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General: MMOs and Community

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,580MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

In this week's Player Perspectives, MMORPG.com columnist, Jaime Skelton, talks about communities. "Community," opines Jaime, "is the (game industry's) innards, not its skeleton." It is the very thing that gives an MMO its life and  without a community, a game is sure to fail. See what else Jaime has to say about MMOs and community in this week's Player Perspectives.

A community doesn't simply appear out of nowhere, nor does its existence mean a boon for the game publishers and developers that keep it alive. To use a tired metaphor, a community is very much like a garden, with a variety of plants, flowers, trees, and creatures living in its midst; many are good for the gardener, some merely pretty to look at, and others pests and weeds that threaten all the hard work if they are allowed to survive. The success of a community doesn't merely come from its being there. It comes from successful tending to the garden: removing weeds and pests, while nurturing the plants best suited for growth. Nurturing comes from listening, adapting, implementing, and turning what once was the developer's vision into what has become the player's vision.

Read more Player Perspectives: MMOs & Community.


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Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

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Comments

  • GrailchaserGrailchaser PerthPosts: 20Member

    Wow.  More whining about Cryptic without the courage do it except through innuendo.

    I was hoping for some positive news about STO.  Or in fact *any* news about STO.

    Isn't this topic called "Star Trek Online News - Seven Months Later"?

  • MadimorgaMadimorga Atlanta, GAPosts: 2,014Member Common

    "So keep doing what you're doing: be vocal, be assertive, be picky."

     

    I picked the right hobby.  One loud, bitchy diva coming up!  Or anyway, one loud, bitchy diva carrying on as always.

    image

    I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals.

    ~Albert Einstein

  • Luthor_XLuthor_X Campbellsville, KYPosts: 431Member

    Originally posted by Grailchaser

    Wow.  More whining about Cryptic without the courage do it except through innuendo.

    I was hoping for some positive news about STO.  Or in fact *any* news about STO.

    Isn't this topic called "Star Trek Online News - Seven Months Later"?

     

    Actually, I think this topic is called "MMO's and Community" *blush*

     

    Back on topic...

     

    I'm afraid that community is not that high on my list of reasons to play X game. Sure, it's nice to have a helpful community. But in all reality, I could care less what people in game or on the interwebs; say, do, or think.

  • Itchy01Itchy01 Edmonton, ABPosts: 103Member

    Just my perspective on this topic:

    The proverb goes "A camel is a horse designed by committee"

    One persons vision is usually better than that of the collective.

    By all means I think the exchange of ideas is nessecary in all industry in order to grow but what has to be remembered is for every person who is unsatisfied there are usually far more that are satisfied.

  • afoaaafoaa AarhusPosts: 578Member Uncommon

    One thing to add to the article; I have been in many different mmo communities in the past 10 years and I have noticed some things that always happens one of two ways.

    Communities become more and more constructive over time if they can see that their ideas and opinions are taken seriously and are being acted upon. But if they only get canned responses, sugar coated monthly updates and see that none of the prime concerns of the community is being dealt with then the community becomes less and less constructive and instead turns angry and bitchy.

    Board communities also really do reflect the general mood of the players in the game. Yes the vocal ones are always a minority but they are representing the mood of the players in general. I have often moved around and talked with people in games who never post on boards and I have discovered that in ANY game I have played that what is being said on the boards really do represent the mood and attitudes of the player base in that game.

    "You are the hero our legends have foretold will save our tribe, therefore please go kill 10 pigs."

  • rikwesrikwes PuttePosts: 90Member

    Originally posted by afoaa



    One thing to add to the article; I have been in many different mmo communities in the past 10 years and I have noticed some things that always happens one of two ways.

    Communities become more and more constructive over time if they can see that their ideas and opinions are taken seriously and are being acted upon. But if they only get canned responses, sugar coated monthly updates and see that none of the prime concerns of the community is being dealt with then the community becomes less and less constructive and instead turns angry and bitchy.

    Board communities also really do reflect the general mood of the players in the game. Yes the vocal ones are always a minority but they are representing the mood of the players in general. I have often moved around and talked with people in games who never post on boards and I have discovered that in ANY game I have played that what is being said on the boards really do represent the mood and attitudes of the player base in that game.


     

    Indeed this is true. And numerous MMO's have been known to fail due to developers simply ignoring  their playerbase . I readily understand it must be hard for developers to read such critical remarks as can be seen on forums but it is vital to do so ( as afoaa mentions these are the only folks you can go on as developer and they usually have a better idea on what a game requires quite simply because they are actively playing it ) . I always feel studios underestimate the importance of  having a meaningful interaction with a game's community. By that I mean you don't   just read what is being said but repond to it and give players the feeling they are being taken serious. 

