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.

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.

gw031

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.

ffxiv_duty

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.

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.

Goals for April in Gaming and Meta

Hey, if it works for others, it might be helpful to me, as well. Unfortunately, i’m still recovering a bit from jetlag, so i haven’t played anything since our return from China. I can’t remember jetlag being so bad in the past, but this time, it really got me. Our son, as well. Anyways, i’d like to put some gaming goals for april in writing- i’m very eager to jump back into Elder Scrolls Online, sort out the website a bit and have a few thoughts about our guild i’d like to put in motion this month.

 

ESO_logo-black

Elder Scrolls Online

First of all, i’m very glad that i chose to go the subscription route with this game. Because those cosmetic items, mounts and pets coming this month? I like them very much. Going with a subscription means i don’t have to keep a keen eye on my crowns and am free to spend them for fluff. And that’s without going for the assistants.

A few words on their pricing. Yes, they’re quite expensive, coming in at 5000 crowns each. But i actually like that for a few reasons. First of all, inventory management is part of the game, albeit an annoying one, the game was designed with us having to sort out mats we don’t need, connect to other players to sell them etc. The assistants are actually something that, while it doesn’t come close to being “pay-to-win”, they’re giving buyers a lot of convenience. I can’t imagine many players will spend that much real money on the assistants- so i view them more as being some kind of subscriber reward. And if a few players decide to spend those 30$ each, all the better for the game from a financial point of view.

Here’s what i’d like to achieve in april:

Nuria Solstrum, Templar

  • reach level 30 (28 at the moment, so yes, i’m aiming low)
  • craft some kind of set for her

Naria Leotra, Dragon Knight

Last time on guild evening, we decided to tackle a dungeon, the Banished Cells. We were four, but we lacked a real tank, so i decided i’d try and tank with my magicka templar. As you might imagine, this didn’t work out so well. We finished the dungeon, but it took quite a few wipes, most of them on bosses, and i wasn’t really able to hold the mobs attention- at all. So i decided i’d roll a tank, which is a sign on how much i like the guild- usually, i avoid being the tank at all costs- tanks have to lead and they have a huge responsibility for their group. Doing that with strangers, i would be screamed at very quickly. With our guild, i have no troubles- they don’t care if they die 10 or 100 times in a dungeon.

  • figure out a way to skill her as tank/dps, stamina-based, of course
  • reach level 15 to be able to go into dungeons and use two weapons

Others

There are still three characters i’d like to build: a “cleric” type Templar that resembles a Paladin in terms of being able to take a hit as well as provide some healing, a leech healer Nightblade and perhaps even a dedicated healer. Don’t know if they’ll take of this month, but it might happen.

Other games

I’d also like to visit other games at least one or two times this month. Black Desert Online is all the rage these months, and i do want to go out and explore more of its world and features. The Secret World remains my favourite game i never seem to play- i’d love to see all it has to offer, but somehow, i never really play it.

Our guild

We’re still doing fine, thank you. Our growth came a bit to a stop, mainly because we didn’t advertise much and the new recruits seem to have lost interest either in the game or the community. At least they’re not vocal in our forums. So we might have to say goodbye to some of them. But that’s really just par for the course- when creating a guild, you’ll always have people losing interest in the game or the guild; it’s very important to keep sorting them out if your goal is to build a small, tight-knit community.

With the guild, i’d like to:

  • have a guild meeting
  • tackle another dungeon or two
  • have a social event (i’d like to do a crafter’s market but i’m still figuring out the best way to do it)
  • see if we can decide for a short-term and middle-term course in terms of growth and our homepage

Wait, what? Yes, while being in China my thoughts ventured out into thinking about whether Enjin does meet our needs. It’s a similar thought process i had with my old blog- the longer we stay with Enjin, the harder it will be to move. And it’s not like it looks very good- the design seems a bit outdated and it’s not responsive- you’ll get the “normal” website when visiting from smartphone/tablet. Also, it comes in at 8$ per month. Compare that to the 0.50€ per month to get a domain.

discord

And then there’s Discord, where i finally understood what it is thanks to a post from Belghast on gamer social media. It’s a free voice chat app with added text chat and mobile as well as desktop apps. I can totally see a homepage working on the basis of wordpress, a forum plugin and Discord working much better for us- especially in terms of recruiting players. It could look better and provide more opportunities to socialize and put us on display on our homepage.

