Updated Fri, Jan 02, 2009 by Savanja
With all the hoopla regarding Fan Faire, I got to thinking about community and what it does for MMORPGs. Does it pay for gaming companies, like SOE, to nurture these communities?
I had always had the opinion that the EverQuest II community was one of the best that I have had the privilege to be a part of. We had many clearly defined groups of friendships forming, not only within the game, but also outside in other forums of communication. One could go to the official SOE forums to find information, guilds, and a nice place to chatter with other players. We may have all come from very different places in the world and in life, but we all held a passion that linked us in a profound way.
Did that change?
I've felt that there has been a decline in SOE sponsored community interaction, namely on the official forums, and I have voiced this on a couple of occasions in the not too distant past. Some have agreed, some have not. There are those that believe that while we might have seen a decline in community interaction on the official forums, that the quality of interaction is elevated.
Hm. I suppose that depends on what interaction one deems as "quality". I always sort of thought that players being able to connect with other players, even if it is something as lame as "Pie, cake, or muffins? -- Omgz! CAKE is teh RULEZ!", it still brings players together. And since we ARE playing a Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game, isn't that sort of the point? I mean, if player interaction is more of a back burner sort of thing, then why even have Fan Faires? Simply have the Player Summits for the "quality" thing and leave out the rest of the fun and silliness.
Okay, but this isn't REALLY about the mishandling of a old favorite hangout. My bitter ramblings can be saved for another day.
What I really want to touch upon is why community is so important to games like these.
MMORPGs ebb and flow. It is part of their nature. I have had my EQ2 account for 3 years and 8 months approximately (don't quote me on math!), and not a month has gone by in which I failed to pay for my account. I haven't always felt like playing, there have sometimes been a month or two at a time where I don't really feel like playing. I've tried other games during that period of time as well, but still, I don't let go of my EQ2 account. Why do you think that is?
Because of the community. Because if I drop my account, I won't be able to log in to see what guildies are up to. I won't be able to browse the forums to see what the other players are up to. I won't be able to as closely interact with a community that I have been a part of for 4 years.
During the ebbs of gaming, community is what keeps people from dropping ship and moving on to something more exciting. Community is what keeps people in games that have long since lost their flavor. Games that are nearly archaic in comparison to what is available now; Ultima Online, EverQuest I, and Asheron's Call, to name a few. These are games that have continued on in the wake of the more exciting and graphically more advanced games.
Why do these games survive?
I truly hope that when the big gaming companies, such as SOE, are sitting there pondering their subscriptions rates, that they remember that when their game isn't producing the hype, they can ALWAYS nurture their community.
A stimulating and FUN official forum. A place where subscribers can go and feel as though they have plopped down on the floor of a friend's house. A place where non-subscribers can go and envy the interaction that they see.
Involved developers. Players feel like the game makers care when we see solid and consistent involvement. It is true, the devs may not always get the warm welcome that they hope for from everyone, but what about all those that truly appreciate it? Don't forget us, we yearn (Yes! YEARN!) to hear the words that fall from your lips!
In game interaction. GMs have become nothing more than lame in game Customer Service. Many of us would just love to see some in game interaction from officials. Events, pop ins from Community Reps, games, etc. These things may seem minor, but does anyone remember how much attention events would get in EQ1? Or how about with EQ2 and our own Blackguard when he was around. Blackguard could pop up on any server in game and we would soon see screenshots of his toon all over the place. Players dig that sort of thing!
My plea to SOE and to the other companies out there that produce games for the masses, really take a moment to think about what your community does for your game. Think about what your players say about your game to get that solid word-of-mouth going. Particularly for EQ2 where marketing has been slim, you depend on what players have to say. Do we say "Eh, its a good game." Or do we tell all of our WoW friends about something fun/interesting/exciting that SOE did that goes above and beyond?
Sony Online Entertainment has gotten a bad rap in the gaming community. It is time to fix that.
Question or comments regarding this article may be directed towards me! Please remember that my opinions are my own.