Parties

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Groups of characters working together to reach common diegetic goals.

Cooperating usually makes it easier to succeed with tasks. For this reason, games where players have characters may places these in Parties with other characters so that they together can try to reach the goals provided by games. The other characters may be controlled by other players - requiring

Examples

Parties first emerged in Tabletop Roleplaying Games such as Dungeons & Dragons and the Basic Role-Playing system. While Parties simply represented the characters of the players currently playing the structure of the games made it advantageous that characters' had diverse skill sets, e.g. complementing combat-oriented characters with those that could heal or find social solutions to problems. The third edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay introduced game mechanics specifically oriented to Parties: the players have to collectively choose which type of party they are with the associated advantages and disadvantages this has. GURPS provides some possibilities for players to get party-specific advantages (e.g. the "Teamwork" perk).

Like most other features, Parties continued to be used in Computer-based Roleplaying Games such as the Ultima series, the Fallout series, the Baldur's Gate series, and the Dragon Age series. In these single-player games, the players create Parties with non-player characters and may have to choose between which ones to have in the group. In contrast, players of World of Warcraft need to organize themselves in "raid" groups of appropriate sizes to complete the "instances" provided by the game. In this game concepts such as "tank", "healer", "crowd controller", and "damage dealer" have flourished as players have developed combat strategies. These have in turn influenced the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, which uses functional descriptions such as "leader", "controller", "striker", and "defender".

The X-COM and UFO series shows examples of small scale strategy games where players create Parties to go into battles against extraterrestrial enemies. The Left 4 Dead series is built around four characters completing the games' levels; the computer takes the roles of characters if there are less than four players. Gauntlet supports between one and four players fighting monsters in dungeons and lets gameplay continue at long as at least one player in still in the game.

Using the pattern

Parties are groups of Characters and can be used in both Single-Player Games and Multiplayer Games. Unlike Alliances and Teams, they do not have to be formed from explicit gameplay goals. Instead, they are formed by Diegetic Social Norms based on the relations between the Characters. The use of Functional Roles can further motivate the existence of Parties; the individual Characters do not have all Abilities necessary but together they do. These aspects explains why Parties are often not constructed from Avatars: these do not provide abstract gameplay structures for supporting Diegetic Social Norms or having relations. The Left 4 Dead series shows that it is possible to create Parties through Avatars by using Cutscenes and Canned Text Responses to represent diegetic relations and norms during gameplay; Gauntlet also manages this by letting individual players have individual Scores and thereby not have the exact same gameplay goal. Parties can consist of purely Player Characters or of mixes of Player Characters and Companions (general Non-Player Characters either have limited functionality or mobility, or do not work towards gameplay goals). While Parties can function through a single player controlling a single Character, letting that player switch his or her Focus Loci allows for higher levels of control.

The number of members that Parties should or can have is a primary design choice for the pattern. Parties usually assume at least three members, so for example Torchlight - where players always have a pet companion but no other companions except temporary summoned monsters - does not qualify as using the pattern. Some games put a maximum number of members in the Parties, making member slots into Limited Resources. Early installments of the Fallout series let this number on the Player Character's charisma value while later installment had a fixed value of 2; the Left 4 Dead series always starts with four survivors at the beginning of each Level. While Multiplayer Games may have Parties consisting only of Player Characters, AI Players or Companions may be used in any type of game and can ensure that Parties have a certain number of members.

The issue of Party size has additional complications for Multiplayer Games. This includes if one should allow Late Arriving Players or Drop-In/Drop-Out gameplay. In Tabletop Roleplaying Games such as Dungeons & Dragons or GURPS this can become especially sensitive. The reason for this is that Player Characters are personal and may have been developed over long periods of time, and there may be not diegetically plausible reasons why the Characters should absent or not Always Vulnerable. Related to this issue is if it should be possible for players to engage in Player Killing of members of their own Parties.

Although Inventories are typically personal for each Character in a game, in Single-Player Games with Parties it is possible rationalize this to one common Inventory if Equipment Slots exist to show who is using what. Dragon Age II is an example of a game using this solution.