The blog and Meta

Blog

There’s a few things i still need to work out here- i think, this time i’ve settled for a theme- but i’d like to make use of its “magazine home page” as well as add a menu to seperate MMO and real life/other media stuff a bit more. I’d also like to give out the opportunity for feed-subscribers as well as normal readers here to make a choice of what they’re interested in. I really don’t think everyone who’s reading my MMO ramblings is really interested in what i watch or the latest China pictures. Speaking of which, i need to draft these posts i planned to write about it quickly, before i forget half the things that happened there and impressions blur a bit.

 

anook

Meta

Again, thanks to Belghast, i’d like to make some effort into going to Anook. I like the idea of a social network for gamers, especially as i’m making more and more connections with other bloggers and players. Discord is another thing. Well, i’ve added both contact information to the group up page, so feel free to add me to your friendslist or some such (really need to take a better look at Anook).

And i’d like to up my commenting on other blogs.

Final words: i was really surprised by the positive reaction on yesterday’s post. Thanks to all of you for your encouragement, kind words and well…being generally simply nice people!

 

Why i love reading your MMO blog

Professional Blogging

Have i mentioned how much i like the Global Chat column on Massively Overpowered? I think it was the first one that started featuring blog posts of “regular people bloggers” on the more respected sites relating to our genre. Liore did something like that on mmorpg.com a while back, but i think that this column was discontinued- it’s hard to tell with mmorpg.com’s way of organizing their content. Then there were Murph and Belghast, doing their thing on MMOGames.com, but i think that one was discontinued, as well.

Massively Overpowered, MMOGames.com and MMORPG.com- what do they have in common? They’re more or less branding themselves as “professional bloggers”, if you will. Their staff gets paid (i think) for their posts and they have a big audience. The strengths and weaknesses of each one of these sites can very well be a post on its own (one i started to draft several times already).

In short i would say MMOGames.com has the most potential of the three and has taken several great bloggers in, but its informational structure simply isn’t quite there yet. Still, the site reminds me of reasons i used to really love Massively in 2010/2011: its’ authors are bloggers who love their games and are quite stable in their selection of MMORPG they play. With a little more continuity and a better structure/home page and less crappy games on their sidebar, this site could be great.

MMORPG.com is a mess- the site looks outdated, i can see no structure in their content and navigation whatsoever. It’s even hard to discern which games they cover, as they have adopted RPGs along with multiplayer games. While i do like some of their authors and commentors, this site needs a do-over badly. They promised being close to launching a new layout when Massively closed last year- possibly as a way of trying to catch some of that audience, but it still hasn’t happened.

As for Massively Overpowered, it’s the most professional of the three. The layout (despite being at least based on a free WordPress template) is clear and functional, as is the navigational and informational structure. The authors know how to write and, at least in my opinion, have a very professional stance. However, i feel it has developed to a news site more than a “blogger site”. Even their game-specific columns are oftentimes more about news relating to the games than, well, describing gameplay experience, the lore or whathaveyou (exceptions being Anatoli’s old Guild Wars 2 column and the new Black Desert column by Matt Daniel).

Are bloggers full of themselves?

All the more happy i am when Massively Overpowered does something “bloggy”, like featuring content of “regular people bloggers”, highlighting podcasts or something similar. I am, of course, happy if/when i or someone else i’m close with gets a mention there, but i’ve read some interesting comments in the last two i was mentioned in, as well.