  • GyrusGyrus Lost City of ZPosts: 2,335Member

    So, what I take form that is that you have realized we are not as dumb as we think you think we are?  ;-P

     

    Seriously though, I think there have been studies on collective intelligence - and they found that in general the 'opinion' of the masses tends to be right?

    So... one of the few things I would say 'the masses' here seem to be pretty much agreed on lately is that 2 Faction RvR games tend to fail.  Perhaps MMORPG.com could make sure that is brought to the attention of a couple of Dev houses that are going that way... yet again... lately?

     

    As for the Garden analogy... well... it's a stretch...but okay.  How about "You reap what you sew." then.  IOW Developer Community Managers: if you plant the right seed and do your job from the very beginning (rather than wait unitl a week before release to start laying down the law) then you will get a community you want - and that will transfer to in game.

    Nothing says irony like spelling ideot wrong.

  • holifeetholifeet BournemouthPosts: 532Member

    Why do I get the impression that Miss Skelton is of the thought that games companies don't really care about the communities? She seems rather cynical of their prasing of community involvement.

    Trion have been very welcoming of their community for Rift and I truly believe they are honest and respect the community as much as they say.

    Pushing the community to be proactive might not always be the best thing. Some people, when told to be assertive and fight for what they want to see, will just post drivel and non-productive lists of desires. Was Vanguard a result of the community pushing for what they wanted to see with no thought of how it might make the game?

    Community is great but shouldn't game developers be left to make what they want to make, or will all games be just the same eventually?

    All hail the Pixel, for it is glorious Orange!
    .
  • AstraeisAstraeis AmsterdamPosts: 331Member Uncommon

    Originally posted by holifeet

    Trion have been very welcoming of their community for Rift and I truly believe they are honest and respect the community as much as they say.

    Perhaps, but at the same time they are keeping them at a good distance from the game. They are effectively depriving their community from having any impact on the game so far. I remain skeptical.

    It takes one to know one.

  • afoaaafoaa AarhusPosts: 578Member Uncommon

    Originally posted by holifeet

    Community is great but shouldn't game developers be left to make what they want to make, or will all games be just the same eventually?

    Rule nr.1 of game design has been and always will be: "Kill your darlings"

    One persons vision can almost never ever be a good thing for a great mass of people. That's why dictatorships fail in the end and why wise kings were wise because they listened to their people.

    I am not saying that the vision of one man always will fail but if it fails to make something positive for the masses then its a bad thing for a business.

    If a developer cannot kill his darlings he should not make massive multiplayer games because his task is to make things that is fun for a LOT of people.

    "You are the hero our legends have foretold will save our tribe, therefore please go kill 10 pigs."

  • bronislav84bronislav84 Brooklyn, NYPosts: 6Member

    Did this get mislabeled in the email mailing list? I clicked this link expecting "Star Trek Online News - Seven Months Later". Probably meant the "Re-Review" news and this was a mistake in the system.

  • StormwatchStormwatch UndercityPosts: 86Member

    It was a well written article, but the metaphors and the melodramatic style more obscured the subject matter than clearing things up (in my opinion anyway).

    First of all, in any commercial endeavour, someone, somewhere thinks about the important question: What do the people need? What are their desires?

    Earlier on, these entrepeneurs were probably sincere or naive and really wanted to come up with something people really wanted. The motive can be anything from altruism to greed and most of the time it is somewhere in the middle. If you look up theories on capitalism, both elements frequently show up anyway.

    It became increasingly difficult to go straight on adressing "what people want", even though this is still the core of any endeavor. So, a third thing was invented: marketing and commercials. They generate or amplify needs and desires.

    Today, the products became increasingly complex and suddenly all these emotions that one entrepeneur had, are externalized and became jobs: someone to find out the desires of customers, someone to generate them, someone to communicate about them, someone to make money back etc

    Yet, we are still in this "We vs. The Devs", complains that they won't listen. So yes, there is someone who wants to maximise profit for example. This is a job given to him. His personality doesn't matter. There is someone else who is tasked to find out what people want, they will listen. There is someone who wants to make a good game and they will (try to) do that. Then there are many more people who are helpful, in the way etc. 

    The community is important as the consumer is always important. What's overlooked: does this include reading comments in a message board? Does this add a new quality to feedback that you don't have from looking at the various metrics? 

