In this second installment of features in MMOs that should be evident in more but aren’t we look at nations.
Nations is what it was called in Shadowbane but the roots of this feature goes back to Asheron’s Call. In Asheron’s Call there were no guilds (et al) as in most MMOs today. There was no guild leader, a guild to join or leave, no invites, nothing. The social structure was called a Monarchy.
The building block of a Monarchy was the patron/vassal relationship. Two players wanted to play together and keep track of one another. One, the vassal, would swear allegiance to the other, the patron. The idea was that the patron was the more experienced player who was helping the vassal through the game. The vassal, in turn, generated a small amount of XP for the patron as the vassal played.
I called this relationship the building block because patrons could themselves become vassals to another player. Also a player could have multiple vassals. So in the end what one ended up with was a single monarch whom was sworn to noone. That monarch had vassals who, in turn, had their own vassals, who in turn, had their own vassals and so on. To join a Monarchy one swore allegiance to someone, anyone, in the Monarchy. To leave the Monarchy they would break allegiance with their patron. To kick someone out of the Monarchy the Patron would break allegiance with their vassal.
But where does the naceint concept of Nations come in? Why, what happens to the vassals of the person swearing/breaking allegiance or having their allegiance broken by their patron. Those vassals (and their vassals) remain with their patron. So if Batau has two vassals, May and Rally when John swears to allegiance to Deunan May and Rally also become a part of Deunan’s Monarchy. When Batau and Deunan have a falling out and Batau breaks allegiance with Deunan May and Rally leave the Monarchy as well.
For those who play MMOs in the traditional guild structure and imagine going through a guild merger or split. A merger involves everyone leaving one (or both) guild(s) and being invite into the larger guild. For a split those who are following the new leader leave the old guild and get invited into the new guild. In the Monarchy structure a guild merger is simply the Monarch of one guild swearing allegiance to a member of the other guild. All of his followers join. Splitting is often not as neat since not all the people leaving are under a single person who is splitting. But usually several people would split and reform and the dozens of people under them remained in place. Far neater than everyone having to leave, find someone, and get reinvited.
Back to Shadowbane, what did Shadowbane bring to Asheron’s Call’s Monarchy structure? Simple, Shadowbane has the traditional guild structure but guilds can be invited into other guilds. A few friends form a guild. They want to merge into a larger guild. Instead of breaking and getting invites into the new guild, the guild joins. It retains their identity but as part of a nation they gain access to the larger social structure.
City of Heroes and EVE Online came close with Alliances but by and large this concept of a group of people joining or leaving, en masse, is missed.