Being supportive 2

Interesting. On my old blog, i had this post about being supportive of the few (and getting even rarer) companies who bring MMORPGs to us- at that time, it was about Trion’s up-to-then unknown imported game. Today, i’ll return to this topic in regards to Rift’s new expansion Starfall Prophecy- this post started its life as a comment on Psychochild’s blog, but i felt like it was getting too long. TLDR would be: “don’t hold a grudge”.

Trion once was that highly respected company- everyone cheered when the news broke that they’d be publishing ArcheAge. Then something bad happened and now they’re struggling – reputation wise.

Here’s the thing, though: what big MMO devs/publishers do you know? Blizzard? Cancelled their latest MMO in favour of a lobby shooter. Daybreak? Ha, well, they seem to be downgrading lately. Turbine? Already on their way out. Funcom? Is struggling and needs to do something other than MMOs to actually earn some money.

Now, we can have all the business model talks or how exactly each and every company developing MMORPGs went wrong, but i’d like to state something else:

I feel Trion is on the right way.

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MMOs are not about playing with friends

A while back i came across this quote when i read a post about Jaedia returning to Guild Wars 2:

…I love being able to play with my friends, that is the big draw of MMORPGs after all,…

Hannah Richardson-Lewis, Returning to Tyria

Hannah/Jaedia is a great blogger – i enjoy following her blog and posts on mmorpg.com and i find myself agreeing with her for the most part- but this statement is something i don’t agree with, even if i know i’m probably blowing her harmless sentence up more than i should and MMORPGs are different for all of us, it’s that statement that inspired me to draft the following post a couple of weeks back, only to edit and publish it now for Blaugust.

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The Hybrid Journal

August is almost upon us- and with august comes Blaugust. This year, i wanted to take part- to get back into the groove of blogging and to slowly phase out the summer break.

So this year, Blaugust will be a relaxed affair- you don’t really have to commit to a schedule and you “win” by participating. Seems easy, right? All you have to do is fill out a small form. But what is that i see?

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The sub strikes back – now what?

Woe is me, i’m falling into a trap again! I was really enjoying the first six months of this year when i played Elder Scrolls Online exclusively. Of course, MMO wanderlust was still a thing, but i kept it under check- until the summer break, that is. Interestingly, actually having even less time to play made me ponder my options more than before. Elder Scrolls Online is a great game, but to be honest, it’s not something you log into for half an hour or so to dabble a bit in and log out after a short time. The story-and-lore-heavy quests take time, which is a good thing. But it also means that you have to devote that time and i’ve found it quite difficult to do in the bright season. I don’t know about your place, but summer in Germany means daylight from about 5 am to 10.30 pm- i know it’s very different in China, where it’s dark at 8/9 pm in the evening (Shanghai area). It’s more “difficult” to lose yourself into a game.

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Guild Update: Summer break

Our small Elder Scrolls Online guild will take a summer break from the end of june to the end of august. By that, we mean that none of the recurring events (leveling DC characters together, exploring Cyrodiil, the monthly guild meeting) we do will take place during that time. We’ll still be playing ESO and we’ll probably meet for a dungeon run from time to time, but we’ll be on hold, essentially. While this is a somewhat risky move, as it might look like activity is going down and we’ll have to reconnect and get back into our rhythm after the break, i feel it’s the right thing to do for a couple of reasons.

Oh Italy, how i miss you!
Oh Italy, how i miss you!

It’s not the season for in-game commitments

It’s summer. Real-life activities turn up very regularly- be it holidays, parties, events, simply meeting friends, the will to do something outdoors or simply the heat that drives us away from the pc. There’s a lower motivation to sign-up for an event and actually taking part in it.

Experience

In my experience, planned events for summer days get cancelled often due to a lack of participants. Sure, there might be people signing up, but more often than not, there’ll be cancellations on short notice and i’d end up with just one or two other players taking part. There’s nothing worse you can do for your guild’s morale than cancelling events- usually, when i schedule one, i’ll see it through even if only one other person shows up. The second you start cancelling events, they’ll seem less important to your members and soon they might choose to simply not turning up even when they signed up for an event.

That’s much worse than simply deciding that one type of content or a particular time (like the summer months) are off limits for you and your guild.

Recharging the batteries

When you set up weekly events, it can get exhausting. For the members who participate, surely, but all the more for the guild leader, as they are the person who has to commit to the schedule as well as each individual event they set up. While i’m always having a great time when an event starts and we are playing together, sometimes i’m not in the mood to play just minutes before. Maybe i’d prefer to watch something, spend time with my wife or read a book.

So a time where i don’t have to think about running events frees up a good chunk of time for me- and this is important to recharge my batteries and stay motivated to provide scheduled events. By the end of the summer break, i’ll be looking forward to get the guild going again, and i have quite a few plans for the final four months of this year.

The move

Furthermore, my family will be moving in the end of june. Not far, just about 15km (9mi) away, from a rented house into our own. There won’t be much work to do, as we hired a company to make the actual move and our new house is in a good state. However, we have to do a few things here in the rented home, maybe painting the walls a bit, and getting rid of furniture and stuff we don’t take with us. I expect to be busy with the move at least until mid-july, maybe the whole month.

discord

Staying in touch

The most difficult thing to achieve during the summer months will be staying in touch with the guildmates- we are a young guild, after all, and while bonds are continuously growing stronger, they are still building up. So the summer break also holds the potential of throwing us back a bit.

What can you do to stay in touch with guildmates if you have a very casual, small and social guild?

Encourage forum usage. I’ll prepare a few activities that will take place asynchronuously in the forums- things like screenshot contests, storytelling, sharing our appreciation of the game we’re playing come to mind. There’ll be forum titles to go along with these activities.