    By statistical projection for example, you can determine how much a class sucks, in percent. You can create a kind of heat-map of your zone and see where players die, where they trade, completed quests and whatnot. It goes as far that companies can literally buy consumers by using metrics. They can determine how much an ad costs, how many clicks it generates, how many people became players etc. They can find out if the lightly clad female fantasy girl on the banner does better than the mail counterpart and so forth. This is all, by the way, a kind of communication between players and developers!

    So lets go a bit further and ask: What are the benefits (for both sides) of "written communication" as it happens to be in the forums? And we have to look carefully that some ego reasons are not included (e.g. the layman armchair teacher, coach, designer, craftsman, movie director, actor etc who thinks s/he can do better, often from a hindsight pov and ignoring that the pro probably came to the same conclusions).

    This would be a topic for a future column, me thinks :)

  • PalebanePalebane Tucson, AZPosts: 3,225Member

    Inspiring article. Best post I've read on here all year.

     

    Edit: I don't mind the weeds =)

    Vault-Tec analysts have concluded that the odds of worldwide nuclear armaggeddon this decade are 17,143,762... to 1.

  • NesrieNesrie Medford, ORPosts: 648Member

    I think there are companies that encourage and nurture their communities, and I think there are companies that can't stand that there are communities that might actually have them answer to some of the choices that have been made. I am glad you don't thinkthe community is just a mindless mass of uncertainty anymore. I certainly know what I like, and don't like. I also know I am not alone in those preferences.

     

    I am not sure what the deal is with STO comments here, but this was just in the general news discussion to me, nothing STO specific.

    parrotpholk-Because we all know the miracle patch fairy shows up the night before release and sprinkles magic dust on the server to make it allllll better.

  • QuetosQuetos Ton pentraPosts: 48Member

    I really like the idea your presenting.

    The problem is a game can succeed without a great community - simply though being a great game. So, create a great game, bring out updates which make it even better and people will play it, and be happy with it, even though they don't combine together and create a community.

    Then, with the same game, bring out bad updates and the players will turn against you.

    Quite simple but now you've got a happy 'community' on one hand and unhappy 'community' on the other which has nothing to actually do with a community at all - it's simply the players responding to the state the game is in. Get enough people agreeing with one another and, by default, you have a community.

    Of course, great game and people will keep playing it because they enjoy it. Rubbish game and people will leave.

    And, with the leaving, profit turns to loss and the game, ultimately, fails.

    So while I love the idea of the players controling the game I think it's the other way around - the games state, good or bad, dictates the feelings of the players - and subsequently the community. It's the game that rules the players, not the other way around.

    Throw Dawinism at it and it's survival of the fittest. Agreed, you'll have a few MMO's hanging around, eating the scraps which drop off the big boys table, but a community will never rule and make a rubbish game number one on the sales boards. They can do it on a forum but as soon as you start asking people to put cash in, your community will start to fall apart.

    As an example, did everyone flock to Aion from WoW because of the community the game offered? Or was it because it was a 'WoW beater'? And then, did everyone flock back to WoW because they missed the community? Or was it because WoW is a better game than Aion? Needless to say, the 'community' was the same in both games so...

    That's what I think anyway... the community can keep small budget game going but it'll never make a game number one. Only a game targeted at the majority audience, and the majority believe is: 'great' can do that.

    It's just a shame these games take 2 or 3 years to build - 2 or 3 years ago WoW ruled and everyone was happy with it. Now these games are coming out, being labeled 'WoW clones' and going no where. Guess the marketing boys and girls didn't take this into account. But they'll learn.

  • ZeroRileyZeroRiley Fort Macleod, ABPosts: 17Member

    lol at all the spelling and grammar mistakes, anyways thsi was a pretty good article

  • divmaxdivmax JhbPosts: 106Member

    Originally posted by Stormwatch



    It was a well written article, but the metaphors and the melodramatic style more obscured the subject matter than clearing things up (in my opinion anyway).

    First of all, in any commercial endeavour, someone, somewhere thinks about the important question: What do the people need? What are their desires?

    Earlier on, these entrepeneurs were probably sincere or naive and really wanted to come up with something people really wanted. The motive can be anything from altruism to greed and most of the time it is somewhere in the middle. If you look up theories on capitalism, both elements frequently show up anyway.

    It became increasingly difficult to go straight on adressing "what people want", even though this is still the core of any endeavor. So, a third thing was invented: marketing and commercials. They generate or amplify needs and desires.

