The Daily Grind: Are you a fan of ‘automatic helping behaviors’ in MMORPGs?

We’ve been complaining about lockboxes a lot lately as an unwelcome psychological trick in gaming, so this morning, I wanted to talk about a welcome one. To do so, let me invoke the wisdom of blog The Psychology of Video Games. Author Jamie Madigan discusses “automatic helping behaviors” that studios can take advantage of to combat toxicity; he notes that researchers have found your attitude doesn’t always control your actions – you can often be tricked into an attitude based on your actions.

So if a game like Guild Wars 2 finds a way to incentivize you into resurrecting other players and helping them in combat, you begin to perceive yourself as the kind of person who helps – and you might just begin reflexively helping elsewhere, even when you don’t have to. That leads to situations, at least in GW2, where people will actually stop fighting to rush over to res a stranger, perpetuating that warm fuzzy feeling.

In a game like Overwatch, it’s even more automatic, as your character fires off compliments when characters nearby perform well. See and hear “yourself” do that enough and suddenly, that’s the kind of player you are.

Are you a fan of MMOs that employ this “trick” to encourage cooperation and community building? Where else have you seen it used to good effect?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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44 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Are you a fan of ‘automatic helping behaviors’ in MMORPGs?"

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K38FishTacos
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K38FishTacos

Yes.

I’m always shocked at how “rude” people are (taking nodes, chests, etc.) when you’re fighting a mob right on top of it in ESO after I have played GW2 for a while. Chest farmers are ruthless in ESO.

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kgptzac

There are quite a few games out there that rewards players points for reviving teammates created problems that people would revive even when doing so hampers progress in order to gain points for themselves. A lot of swords are double edged.

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rafael12104

I’m and optimist. And I’m ha helper. So, I guess I didn’t realize that their had to be a concerted effort with these Automatic Helpers to foster a good attitude. I thought people helping, NPCs helping etc. are the way things are supposed to be anyway.

So, sure. I’m all for it. Is it working?

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Michael18

That is a tough one.

On the one hand I’d say devs should use any opportunity to create a friendlier in-game environment; on the other hand, I despise the psychological manipulation involved in f2p schemes like lootboxes, etc. and is it so much different if the manipulation is employed for a good purpose? Does the end justify all means, here?

Thinking of concrete examples, I’d say GW2’s rezzing is a fun little mechanic that hurts no one, whereas what Blizz is doing with Hearthstone (no free chat) and Overwatch (automated jubilations) seems to go a bit far.

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Rolan Storm

I like cooperative MMORPGs more, hence still in ESO. And I do help beyond cooperative mechanic, just today pulled a guy who was desperate to reach 160cp over all Alik’r dolmen shrines and explained him situation there. I like people being friendly, can’t help myself – though it does not, of course, always work.

But I’d rather help than hinder anyway.

styopa
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styopa

“your character fires off compliments when characters nearby perform well”
LOL seriously? That’s hilarious.
http://progressquest.com/ – now with Chatbots!

“See and hear “yourself” do that enough and suddenly, that’s the kind of player you are.”
No, frankly if I saw that I would react quite badly. I’m not a superfan of social engineering trying to manipulate me, no matter how determinedly they want to make sure we’re all Goodthinkers.

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NeoWolf

In all honesty after the first few times I don’t really notice. Especially in games like that, that are action heavy you tend to focus so much on what your doing that what your character may or may not be saying is pretty much tuned out :)

Like Sally below states though, “can’t hurt”. right? :)

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Sally Bowls

I go with “Can’t hurt; probably helps and Lord knows we need anything we can get.”

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Zen Dadaist

Doesn’t really affect me either way. It’s fun to hear the auto-generated banter between a character you’re playing and one someone else is playing (á la Left 4 Dead, Killing Floor etc). I’ll go and pick up a team mate if I can regardless of whether I get some sort of extra special reward for it or not simply because it’s a lot more useful to the team to have that person up and acting than off at a graveyard rezzing somewhere for the next 5 minutes. Unless doing so is guaranteed to get me knocked on my arse as well, in which case it would be a bigger detriment to the team to have TWO folks out of the action!

