Community building
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 November 2012, 7:46 am
Spinks is asking whether easier content creates nicer MMO communities. I don't think the answer is that easy. While you are less likely to curse your fellow pickup group members if the dungeon is easy enough to beat, easy content does not create the same "us players together against the harsh world" feeling that extremely hard games can have. In over a decade of MMORPGs the friendliest community I experienced was in the original Everquest. If you can't even solo a standard mob of your level, your attitude towards grouping and other players is likely to change. Compare that to World of Warcraft, where people are complaining about cross-server zones, because they preferr to have a zone for themselves.

But ultimately community building is very limited in a game which is all about individual progression, where every other player is either helping you progress or perceived as the competition. As you can't "win" a MMORPG, your win criteria are necessarily based upon comparison with others. If advancing faster than others is important, it isn't in my interest to help them.

Asheron's Call had found a way around this dilemma, by creating a vassal and liege structure in which you had a stake in the progress of others. Some Asian MMORPGs also have game features where players are encouraged to help newbies by getting a reward from the achievements of the players they helped. I find it somewhat curious how little social structures in MMORPGs have evolved over the years, I think there is a lot more that could be done here.

And then there is the question whether a MMORPG necessarily has to be about challenge, about leveling, about gaining gear faster than others. You can set the bar higher or lower, but you'll always end up with people not making the cut. Real world communities don't work like that. Thus if we had games that played more like virtual worlds, with projects that require the contribution by many instead of a limited number of players, maybe then communities would be more friendly. If every player is a positive contribution to a common goal, and nobody is excluded for being below average, then there is no need for elitism.
Tobold's Blog



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