One of my pet peeves in MMO design has come about because of recently released games in the genre over the last decade. What is it? Titles sort of give this away but yea its community. Community is one of the hardest aspects of an MMO to track, qualify and determine its quality and cohesiveness. Its one of the most talked about aspects of MMO’s but in nearly all cases its more lipservice than substance.
To avoid the mistakes of the past, I wrote up a list of some things EverQuest Next should avoid from recent MMO “evolutions”. Heres some of the those “things” ;
Guild Wars 2 did a lot of things right, but this one really bit my ass. If I as a player can be in multiple guilds, what loyalty do I have to any one? Combined with group finders being non-existant, the guild structure in this game became a joke. Members would hop guilds on a daily basis to look for people to play with.
Another innovation harkening back to War Hammer Online and “public quests” (also seen in GW2 to an extent). Instead of talking with players to overcome content, giant zegs of players roam a zone and finish it off. Disregarding how well the content scaled with the number of players in the area… the challenge was relatively minimal regardless. Instead of talking, working through a problem, and finding friendship through a shared difficult encounter; players ran around sometimes through the entire game without talking to a single person. God forbid your one of those social players who plays MMOs to be social….
Posting stuff with the click of a button and logging in the next day to find your bags full of gold is certainly an attractive feature. It makes management of your inventory trivial and the required social interaction is akin to well… playing a single player game (with a real life delay). In the old days, players were forced to sometimes spend some of their game time actually interacting with people around them and trying to negotiate or haggle prices with them. It was a sort of social excercise that online gamers of the time found engaging and the foundation for a larger community.
Fast forward to today; you have people who don’t even get the names of the people buying or selling product. Everythings trivialized and marginalized to help people who can’t afford to spend time in your game (catering to the lowest common denominator?).
One of my personal on-the-fence peeves. I’ve played games with and without group finders. GW2 is a more recent example of this feature missing in a modern MMO. Was this beneficiary towards building a community? I’d have to lean towards no.
My issue with this feature centers around the lack of needing to talk to other fellow players. You merely click a button and your off. WoW further bastardized this feature by allowing cross-realm grouping. You were literally plucked from your server community and dumped into a group with people you would likely never meet again.
Having been on the bad side of needing to find a group in GW2 and my guild being too small to form one entirely composed of just guild members… It was admittedly frustrating to have to search for random players to join us. Yet, despite this frustrating aspect, we did pick up quite a few new guild members because of it. In a sense, not having a group finder did aid us in building our own community.
While this isn’t a comprehensive list of social gaming issues come of late; The trend is towards appealing to the casual gamer whose time in game is minimal. Unfortunately, games with this approach also tend to be games with a lackluster community. As mentioned in the beggining of this article, community is hard to quantify or qualify. Its not something I can just measure and judge a games success by. Yet one thing that does seemingly occur in games with community is that they tend to last. Or perhaps its the games that last that tend to attract a meaningful community.
One method I’ve found of determining a communitys virility is by looking at the number of blogs dedicated to the game. While by no means the only measure of a games success, a game with lots of blogs dedicated to it is a sign of a strong vocal community. One sign you can at least quantify.
World of Warcraft, with so many millions of players, has many such blogging communities with it. Why is that? The second half to this article should be; what makes communities form up? Instead, I’ll end this post on a cautionary note. EQN needs to avoid these pitfalls. The community as a whole has done well by SOE. EverQuest and EverQuest 2 are very impotant milestones in displaying the dedication a gaming company has to its community.
The key becomes making sure your game can attract AND keep those communities in the first place.