Encourage use of Discord. Voice chat is a funny thing in our guild, actually. We have the opportunity to make use of it, but rarely do so. I can only remember being on Discord for an event once. In the upcoming guild meeting just before the summer break begins, i’ll emphasize again that Discord will probably be the second most important community hub for us. I mean, there’s chat channels in addition to voice chat, so there’s that.

More casual ingame events. While i won’t commit to it, i still aim to meet up for a dungeon run or other group activities every once in a while.

Enjoying other games. Quite a few of us are big fans of The Secret World. Besides ESO, TSW has the biggest chance of seeing a group of us playing together. As with the casual ingame events, i won’t commit, but chances are we’ll form up a group once or twice during the summer break.

This should do it- i don’t want to overstretch as that would be counterproductive, but i do hope that this will work out in giving us a break for a couple of months while still feeling connected and looking forward to playing together from september on.

NBI – taking a break is fine

The Newbie Blogger Initiative is here again and after taking a blogging break for a few weeks i thought i wouldn’t have much advice to give to Newbies. But i think one of the main reasons for blogs to be discontinued is when the author stops writing for some reason or another. While that might be obvious, i think many people think that once you lose your rhythm, they “failed”. Once upon a time i read about how to quit smoking and one advice i read was that if you found yourself smoking one cigarette again, don’t think you failed quitting to smoke – because if you do, you’ll end up smoking just as much or more than before, and more than that: each “failed” try will make you more afraid to try again. I know that because i quit smoking half a dozen times and the thought of quitting terrified me in the end. Now, smoking is a bad habit and i’d call blogging a good habit- so let’s turn this around, shall we?

When you fail to deliver content regularly, don’t think of it as a failed attempt at blogging. It isn’t- you can simply continue whenever you like. Nothing got deleted, nobody forgot you and most certainly, nobody is angry with you. I know that because somehow, every year there seems to come a stretch of time when i don’t post. I’m always passionate about MMORPGs, so you might wonder why that is. There are a couple of possible reasons, actually.

Burnout

What it is

Burnout is the best reason to take a break. Burnout, in this case, is meant as the realization that we devote much more time to the hobby of gaming and writing about it than we are willing to give. Like Ironweakness did last month. MMORPGs are a time-intensive hobby and if you don’t pay attention, it is able to devour your free-time fully. Add reading and writing blogs to simply playing these games and it’s easy to lose track of time spent on the hobby before realizing that it took over your soul. Don’t let that happen to you- if you feel you need to take a break, just do it.

What to do about it

Nothing, this type of burnout is healthy. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to re-evaluate just how much time we spend on playing these games or read/write about them. It’s also one of the best ways to gain some distance and realize that, no, this news/Patch/Update/DLC/expansion isn’t that important and we are able to continue our lives just the same without them. Staying away from all that actually helps in rekindling your appreciation of the hobby- after a while, you’ll want to log into your favourite game(s), and consequently, you’ll find yourself willing to continue to share your thoughts on your blog. In this case, my advice would be to simply take a step back and return when you’re in the mood to.

Less time in game

What it is

Gaming blogs and playing games feed into each other- blogging about games can make you more excited for your games of choice, and playing games can give inspiration on what to write on your blog. However, sometimes, you’ll simply spend less time in game- for me, this is usually in the summer months, as there’s just too much going on aside from gaming so that i’m having trouble finding the time and the will to spend hours in games. This time of playing less can last a few days or a couple of months. If your blog only covers your ingame-actions or out-of-game-but-genre-related thoughts, you might find it difficult to think of topics.

What to do about it

Again, nothing much. However, if you’d like to write on your blog more than actually playing games, there are a couple of possibilities like commenting on news pieces, genre developments, things you look forward to in the next couple of months, commenting other bloggers’ posts. You could also change the range of topics covered on your blog by adding posts about your travels, writing about other types of entertainment (books, movies, tv-series) or different topics altogether (sports, for instance). Now, i do find it weird when i mix my “gaming” and “real life” personalities by writing about travels and i actually feel real life stuff like that has a better place elsewhere, it also helps your readers to get connected to you on a more personal level. As for the entertaining stuff- ever noticed how people who like the same artists/authors/directors/actors tend to share a lot of these? That’s how Amazon’s recommendations for you work- there’s a good chance, actually, that people who enjoy MMORPGs might share a similar taste in movies, books and such.

No ideas

If you still have no idea what to write about, read other blogs for inspiration or do one of the challenges for getting a blog started. There is that 20 days of blogging challenge floating around. I think it was created with World of Warcraft in mind, but it can be applied to many MMOs.

After the break

As i said, if you take a break, don’t fret about it. You didn’t “fail” in blogging, if there is such a thing. Personally, i’d advise against “i’m back”-posts, because if it turns out your break wasn’t over yet, it looks kind of strange to have a break of 1-3 months followed by a “back” message from 3 months ago. I’d simply get back into writing. In the same way, i’d advise against announcing your exit- because more often than not, you’ll be back, because MMORPGs are a great hobby, writing about them makes it even better and my guess is that once you’ve got bitten by the blogging bug, you’re probably not going to quit anytime soon.

Yesterday, Wolfy chose to write about the same thing, so this post might be redundant (but…but…i had it drafted and didn’t want to scrap it!). Join me next week when i write about reasons for why sharing topics isn’t bad, but great!

 

Dual Wielding LFG – fostering community, player edition

Dual Wielding: LFG Editionsometimes a topic is just too big for a couple of bloggers on their own. That’s when we send out the call, and see who steps up to help us with the challenge. This week, in the last edition of Dual Wielding, we’re tackling the question, “what can players do to foster community”?

