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General: Dissecting Community

StraddenStradden Managing EditorMember CommonPosts: 6,696

MMORPG.com Jaime Skelton uses her Player Perspective column this week to wax poetic about the importance of community in the MMO space.

Jaime Skelton

We play massively multi-player online games. Despite certain trends that seem to show an interest in making MMOs geared more for a single-player experience with a chat room attached, what defines any and all of the hundreds of games in our favorite gaming style isn't the genre, it's the fact that hundreds or thousands of people are attached to our gaming experience. While the choice certainly remains for a player to build a solo experience, MMOs are designed to be for a large amount of players, from chat channels, to groups and raids, to the behemoth that a player economy can become.

When so many players are gathered together for common gaming goals, they form a community. Defining a community can be broad: some lay definitions simply label a group of people with common interests (in this case, the game they are playing) as community, sociology may choose to label a community based on whether or not it is geared for common or self interest, and psychology may insist on emotional connection between individuals to establish community. The difficulty in defining a game's community, therefore, becomes more complex, as it takes up no physical space, no psychological needs, and involves more strangers and cliques than friends.

Read Dissecting Community.

Jon Wood
Managing Editor


  • eludajaeeludajae Member Posts: 27

    While this article has some truths stated in it, I can not believe the writer wrote basically a long winded manifesto for trollers. Not like they need encouragement to be whinny little bastards, but great...just encourage trollers. Sorry if that was not your general push with this, but all this article said to me was "Be a troller its fun!"



  • linrenlinren Member Posts: 578
    Originally posted by eludajae

    While this article has some truths stated in it, I can not believe the writer wrote basically a long winded manifesto for trollers. Not like they need encouragement to be whinny little bastards, but great...just encourage trollers. Sorry if that was not your general push with this, but all this article said to me was "Be a troller its fun!"


    I re-read it twice after seeing your reply. I still can't see where it implies being a troller is fun.

    This article more or less spoke about issues I think about from time to time concerning the MMO community, and I think the only conclusion we can say is the article is more along the lines of "Community is such a broad and loosely congregated population that what you see is not always what you get"

    Not sure where you got "Be a troller, it's fun" from, and I am actually kind of interested to know how you get to that interpretation.  People's view point and thought process can be rather different after all, so if you feel like it.  Explain a bit further thank you.

  • astoriaastoria Member UncommonPosts: 1,677

    I also don't know where you get that she was supporting trolls.

    Interesting that this article came out right now for me as I was just thinking about these issues last night.

    I was playing Darkfall and I was quite embarassed at how some community members were treating the influx of new people on trial accounts. Really it was just 4 or 5 bad apples, but they were persistent in giving false information to people asking questions in Racial Alliance chat. Many questions that, by the way, that are very common and have been since long before the trial, and have to do with the much discussed anti-intuitive DF GUI.

    Some people were going out of their way to be helpful and I heard offers to group to show them some ropes, locations etc. and to give better starter weapons, but the bad apples could really drive people away. This bothers me a lot as I love this game. I also love that I made a note of the people that were being a$$es for future reference (full loot PvP as you know).

    Was also thinking about Global Agenda, I didn't play yesterday, but I did get a survey from them. I was quite impressed that they sought feedback in this way. They are clearly trying to listen to the community in order to focus their ongoing development.

    "Never met a pack of humans that were any different. Look at the idiots that get elected every couple of years. You really consider those guys more mature than us? The only difference between us and them is, when they gank some noobs and take their stuff, the noobs actually die." - Madimorga

  • bamdorfbamdorf Member UncommonPosts: 150

    If it makes any sense to attempt to dissect an MMO into parts --- thinking perhaps that the interaction between the parts is too great for analysis to make any sense ---then I would venture the opinion that the OP topic is the most important feature of the MMO experience, and that the other aspects, which often ignite flame wars on these pages, are less important.

    Now those of you who think that MMOs should simply be a solo experience, I don' t care what you think in this instance, because the discussion is about the MMO experience, not the single player experience.

    Of course community cannot exist in a vaccuum (as I hinted straight off).   Be that as it may, I will state boldly that if the community experience is great, the game will succeed, and in fact that is the ONLY case in which an MMO has a chance to achieve the promise of the genre.

    The game may be buggy.     The support may be sketchy.  The graphics may not be much.   There may be features in the game that are later labelled as classic stupidities by "experts".    But if the community works, it carries the day.  

