A Journey Through
Community Development in MMOGs
Benjamin J. de la
Durantaye - Managing Editor, Community Sites
The definition of a href="http://wiki.tentonhammer.com/index.php?title=Massively_Multiplayer_Online_Game">massively-multiplayer
online game (MMOG) is pretty simple. It’s a game
that has a massive amount of people playing at the same time in the
same virtual world. It’s the application of the definition
where you will find large differences though, as each
gamer’s, and in turn, each developer’s idea of a
MMOG can differ greatly. But how important is community within these
games? Do we need others to enjoy a game, or can we have just as much
fun playing alone? Is a gaming community a thing of the past ? There is
one game on the horizon that says “No! Communities are still
alive and just as important as ever.” First though,
let’s take a brief trip through the past, present and future
relies on communities.
I experienced my first MMOG in 1999 with
(EQ).While neither the game’s graphics blew me away nor did
the gameplay particularly captivate me, it still did not take me long
to become obsessed with the game. I would log in day or night, often
neglecting my social life, and at times even my *ahem* romantic life.
But why? What was so addicting about this game?
It was the interaction with people that drew me to EQ . Everywhere I
journeyed with my virtual dwarf, I would meet other players. And, as
the game’s design was an early one, there was little you
could do if you were the type of player to shy away from others. You
needed to group up in the game to accomplish goals, to get experience
and to advance your character. Soloing was not an option for most, if
not all players.
This kind of system did have its benefits. I learned that in order to
progress, I needed to make friends and allies, and I needed a good
reputation if I wanted to get into hunting groups. The community on the
Tunare server that I played on was small enough that one’s
reputation preceded him . If you acted like a jerk, people
wouldn’t group with you. If you were a team player and were
known as such, it wouldn’t take long before you’d
get a message from another player asking if you’d like to
join her in some hunting or questing.
The game was community driven. There were consequences for your
actions, but there were also huge rewards for them as well. I have
friends from EQ that have become dear friends in my life outside of the
gaming world. I can honestly say some of these people will be close
friends for the rest of my life. That’s not just a game
– that’s a life experience.
of Warcraft allows solo play.
A lot has happened in the MMOG industry since 1999. We’ve
seen a lot of new titles launch; some were successful, some not.
Perhaps the most important year in the era was 2004 with the launch of href="http://wow.tentonhammer.com" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft
Blizzard Entertainment knew the potential of MMOGs and launched their
own flagship, World of
Warcraft. The game was lauded tremendously as hundreds of
thousands of players started playing, many of whom were experiencing a
MMOG for the first time. The game did exceedingly well, and a few short
years later millions upon millions of players worldwide are fighting
their way through Azeroth today.
But what about the community? There’s no denying that there
are many href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/forumdisplay.php?f=28">communities
within the game. Players have formed guilds and friendships like any
other MMOG, but something was very different. For the first time,
players no longer needed to rely on others to reach maximum level. In
fact, if desired, it had become not only possible, but quite common, to
level up without ever forming a group with another player. While for a
lot of players this was a god-send as they no longer had to waste
valuable time trying to find a group during their play sessions, it had
also changed the way players play MMOGs and what they’ve come
to expect from them.
Being a single name among millions, and never having to interact with
other players had given players a sort of immunity. They no longer had
to rely on their reputation to advance in the game, and coupled with
the anonymity of the internet some viewed this as a license to act any
way they want without repercussion or fear of reprisal. Reputation
suddenly was only associated with the larger guild names, and not the
People, by nature, are a selfish lot. We’ll find the easiest
and quickest means to get what we want. In worldly society, we see this
daily, but we have consequences we have to face. If we were to walk
into a supermarket and push aside an elderly lady in front of us so we
could get to the checkout quicker, we’d be met with some
pretty stern fallout. This isn’t necessarily the case in
MMOGs. In a game that promotes solo play, it’s only natural
that we become very focused on our own progression, and we ignore
others while we work towards our goal. What’s more is that
there’s very little that can be done when we feel someone has
wronged us in game by “pushing ahead” of us, or by
killing monsters we were going after, or even when we’re
being verbally abused by other players. While there are steps that can
be taken, in all but the most severe cases there are often very little,
if any consequences to people who choose to act in such a way.