Make sure to read the other posts, too:

ScreenShot00124

Play by the rules of game and society

Normally, i’d point to the Wil Wheaton rule of internet usage: don’t be a jerk. But if Game of Thrones showed us something, it was that you’ll be a jerk to someone, somewhere. Even in Themepark MMORPGs, there’s the possibility that your actions are considered impolite towards somebody else. Take cutscenes in LFG-dungeon groups as an example: while i, personally, think the polite thing to do is to let everyone go on their own pace, watching cutscenes if they like, i’ve heard people complain about this behaviour, stating that it’s a waste of other people’s time. While i personally think it’s best to go into a dungeon unprepared to make encounters surprising, challenging and a riddle to solve, in the general population it is considered very impolite to queue for an LFG-dungeon without at least reading up on boss mechanics.

When you go further into sandboxes like EVE, it becomes almost impossible to play that game without having ingame-conflict with other players. So in the end, what it comes down to is this: play by the rules of your preferred game(s), remember and follow the “code of conduct” of that game’s community, and whatever you do: don’t take the ingame fights to the human sitting behind the character. Deriving your own fun out of ruining someone else’s experience isn’t good behaviour. There’s absolutely no reason why ingame-enemies can’t be out-of-game friends.

While reading “Empires of EVE”, i was surprised that in the early days, there was a “honorable” way of fighting wars. The author of the book compared it to duelling; the fighting parties were expected to set up a fight, gather at the location, fight it out and reach consent on who won. With time and players more and more willing to do what it took to win wars, that faded away. Now EVE is a game with some tough, almost non-existent rules, and pirates/scammers and whatever type of player you’d normally put on the “Dark Side” will be able to find like-minded players who don’t see them as jerks, but as fun to be around.

guild

Find likeminded players

Whether you are polite or impolite, a friendly or competitive player, behaviour alone won’t help you in fostering your game’s, or even your own community. The easiest thing to do to foster community is to find likeminded players. It doesn’t matter if what you like is dressing up, building your dreamhouse, running dungeons or mining rocks in EVE, there’ll be other players enjoying these activities, as well. Find a guild that fits your preferred playstyle and personality. Chances are that there is one guild out there that is the perfect fit for you. I can remember times when my friendlist contained more players than the guild i was in, but nowadays that’s not the case anymore.

It has become quite difficult to form lasting relationships in MMOs, and in fact, i do blame the dungeon finder tool for that. A well-organized friendlist used to be our LFG tool. In WoW, i had a couple of tanks and healers on my list and would ping them when we were in a group that didn’t fill the role. While Dungeon Finders are convenient, they removed some social interaction. If you add in cross-server functionality, they even discourage you from creating bonds to the people who are sharing the dungeon running experience with you…as you’ll be unable to stay in contact.

So finding a guild is essential if you want to enjoy MMORPG with a sense of community. And if you’ve found one that seemed to be a good fit but it turns out that it wasn’t, leave the guild in a polite way. Good guild managers will want to know why you left, but will understand if you state your reasons.

If you can’t find a good fit in existing guilds, you should consider creating your own, to find likeminded players and get yourself some company. That’s what i did and i have to say, for now, it seems to work out perfectly.

I love scenes like this one

Get involved in your guild

If you found a guild, it’s time to get involved. The easiest thing to do is to participate in what your guild offers- be it an active guild- or voice chat, forums or whatever. As a guild manager myself i can also tell you that whatever feedback you’re offering is welcome, as long as it is constructive. The most frustrating thing i experienced as a guild leader over the years is when you put a lot of thought into something, put it out there and there’s nothing flowing back. Lack of interest is not a problem- if i make a suggestion and nobody’s interested in that particular activity or policy, that’s fine- if it is expressed. Taking part in discussions, knowing what your guild is up to by reading the forums or talking with guildies will take you a long way into building up your own private community.

If you find something wrong in your guild, consider making suggestions for improvement before leaving. Now, this doesn’t make sense in all scenarios- if your guild is a big, but loose circle of players, it won’t make sense to suggest transforming the guild into a small, tight-knit community. If your guild is casual but you’d like to seriously get into raiding, it’s very possible that it can’t be done in that guild. And lastly, if you’re new, you shouldn’t be pushing change too much- if you feel so inclined during the first months, it’s probably because the guild is not a good fit for you. Don’t worry, just continue looking- there’ll be a guild for you.

At this point, most players will feel content with the community and connections they’ve built up for themselves, and that’s fine. If you still want to do more, you could consider taking some responsibility in your guild- create events, activities, dungeon groups or whatever.

gw038

Participate

All of the things above help you in building your own, private community around yourself- but what if you’d like to get more involved in your server’s, game’s or genre’s community? You could offer help via general chat- not actively, but you know how oftentimes, it’s the same questions asked again and again in general chat? Did you see the trend that what is answered willingly and politely in the first days of a game’s life gets rougher answers as time passes? If you see someone asking a basic questions that’s quick to answer, simply provide the answer.

Depending on your server and game, there might be community events spouting up- i know that The Secret World and Lord of the Rings Online offer much in this regard- look them up and go there.

Does the game of your choice have game-specific podcasts and blogs? Look them up and read or listen to them. Even when simply doing that, it will make you feel and be more connected to your game’s community. Genre-related, i’ve found the same to be true while browsing the genre’s websites like Massively Overpowered, MMORPG.com and mmogames.com – reading those sites and maybe commenting from time to time builds up your ties to the wider community.

Looks quite different than the artwork, doesn't it?

Join the fun

There are additional ways to get connected, and their number is climbing. Social networks do their part- the gaming community is quite active on Twitter, for instance. Then, there are gamer specific networks such as Anook and Discord. Just take a look if your server/game/podcast has a presence there- for instance, i’m a member in three Discord groups- one for the “Tales of Tamriel” podcast, one for gaming bloggers and one for my small guild.

