MMO community building: how would you go about it?

Discussion in 'MMO Design and Virtual Worlds' started by elliott20, Dec 15, 2008.

  1. elliott20

    elliott20 Member

    this was the article that got me thinking about this.

    One of the greatest rewards for being part of an MMO is not just the power that your character has accrued, but simply the community that you have taken part in creating and get to participate in.

    However, a quick look around shows that while game companies often devote large amount of time on developing game balance and game content, but little effort is spent on creating a community that is both welcoming and conducive for team play.

    For a good example, the article names WoW. it claims that much of WoW's success stems from their ability to cater to both new and veteran players alike, and because of the fact that the game environment is generally not as toxic as say, the HDRemix chatroom, new comers are more likely to return to the game.

    This is actually kind of a relevant issue for HDRemix, as while the barrier for entry for learning the game has been lowered, the behavioral problems we see in various problem players still exist.

  2. monkeyswinkle

    monkeyswinkle Member

    One thing might be to have a good matchmaking system, not just to match characters of similar power level, but matching players with similar agenda for playing those types of games. Part of that would be to try and help players figure out themselves what they might like to get out of a game. Veteran online gamers might already know what they like to get out of games and from the community, and know what to look for, and probably already have a group of friends that they plan to play with. But players new to games in general, and new to the community, it's harder. Even if your game is set up with different types of servers, like "RP servers" vs "action servers", etc., newer players might not know what to look for and might get turned away from the game if they end up in the wrong type of sub-community for them. Exactly how to go about helping players know what they want, and how to then match them, I don't have any specific ideas. I keep thinking of those sections of table-top RPG manuals with sections on types of players and "what is an RPG?" and so forth that I normally skim over; or some sort of cheesy projective test. But, something lame like that might not be the best thing to have at the start of your game.
  3. BeastofBurden

    BeastofBurden Well-Known Member

    I would make a MMO where the players characters revealed their main account name if someone does a /whois or just by hovering the mouse over their character. Go ahead and act a fool or ninja loot, because everyone knows your account name no matter what character you're under. Most people would think twice before acting anonymously because it is the internet.
  4. Ilk1986

    Ilk1986 Active Member

    Or how about we simply make game mechanics in which it is impossible to be called "hardcore", or that you have nothing but a token, otherwise useless item, to show for it?

    In MMO, this means the system I suggested: deterministic drops, and levels come after quick, set missions rather than CLICK CLICK CLICK ON THE MONSTER! It's not dead? CLICK CLICK CLICK ON THE MONSTER! I SAID CLICK ON THE MONSTER, GODDAMMIT! Oh, now it's dead? Go do that 1000x more times.

    I realize people want constant rewards, so the assignments should come in quick succession and require little time to do each individual one. For instance, take Diablo 2's first quest--the Den of Evil. You have to kill around 30 monsters. So you could divide the mission into say "kill ten monsters", after which you'd gain a level. Then kill fifteen more monsters (another level). Then kill the remaining twenty (another level). And after that, you'd go to Akara for the reward.

    The problem comes when you have a game that originally took massive amounts of grinding. The hardcore people don't want that changed. If they had to take the stairs, why should the newbie get an elevator? And when that newbie takes that elevator up to the 1000th floor one floor at a time, he certainly doesn't want the next generation of newbies to get an elevator that goes instantly to the 500th floor and then take another elevator that instantly goes to the 750th, then another to the 850th, 900th, 940th, 970th, 990th, 995th, 6, 7, 8, 9, 1000...

    So the solution is simple:

    Make the game such that you really can't tell who's an OMFG NOOBZOR!

    I mean honestly...what's the biggest task in all of software development? Idiot-proof your program.

    Now, apply the same principles. Idiot-proof your game.

    In Diablo 2, Cain should have told you about combining a certain magical item with a certain gem, a certain rune, and a magical jewel gave you a certain crafted item. Of course, I'm of the extremely strong opinion that D2 shouldn't have had sets and uniques such that you had to CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK ON THE MONSTER a thousand times over to find Tal Rasha's adjudication or a Zod rune (I believe the probability of actually finding a Zod was lower than dying on a plane that blew up because it got hit by a lightning bolt).

    Know how people won't be fuckwads?

    When there's nothing they can be a fuckwad over.
  5. elliott20

    elliott20 Member

    I'm going to weigh in more later on. For now, another article that I found on this topic. more food (junk or otherwise) for thought, I guess.
  6. banewlf

    banewlf Well-Known Member

    Ilk, your idea has merit. However, you highly restrict the kind of game you can make by adhering to those principles. Thats not to say that a game like that couldnt be successful. The Sims is very much what you describe, there is nothing to be a fuckwad over. And obviously, based on sales, the Sims taps into quite a large market.

    On the other hand, you simply cannot design, say, a competitive game like that. By its very nature, people are going to have something to be a fuckwad over (being better at the game). So the question becomes alot tougher to answer for most games out there.
  7. elliott20

    elliott20 Member

    there is a difference between in-game conflict like say, competition and just being a pure fuckwad.