    Case in point.   Just such an MMO was EQ in the first couple of years.   Horrible launch, buggy, bad support, corpse retrievals, very few quests....etc etc etc.    But there are a bunch of people including yours truly who despite continuing efforts have never had an MMO experience to equal early EQ.     Yep, I didn't like a lot of stuff in it and latter day games are much better technically but those people I will remember forever.    I rather think UO might have been like that too --- others can testify --- I couldn't play it because I detested the isomorphic pseudo 3d view and the controls.   I played a lot of WOW, and I enjoyed it, and it was technically 100 times better than EQ...but...I never reached the experience I had back in the day.  

    Might I suggest that an MMO developer start the design with the community in mind, rather than implementation of an IP?    Wouldn't some different choices be made?  Of course how it works out may always be a bit magical, but doesn't this approach give a better chance to avoid another AAA failure?

    Like, there needs to be lots of  reasons that people want to work together (or against each other) in game?  Oh well.

    Forgive the strident tone, but I am getting old, and my ideas may be getting fossilized.....



    Rose-lipped maidens,
    Light-foot lads...

  • GikkuGikku Member Posts: 208

    Jaime, well put. The truth is in any game where people are playing together there is a community and where there is a community there is always standards and impressions. That is always going to have strong bearing on the games success or failure. It also has some influence over the games directions for the dev's as well. A community can be good or it can be bad for a game. That depends on the people that make it up, just like in the real world.

    I have been playing on line games for a number of years and I can tell you when I go into a new one and the community isn't helpful I am not and do not continue playing it. Even with my gaming experience games vary in how you do things and if I ask a question or two and get smart arse answers or none at all there is no point in me going any further. That kind of a community only hurts a game and drives potential players away. On the other hand if the people in the community are helpful and kind I will give the game a fair shot. Maybe I don't continue to play it in time but it won't be because of the community.

    Yes I have seen many times where the community on the forums voicing complaints or opinions has caused changes in a game. After all the people playing the game may not be dev's but they know what is working and what is not or what they want. It is those people that a game lives or dies because of so even though many don't think so the dev's do read and listen. Sometimes it may not be possible but that doesn't mean it is not considered or talked about.

    I for one have friends within the game and in truth have more in the  game than real life. Gaming is my form of entertainment so I spend more time at  on my comp than leaving my home in reality. Many would find fault with this but there are real people behind those toons we play and I know them just as well as people outside the game. Truth is the game is a common factor. Some I have even met in real life and they are really nice people.

    Jaime, maybe sometime in the future you could do an article on the people in game vs people out of the game. The things that many are up against who play on line game and don't get out much so to speak.


  • Shelby13Shelby13 Member Posts: 79

    Community... means a lot of different things to different people.

    But for me it means a core of people working together to have fun playing a game.. at least when it comes to MMO community anyway.

    A good community is self-policing for the most part, maintaining a standard where those who are not communicating anything for the collective good get reported or shunned.  

    Part of having a good community is active moderators.. both in-forums and in-game.. because sooner or later someone is going to test the boundries, break them.. and do it over an over again till someone with authority to stop them boots them off.

    There are community builders.. those who add player guides... respond to newbie questions... extend invitations to others for group activities.

    Not every game has a lot of community builders.   New games take some time to 'gel'... if that ever happens.

    There are also a lot of 'clique' communites... where those in control (F2P has this sometimes) are just fine with a free-for-all, survival of the fittest approach instead    Personally, I stay clear of those like the plague... often the greater good is sacrificed for the preferences of the few.  Not many of 'those' out there, but they do exist in my experience.

    A good community often makes a player play a LOT longer than if the community is poor.   People stick around to 'hang' with friends long after the game content has gone stale.

    I personally like games (and forums) that support community building with good sets of tools and active moderation & management.

    Housing/Cities (see other articles on this subject) make it easier to form 'virtual' communites.   Guilds/Fleets and the like are also excellent communication/identification tools for creating communites.

    Faction (team side) is also a community-building system.. but not the best IMO (sometimes to polarizing0.

    Ultimately, community is what WE make it... we decide how the 'community' looks every time we hit 'reply' on a forum or type something in spatial / local chat.    Every emote... every helpful hand in battle... every hack someone uses... all affect the overall community and how the game feels in the end to those who play it.


  • KhalathwyrKhalathwyr Member Posts: 3,138

    Although a fallacy persists that the community's opinion means nothing to developers, a collection of individual voices, formed together, has the power to change game mechanics, introduce new items and areas, and in some cases, completely revise a game into a new experience.

    I still have to continue to disagree with this statement. Just as the examples that were pointed to in the lines before this I can point to Cryptic not including PvE Episodic content before launch like much of the tester crew were imploring them to. I can point to many beseeching Funcom to include a healthy, detailed oriented, robust crafting system in AoC only to be shouted down by the Godager mantra of "Combat, Combat, Combat".