I’ve also found blogging to be a great way to fostering community- Dual Wielding is just one example for this: Ironweakness and i thought it would be fun to do something like this and we’ve also been joined by others in this adventure. It did create some private connections between Ironweakness and myself, going so far as to say that if i were to travel to the US, i’d like to meet up.

Just like i did in the last edition, i think taking the community out of game and maybe bordering real life is a great way for players to foster community- i mean, what would Elder Scrolls Online be without Tamriel Foundry, World of Warcraft without Alternative Chat / Blizzard Watch and so on?

Thanks

So i’d like to thank everyone who’s helping in making MMORPGs more than simple games- bloggers, of course (too many to call names), the podcasts i listen to: Tales of Tamriel, Crossing Zebras, Massively Speaking- as well as those i don’t listen to regularly (too many to call names), guild leaders for taking time to create communities within their games and guild members for being willing to connect to others. They all contribute to the feeling of community we have in the genre- the one thing that really sets the genre apart.

dual_wielding

Goodbye, Dual Wielding

I’m sad to say, this will be it for Dual Wielding, at least for now. Ironweakness chose to take a break from MMORPGs and blogging, and i wish him all the best. Maybe he’ll return to the genre or blogging, maybe not, we’ll see. I’ll take some time to think about other ways to continue the fun experience of blogging with others, but whatever i’ll come up with, it won’t be Dual Wielding- it can’t be, without Ironweakness. I’m going to miss it, as well as reading Ironweakness’ blog or seeing him active on Twitter, but of course he has my full support.

I’d like to thank Justin from Massively Overpowered for featuring this thing on their site more than once, and i’d like to thank Aywren, Syl and Wolfyseyes for joining us in the LFG edition- it was huge fun and an honour.

Most of all, i’d like to thank Ironweakness for this coop-blogging-experience, coming up with topics, his opinions and the great times we had doing this. Even after his last break when he didn’t want to continue to blog in regular fashion, he was still willing to rez Dual Wielding. So thanks for the great times, Weakness!

Monday Quick Notes: Dual Wielding LFG, new chars in Elder Scrolls Online

Dual Wielding LFG edition

This was so much fun. I love writing in coop-mode with Ironweakness, so having three others join us made this whole thing even more fun. Of course, reading my own entry now feels as if i…overshot a bit. The others kept their posts shorter and more on point, while my mind wandered- as it tends to do. I feel like i still didn’t mention everything this topic has to offer so maybe there’ll be follow-ups.

I really hope we’ll do that again- maybe with others, the same people or even simply more, but we’ll see. This exercise alone made me think about the possibilities of multi-blogger sites and/or a Discord channel for bloggers. This connection to others is what makes blogging so great at times- and it’s one reason for me not to blog in my native tongue.

I actually tried to find german bloggers writing in german, but all i found were quite old entries. This is strange, though, because i think germany is the biggest MMO market in europe. The only “private blogger” i know of is a new guildie, but i haven’t given up yet. So if you’re reading this and maintain a german mmo blog, tell me about it in the comments, please.

Elder Scrolls Online

Tempest Island

We formed a guild group for a random dungeon again. Thankfully it didn’t take the dungeon finder tool 40 minutes to get it started and we were lucky to find us in Tempest Island, the group dungeon of Malabal Tor- so actually not one of the more sophisticated. I wasn’t tanking this time, so things went a lot better than in our first run. We were still having some trouble and i really have to improve my skills in dungeon-delving, because more often than not, it was me lying in the dirt.

Nuria needed a drink after this.
Nuria needed a drink after this.

Tempest Island centers around the Maomer once again trying to summon storms and bring chaos into Aldmeri Dominion lands. The dungeon design in ESO is impressive- they’re vast, many times contain indoor areas as well as the outdoors, and they’re atmospherically dense. I’m looking forward to seeing more of them.

It became clear, however, that i need to look into my Templar build- something’s not working there. I’ll probably develop Nuria into a full-blown Magicka Templar.

More characters

I have quite a few characters in the pipeline:

  • Nightblade Blood Mage / Leech Healer – i love the idea of leech healing. Or healing by doing damage- it’s the ultimate dps/heal hybrid. I need one for our guild’s leveling group in the Daggerfall Covenant and i’ll probably create another one for me
  • Dragon Knight Tank – i don’t like tanking, but if we’re going to do dungeons in our guild, i’d like to be able to provide us with a tank
  • another Templar – depending on how i change Nuria

In the end, i’d like to have one character for each armor class, be able to tank, dps and heal, do all the crafts and have lots of combat variety (stamina/magicka/melee/ranged etc.). I still have the goal of getting the Dragon Knight to 15 this month- it’s not too late to achieve that. Other than that, my DC Nightblade needs to go to level 8 in the next two weeks.

The Guild

Weekly update here, as i’ve seen there’s some interest. Granted, i don’t do the topic of guild management much justice by always making it part of my Monday’s posts only, and i’d like to do more, but not as much has changed regarding our current goals compare to what wrote last time.

What’s changing, though, is that activity is picking up within the guild. We were joined by three new people in april, with all three looking to be very good fits. I’m especially happy that we were joined by Everskies, who even picked up blogging again. Our planned activities of doing Cyrodiil PvE achievements and leveling characters in DC will start in the next couple of weeks, attendance of events and of simply “being online” at night is rising and we now also have secured access to the guild bank- which means, even if we seperate ways with “inactives”, we’ll be more than 10 accounts in the guild.

So, it’s an exciting time- the guild project is picking up steam and getting shaped now.