The issue of Loot in multiplayer Parties can easily also become sensitive (up to causing Internal Rivalry, Betrayals, and Player Killing if possible) if not controlled by game mechanics, and for this reason games such as World of Warcraft provides options for how Loot should be split.

Interface Aspects

Handling the details of Companions in Parties is likely to require Secondary Interface Screens. In games with Parties, it is also usual to have common Inventories in additional to personal ones (e.g. representing the resources in the bases of the X-COM series) - for Tabletop Roleplaying Games this may be a "Group Sheet" in addition to Character Sheets.

Game designs can help Parties achieve Coordination by letting them place Geospatial Game Widgets in Game Worlds or on Mini-maps so that the rest can see them. For both face-to-face and Mediated Gameplay, Handles can help in the Coordination and Cooperation by pointing out the various members Focus Loci.

Narrative Aspects

Companions in Parties can be natural pointed for Sidequests (these specific types of Sidequests are sometimes called Companion Quests). Examples of games that include them are found in the Fallout series and the Dragon Age series.

While Internal Rivalry can emerge spontaneously in Parties, it can also artificially be introduced into Parties as part of storylines to create more Complex Gameplay.

Consequences

Parties are social grouping of Player Characters and possibly Companions, which can be Alliances or Teams but do not have to be either of these since they do not have to have explicit goals. Although Parties make use of the Characters pattern, the pattern can also be said to modulate Player Characters since it puts them in groups where they need to cooperate. Having a maximum number of members in Parties make them into a form of Limited Resources. Games such as the Fallout series and the Dragon Age series use this to force players to make Trade-Offs between which Companions to have in their Parties. Parallel Lives emerge from Parties where all Characters are equally important and they are all controlled by a single player.

Regardless of it the Parties pattern is used in Single- or Multiplayer Games, planning on how Characters should work together can give rise to Cooperation, Delayed Reciprocity, Negotiation, Social Roles, and Team Combos, but also to Internal Rivalry, Loyalty, and Betrayal (the latter of these may end the existence of Parties or even the possibility of it may hinder them from forming). For Multiplayer Games, having humans control other Characters expands this to include Team Accomplishments, Team Strategy Identification, and Togetherness. In games where players can have FUBAR Enjoyment this translates to Mutual FUBAR Enjoyment. Multiplayer Games with Parties typically also have Stimulated Planning and require Social Skills since consensus regarding plans of actions are needed for Cooperation and Coordination.

The Parties pattern can also have relations to the pattern Actions Have Diegetically Social Consequences. For Multiplayer Games, this can be due to actions being felt as Betrayal or other breaches of Loyalty while for any type of Parties consisting partly of Companions, behaving in ways deemed inappropriate by these may be the cause for them to leave the group (this can for example occur in the Fallout series).

Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties occurs in many Multiplayer Games that have Parties and Loot, either by being self-organized by players before or during the division of the Loot or facilitated by rules chosen by the players. In both cases this needs Negotiation and possibly Auctions.

Relations

Can Instantiate

Alliances, Betrayal, Cooperation, Delayed Reciprocity, Internal Rivalry, Loyalty, Negotiation, Parallel Lives, Social Roles, Social Skills, Team Combos, Teams

with Limited Resources

Trade-Offs

with Loot and Multiplayer Games

Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties

with Geospatial Game Widgets

Coordination

with Multiplayer Games

Actions Have Diegetically Social Consequences, Social Skills, Stimulated Planning, Team Accomplishments, Team Strategy Identification, Togetherness

with FUBAR Enjoyment in Multiplayer Games

Mutual FUBAR Enjoyment

Can Modulate

Loot, Player Characters

Can Be Instantiated By

AI Players, Companions, Diegetic Social Norms, Player Characters

Can Be Modulated By

Always Vulnerable, Drop-In/Drop-Out, Focus Loci, Functional Roles, Handles, Internal Rivalry, Inventories, Late Arriving Players, Limited Resources, Player Killing, Secondary Interface Screens

Actions Have Diegetically Social Consequences together with Companions

Geospatial Game Widgets in Multiplayer Games

Possible Closure Effects

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Potentially Conflicting With

Betrayal

History

New pattern created in this wiki.

References

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Acknowledgements

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