    Sirlin, by having using the forum as his testing grounds for feedback on HDRemix, has managed to show exactly how you can build community that fits well to your games needs. Here, we can talk about strategy, ask about how to be better competition, and reasonably not expect to be treated like crap for it.

    Just the same, competition does not mean lack of sportsmanship either. At most tournaments, I'm pretty sure the winner doesn't spend the rest of his time pissing on those he just beat.
  8. banewlf

    banewlf Well-Known Member

    I'm not saying that if you have competition that there is no way to solve the fuckwad dilemma, but it WILL happen unless measures are being taken against it. You have to remember, this is centered around online communities. In real life, people have a tendency to be alot less of a douche than they do online, due to the anonymity. Also, even with anonymity, people tend to not be douche's when interacting in a small community (since they virtually have no anonymity).

    But, when you have a large enough anonymous community things begin to go to hell. Ilks solution to this was to build a game where there's nothing to brag about, nothing to feel superior to another player about. This simply cant exist in a competitive game, because by its very definition you can be better or worse than another person at the game, and that is cause enough (given a large enough community and anonymity) for fuckwads to occur.
  9. elliott20

    elliott20 Member

    ahh, yes. that. that's kind of why I'm not really all for Ilk's idea.
  10. Ilk1986

    Ilk1986 Active Member

    I disagree. I believe you CAN design a competitive game by that. I just believe that you need to design a game in which everyone can start playing the "real" competitive game quickly. What I mean by that is this:

    If D2 had an arena in which you could only really survive with uberly geared out characters, then finding these uber rare items would take a lot less time, or there'd be a lot better a methodology to it than running the countess ten thousand times to get that one Jah rune.

    Similarly, take Guilty Gear Accent Core. Since I play Sol Badguy, there are some very easy changes to make him more friendly to newbies.

    1) Remap sidewinder to QCF+P in the air rather than QCF+H in the air, because if you do 9236+H in quick succession, you get an aerial volcanic viper sometimes. This is also why I support macros. Simply so you make it as hard as possible for someone to screw up what they want to do.

    2) Make the FRC windows rather than 2 or 3 frames, around 20 frames, such that it's next to impossible to screw up the FRC if you actually felt like using it.

    3) Remap the 8 hit grand viper to 214+H rather than 214+S SHSHSHSHSHSHSH all while mashing 46464646464646464644646.

    Simply, I believe most of the FUCKTARD behavior comes from newbies trying to reach a level on which they can honestly begin to compete, rather than them utterly not having the skills to do so.

    Eliminate the aspect of players having to spend 1000 hours just getting their characters decked out in an MMO, or 1000 hours practicing just to be able to consistently FRC or instant air dash in Guilty Gear or SHFFL and wavedash in super smash brothers (would easily be rectified with having L-canceling automatic, short-hop mapped to one of the two jump buttons instead of BOTH being full jump, and wavedash mapped to another button).

    In conclusion, I believe the FUCKWAD mentality can be very much reduced if not done away with altogether in a COMPETITIVE game by making a game that is fun to play for its own intrinsic value, rather than to say "HAHA I HAVE AN UBER CHARACTER".

    Yeah, well, in the 1000 hours it took you to get that uber character, I managed to apply to 30 different firms, go to the gym a hundred times, read ten books, and go on 50 dates.

    Who's laughing now?
  11. sage

    sage Well-Known Member

    If Grand Viper were simply "press any p,k,s, or h on hit" or even easier "hold any etc." to generate another hit in the sequence, it would be so much simpler and easier and you would preserve the versatility of the move. The current Grand Viper is a prime example of a game being designed to use a stick rather than a pad.

    I'm not sure most competition is based on showing off a character. I know people who deliberately use weaker characters or builds to show off skill instead. I have a friend who, before Gunz went premium and he dropped in in disgust, would form new characters and fight as high a level as he could, and win, because he was better at fighting than the opponents with extra armour and damage were.
    I mean, hell, WoW has tournament realms, right? Isn't that a prime example of people competing without bragging about time invested, but rather intelligence/skill applied to character choices?
  12. Ilk1986

    Ilk1986 Active Member

    Well in that case, then wouldn't "pwner killing with a pipsqueak" be that much easier since you could get yourself a pwner, a pipsqueak, or anything in between?
  13. jamuszero

    jamuszero Member

    I still think John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad theory holds out. And since you can't remove normal people or an audience from your community, the only thing that you should remove is anonymity.

    I'm pretty sure the marketing department will disagree, however. Most people would rather be caught dead as an anonymous fuckwad than to have their real name posted anywhere. Then there's the identity thieves and the creepy underage stalkers...
  14. nifboy

    nifboy Member

    Obligatory YouTube video

    Anyway, my theory is that the community can usually police itself, so long as you give it the power to do so. /ignore is great for MMOs and I wish there was an equivalent for FPSs so that if I blacklist a player I don't see any servers he's playing on in the future. In the short term though, Mute or /quit usually does the job if someone is totally insufferable, and in TF2 at least switching servers to avoid someone is pretty easy.