Games with this sort of play style
mechanic have now become the “norm” and the
“expected.” Many players would rather be able to
work independently than have to spend time integrating into a
community. The developers know this, and if they want a successful
game, they know they have to include features where group play is not
Online brings back the community.
So where does this all leave us now? Is this the end of the road for
players? A year ago I would have said
“probably.” But today my hopes are renewed that the
community spirit is not lost. In fact, it is being rekindled and
perfected in ways that have never before been explored.
I’m talking, of course, about href="http://war.tentonhammer.com" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Warhammer Online
(WAR). I’ve had a chance to play the game over the past month
or so, and I’m very excited about not just this title alone,
but also because of what it could mean for the future of MMOGs.
target="_blank">Mythic Entertainment realizes the
importance of community and has done an incredible job at bringing that
dynamic back into our games. While it is still possible to level up
without interaction, you’re going to find it pretty hard to
do so. The beauty here, though, is that this does not equate to forced
grouping. You can still solo through the entire game if you like, but
you will be part of the community while you do it. How is this possible?
Quests and href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/43643" target="_blank">Realm
vs. Realm (RvR) combat. As you progress through your questing
chains, you’ll be directed towards areas that are set up with
public quests. You may not know it until you get there, but when you do
get there you’ll recognize it immediately. This will happen
so frequently that you’ll start to recognize the faces you
see in the public quests and the RvR content, and will very likely make
friends while you do the content. Allow me to illustrate.
When I first created my dwarf href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/war/class/" target="_blank">Ironbreaker
character, admittedly, I wasn’t all that impressed. The game
started off as many other MMOGs do with some quests around you and a
point and click combat interface. It wasn’t hard to figure
out what to do, but I was a bit disappointed as at that point it just
seemed like any other MMOG I had played over the past nine years.
Then I got a quest to kill some specific goblins. I located the goblins
on the map and headed over to the area. I was taken aback as I entered
the area, though, as a new quest popped up automatically on my screen
and outlined goals I needed to do. I took a quick look at the goals
which consisted of killing 20 orcs and goblins. As I looked at my
surroundings a bit more, I saw more dwarfs in the area fighting and
killing. As they were doing so, the quest goals updated. Every kill
another dwarf completed added to the quest tally. I recognized this as
a public quest, which was just that – a quest that the entire
public could partake of and work together to complete.
I soon forgot about my original quest that had brought me to the area,
and started swinging my axe to help my kinsmen. Orcs were dropping and
dwarven steel was singing. The public quest updated to the next stage,
and then the next, and then climaxed into a final battle. A gigantic
orc came out onto the playfield, yelled curses at us and began swinging
its weapon. My dwarf allies countered and I found myself, though a solo
player, fighting with a dozen fellow dwarfs for a common goal
– to behead the orc leader. We worked as a team, though we
hadn’t said a word to each other. Eventually my comrades and
I prevailed, the orc leader fell, and we were all automatically entered
into the lottery for the spoils of war.
I was addicted at that point. I did the quest over and over and started
talking to some of the other players on the quest. I soon made several
friends - friends who I would find myself fighting with side by side in
future public quests and on the RvR battlefields. The wonderful part
here is that I hadn’t set out to make friends at all. I had
only logged in to do a couple of quick quests by myself to get a feel
for the game. I logged out reliving the battles in my mind, with a
smile on my face, knowing I would see my new friends again the next day
and create even more tales to tell.
This, dear readers, is why I believe style="font-style: italic;">Warhammer Online is
going to set a new standard. Games come and go, but communities and
friendships last much longer. It looks like Mythic has indeed brought
back the community through WAR.
opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed are those
of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and
viewpoints of the Ten Ton Hammer network or staff.
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