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Yes. Even WoW changed its tagging mechanics to encourage better behavior. Only faction tags on trash mobs remain. Doesn’t matter though. I’ve been helped by the other side as often as I’ve burned down mobs already tagged by them. People don’t seem to care anymore, which is all good.

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It’s always been a bit of a sticky issue, but there really should be something to incentivize good behavior. Most who argue against it constantly say that ‘good behavior shouldn’t need to be incentivized’. While this is true, this is not the reality of the world we live in, thus encouraging good behavior helps, even if only a little. Unfortunately I’m not entirely sure how much effect it’ll have on the overall communities, given the levels of toxicity it’s trying to combat, but… we gotta start somewhere!

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Schmidt.Capela

I believe just as important as creating incentives for players to help others is making sure those that received that help benefit from it.

Take old LotRO, for example: if you were struggling with a mob, and someone attempted to help you, it would decrease how much reward you would get from that mob in the end. It made players dislike being helped and, by the same token, dislike those that helped.
(LotRO has since changed that mechanic, so you no longer receive less rewards when you are helped.)

This is the second part of why GW2’s original vision was so alluring, so powerful. ANet had set out to make a game where players not only benefited from helping, they also always benefited from being helped. It didn’t matter if the one helping was unskilled, ungeared, was doing it only for the rewards, whatever; you were always better served by having someone close by trying to help you.

(And it’s also part of the reason I consider raiding did a lot of lasting damage to GW2. It goes against all that, and incentives players to refuse the help of anyone that isn’t geared and skilled enough.)

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Arktouros

If you pay me I’ll help out. Pretty simple. In GW2 there’s no competitive loot rolls or XP. I get paid the same if I solo something or if I work together with someone else. Games like WAR’s Public Quests on the other hand the worse you perform the higher my chances are in the rewards so I’m going to let others die so I get paid.

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Annoyed badger

pretty much, in GW2 (much as I dont play for a multitude of other reasons) they made playing cooperative, in most MMOs its competitive, if not directly then for opportunity. Take wow, I may not be fighting you, but I also want that mining node, so if you are clearing the mobs…that node is mine.

in GW2 the node is for each player, so there is no reason for me not to help you kill that mob and we can both get the node.

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Pandalulz

They actually changed it in Legion so mining nodes are now per person, along with allowing group mob tagging without being in a party. Old dogs can learn new tricks sometimes.

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Pandalulz

They sure can’t hurt. Anything to help people play together vs against each other. But I’ve always been a helper. If I see a resurrect dialog I’ll probably run to other end of the map to help.
I accidentally screwed so many hunter out of their Rhok’delar before I understood what was going on by trying to “help” http://www.wowhead.com/item=18713/rhokdelar-longbow-of-the-ancient-keepers#comments

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Paragon Lost

Ditto, I tend to fall under this type of play where I’ll help someone if I see that they look in need. The only time I don’t is if I’m in the middle of something and even then I’ll try to break free to check on the situation as soon as I can.

Twenty five plus years online gaming and that’s been a pretty standard game play style with me, even as someone who is primarily a solo player by nature. I’ll go help someone who asks and then return to what I was doing.

I will group up and even go through raid phases for years at time but always I tend to solo and leap to the aid of others as I see it. Did that with world pvp, did that with tough quests, I’ve not changed much in the past quarter plus century game play wise.

Well I don’t do guilds/houses/kinships anymore, the drama and frustrations grew to be too much. Also I find myself avoiding world chats more and more. Though that prevents me from being able to help as much because many use that and that only to ask for help or ask a question. :/

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thirtymil

Make something appear competitive (DPS meters, single-access harvesting nodes, realm first achievements) and people will fight for it and blame others.

Make something co-operative (auto-group public quests, multi-tap mobs, full XP for shared kills) and suddenly everyone sees everyone else as a help, not a hindrance.