    Marketing a game to testosterone-fueled males in their 20s probably doesn't help a game's case much. Almost all the MMOs trying to siphon players from WoW are targeting the key ***hole demographic, and IMO WoW is better for it.
  15. elliott20

    elliott20 Member

    I felt that I may have directed this discussion in a direction that is somewhat narrower than I had hoped. for that, I apologize.

    My original intention is talk about not just preventing fuckwad behavior but also just community building to make player experience more pleasant in general.

    to me, community building really comes down to several components

    1. player introduction
    2. player development & retention
    3. feeback loop

    that is, much like the software itself, the community itself should be managed much like the product lifecycle itself. Of course, it would be presumptuous and arrogant to think you can simply MANAGE users like they're products, but I do think having infrastructure to facilitate smoother game play can help strengthen a game's performance and allow it to grow.

    1. player introduction

    The big question of this phase is how we introduce a player to the game and what does it take for the player to get started. Primarily, this addresses the cost of entry into a particular game. Normally, the cost entry into a game community is composed of the financial requirement, the skill requirement, and the social requirement (in the case of MMOs, at least). There are probably more, but those are the major ones I can think of off the top of my head.

    To use Sirlin's example, he once said that he would teach people how to play VF by teaching them "5-move Pai" so that a new player can pick up a character relatively and let them get started. This addresses actually two of the three requirements above as first it addresses the skills entry barrier as well as the social factor. (Since it is assume that Sirlin is friends with these people he teaches) A forum board such as this or SRK could serve the same function as new players can go to them for tips, strategy, and just knowing people you can play with/against. In MMORPGs, this can be trickier as skill requirements also can come in the form of character skill which there is no way to get around other than time investment. (doesn't HAVE to be this way, but it can)

    However, in order for these communities and boards to work, there needs to be greater promotion of these resources to new players. After all, most of us probably didn't know about these places until AFTER we started ST and started pursuing web forums about it.

    2. Player retention and development

    This is where the game system itself needs to do the work. How do you keep players coming back for more? Again, we go back to the same 3 requirements.

    Of course, the financial cost, if it is consistent with earlier entry requirements and are reasonable, should not pose as an issue. But if it has mounting costs like say, MtG or WH40K, then player retention starts to become a problem. (that's partially why I gave up MtG myself.)

    The other two requirements, skill and social, however, changes in how they function. By this point, the skill entry barrier should not be an issue, as the player is presumed to have already made it past the entry barrier. Rather in this case, the skill level requirement goes from "is it easy pick up" to "is it still fun after you pick it up". ST in this case is a great example of that. Once you pick up the basics and you're at least competitive, the game play is deep enough that the game can sustain deep analysis.

    The social barrier also changes. After all, the initial entry is mostly just a form of learning skills and learning the ropes. But what happens afterwards? Do the new players just become a member and that's it? After all, I clearly am not a staple of the community the way Sirlin is to this community. So there must be some level of growing within the social community one can do even AFTER they've become full fledged members of the community. That process, I believe, deepens a player's connection to the community and it is at this phase I think friendships can really be forged throughout the community.

    3. feedback loop

    This is where developers come back into the loop again. After there is a community of enthusiasts looking at your game, the work of retention/development is still not quite done. After all, like many games, sometimes patterns emerge from game play that shows that the game could probably use tweaking. The feedback loop is utilize the very community you've built to do just that. New iterations of the game could be developed based off of the feedback and based on the community you've established. Let us not forget that many of the people who will buy a new game of the same franchise are those who were initially loyal to it in the first place. Trying to further retain these players would be the focus here.
  16. banewlf

    banewlf Well-Known Member

    You seem to be missing the point. Recall, the point of all of this stems from the fact we want to reduce or prevent fuckwadism in our games. Now, even a game where "gear" or anything analogous doesnt exist, people can still be fuckwads over it. Why? Because they can be better (or worse) at the game than others. This is occasion enough to be a fuckwad over something given anonymity and a large community. The only way to remove this element is to remove the competitive element. Then you no longer have a competitive game. So we cant just say "Give them nothing to be a fuckwad over" because thats impossible if you game has an element of skill.
  17. Callan S.

    Callan S. New Member

    I think it all stems from a rather weird social norm on the internet.

    For example, how often have you invited a bunch of strangers off the street to have drinks with you at a pub?

    And how often have you formed a party with a bunch of strangers to do a dungeon?

    What FUELS the f-wads is that people online will participate in activities with absolute strangers, while in real life they would not do an activity with them at all.

    The f-wads aren't the real problem. The problem is people invite strangers into their activity, when in real life they never invite a stranger into any activity they are doing (unless really drunk). This stimulates the f-wad to not control his behaviour, because he can sneak in this door that has been left wide open for all and sundry to enter.

    Not that design can't help with this - you could have bar like areas that give you some resource for being in them for X amount of time. Here you can chat and you might find someone with similar interests to game with. Or if you don't, the game has viable (rather than token) solo play to engage in, after X time.

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