week's D-Mail continues along the theme of href=""
target="_blank">D-Mail #4--an
exploration of
the possibilities of a robust web-interface for in game guild tools.
Referring back to our premise that robust communities benefit both the
players and the developers, the goal of our discussions is to look at
ways both developers and players can enhance the success of online
communities. Finding ways to reduce drama, resolve some of the reasons
communities implode, and to make the overall player experience more
rewarding and more long term is a direct benefit to players as well as
to the bottom line for developers. D-Mail is intended to help make the
case that a larger and more concerted effort to grow the community is
important for future MMORPG success, and also that every core game
decision is one that has to be made with community impact in mind.

This week let's dive into web-tools that could make a difference to the
success of player-created communities. To begin that discussion, let's
look at why a robust set of web-tools is becoming a necessity for
players. There was a time when many gamers could play games from work,
whether they were on lunch break or just unsupervised, and they could
play all day long. Regardless of the reasons, many companies are
securing their networks and their computer infrastructures
and a large and growing number of players are cut off
from their hobby during the work day. While that may be a good thing
for overall economic growth it is not a good thing for fostering
community growth. It means that players can be disconnected from their
communities for extended periods of time. It means those leading the
communities are unable to communicate information in a timely fashion.
And, very importantly, it means there is an inability to react to
"drama" situations and thus minimize their impact on the community.

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The inhumanity of not being connected to the gaming community

While corporate assets have become more limited, mobile personal
computing has become very
commonplace. From iPhones to Blackberries to
cell phones more powerful than the computers we gamed on just a decade
(or less) ago, players can remain connected to their communities if the
right tools exist to facilitate those interactions.  "There's
an app for that" should be the catch-phrase when it comes to MMO
development and community growth. The world is always on these
days and we can receive emails, text messages, video clips and surf the
internet from just about anywhere. The ability to keep tabs on, and
participate in, our online communities has not kept pace with the
expectations modern technology has created for our culture.

that end, lets explore some ideas for tools that could be useful for
MMORPG gamers to have access to. Imagine, if you would, that there were
two MMORPGs out there and that each had the depth of gameplay you
wanted with the modern graphics you were looking for but one of them
offered you the ability to chat with people who were in game
your phone. Would that be enough to sway you to play one over the
other? How about if you could also check or send in game emails from
your phone? Or check and set the guild MOTD? Or buy and sell via the in
game auction house?
(D-Mail #4 covered why I felt that feature of WoW
should have been more widely available without a premium fee.) Or what
if, as a guildmaster, you could extend join invites, remove problem
players, change ranks, manage the guild bank, schedule a raid, post a
raid list and so on.  If I told you two MMOs were equal in all
regards but one of them offered you a robust community package and one
did not, wouldn't you be more interested in the one that "had an app
for that" than the one who just gave you the game?  In
today's always on world, the idea of having some regular
connection to your MMORPG of choice is an expectation most of us have
although perhaps not all of us have realized. We expect it from our
bank, our email provider and our friends.  Why not from our

Management tools would be a great place to start.  Things like
Armory from WoW or the guild rankings some games provide are merely
data dumps without any interaction or actual value contributed toward
the success of the guild. True Guild Management tools allow for a host
of opportunities to react quicker to opportunities, resolve issues
before they become explosive problems, welcome new members into the
guild quicker and to provide services to your guild members in a more
real time fashion. All of those things mean greater community growth
and happiness.

Features I would like to see become mainstream on all future MMORPGs

  • The ability to remotely set
    and manage the Message of the Day for the guild (and if your game lacks
    an MOTD, you are already several years behind the times). Timely
    communication of information to the guild and the ability to rapidly
    react to a changing landscape are critical. Being agile is one factor
    to success and the MOTD is one tool to allow guilds to be more agile.
  • The ability for members of a
    guild to opt-in for a system that allows them to receive text messages
    (or even voicemails) on their personal devices without exposing their
    information (i.e. you signup, the data remains hidden, but if you opted
    in the game would facilitate sending the communications). Protecting
    Personal Information (PPI) is a buzzword these days with a growing
    amount of regulatory oversight attached to it but that doesn't preclude
    improved communications systems from being developed. Let players opt
    into a system by which they can get alerts when a raid is scheduled or
    canceled or changed. Let a system exist where they can opt-in to get
    text messages from the guild leadership so things like "Need another
    healer. Can you make it?" can be sent out allowing for a raid to happen
    when otherwise it might get canceled.
  • A
    system to allow the guild leadership to extend invites to new members
    remotely; remove someone from the guild who is causing issues, and
    update ranks and permissions remotely (a robust series of in-game guild
    permissions is another feature I feel is important to community growth
    and stability, which I'll discuss in a future article). Drama
    kills guilds. Reacting to drama quickly is an important tool to give
    community leaders. On the flip-side, building community support and
    loyalty is also key to avoiding drama so being able to do things like
    welcome a new member into the guild soon after a decision is made by
    remotely inviting them is one small step towards building that 'brand
  • A robust communications
    network that allows you to email and chat into and out of the game to
    your community and friends.  If SOE could do it nearly a
    decade ago with EQ-IM there is little reason that every game can't
    offer a similar solution with today's much advanced technology.
     One of the top ways to reduce drama and improve communities
    is simply to enhance their communication capabilities.  Good,
    clear, timely communications solve issues before they explode and
    prevent issues from ever arising in the first place.

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Why aren't we using devices like this more?

Those are a few of the I have for systems that could be fairly
easily implemented but could add great value to the current
state of MMORPGs. Not only could they add value but they are already
behind the times considering what we all expect in our daily lives.

fact that I can't pick up my personal wireless device and grab one of
my leads in game to ask them to do X task is a clear indication of how
far the industry is lagging behind the cultural expectations that
already exist.  "Always on"... "Always available".. ."Go
do anything, yet remain connected"... is a part of our culture. Just
look at how much effort Verizon and AT&T are putting into their
advertisements to convince us we can go anywhere and use their services
to their fullest extent. Culturally its a growing expectation yet, for
87 million online gamers, that expectation only exists in their 'real
lives' and the second they step into the gaming world they are asked to
change their expectations and accept being engaged only while
are in front of their PCs. That inherently means that 87 million people
are disconnected from their communities for the majority of each day
while they're culturally barraged with messages that 'always
connected' is what they need to be.

Web tools are not only an important mechanism that can help communities
grow and expand, last longer and provide greater enjoyment for players,
but before too much longer, they will be the defining characteristic
that help players chose Game X over Game Y. The companies that embrace
mobile technology more fully than the recent 'free' WoW Armory method
of "Hey! You can look at what you have for sale...but you can't sell
anything unless you pay us more money!" will be the companies that
differentiate themselves in a crowded gaming landscape. It is not too
far fetched to say that those future MMORPGs with robust mobile web
tools will be the ones more likely to succeed while those who cling to
the old model that forces players to remain in front of a PC to absorb
their content will be the ones more likely to fail.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

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