    Today, the products became increasingly complex and suddenly all these emotions that one entrepeneur had, are externalized and became jobs: someone to find out the desires of customers, someone to generate them, someone to communicate about them, someone to make money back etc

    Yet, we are still in this "We vs. The Devs", complains that they won't listen. So yes, there is someone who wants to maximise profit for example. This is a job given to him. His personality doesn't matter. There is someone else who is tasked to find out what people want, they will listen. There is someone who wants to make a good game and they will (try to) do that. Then there are many more people who are helpful, in the way etc. 

    The community is important as the consumer is always important. What's overlooked: does this include reading comments in a message board? Does this add a new quality to feedback that you don't have from looking at the various metrics? 

    By statistical projection for example, you can determine how much a class sucks, in percent. You can create a kind of heat-map of your zone and see where players die, where they trade, completed quests and whatnot. It goes as far that companies can literally buy consumers by using metrics. They can determine how much an ad costs, how many clicks it generates, how many people became players etc. They can find out if the lightly clad female fantasy girl on the banner does better than the mail counterpart and so forth. This is all, by the way, a kind of communication between players and developers!

    So lets go a bit further and ask: What are the benefits (for both sides) of "written communication" as it happens to be in the forums? And we have to look carefully that some ego reasons are not included (e.g. the layman armchair teacher, coach, designer, craftsman, movie director, actor etc who thinks s/he can do better, often from a hindsight pov and ignoring that the pro probably came to the same conclusions).

    This would be a topic for a future column, me thinks :)


     

    I applaud any company for using metrics in its decision making. But to use metrics-only is very short-sighted and not very good business practice. The metrics only tell you what players are doing. They don't answer questions of why players are doing what they are doing, and why are they not doing what they could be doing instead. There are a lot of qualitative questions for which metrics will never provide an answer.

    eg. Just because statistically more people are doing some quests and not others, does not say much about what qualities of those quests are the attracting feature. And then there is the player profile of the majority to consider. Without such information, incorrect assumptions can be made and game features planned due to lazy thinking and analysis.

    Another example. An analysis of people playing classes will be inevitably flawed because it doesn't account for cases where a class may be appealing in concept, therefore many people play it, or started one originally. Then years into a game, they are hanging on, hoping that the devs will notice it needs help. But because they are only looking at the statistics of how many players are currently playing the class, the conclusions are diluted. Player psychology is not taken into account.

    Definitely a good article. 

  • StormwatchStormwatch UndercityPosts: 86Member

    I am not claiming you don't need forums at all, but maybe in different ways than it is often perceived. The reason to keep forums, although it migth hurt, could be simple "user retention" and this goal could outweight others from a company point of view. But that doesn't mean that individual developers don't read their games forums and get inspired by it (which I did for example).

    The things you mention can be deduced from metrics. One class may die more often in PVP, or more often at specific cases. You want to set up test cases and ideal situations to check against anyway. With this amount of data, you can make qualitative assumptions. If tens of thousands characters play a quest in a certain way, you can get a very clear idea about its underlying structure. Like rolling dices: Some numbers show up. But when you do it often enough you will find underyling patterns and qualities that somehow unfold (such as that the 5 appears in 16.6666…% of cases). But the magic is that when you roll the dice ten times, it can happen that the 5 doesn't show up at all.

    Besides, the last number I saw being kicked around was that around 20% of the players ever participate in forums. These are maybe the more "important" parts of the community (again from a corporate perspective) because they are vocal and vocal people in a social service are crucial. On the other hand, forums are often used as an extended "customer service" where people go to bring forward the issues they have, so even if you want to know the "climate" of the game or trends, this might be inaccurate.

    I am obviously playing devils advocate, by the way :)

  • MumboJumboMumboJumbo LondonPosts: 3,221Member

    Good comments on the value of community.

    To add:

    1. As MMO market is more competitive, service quality towards the community can give a competitive edge over other MMOs.

    2. More player-driven content in future MMOs means more integrated community with the game, I think will become more important to developers to consider going forwards.

    3. Most ppl will vote with their wallets what they want to play, but also players want to find an MMO where investment of time, money and "building bridges" leads to long-term benefits that partly depend on the community experience.

    4. Having a top rate community can elevate the experience of a game and enjoyment and social factors is worth a lot tangible and intangible.

    Giving players a space where they can communicate, collaborate, create and control is very good idea and why forums should be taken seriously by devs if they can manage some of the banality found on the internet spilling in from time to time.

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