Back when the Massively team started the Kickstarter to launch their own site, i spent some money on my favourite MMORPG-related website. That enabled me to provide a question for the team to tackle in their “Massively Overthinking”-column. Yesterday, it was published and today, i’d like to share my thoughts on that.
This is what i wrote:
We criticize MMO devs for making our MMO experience less social, but are they the only ones to blame? I think our (the players’) behaviour to others and within the games themselves has also changed. I’d like to know if you can think of ways we players could improve that situation – from behaviour, less game or guild hopping, ways to grow our friends lists – to make our MMO experience more social again.
I knew from the beginning that some answers would suggest behaviour that i’m struggling with myself- for instance, i expected an answer along the lines of concentrating on one or two games.
Now, i’ve thought on how to formulate the question for a long time- i think i’m one of the last backers to have their question posted. Reading the answers, i wonder if i did phrase it correctly, because staff and commenters alike mention genre-developments and “forced grouping” as solutions or problems, depending on their point of view. I’d have liked the answers to concentrate more on the player-side of things- what can we do to make our MMORPGs more social again, grow our friendslists.
Thankfully, the staff and most of the commenters didn’t forget about that part and so i still think the answers are great and- in context of the guild/community i might be starting with an online friend- inspirational.
You can read them in their entirety on Massively Overpowered, of course. And you should. Here’s my take on the staff’s answers. They suggest to
- focus on a few games, if it has to be more than one
- building your own guild/community or actively take part in your guild
- think about your own behaviour
- just be! (Syp, my personal casual-superhero)
- be the change you want to see
All of them ring true, but i think in Bree’s answer there’s a sentence that basically tells it all without being too general.
[…]attend events, host their own parties, put together their own painstaking groups, promote guilds and forums, form alliances, work around the game’s limitations. Does it suck? Hell yes. It’s work.
Handiwork. Do it yourself. That’s something i read on a forum these days, as well. The author pointed towards the /who feature to build groups. That’s a really old-school way to build groups, but truth be told, i’ve always found it to be one of the most effective. Dungeon finders “improve” on the efficiency, but the social part falls by the side there. When i played WoW and needed a group for a dungeon, i started by asking for others in guild chat. Then i tried to fill the gaps with my friendlist- if i couldn’t do it, i’d ask in general chat but would simultaneously seek out players of missing roles by searching through the /who list and sending them a tell. Usually, the ones that joined the group were those who i talked to directly. They’d also join the guild from time to time and if not, some of them made it on my friendslist.
There’s another comment, again made by Bree, that’s significant to me:
Social once existed in the cracks between the game, and those cracks have been sealed up.
That’s on point on where i wanted the discussion to go- i’m totally against forced grouping or some kind of “hardcore” mentality and i don’t want to be surrounded by people who only care for ingame progress. So this is it- “social” isn’t really a part of game design, it used to be a lack of game direction that possibly made those “older games” and/or the players behave in a more social manner.
So in part, it is a matter of game development these days, but let’s not forget that it’s us, the players, who drive development- that’s where Larry was going with his answer- customers feed devs who feed customers. Nobody is really “wrong”. If the cracks are sealed, though, i’d like to think about ways to open them up again.
The other day some commenters here were stressing/agreeing that to enjoy Wildstar you have to force your pace on the game. I guess this is one way to open the cracks back up.
All staffers on Massively have a point, and of course, as is usually the case, i’ve found myself agreeing with Eliot. It’s strange, because his opinions also make me feel guilty most of the times- but he’s still right- you can’t expect to make social ties when you only use other players as a means to an end (which i rarely do) and guild- and game-hop like a crazy frog (guilty on all charges- or at least the second part). I have to say Eliot’s answer surprised me the most, not in attitude but in execution- it’s a great and unexpected point-of-view. I expected him to concentrate more on continuity.
Syp is just…well, Syp. I really don’t know how he does his thing. He’s casual, he’s got three kids at home (and a fourth on the way, i think?!?), other responsibilities, plays like a thousand games at the same time, with hundreds of characters in each of them and yet….he’s got maxlevel characters in most of the games he plays. He also has a really good track record of finding nice guilds, so i wasn’t surprised by his answer. He still has a secret, because there’s talent in finding and engaging those. My guess is that he is quite outgoing himself- combined with his positive nature i can see why he doesn’t really struggle to create social bonds.
Jef and MJ concentrated on the “play one MMORPG and create the community yourself”-part. I really like MJ’s way of putting it.
In my ideal gaming universe, folks would settle in a virtual world (or two) and spend their time, effort, and resources on building up their community. There are many ways to bolster a community, from running guilds and events to joining said guilds and attending those events.
Jef’s opinion is similar
Do that by being an active guild leader, organizing server events, constantly communicating the need for more social gameplay to devs, and basically spreading the gospel of MMOs by showing people how and why MMOs should differ from single-player games.
Brendan focused on the technical part, unfortunately, but he also states that you should
deliberately seek out guilds of likeminded individuals
So what did it accomplish?
Maybe i’ll take on the comments one of these days, because there are some very note-worthy comments below that article, but this post has already gotten very long. It’s a coincidence in timing, really, but what these answers achieved was to strengthen my resolve of founding, co-leading and maintaining that guild we’ll probably create.
All staffers- magic Syp aside- agree that it takes some considerable effort to create and maintain social bonds in the genre. We can’t do that in a passive way, “social” won’t come to us anymore like it used to when we were all flabbergasted by the fact that we could play games on the internet. We have to build that part actively.
I honestly can’t and won’t believe that we can’t have social (gameplay) elements and ties in MMORPGs anymore just because we’ve gotten more casual. And honestly i think this blog proves that assumption wrong- not because of its contents, but because i’ve made some ties this way already. And i’m a casual blogger.
If you have anything to add or suggest on topic, i’d really appreciate if you’d comment on that- still looking for input!