I had not quite realised that so much time had past since I last wrote a blog post. Initially, I had planned to write these at an approximate weekly schedule, but various distractions and duties, including a trip to visit some friends which ended up taking up a larger amount of my time in April than I expected, have kept me away.
It is a shame because when I originally envisioned this post, nearly six weeks ago, it was a concept that had me captured and invigorated. My mind was apace with Whirled and the concepts of community. I began to consider similar concepts in light of Puzzle Pirates. And then I read an article in Escapist Magazine while browsing through the recent archives.
Specifically this article on Dunbar's Number. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, it is simplistically the idea that there are a maximum number of connections the human brain can cope with directly to other people. In the context of games, especially on-line games, this dictates how large a group of players is likely to become. If a group grows beyond a certain size, the connections will become difficult between members and the group is more likely to fracture.
Some of the article (and other articles linked) is on the validity of the number. There are also numerous questions to it's origin. It is possible that there is a biological or neurological limitation. Alternatively it may be entirely contingent upon time. On that I am not sure. However it does seem that in some capacity, the number is an observable phenomena.
Within Puzzle Pirates, it takes a very curious form, however. The social networks of the game are quite loose. For any given player, there may be numerous different social circles at play. At its most basic, a single account may have three pirates, each may be in a different crew, per ocean. With the number of production oceans, a single player may be a member of a dozen different crew or more.
While a single player may focus on a single ocean and crew, each other member of that crew may resolve their circles differently. So already there are multiple social circles within the game.
The second social network is the hearties list. Ironically, this is limited to one-hundred fifty individuals, the same as the number itself. And while all hearties are mutual, hearty lists are not. I may be Nemesis' hearty and she mine, but while she is Hypnos' hearty, I am not.
Add in the extra layers of organisation available: the flags and alliances to expand upon the crews, the ranks and subdivisions of crews within, the islands and shopkeeping interaction, the parlour games, events, forums (both official and player-created), real-life parties, and so forth.
Through it all, however, is that personal limitation. Be it time, focus, memory, interest, or experience, we all have some limitation against keeping connection with everyone at the same level, all the time. I have many friends in the game I have not spoken to in months. When I became an Ocean Master, I did my best to stay active and in contact, but increasingly my new circle became dominant and my older ones faded. They still exist, as surely as friends I had back in grade school still exist, but they are not prominent upon me right now.
I have few conclusions, here. This idea is new and fascinating, but undeveloped. More, I have questions. How are your circles within the game? How far do they spread? How many players would you consider your closest circle, and do they encircle each-other?
Ultimately, is Dunbar's Number a valid application upon this or any game, or is it just correlation without causation?