Dual Wielding LFG edition: fostering communities

Dual Wielding: LFG Editionsometimes a topic is just too big for a couple of bloggers on their own. That’s when we send out the call, and see who steps up to help us with the challenge. This week, in a special LFG edition of Dual Wielding, we’ve put together a four person team to tackle the question, “what can developers do to foster community”?

Make sure to read the other posts, too:

Intro

Let me just state how happy i am about the LFG special edition of the coop blogging post. Thank you so much to Wolfyseyes and Syl for joining Ironweakness and me today. I’m sure it’s going to be fun!

So how did it get started? By a Twitter discussion between Ironweakness, Wolfyseyes and Syl about “confusing” design decisions in Black Desert Online or Tree of Savior, for instance. It’s actually quite difficult to get one Tweet that shows it all, but here’s where one big question showed up.

So, if a game is more complicated- does it foster its ingame community to become closer? And what are other ways of encouraging social behaviour in MMORPGs? Forced grouping and the trinity would be more intentional ways to get players to interact with each others. In the course of this discussion, it became clear that this is quite a complex topic- so we chose it for this month’s Dual Wielding and asked Wolfy and Syl to join us.

Intentional vs. coincidental

In that discussion, there’s an interesting point in differentiating ways to foster community in intentional and coincidental design choices- is a good community in games like Black Desert Online and Tree of Savior a byproduct of the complexity of the game? Is offering or forcing your players to do group content and role management working as a pillar for community building? Is there anything game developers can do to improve their ingame communities? Let’s take a look at examples first.

No negative interaction

Guild Wars 2 employs a “no griefing” approach- in GW2, there’s almost nothing another player can do to lower your enjoyment of the game. When you meet others, you won’t sigh or hope you’ll make it first to the resource node, because everything regarding ingame progress is there just for you. You get as much experience, loot, resources when being in a group as if you were alone. Of course, that makes grouping beneficial, as you can kill mobs faster, tackle more difficult encounters and so on.

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Does it work, though? I’d say no. To be sure, GW2’s community is more on the friendly side of things, but the interaction outside of WvW, sPvP and maybe world bosses is very limited. Yes, you play with others, but they might just as well be displaced with NPCs. Sure, you could say hello and get to talk to others, but the on-the-fly grouping makes pick up groups come and go so quickly that there’s actually no need. The Guild Wars 2 game design is one of the best examples of “alone together” design- i mean, that’s better than being solo all the time, but it’s not meaningful interaction.

Another example of this way of game design would be Rift, where PUGs happen organically all the time- when closing Rifts, preventing Invasions, doing Instant Adventures and so on.

With both examples, i think a good way to improve on that design might be to make the content more difficult or meaningful.

Forced Grouping

As seen in Final Fantasy XIV, for example. In FFXIV, you’ll come to a point where the main story questline asks you to do group content- and that’s putting it nicely. As progress in terms of game features is tied to your progress in the main story, you have no choice. You’ll have to do group content to be able to trade your goods, get a mount and open many more options in the game. And the first time it asks you to dungeon delve? It’s not one, but three dungeons.

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Again, Final Fantasy XIV is an example of a very nice and friendly community, but i don’t think the forced grouping really helps in fostering it outside of guilds, possibly. For those, the forced grouping coupled with level scaling is a boon, as there’s always someone you can help, content you can do together and get to know each others. For players outside of guilds, this presents a challenge- on one hand, you have to go find a group in that dreaded LFG tool. On the other hand, but this is of more importance to casual players like me, you are stopped in your progress with a wall of “dedicated game time” in front of you. These three dungeons have been the reason for cancelling my sub/not playing the game two of three times- because i’d need to set the time aside and make sure that i wouldn’t be interrupted while in the dungeon. In the one case where it didn’t lead to me unsubbing, it took me two weeks to get through these three dungeons.

Socialising, though? Didn’t happen- it was a PUG, after all, and the pick-up groups for forced grouped content are basically the same as the pugs for optional dungeons in WoW, for example. There was a higher percentage of players saying “hello”, but that was it.

Another example could be Elder Scrolls Online. Now, there you aren’t forced into doing group PvE content, but for trade, you have to join trading guilds. I’m member of one with over 300 members- the chat is more silent than the guild chat of our small guild where 3-5 people are online in the evenings.

So no, in my opinion forced grouping doesn’t work.

Complex gaming mechanics

I’ll use Black Desert Online, EVE online and Fallen Earth as examples here. Black Desert Online has the reputation of not introducing players very well into the features of the game. Exploration is a big part of BDO, as well, and other players telling you where to find a horse to tame or certain plants and whatever are a thing there. EVE Online has the infamous learning curve. And Fallen Earth, while unfortunately being almost forgotten, was a Sandpark before Sandparks became a thing. These three games have one thing in common, albeit to varying degrees: you are actually dependant on out-of-game resources and help from others inside the game.

2016-03-04_1490972650

It’s been a few days since i last played BDO, so i won’t comment on its community. EVE and Fallen Earth, though? In my opinion, those are the games with the best communities out there. Sure, especially EVE has lots of shadow in its light, too, but it’s here where things like EVE University exists. EVE and Fallen Earth offer a newbie help channel that’s actually helpful and maintained by friendly players.

As EVE is one of my two current games, i can tell you that when you begin to dive a bit deeper into the EVE community, it’s almost like a parallel universe. I could easily double my MMO related feed reading if i were to follow all those EVE blogs out there. Of those 98 game-specific podcasts listed by Justin on Massively Overpowered, 13 are EVE podcasts, World of Warcraft has 15.

EVE has one thing up on the other two, though: interdependancy and different means to interact with other players.