    I can point to the fact that in these scenarios and in the ones you mention it isn't only until the threat, and in the case of a few the actual exodus of sizeable consumer base that the community is all of the sudden "listened to".

    Maybe if these companies weren't so scared of their customers living in their worlds they would focus on creating the tools for their customers to build the world instead of trying to hold the reigns on everything. Just possibly if they did that instead of trying to in essence play the games for us we'd see less people feeling like they aren't being heard.

    P.S. By the way, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for having the professionalism to write articles without belittling your readership that may not agree with your view. I know I haven't always agreed with you, but I respect your views. Others may have an idea as to why I wrote this and I don't expect you to comment on that situation (you have proven yourself a professional and act accordingly). But thanks again. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.


    "Many nights, my friend... Many nights I've put a blade to your throat while you were sleeping. Glad I never killed you, Steve. You're alright..."

    Kickstarter 2 / Naysayers 0

  • Jairoe03Jairoe03 Member Posts: 732

    I agree with many other's statements here in regards to the community. It really adds a lot to the game since the people are what truly make the world you're experience, living and breathing. The community ultimately decides the fates of these games despite the box sales, MMORPG's are more about its longevity anyway.

    I'm really hoping to see more and more games with lower costs of entry to further expound on allowing the players to choose which ones live and die especially since much of the revenue behind MMORPG's is more about the residual income over the long term and might force companies to reconsider launching too early and cheap marketing ploys etc.

    Ultimately, I think this is where WoW really falls apart. The community is pretty horrible much akin to spoiled brats IMO. Everyone does what they want when they want without too much consideration for others at least from my experiences or maybe I'm just tired of the bad experiences in the LFG tool as of late. With the opposite extreme being EVE, it hasn't done anything crazy or spectacular in terms of pure subscriptions, but it does cater to its community in an extreme, via Council, profile pages, emphasis on corporation etc.

    Again, great article and love to see community being pointed out more and more as a driving force within the MMO industry. Definitely something I been toting on the forums ever since I joined.

  • ArathskytheArathskythe Member Posts: 4

    "Although a fallacy persists that the community's opinion means nothing to developers, a collection of individual voices, formed together, has the power to change game mechanics, introduce new items and areas, and in some cases, completely revise a game into a new experience."

    While I think it means something to some of the best developers, I think in most games it is drowned out by the greed of the corporate executives and the egos of the majority of developers.  Blizzard and Ndoors are two of the worst about this.  Blizzard's Devs have an ego the size of the Pacific Ocean, and Ndoors corporate greed comes before all else.  These are two examples of games I play, but I have heard similar comments about other companies.

    Now to the rest of the article, it is well written and does give a good overview of the importance of a community and the sucess of a game.  I really agree with some of the posts in here that say developers should take more consideration with their community in mind, a point I think is too often missed and should infact be a priority.

  • UnsungTooUnsungToo Member Posts: 276

    I don't know about others, but that's why I speak my mind. There's things I want from games and there's things I don't.

    I swear to god, i have got to find a way to make my games.

    Godspeed my fellow gamer

  • jayartejayarte Member UncommonPosts: 450

    Thanks for a most enjoyable article, Jaime.  It felt particularly apt for me since I have been thinking a lot about community in mmo's for several months now.


    I choose to play online games rather than console because I enjoy interacting with other players.  I find the gaming experience more immersive if I am not surrounded solely by AI npc's.  This wish to play alongside other people, however, tends to be very double-edged, at least for me. 


    I like to log into a game, call a greeting into general/zone chat and also guild chat (when I'm in one) and ...  I love to get a reply.  I notice more and more that people, whether in guild or general, and even sometimes in group/party chat, don't seem to reply to greetings/friendly comments.  I can log in and say Good Evening, Everyone ^^ and receive nary a whisper of an answer.  Sometime later someone might shout "ding", or ask a question, and receive some responses (which is great, don't get me wrong).  What I notice, and find very disturbing, is that people (and I acknowledge here that I'm generalising about what I see, and only talking about my own particular experience) don't seem to want to exchange pleasantries.  There are plenty of arguments in zone chat about the same old things; WoW and whether or not it "sucks", rants against anyone who speaks in a language which isn't English; complaints about whichever game is being currently played, and so on. 


    As I said above, I do see replies from people asking specific questions, but I don't see very much general interaction along the lines of replying to a greeting, asking how folks are etc.  I find this lack of interaction most frustrating, and often find my mood continually deflating until I log off in defeat.