I’m not sure how much of an effect auto-compliments in Overwatch make, but I know it bugged me no end that the main score at the end of Left 4 Dead was not how many other players you healed or revived, but how many zombies you shot. For people interested in the scoreboard, that encouraged the wrong sort of behaviour.

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Loopy

On a psychological level, i find that it really does create a positive feedback loop. As long as it’s not overdone, or too repetitive, such automation can create a helpful environment in my opinion.

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Brown Jenkin

So many of these small changes in GW2’s rewards and incentives system fundamentally altered the way I think about MMOs. I think that incentivizing players to work well together, rather than punishing players for playing alone turns much of past MMO thought on its head and I think the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Folks worried ad nauseam about how giving XP and loot to everyone who contributed (rather than only those who did the most dmg) would be a horrible thing that undermined the economy… pretty much no evidence of that being a problem. Folks worried constantly about crafting goods being available to all players rather than the first one to ninja a node, again not a problem.

These changes have been so healthy that other games have picked up one system after another from GW2. They just make for a more healthy playing environment… there’s no downside to that.

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TomTurtle

Absolutely. It makes an observable difference in an MMO like GW2. It doesn’t change people, as there will always be your bad apples with their negative attitudes, but it helps and every bit counts. It makes me not want to go back to older MMOs with designs that put players at odds with each other and leave you frustrated in the end.

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Brown Jenkin

Couldn’t agree more. In GW2 some of these relatively minor changes appear to have fundamentally changed the way MMO players interact.

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Simon F

I think the way GW2 does it is a good way of making things more cooperative. It doesn’t work in most games, but it’s still a good idea and is implemented well. WoW scrapping the idea of personal tags on mobs is also a good idea, as it doesn’t reward some of the most toxic behaviours ever, mob tagging. When people ran as fast as they could just to make sure they got the tag before you, leaving you having to wait for respawns. It fucking sucked, and no matter how much you love vanilla WoW or any other version or game where that is present, you know that unless that worked in your favour, it was trash. Not being able to complete quests in certain areas because level 60s farmed materials commonly dropped from those enemies.

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Utakata

Not sure about the science and psychology behind it, but it probably wouldn’t hurt. And it would certainly make the gaming grind more pleasant.

Polyanna
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Polyanna

I am, because game mechanics absolutely have social consequences. Some of them can be serious. Like guild-wrecking, friendship-ending serious. There are a couple of bosses in the current raid in WoW that seem almost pathologically designed to destroy guilds and make raiders hate each other for life. It’s really awful to see that in play.

It’s equally wonderful to see how well thought out mechanics that reinforce cooperation and helping behavior can elevate the community spirit and positive feelings in a game.

If you put in mechanics that reward players for cooperating, they will cooperate. And pretty much everyone will enjoy it. At worst, they won’t notice it and will have fun without caring whether they are helping anyone else.

If you put in mechanics that reward players for griefing or stealing from other players, they will grief and steal from each other. And pretty much everyone will hate it, even though most will do it anyway because it’s the only way to get anything done. At best, a minority of assholes will delight in ruining others’ fun, but, contrary to popular belief, that is far from most players in most games.

Worse than that are mechanics that turn any tiny mistake by one player into an instant unrecoverable fail for an entire team. Several prominent WoW streamers have commented at length about how raids in Legion have been afflicted with these sorts of mechanics throughout the expansion, and the consequences for raiding guilds have been horrific.

As much as people bitch about the universally hated legendary system and abuse of RNG, these few problem raid mechanics have done far more harm to the community as a whole, and that harm will be much harder to undo because of the destruction it has wrought on the social fabric of the game. Blizzard got a lot of things right with Legion, but in this instance, on those particular mechanics, it’s a stunning example of how to get group mechanics badly wrong.

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Witches

GW2 should really stop making smaller people pets, i find it so creepy calling a sentient being a pet.

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Paragon Lost

LOL! Right?! I never keep them out, something really just… creepy as you said about them. It’s one of those real head scratchers for me that GW2 has them.

