Pathfinder Online and social fabric

I’ve been reading several blog posts about the lack of community in MMORPGs these days, you know the tendency of players to treat other players like NPCs as they chain-run dungeons for loot upgrades. Psychochild raises the issue of social fabric, that earlier games like Ultima Online or Dark Age of Camelot required players to cooperate and thus emphasized the formation of lasting communities in-game. Tobold joins the discussion to state that the games with social fabric as a component often do this badly by linking it to a certain rather rigid gameplay style.

This reminded me of a thread on the Paizo Pathfinder Online forums (Paizo being the licensing company, NOT the developer) I was reading over the weekend. This thread speaks to the social fabric issue in a very direct manner – even though the game is still in development we have there a group of players planning and debating how the game’s community (single-server architecture) should function. The linked thread above is about one forum member’s desire to setup some kind of PVE-oriented group/guild in this PVP sandbox game since he (like me) abhors PVP gameplay.

As background, when I first read about this planned MMORPG (interview with developer) I was very excited as I really like the Pathfinder ruleset and have played in a campaign set in the official world Golarion. The strange thing (innovative to some) is that this game will be a sandbox and have non-consensual PVP, a D&D game with forced PVP, o.O ?

I plain dislike PVP, I don’t have the reaction speed for it and don’t enjoy it and not for want of trying (I have PVPed in online FPS games, in Warhammer Online and a bit in WoW). Being forced to PVP, i.e. being ganked, or even the constant danger of it is a great way to turn me off a game, it certainly stopped me progressing far in Allods and Aion.

The discussion is quite long but very interesting. The potential playerbase active on Paizo’s forums are very supportive with several offers from guilds (they’re already organising even though the game isn’t yet in testing) stating that they’re organising to police the world as much as resources allow. There are even posts from ‘bounty hunters’ who state they aim to make the life of any casual ‘player killers’ as miserable as possible within the rules. There’s also another thread about wanting a PVE server with plenty of intelligent and well argued arguments on both sides.

At this point I’m still not hugely interested in playing the game (it’ll be a very loose approximation of the Pathfinder ruleset). But unlike Camelot Unchained or Shroud of the Avatar (two more recent sandbox game announcements of note) this one actually has a world that I’d be interested in playing in; I’m a long time D&D fan, and by extension Pathfinder as the spiritual successor to D&D 3rd edition. Perhaps this game, with a ready made ‘social fabric’ of RPG fans could make for a PVP sandbox that would work for me.

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