    I'm not really interested in trying to prove my case, so if you have a different experience in mmo's that's great and I'm pleased for you, but this is my experience and is a trend I have noticed across a wide range of games (Vanguard, WoW, Allods, Aion, Alganon and more) over a period of many months (or maybe even longer).

  • EvasiaEvasia Member Posts: 2,827

    Darkfall community did complain somewhat about pve but it was minor and becouse all who bought game knew it was pure pvp game while WAR was maybe also a pvp game but was also a themepark for casuals and similar looks and races like WoW so many who started playing WAR screamed for pve they exspected this for a themepark, this was in way lesser extend case with Darkfall becouse most knew pvp was main focus, and its still not much pve in darkfall and not many complain, then it was at launch.

    Games played:AC1-Darktide'99-2000-AC2-Darktide/dawnsong2003-2005,Lineage2-2005-2006 and now Darkfall-2009.....
    In between WoW few months AoC few months and some f2p also all very short few weeks.

  • ScotScot Member LegendaryPosts: 14,147

    Without a community a MMO is a soulless shell. But for a MMO company a community is both a boon and a bane. As long as things go well the community helps the MMO immensely, but if things are perceived to be going wrong the community only serves to rub issues in the face of MMO staff.

    Rather than seeing the community as a testing ground for future development it is too often seen as a hurdle for the developers to jump over and ignore.

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  • Hopscotch73Hopscotch73 Member UncommonPosts: 971

    Great article Jaime, I'm not so sure of the effect that community has on the development side of games (seems rather dependent on the devs attitudes to their players) but I do know that the attitude of the community in general has an effect on its players.

    A solid community that doesn't feed the trolls and where chat is monitored by GMs is something I thought couldn't exist outside some theoretical MMO idylll - until I started playing FE. The more time I spend in-game the more it strikes me how important Icarus' approach is in forging (and maintaining) a community that is welcoming and helpful.

    I know that FE is small, and the single server makes it relatively easy to police, and that what Icarus do could not logistically be done by the likes of Blizzard - but boy do I love Icarus for it.

    After years of WoW and various other AAA titles where the "community" doesn't even get a chance to make an impression, crushed under the weight of dirge-spam, goldselling spam, and elitist arguments about who has the bigger epeen; it's incredibly refreshing to be part of a community that doesn't embrace or endorse any of that.

    Before I started playing FE, the notion of community always got a shoulder-shrug and a "Meh, it is what it is" from me, since I always felt community in-game was found in guilds/clans/legions - and up to the player to find.

    Now I know otherwise, and hopefully more games in the future will implement this kind of community moderation.

    It really does make a difference.

  • MordacaiMordacai Member Posts: 309

    I see the gaming community as a small village...

    You have the mayor, this is that public figure the leader that you referred to that sways peoples votes and ideas as they move about the game world.

    You have the Postal worker, this is the communicator for the game (in many forms this could be the forum person that rights the guides to the event organizer and social butterfly) This person seems to be everywhere at once and knows just about everyone's business ...after all the post office knows all...

    The town cop-This is the hero of the community, the paladin, the leader of the light side against dark, the raid leader and organizer the pvp leader who leads an army against the griefers to wipe them out (for a short time).

    The gossiper, this is the chat person who chats to everyone, the forum person who has a comment to every thread and has a thread cound into the billions and usually a very strong although often inaccurate opinion/knowledge.

    The town thug, this is of course the griefer, the one on holloween nite that goes around tp'g all the old people's and teachers yards..

    The school teacher-This could be similar to the gossiper but usually this person has more accurate knowledge of the game and has written guides, is an active community person in the forums and usually is the one in a group that will take the time to explain what and HO chain is an how it works or organizes a party to go to a dungeon and crawls through even with wipes to the finish.

    The town doctor, this is the guy who is always there to fix things, the code junky who runs the numbers, the stat jockey who plays the database game and min/maxer in your group who may or may not tell you how to play to you fullest potential.

    The gas station attendant (cooter) as I like to call them, they are the neighborly person who like to chat, who's always out for the trade, the deal they are the barterer who you see constantly in the chat window shouting WTS or WTB..

    The green grocer, this of course is the money man, the one who's out to make a buck in trade, crafting, playing the auction house at all expense of all other aspects of the game..there goal is money/gold not other game play...

     ADDED: Ooops I forgot to add the COACH, he is the guild leader and raid organizer similar to the mayor and may even be like the mayor but this is the organizer for the party, the raid and defintely a guild leader or major player in the guild when it comes to the rules, regulations and attitude of the guild.

