Community is super important to MMOs and the voice of the community is even more important. I recently discussed at length my ideas on developer communication, so were more or less going to talk about the collective voice of a community and how MMOs are not a democracy but should be. Why? Well just recently ArcheAge Russia backpedaled on their monetization plans due to an online petition.
First, let me outline something, MMOs are not a democracy. They are a free market example of how buyers use their money to speak. If a player doesnt like the direction a game is going they simply quit paying money for it, if enough is done en masse then the developer will either change whats causing the exodus or stick to their guns, causing more to quit. This has the terrible, terrible, terrible snowball effect that causes MMOs to become ghost towns, usually after the first month.
There is rarely any player say in an MMO that isnt done through economic impact. The reasoning is pretty simple. The vocal majority is a games minority and those who voice their opinion do so because they either want to be the single magical flying unicorn who can one shot all of their enemies through clever wording of their requests or the small minority actually upset with a nerf or buff that makes them less powerful. Listening to those demands would ruin gameplay.
Hence, most of the time, developers rely on feedback to some extent, but also a lot of number crunching, analysts opinions, and their own ideas. However, I ask, can we do a better job? As I already mentioned, I talked about how hard it is for developers to talk with the community. Would it be possible for the community to talk to the developers and share more of their ideas on where a game should go?
Notice the replies to the Petition thread (also note this was a translated version of a Russian forum).
Lets take the ArcheAge incident as an example. Mail.ru was going to give pay-to-play players a big advantage in the game. If you paid then you had things made. On the flip-side, free-to-play players were at a huge disadvantage. Player outrage and opinion made it to the developers who then, after consideration, agreed to change their monetization plans.
Rarely do petitions or vocal words work, so it got me to thinking - what if we ran more MMOs like a democracy instead of a business? What if changes, major changes, were put up to a vote to the active playerbase. Cheating would be minimal, only those actively playing (at a specific level for instance) would be able to vote. Tally up the votes and then implement what the players picked. Put things that can actually be implemented in the voting process and to make sure expectations arent ruined.
It wouldnt solve the issue of people wanting to beg developers to game the system in order to make their specific class / build the magical flying unicorn of death and destruction to lord over all the other players, but it would make for a more enjoyable experience if the playerbase as a whole could come together and decide which direction to take something.
There are some issues. Class balance is a tricky one, because everyone would vote to buff themselves and nerf everyone else (magical unicorn problem). However, some issues could be brought to the global tribunal still and it would help increase collaboration between the player and the developers.
Now, some will argue that players shouldnt do a developers job. That they should login and the game should work as intended and I agree. However, community is a big part of MMOs and its one of the reasons that theyre (at least in my opinion) superior to single player games. Doing things as a larger group adds immersion into the process and makes you part of a living and breathing world. So I think players should have a direct say in how things are run, even if its beyond the scope of a game.
All that aside, I would like to commend Mail.ru for listening to the playerbase and making the smart choice to make changes before going live with the game (and potentially losing a lot of players). Feedback in games is truly king.
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