The odd ones

There are two games with great communities i haven’t mentioned above, because it’s more difficult to pin down the reasons for why these games have such great communities- Lord of the Rings Online and The Secret World. But thinking about it now, there is a connection: out-of-game engagement and assets. As with BDO and EVE, these games are not self-contained. Lotro makes use of one of the biggest IPs we have in the gaming world and The Secret World…well, it makes use of conspiracy theories as well as lots and lots of modern tale storytelling like Zombies, Vampires and other themes that have a connection to the real world.

The other thing here is- and maybe that is tied to the out-of-game resources, that they’re both very roleplaying friendly.

What fosters a good community?

I think fostering and maintaining a good community is not about removing or creating obstacles within the game- it is about providing more than “just” a game, invoke emotions in the player base and feel them connected to the game, its world and its players. It is about creating the opportunity to have meaningful interaction with these elements both within and outside of the game.

Make it more than a game

The games don’t carry themselves- they need to be accompanied by out-of-game resources and interactions. For interactions, as i haven’t touched on them above, a developer needs to employ a very open conversation channel with all of their players- offer popular builds on your website, introduce guilds and talk about planned features and what you’re working on as well as your intentions in changes to the game. Hold community meet-ups. Know your bloggers. Stay- or get- in touch.

tales_of_tamriel

If the game in question is set in a widely known IP, they are halfway there, but even then, developers need to offer resources outside of the game or encourage players to create them- for instance with a design philosophy of “systems over features” (that can make a post on its own). In my experience, if a game offers a connection to the “real world”, either by links to IPs of books, movies, real world legends or even other games (as is the case with WoW and FFXIV), when it is able to make use of connections between the game and real-world experiences of players, it has a leg up in terms of building community.

Create and maintain interdependancy of players

Self-sufficiency is nice and all, but if it is offered, even as a hard-to-reach goal (like leveling all crafting professions in FFXIV), nowadays players will try to achieve it. It’s easier than to try and make connections to other players. Picture interdependancy as the “system” version of the “feature” forced grouping. It’s easy to do in crafting- just don’t let anyone craft everything by themselves (ideally not even by making use of alternative characters) to “enforce” player trading- but don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be. Also, let things break to maintain this interdependancy. Or allow certain crafters to repair stuff / create repair tools.

It can be done in PvE, too, if we think about Entertainers in Star Wars Galaxies who were able to remove debuffs from players in cantinas. The trinity is not enough, combat-wise, there have to be more roles on offer- like debuffing enemies, buffing players, support roles and so on. Another thing to note: being grouped up with other players should always be beneficial.

There should be an inherent need for having other players around and it should span more than the odd dungeon or world boss.

Allow interaction on different levels

Most of us have noticed that MMORPG players have changed. There isn’t a big influx of young gamers into the genre- they play specialized games, and the genre fans have been getting older. That means having less time to play and less will to dedicate huge chunks of time to gaming. I think many of us are still in this genre for the other players we can meet and interact with, but at the same time, we are less willing and able to put lots of time into this.

One of my favourite articles (really, go read it) introduced the idea of asynchronuous interaction- it is what makes Twitter, Facebook and E-Mail work so great- all of them enable their users to communicate even when the other one isn’t there. MMORPGs haven’t toyed much with that idea, though. For most of the things we can do together, we’d both need to be online (auction houses being the excemption).

Trading is the obvious one here- i can offer something for sale while you’re offline and you can buy it when you log in. But this is faceless interaction; it is needed for the general community of a game, but it doesn’t offer the individual the satisfaction of doing something with others. There is one feature, however, that makes this possible: housing. If i can own a housing plot and allow others to help me build it, we can create something together even if we’re not online at the same time. I think this could be expanded- for example by allowing us to create contracts or quests in game for PvE or crafting content. Now, these systems often end up being exploited, but that’s not my problem today 😉

And then….let it scale up. Offer something for two players to do together while they’re both online, or not. Offer the same for groups of 5, 10, 20, 50 or 100 players and you have a solid base for building communities of all sizes.

Have a vision and make it last

This one is hard to grasp, but i think if we’re looking into the examples i mentioned above, they all have in common that the games in question have a vision. They want to offer something special and they stick to their guns. Be it TSW’s creepyness, Lotro’s world-creation, FFXIV’s compelling themeparking, EVE’s cutthroat philosophy and so on. Even World of Warcraft with all its changes has stuck to one vision: creating and maintaining an accessible MMORPG.

internet_spaceships

Others have changed focus, hunting for new/more players instead of keeping their current customers happy or miscommunicated their vision before launch. Some of them do well, money-wise, some don’t. Some still have good communities, but really, would you say that the Star Wars community isn’t capable of doing much more than what happens around SWTOR? Yeah, me neither.

Whodoesit?

What game does it best? In my opinion, even before returning to it, i’d say and would have said EVE Online. They have the fanfest, blogging events, the whole ingame economy is player-based, even the lore and history is. EVE started in the game and was only that. But players were enabled to take ingame events and such to the outside. We’re talking about a game with concurrency numbers in the 30-40k area, but the community has created so many assets, from tools, to websites, blogs, videos, even books and history, that EVE is much more than just the game now.Ingame, there are huge advantages to flying in a fleet without debuffs, xp bonus or some other “artificial” benefit, but because of the game’s inherent systems.

Monday Quick Notes: ESO, EVE and the guild

Elder Scrolls Online

Last week saw me seriously returning to The Elder Scrolls Online in a normal manner- by that i mean questing through Greenshade instead of just doing random things on guild night. And it pulled me right back in with the expertly crafted questing experience. I’ve also made good progress taking Nuria from Level 28 to almost 32 in a week. The birthday cake helped, of course. I could have progressed even further if i would have played on friday night instead of having a guild meeting. The downside is that i’m outleveling Greenshade and maybe even Malabal Tor a bit, seeing that it starts with level 32 and i’m not done with Greenshade by any means. I guess i’ll be 35 by the time i’m ready to move on.