    The one I can't swing though in all this is how many of these get to the devs...and get them to make changes in the game..sure there are some that sway others in a game and many voisterous forum go-ers but I just don't see them changing a devs mind or causing that much impact globally for the game...as an individual...now all of these or lops sided in one area of the aboves will change devleopers tune but i'm finding it hard to see how the single individual makes the change..

  • elderotterelderotter Member Posts: 651

    Community is what keeps me in a game. I loathe the WoW community and despite several tries could not get into the game.  In many games I turn off various portions of the chat because it gets boring seeing all the non-game conversations - usually dominated by 2-3 players and who get all bent out of shape if asked to take their private conversation to a private chat.  I play both solo and group in MMO's and I have to say that solo players do  become part of the community and can offer good insights and helpful hints to all players.  I am not currently playing a MMO but miss it dearly. I just cannot find a game that keeps me interested for more than 3-5 months at a time.  This is my problem, not the games, and not the communities.  Hopefully I will find a game that sucks me in.  Perhaps I will try the Darkfall trial... but from what I heard the community is like a biker bar at 10pm and I am a little too old to appreciate that, lol. 

    As I said I don't buy a game based on the community but it is what can keep me in the game past a week.

  • BattlestormBattlestorm Member UncommonPosts: 98

    Originally posted by eludajae
    While this article has some truths stated in it, I can not believe the writer wrote basically a long winded manifesto for trollers. Not like they need encouragement to be whinny little bastards, but great...just encourage trollers. Sorry if that was not your general push with this, but all this article said to me was "Be a troller its fun!"

    Wow, the above comment by Eludajae is a completely off-beat, accusational, and is an entirely inapplicable post. Perhaps the words in the article were just too "big" or something.

    This writing, like all the others I've read by Jaime so far, is great and full-on true. I initially wasn't even going to read that article because I'm confident, solo-capable, group-friendly and somewhat of an introvert when left to my own devices. So, for me, I never thought I "truly" considered community when playing a game . . . but, without realizing it, we all do; it's a bit of a "DUH!" on my part, but nobody's perfect.

    It's funny how defining community in an all-encompassing sense, as was done in this article, really puts things into perspective. I can now see that my impressions of the FFXI crowd (rumored to be rude, niche-based, and unfriendly) kept me from playing the game altogether; that and the fact that I do NOT like machines, guns, and other such technology in any MMO. This is the same for other games as well that I've left, returned to or have otherwise disregarded entirely.

    Let's face it, these are indeed MMO's and, by definition, if we weren't interested in interaction we'd never step into these worlds to begin with; Oblivion and it's class of single-player RPG would more than suffice. I guess it's common sense, but even the simplest of concepts slips your mind when you truly feel, for the most part, as if the ebb and flow of the world's gaming community has no bearing on your final decisions; but it does, both your decisions and the decisions of the devs as well.

    IMPORTANT: I'm right 100% of the time; even if I completely contradict something I, myself, have previously said I'm still right . . . on both accounts. Any arguments to the contrary are wrong. If you disagree please begin reading this important message from the beginning. Thank you for your time and understanding. ~Battlestorm

  • majimaji Member UncommonPosts: 2,091

    Interesting article, but should have been fluffed up with some more or less serious graphs, comics or anything. "Communities" as topic by itself invites more to do so than many other topics, and so I'm a bit perplexed why the author chose to keep the "wall of text" impression.

    Let's play Fallen Earth (blind, 300 episodes)

    Let's play Guild Wars 2 (blind, 45 episodes)

  • BattlestormBattlestorm Member UncommonPosts: 98

    Originally posted by maji
    Interesting article, but should have been fluffed up with some more or less serious graphs, comics or anything. "Communities" as topic by itself invites more to do so than many other topics, and so I'm a bit perplexed why the author chose to keep the "wall of text" impression.

    I can't seem to help myself from saying, "All of my books stopped having pictures in them by about the second grade or so."

    . . . but I will say that sometimes a picture speaks a thousand words and often times livens up what some people might consider a dry topic. I enjoyed the read without the pictures, but I can see where they might have been a nice, entertaining break from a "wall of text" (which, if you've seen my posts, I tend to prefer).

    Judging the piece solely on the content, it's A+ material. I personally wouldn't detract points because there wasn't a comic-strip version.

    IMPORTANT: I'm right 100% of the time; even if I completely contradict something I, myself, have previously said I'm still right . . . on both accounts. Any arguments to the contrary are wrong. If you disagree please begin reading this important message from the beginning. Thank you for your time and understanding. ~Battlestorm

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