It must have been the topics at hand (future of MMORPGs and Black Desert impressions earlier), with the latter seemingly counter to popular opinion- the quotes, despite being well-chosen, made the impressions seem worse than they were- so we got a lot of “how dare these bloggers have a different opinion than i?” comments and the former with being positive outlooks on the MMORPG genre as a whole or Daybreaks…stuff…in particular, where we got the “why are bloggers perceived as special?” and “why do they think they’re special?”-treatment.

Well, i’m kind of new in this whole thing, not very deeply connected to others from the blogosphere and not a popular blog by far, especially here on the new site, so these comments still kind of get to me- no, i don’t think i’m special or my opinion matters more than that of, say, a commentor on Massively Overpowered or on a forum or reddit. I’m simply adding one layer of personal enjoyment and community building on something i enjoy without that part. And i’m pretty sure that’s more or less what every one of them does- adding something, in this case writing, to their hobby.

Why i love reading your MMORPG blog

Perspective

MMORPGs can be played in many different ways- maybe you enjoy dungeon runs, or roleplaying, or questing. Maybe you care about the lore, the quest-givers, your guild, pvp, gear or costumes. Maybe your thing is the economy, crafting or even horse-breeding. Whatever it is that gives you the most enjoyment in these games, chances are that it’s not exactly the same thing that i enjoy most. But maybe i’ll like to read about it or try dabbling in it myself to see if i might enjoy it. Or you’ll give some inspiration regarding ideas i could use in our small guild.

Opinion

Is the MMO genre dead? Could Daybreaks hickups result in something good for Everquest 2? Is that game/ingame shop/game “pay to win”? Is pay-to-win even possible? I don’t know, but i sure have an opinion on most of these topics. Some Oftentimes it’s not a well-founded or 100% thought through opinion, so i love reading what other people think, especially when it’s about games of minor interest to me.

Games

Speaking of games, some of you are seducers, writing great posts about games i might have crossed off my list or didn’t have on my radar, and your excitement is contagious. Maybe i’ll send you a bill for the next purchase 😉 But you could be playing a game i love to read about or i didn’t keep in touch with and i’m wondering what impact some new feature/expansion/content has on players who stuck with that game and you’ll offer some insight. It’s really not about the game someone’s playing, as they’re in the same genre anyway and some stuff that works in, say, World of Warcraft, might be transferrable to a similar experience in Black Desert, for instance.

Personality

Some of you, i can only admire for your writing capabilities. I tend to babble a lot- many of you are able to write short, concise blog posts and still inflict your personality and character into your posts. There are bloggers who cut their content’s word count by half and their posts seem to be of the same or better quality, and have the same amount or more personality and character as before. Sometimes, you’ll even share some aspect of your real life, and some of you make it a point to blog about your real lives quite often and in the same posts you deal with your gaming life.

Community

As i’ve said, i’m not deeply connected. Sometimes i think that’s my fault, for not being able to put personality/character in writing, sometimes i think it could be a location/time-zone/server location-issue. But i can see connections all over- people commenting on each others’ blogs, ping-ponging blogging topics, creating guilds, organizing blogging events and so on. And i’ve also made a few connections via blogging that i do value very much.

So that’s why i love reading your MMORPG blog and hope you enjoy writing it as much as i do reading it.

And i’d like to point you to my Blogroll– i’m not sure if i’ll stay with this one, but it is the one i like the most right now because i can include as much as i want. It might still need some configuration, but this is just too good a moment to let it pass.

Growing a small social guild

Since we’ve founded our fledgling community/guild, i’ve been wondering whether it is possible to build up one of those 10 years plus communities in this day and age. I know there are many great guilds out there, but i do feel the climate has changed and creating a long-lasting guild where bonds between members only grow with time is harder now than it used to be when the MMORPG community had about 3 very different MMORPGs to choose from. Today, not only do we have a billion MMOs to choose from, but the games themselves also allow players to be part of multiple guilds. Players change games more often, and when they try a new game they might seek out another, already established guild in their new game instead of trying to grow the guild they’re in or taking guildmates with them.