I still need to refocus on Nuria’s crafting abilities, though- she’s deconstructing items and researching traits all the time, but i don’t think she created armor or weaponry since…forever. Crafting in ESO is quite complex- my guess is that, to create something really useful, you would have to create the armor/weapon with a good trait and a good enchantment. Enchanting, however, is one frustrating craft to level, as you usually don’t find that third type of artifact. But i’ll look into doing more crafting with her soon.

Elder Scrolls Online really needs to add downleveling to zones as the game is quite easy by now, anyway, and being of a higher level than the quests you’re doing just adds to that. I continue to be very happy with the game, in fact, i feel it’s a rabbit hole i’m diving into deeper and deeper. Elder Scrolls Online is the first MMORPG since WoW where i want to add something external to my gameplay experience, ranging from podcasts, maybe even books and finally, i want to know more and have found a way to get what i want- the really great Lore series by Shoddycast i discovered via HeadBurro Antfarm. I’ve watched the first two episodes yesterday and learned a lot about Daedra and Aedra.

Jita is quite busy.
Jita is quite busy.

EVE Online

Speaking of crafting- EVE online was a surprise. It wasn’t on my radar at all when news began to heat up about World War Bee. I haven’t played since i wrote last, but i got the additional 30 days for 10€. As i’ve mentioned, for now, i’d like to do some trading, but my first shy steps into this area have been confusing. EVE’s economy is vast- with hundreds or thousands of different items to trade and thousands of places to trade them in. Even with using online resources, i had trouble finding out what and where to trade.

I feel like trade might be one of those things where knowledge of the game’s inherent systems might be a good thing. So i’ll continue to try and have trade as a primary focus (as you don’t need to know how stuff works to buy low and sell high- it’s simply more difficult to find out what to trade where), but will take sideway-looks into other areas like producing stuff (ships, maybe?) and maybe even combat via missions to get a better understanding of the game.

As is usually the case, i find EVE to be utterly impressive. One commenter on Massively Overpowered wrote that EVE is the one game where the devs took the concept of MMOs and ran with it. This is the game that has everything- if only it were a fantasy MMORPG, maybe with a bit more restrictive pvp (not much, though) and a company that doesn’t let their community loose on each others, this would be that game for me. BDO isn’t EVE in Tolkienland, though, so there’s still only EVE being EVE and i haven’t decided yet if my space travels will continue after those 30 days.

thead4

The Guild

On friday, we had our monthly guild meeting. I wasn’t surprised to see poor attendance, with only three people turning up- including myself. On the other hand, i know one had something come up on short notice and one fell asleep (that happens to me from time to time, too), so we could have been five. Still, it’s this i’d like to change- and there’s only one way to do it, in my opinion: positivity. Create and share awesome experiences and our love for the game. Continue to offer stuff and make the guild be and feel alive.

So we talked a bit- i don’t want to get into too much detail, but in the end, this were the results:

  • we ditch Teamspeak and move to Discord as Chat & Voice client
  • we’ll have three guild activities running, all on different rhythms
    • as i said, we need more continuity on guild night, so we chose to vote on the activity we want to tackle first and see it finished before switching to something else. This will occur on a weekly/biweekly basis
    • level characters together- everyone in the guild who’s interested is invited to join us as we level characters together through the game. This will occur when everybody who mentioned an interest has time
    • dungeon nights will probably occure more often than the leveling of characters, we’ll look for groups in our forums and it will happen when/if four people are available/signed up. I’m still thinking about making this another regular event, but honestly, i’m at my limit when doing one thing a week.

That’s mostly it- well, i want to work on the homepage a bit to make it more attractive- the decision on whether to stay with Enjin or move on our own site has been postponed for now.

I’m also happy to say that we grew by one new recruit, bringing our ingame guild to 10 players. Ingame, we are reaching our critical mass now, with 5 of us playing quite regularly the chances that you’ll log in and find yourself the only one being online are slim now, the goal being about 10-15 active players. Yesterday evening, we were four…and i’m still expecting another application soon.

So, all in all, with patience, a focus on positivity and creating good experiences while sharing them in the forums/homepage, i am very confident that our guild will become active and alive some time this year.

Guild Update: activity and recruitment need to go up, more continuity on guild nights

Yesterday evening saw the first login to Elder Scrolls Online, or any MMO, for that matter, since we’ve returned from China.

Zharyon

That’s the name of our guild- yesterday, a commenter here made the connection between this blog and that guild, so i think i can tell now. I would have done it soon, anyway. Why we’d use such an unusual name? Well, it’s kind of a long story that i’ll probably tell when/if i make an official introduction post here, but to make it short- google it. We wanted a unique name that wasn’t descriptive like “Order of Light” or something- we wanted a name that wasn’t taken but still somewhat good on eyes and ears and we came up with that. It has been used a couple of times, but i think 800 results on Google is ok in terms of uniqueness.

That fear i expressed when i was sick and had to cancel guild events the last time i got sick? Well, turns out that two weeks of going to China might have made it true. We were only two players logging in, with a third one patching up on a night where i had planned to venture into a dungeon (to be fair, i scheduled that event more or less as a trial for organizing dungeon runs without consulting anybody else first).

