective rules for moving up in the hierarchy, which is always better than "well, maybe I'll promote you... if I feel like it."

(Actually, one of the tricky bits of my idea is the mechanism for providing rules and perks for promotion. I think it would be possible to pre-define some specific kinds of promotion rules -- number of kills of enemy type X, for example, or Y accumulated experience points in skill Z -- that the organization's designer could associate with a rank/title. But this part of the system would need to be hashed out in more detail.)

Just for giggles, here's another kind of organization you could have:







5000 royal faction, male avatar



5000 royal faction, female avatar



4000 royal faction, male avatar, acceptance by King or Queen



4000 royal faction, female avatar, acceptance by King or Queen



3000 royal faction, male avatar, acceptance by King or Queen



3000 royal faction, female avatar, acceptance by King or Queen



2000 royal faction, male avatar, acceptance by any higher rank



2000 royal faction, female avatar, acceptance by any higher rank



1000 royal faction, male avatar, acceptance by any higher rank



1000 royal faction, female avatar, acceptance by any higher rank



600 royal faction, acceptance by any higher rank



250 royal faction, acceptance by any higher rank



acceptance by any higher rank

Note 1: The # denotes how many of each rank can exist at any one time, and is another kind of requirement.

Note 2: Acceptance by a higher rank is only required if at least one person holds the indicated rank. If no one does, then acceptance is automatic.

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