I’d like our guild and community to grow, in connections as well as numbers and possibly even games later on and i’ve been thinking about ways to reach the goal to be “that guild” at some time- where people would say things like “this weekend a few guildies and i are trying out game xy together”.

It’s a journey

A longlasting guild can’t be built up in a year, and we all know that. What i’ve seen though, and struggle with myself is that it’s kind of hard to be patient. It’s looking hard right now- we’re seven people playing Elder Scrolls Online right now and attracting members is difficult- i feel it’s because of size, related ingame-features- we’re too small to even have a guild bank, after all and the fact that we openly describe ourselves as being casual players who don’t play every day. If you were to join our guild, chances to build a dungeon group spontaneously on the fly while you’re logged in are about zero. If you were to ask in our forums, though, i’d bet you’d get a group of players willing to join you in the next couple of days, depending on the availability of our members.

Of course, this isn’t something we’re used to nowadays- and in the end, it’s easier to simply use the group finder to tackle a dungeon. When i played WoW, building a group with the guild was the easier way to go (no lfg tool then), it’s the other way around now and with us. In the end, we all have to be patient- the guild leaders have to be while still trying to offer “more” in terms of trying to grow the community, and the members themselves, because right now, we’re almost more a friends list than a guild where you meet someone everyday. With our 7 players, it’s still entirely possible to log in and be the only player online in the guild. Normally, i’d say that 10 online players in the evenings is a good number.

 

Shortly after release, growing fast isn't hard to do.
Shortly after release, growing fast isn’t very difficult.

It’s very easy to grow in new games – in my experience you’ll reach a critical mass quickly if you recruit for games that aren’t released yet. I’ve seen the foundation of about half a dozen guilds before a game was released- at that time, it’s mostly the guild-type that attracts new players, not the current state of the guild. You can start recruiting for a game soon to be released while having only two people in your roster- if you do it in a timely fashion, you’ll have 20 to 50 members as soon as the game releases. Because nobody cares if you’re only two when there is no game to begin with.

In a game like Elder Scrolls Online, it’s harder, because the players want their guild to offer something- a guild bank, players to group with at all times and a guild trader would be nice, as well. There aren’t as many non-guilded or new players, as well, since the game has been out for a while.

In addition to the ingame-features, the community has to grow, as well- we’ve changed things up a couple of times, already. If you’re four people who know each other well, there’s no need to have many rules and regulations. I think a good guild needs to adapt- have its vision set, but alter the ways to get there. There’s a bit of trial and error involved here.

And lastly, “that guild” you’ve played with for five or ten years has to last that long to become just that. You can’t have this done in a year, per definitionem.

Recruitment

All guild advice you can read will tell you how important recruitment is. I’d say it’s depending on what type of guild you want to create. In a game like ESO, building a simple, big social guild doesn’t really require anything outside of the game- you take in who’s interested and weed out inactives and troublemakers. If you want to stay somewhat small and prefer to build up connections with your guildmates, however, recruitment gets difficult, even in small social guilds. Because not being a troublemaker is not enough- the personality of a recruit has to fit into the group, and because this won’t be the case every time, you mustn’t be afraid to decline people. Which is even harder to do in a social guild- “it’s not personal” doesn’t work here, because it is.

 

group
You can have fun in small numbers, as well.

This is why i like Enjin so much right now- because applications aren’t public. We set up a form with a few questions (“What MMOs have you played recently?”, “How much time do you spend in MMOs a week?”, “Do you prefer voice or guild chat?”, “What are your ingame goals?”). The officers can then review an application, ask the applicant some questions and hopefully get answers without anyone knowing what’s going on. For us, we’ll take in everyone who understands what we are and is aware of differences between us and their preferred play-style. For instance, if you’d apply and check “Raids” as an interest, i’d possibly tell you that this is something we’ll probably not do anytime soon, if at all. If you check the box for playing more than 30 hours a week, i’d tell you that this is much more than the rest of us are playing. If the applicant is ok with everything, we’ll try and see if the glove fits. If there’s no reaction three days after i’ve asked some questions, i’ll simply reject the application- mostly without giving an extra reason (i feel that has been given by the questions asked), but sometimes i’ll even go into the official forums and suggest an alternative guild that might be a better fit. So far, it’s 50/50 – i accepted three applications and rejected three, as well.