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starbuck1771

I never pull them out I just drop them in my collection and there they sit.

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Paragon Lost

Yep, that’s what I’ve done with those I’ve gotten since they do get added to your collection and the achiever/collector in me can’t resist adding them.

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Witches

Believe it or not, playing SWTOR on republic side, imperial players often came to my rescue when i went exploring in dangerous areas, it’s a shame they keep alienating the more social players because it makes for a much better gaming experience.

In GW2 i think they do a good job incentivizing player cooperation with the game mechanics, even if you are playing alone, you can join npcs fighting hostile npcs, so when you meet other players cooperating seems natural, it’s also the only game i know where you can rez an npc.

The thing gaming people seem to not get about competition is that in your regular sport, you have a small number of competitors (the athletes) but you have a much larger number of people cooperating (the audience/spectators/fans), the whole adagio that war brings progress misses the fact that the progress comes from cooperation between allies, not the conflict itself.

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BalsBigBrother

I would help someone who was in trouble or struggling regardless of what a dev team does.

The very first person I became friends with in an mmo came about due to them interrupting their journey to come give me a complete stranger at the time a rez. That is something I have always remembered and try to pay forward in any mmo I play.

With Overwatch I think there is some optimism regarding the player base in the example used. I expect that if Bliz did what the author suggest the players would repurpose the intended meaning to be something sarcastic or nasty. They had and still do have to some degree the whole “GG ….. EZ” thing. To the point that if you use GG as intended (good game) some folks will go off on one because they assume the EZ part is unsaid and that you meant to insult rather than praise.

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thirtymil

You, sir, are a better person than I am.

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Utakata

“I would help someone who was in trouble or struggling regardless of what a dev team does.”

…but you are not a person whose prone to toxic behaviors Mr. Bals. Well…I at least don’t think you are. <3

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Veldan

Not talking about GW2 here, but in general, yes, I do. It’s been proven countless times that when people have a measure freedom, they will be jerks, so anything that stimulates being nice gets my support. I believe it is an important thing to incorporate in game design.

Now, I do mean “stimulates”, not “forces”. I’m not a fan of stuff such as the rez quest that deekay mentioned below.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

i remember in gw2 when they added the randomized dailies thing for those vendor tokens for the bis thingies in the new slot. the day i tried it for the first time one of the things you needed to do that day was to rez other players.

well i guess the big zerg in my area (where another part of the daily was centered on) must’ve all had their dailies for rezzes done because when i died randomly i sat dead until it was time to respawn normally.

anyways we originally liked the idea back in beta and at launch,a dn certainly while leveling exp is exp. even if it’s a fairly trivial amount from what i recall. not sure how much at least my group or people on my server/zones i was in kept with it over time tho. but then my server had a drama explosion due to a youtuber fan zerg guild that attempted to “run” the server and tell everyone else what to do and how until it killed all zone and especially city/hub chats.

part of the reason i had such a hard time getting back into the game in my various attempts over the years i suspect. even in wvw no one ever talked at all. it was just silent pug herd mindlessness in a circle and no tactics zerg rush into enemy zergs win or lose. half our zerg would get wiped and hte other half would just keep going as if combat wasn’t even happening to the other half that was getting wiped. i guess no incentives for helping your team mates in that scenario. >>

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deekay_plus

all that being aside i don’t really need incentive myself to help randos whilei play. back in wow tbc i used to give people “lessons” at the nagrand arena on how to defend from gankers for example. or help ppl with elite quests and such. i had a big rep for that stuff on teh server at the time. which people who were harassing me for my rp and wpvp used it against me to lure me into a “trap” to corpse camp me right before my planned exit from the game at the time.

no good deed goes unpunished as they say >>

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starbuck1771

I always help when I can as long as your not being demanding or a tool like your entitled to my help.

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Schmidt.Capela

That is how I act too. Ask for my help, and I will do my best to help; demand my help, and I not only won’t help, I will also put you on ignore.

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