Building a Better MMO Community

The power is yours!

Mike Whiteby Mike White

Building a Better MMO Community

MMORPGs are starting to get over the growing pains of a relatively new genre in a niche market. That being said, those of us who play these games are some of the most passionate and vocal people I know. A trend has slowly occurred that needs some attention. The MMO community as a whole is starting to lose themselves. Where once you found a tight knit and helpful group of players, you now see an ocean of individuals floating on their own soapboxes, only concerned with what they want. There’s good news, though. We can change.

1. Get over the graphics. Those aren’t what makes or breaks an MMO. This seems so simple to me, but comes up often as a point of contention. The game needs to be accessible to a wide variety of people so their rigs can handle the “massive” parts of the game. You won’t be getting Skyrim-level detail from the environments, but that’s not to say most subscription based games (and a few upcoming free to play titles) don’t have their stunning moments.

2. Have patience. If a game came out 6 weeks ago, you can’t claim to be the be-all end-all expert on the subject. I played Lacrosse for 6 years, I don’t claim to know everything about the game. Let the developers get feedback from the community and have a chance at implementing changes to improve things. Don’t jump ship so quickly when there is room and time to improve. These games are constantly evolving. Rift is not the same game it was less than a year after launching. To their credit, Trion has constantly improved their game and worked with the community to create a better product.

3. Stop attacking fellow players. If you want the game you play to be successful, then help other players, don’t alienate them. The more people who play, the longer the game can survive, and the more the game will improve over time. By constantly berating other players, you’re just creating more of a problem while impressing no one. You aren’t Athene. If someone sounds like a noob, lend them a hand. A quick hint, pro tip, or directions to a site that can help them takes no time at all (responding with “google,” to every question doesn’t count). You were once a noob yourself. We all were. It’s time to get over it.

Trolls!4. Don’t play an MMO like a single player game. You can build relationships from the moment you start leveling. I will never understand why some players, questing in the same area, doing the same exact quests, refuse to form a group to complete the tasks at hand. Rift came out with a wonderful public grouping feature.

If two or more players came near to a rift, invasion, or zone event, a button would appear at the top of their screen prompting them to join together. It just makes sense. People working together to defeat groups of enemies will have a better chance than someone doing so by themselves. Forming rift hunting groups, for a while, was one of the best ways to level.

For whatever reason, players began turning off this feature, shutting themselves off from other players interested in accomplishing similar goals. Then Star Wars: The Old Republic released. In trade chat, comment sections and forum posts I saw people saying “it’s a single player game with a chat box,” directing the complaint at the developers. This surprised me, because I again noticed a trend of players refusing to group together when questing in the same areas.

My advice to anyone who feels this way about these games is to just communicate. Form parties to group together for quests whenever you can. If PvP is your thing, then take the time to notice players queuing at the same times as you and invite them to group with you. Your friends list will quickly populate with players who could later be potential guild mates, arena partners or real life buddies.

5. Instead of complaining, be constructive. There is so much negativity on official forums of MMOs these days. Don’t believe me? Go to Rift, World of Warcraft, or SWTOR’s official forums and just pick random threads. For all the complaining I see, I’ve slowly gathered this: players are burning out on the genre as a whole. All those cries of “WoW clone,” “It’s dead,” or “it’s broken,” are all cries for help. The MMORPG has a certain formula, and when you stray too far, it no longer resembles what we’re used to. This is a double edged sword.

Developers don’t want to vary too much from the things that have made big games successful, and players will often not take a chance on a game from a company that doesn’t have the resources to promote themselves on a large scale. When you say, it’s just like WoW, you really mean, it’s an MMORPG. Maybe what you’re really looking for isn’t a game with action bars and hot key combat. Why not try out an action game or shooter. Maybe there is a space sim out there to try.

The point is, we all bought in. Industry standards and conventions happen because we, as the consumers, accepted the trends. It’s on us to communicate to developers, in a civil and intelligent manner, what we want from their games.

6. We need to change our perceptions. Somehow, the idea of playing an MMO the “right” way has become gear progression, plain and simple. People just want the loot. They just want to feel like they have rewards for the time they’ve invested that they can see and use, rather than the reward of an enjoyable experience.

Take for example, guild systems. I was disgusted to see people complaining so much at the simple options for guilds in Star Wars: The Old Republic. You don’t need perks or guild levels. Achievements can be fun, but keep them simple, don’t hand out extra abilities or gear or items because of it. The incentive for joining and playing with a guild should be the relationships you build with fellow players. A guild should be a group of people with similar goals and attitudes that you enjoy spending your time with. But Mike, you might cry, those aren’t tangible things I can track or use in the game. Exactly, and they are by far the greatest reward you can take away from playing a large social game.

There are players I’ve spent time with in games I don’t even play anymore, whom I’ve never met in person, that could show up on my doorstep today and need a place to crash for the night. I’d welcome them with a big ass hug, a cold beer and a spot on my couch.

7. Listen to the developers. When a new game is coming out, actually listen to what they’re promising. If you are someone who has ever thought, said or typed out that you can’t stand the cut scenes and voice acted dialogue in The Old Republic because it slows down your leveling, shame on you. That’s one of, if not the biggest promise BioWare gave about their project. It’s a stunning achievement and an amazing next step for MMOs. Stop racing to end game. TOR is easily my favorite leveling experience in any game like this I’ve played. This is the first time I’ve seen a company fully embrace what players do on their way to the max level.

Building a Better MMO Community

8. Lose the sense of entitlement. This is by far one of the biggest issues facing our community. There are those who feel that exclusivity is a good thing. The best gear and access to the top raids belongs to the people who invest the most time in the game, right? I don’t think so, at least not completely. WoW has refined the gear and raid progression system with valor points and Looking For Raid.

What they’ve not done, is made the game too easy. Can casual players see end game content and acquire epic gear? Yes. However, they don’t get the same achievements and heroic level gear that hardcore raiders receive. Heroic Nefarian, Sinestra, Ala’kir and Ragnaros were some of the most difficult bosses to defeat while their raid tiers were current. The numbers on World of Logs and MMO-Champion can prove it.

I really don’t care that Blizzard will never make another Sunwell or Naxx 40. It’s better for the game and the community that they don’t.