Monday, April 4, 2005

Player-Defined Organizations +

Following the notion of player-generated organizations in online games, how about letting them form "criminal" player organizations within the gameworld? This could be a good example of how letting players create their own in-game organizations could work in practice.

So let's imagine for a moment that there was a good MMORPG based on Star Wars, where there are two (but only two) player factions. With a generic player organization building tool, you could create "Jabba's Tail," a third player faction whose members were dedicated to helping expand the criminal empire of that vile gangster, Jabba the Hutt.

Members of a criminal organization would be able to rise in one of two branches: Muscle and Graft. Their minimum requirements might look something like this:





3500 Jabba faction, Master elite combat profession, acceptance by Boss


2000 Jabba faction, Novice elite combat profession


1000 Jabba faction, Novice elite combat profession


500 Jabba faction





3500 Jabba faction, Master Smuggler/Bounty Hunter, acceptance by Boss


2000 Jabba faction, Novice Smuggler/Bounty Hunter


1000 Jabba faction, Novice Smuggler/Bounty Hunter


500 Jabba faction

These requirements are constant -- you have to maintain all the requirements for a rank to keep that rank. For example, if an Enforcer dropped below 2000 Jabba faction, his rank would revert to Thug. If another Enforcer dropped all her skillboxes for Novice elite combat professions, her rank would be reduced to Brute.

In addition to these eight ranks, there'd be two others: Gangster, which is your starting rank within the organization and which has no requirements (other than applying to join), and Boss, which has the following minimum requirements:

  • 4500 Jabba faction
  • mastery of an elite combat profession, Smuggler, or Bounty Hunter
  • at least 25 million credits in personal assets, and
  • no existing Boss
And just to make things interesting, let's have two additional rules: 1) Anyone at the rank of Racketeer, Operator, Enforcer, Eliminator, or Boss can -- like Jedi -- be the target of a bounty. 2) Any Boss who dies as the result of a bounty loses so much face with Jabba that he or she is immediately penalized 1000 points of Jabba faction. This automatically drops him or her to the rank of Operator or Eliminator, whichever is appropriate (or provides a choice if both ranks are possible). The moment this happens, whichever Operator or Eliminator has the largest personal fortune (and at least 4500 Jabba faction) is elevated to Boss.

Now, notice something interesting here. Let's say you and I are both members of Jabba's Tail. I'm an Eliminator with 5000 points of Jabba faction, and you're the Boss. Furthermore, let's say I've made a lot of money. What's to stop me from spending some of that money to put a bounty on you, such that when a BH nails you and you drop below 4500 points of Jabba faction, my wealth enables me to become the next Boss?

Can you imagine the paranoia and gang mentality that the members of such a group would have? Every Boss would have to surround himself with trusted lieutenants... but what Boss would be able to trust all his lieutenants?


It's important to note that although this example of an underworld player organization is specific to the Star Wars universe, the basic model could be applied to any NPC faction in any MMORPG. If you retain the rank structure and just change the NPC faction type required to any criminal NPC faction, then this system becomes the model for any "criminal organization."

As a final sweetener, there's one more improvement I'd like to suggest for the entire player organization idea: Allow player factions to work just like NPC factions in terms of earning or losing faction points. If you do something to hurt another player faction, the game automatically deducts points from you related to that player faction; if you help one of them, you gain points with their faction, and so on.

As a corollary to this, it would be fun to have consequences for improving or worsening your standing with another player faction. Perhaps if you drop below -3000 with a player faction, any member of that faction can place a bounty on you. Conversely, if you rise above 3000 with a player faction, you gain a badge: "Friend of [player faction name]" or some or mark of recognition. (You don't want to provide financial or loot perks, since then you'd just have people forming one-person organizations and raising their faction with each other just to gain special perks for each other.)

Under these rules, the lifespan of a member of a criminal organization would probably be short... but very interesting.

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