We need bodies

The thing is: casual, social, tight-knit or not- we need to up the game a bit. We need more life in our community- or at least i do. 3 of us more or less only log in when we have a scheduled activity, i haven’t seen two recruits in quite some time, so in the end, our roster is at about 3-4 players who log in from day to day (but usually not daily). That’s not enough. We’re spreading ourselves to thin there. So i was beginning to think how we can gain a bit more traction without, you know, either disbanding, looking at another direction and/or recruit every Joe or Jane Doe that comes along.

I think the homepage might be one good way- disregarding whether we’d move to selfhosting and/or wordpress or not, it needs a bit more work to look attractive and show off who and what we are a bit better (if someone reading this wants to offer their feedback on what makes a good guild website or knows of some examples, i’d be happy for pointers). There’s one advantage in WordPress: it shows content much better than Enjin does. Let’s say other members would be interested in contributing to a “guild blog”, WordPress would be much better in handling this than Enjin is.

Of course that’s just a dream- in my experience guild members don’t like to contribute in this way. But still, it would also be a pretty good excuse for myself to sometimes post in german if i’d like (although, of course the activity would still be much lower than here). Still, it’s nice to dream- i love coop-blogging and multi-blogger sites and maybe, one day, some kind of project will come out of this.

Another thing i was thinking about was to simply cross voice chat off the list- now i know what you’re thinking, but with germans? “No Voicechat” guilds are actually quite popular- there are several communities that have this as their sole USP. We don’t use our server anyway and with Enjin only 5 slots come with the basic paid version of the website. So in the end, i guess it’s either moving to Discord or crossing it off. When i was looking for something like this in some english community, i drew a blank. Don’t know if this was about the game or maybe there’s just no market for these kinds of communities in the english speaking community.

We need continuity in our guild evenings

Another thing that propped up was that up until now, we’ve been dabbling in everything on guild night- we were in Cyrodiil, ran a dungeon, went to Wrothgar, the Thieves Guild and so on. What i’d like to do starting with the next guild evening in about two weeks is giving it a bit more structure- select something, then take it from the beginning up to the end. For instance, if we chose to start with Wrothgar, we’d stay there until we’ve finished all the content. Judging by the fact that Orsinium is supposed to have 20 hours of storyline content, that would probably take us ~15 weeks. Still, better quality, more continuity- i think that’s where we need to go.

Happy with what we have, but still have a way to go

We’ll have a chat about all this in our coming guild meeting (friday), i’m eager to see the results of this discussion and take some of that to action. See, i’m happy with what we have- we’re basically six semi-active to active players who like each other and share a very relaxed view on things like progress, wiping, online times and such. There’s no need to change that, it’s actually the opposite: we’ll try everything to keep it that way. But that doesn’t mean we have to stand still- we need to evolve, improve, gain some numbers in order to actually be more than a part of a good filled friendlist.

Are EVE online players bad people?

It’s always the same. Some EVE story breaks and three things happen:

  1. reading about EVE is great
  2. i think about diving in again
  3. commenters call eve players bad people

Case in point: Massively Overpowered’s really great post about the current war in EVE.

The largest PvP war in gaming history has begun in EVE Online

So that was number 1. Number 2- i actually downloaded the client because i have a 10-day-return-card in my mailbox. I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, but it’s really just a matter of time until i’ll take at least those 10 days. It’s actually the mining/industrial branch that interests me the most and wartimes are good times for that. Whenever i visited EVE, i’ve found it to be hugely relaxing (mainly because i prefer starting on the mining route). And it’s a true sandbox. And there’s something happening in the game right now.

Now onwards to number 3: Are EVE players bad people?

I haven’t met any abuse, pvp action or similar while playing EVE. Questions i had got answered quickly and politely. Now, of course there are bad news we can read about all the time- threats even to real people, scams, people treating other people badly or just griefing other players among many, many other things.

But EVE is also the place of the EVE university– a guild corp dedicated to teaching new players the ins and outs of the game and other really great stuff from a huge blogosphere to dedicated news-sites and so on.

While i hold the impression that different games attract different folks- that much being obvious when looking even at themeparks like Lord of the Rings Online, The Secret World or Final Fantasy XIV having polite and friendly communities in my experience compared to World of Warcraft, Blade&Soul or Archeage (yes, i’m putting that one in the themepark category now), i think that in most cases, there’s a huge range of players- from the friendly to the griefers, from polite to barbarians.

Even in Rocket League’s normal friendly games there were many people cursing and insulting others before the game added a way to report players. I could tell you about my first dungeon finder experience in Wildstar, for instance- that was only the training dungeon but when my friend, being the tank, struggled with the game mechanics, the other people were all over her. In the end, after trying to kick her out of the group (and failing, of course, because i didn’t agree), everybody left.

Looks quite different than the artwork, doesn't it?
Looks quite different than the artwork, doesn’t it?

Coming back to EVE, i think here the impolite, griefing players get put more in the spotlight because the game allows them to do more than just insulting other players. The game makes it possible to gank, rob, extort and even hijack property of a whole account. If it were for game mechanics only, i think EVE would have a very normal playerbase. But unfortunately, CCP goes even further with its hands-off policy. They regard everything fair game that is possible to do via game mechanics. They don’t stop players to do actually, really bad stuff even to real players – i count hijacking all properties on an account as an attack on the human.

In my opinion, that last part is the mistake. I know it’s difficult to draw a line sometimes- is something ok because game mechanics allow this type of action or is it an ad-hominem already? But by refusing all responsibility in regards to these player actions, CCP allows rotten apples of the EVE community to go even further- and there will always be people who test the boundaries. If there are none set, well…let’s just say i think if CCP were to take a different stance on this, i guess EVE would have much more subscribers.

So no, i don’t believe EVE players are inherently better or worse people than the average MMO player- but i think both the game and CCP allow the “evil players” to be at their worst- and that is what’s getting noticed from the outside.