I do that because i’ve seen guilds with a similar vision failing to decline applicants, growing too fast and therefore building no connections between the guild and the respective players. The communities might have 300 members, but that doesn’t mean anything if the forums are used only by 30 and the whole community discourages their leader from creating an ingame guild because it would be inactive after a month anyway (yes, i’ve seen that happening).

Stability and Perseverance

I think it’s also very important to show stability and perseverance in building the community. OK, so maybe a monthly guild meeting for four players who meet each friday anyway is a waste of time- maybe it will be for seven members, as well. But thinking “i’ll do stuff like this when it matters” sends the wrong signal to the members of the community- it tells them “we’re not real, yet”, so the culture you want to see your guild having needs to be built in from the ground up. Try, and if nobody shows up, try again. Maybe change things up a bit. This is a clear sign that you’re serious and in it for the long haul. I’m also a huge proponent of telling the guildies what the next steps are in growing or strengthening the guild- while i’m almost always somewhat disappointed when asking for feedback (you’ll probably not get any), i think members appreciate it when their leadership shares its plans on following through with the vision.

And because we’re lucky in how MMORPGs are designed nowadays, it’s always important to see if you can find something worth doing in terms of ingame-goals for your whole guild. For instance, tomorrow we’ll be going to Rkindaleft, one of two public dungeons in Wrothgar. We might be able to do it, or maybe not, but it’s nice that we can do something worthwhile together despite being in the level range of 11 to VR10, with 7 players.

 

Before i go, though- what’s your opinion on this? Is it easier or harder to form a small guild with strong bonds nowadays? How would you go about it- any tipps to share?

Dual Wielding: On Negativity

Dual Wielding: A series featuring two bloggers writing on one topic and answering the question, “If the pen is mightier than the sword, what happens when you dual wield?”

Make sure to check out Ironweakness’ take on the subject.

Personal note

Continuing with the Dual Wielding post series was one of my resolutions for 2016. So far, probably with the exception being the “budget” thing, i’ve been doing well. The budget, i will break, i know this already. But that’s not today’s topic- i’m really happy to do this thing again as it is a lot of fun to do.

Ironweakness and i decided to make this a monthly thing now, allowing for a more relaxed pace and maybe providing us with topics along the way. This time, we wanted to tackle Negativity in the MMORPG community.

Negativity is a thing

To be honest, we’re a bit late on the subject- i think it started with a post by Tobold called Hate Blogs. Tobold stated that he didn’t write much about MMORPGs anymore and also refrains from reading MMORPG blogs mostly because they’re very negative. Now, i don’t want to weigh in on every post on this subject, but since this one is the post that made me notice the subject, i’d like to point out two things about it.

First, i agree with Tobold insofar as that certain blogs surely are the way he describes: grumbling about new MMORPGs because we’re not in Britannia anymore- or complaining about other players, although i don’t read much of that. But i also have to disagree with the post because Tobold leaves the impression that most MMORPG blogs nowadays are like that. That is not the experience i’m having when browsing through my Feedly- i see lots and lots of people writing about the games they love.

There have been other entries around this topic, such as Bhagpuss’ description on why he’s more positive nowadays and doesn’t dwell on thinking about that “perfect MMO” that might or might not come in the future.

There have been more, of course, but those two are the ones that caught my attention- well, it’s been three, actually, as i also follow Syncaine.

The MMORPG subculture

A lot of what is happening with the community in regards to negativity reminds me of the developments in other subcultures where something is cool and edgy as long as it isn’t popular. When it becomes popular, you’ll have the veterans telling everyone who wants to hear it how they liked this thing before it was. And all the new stuff will only really copy the old in a bad way or be created without the “spirit and soul” of the original thing.

In MMORPGs, we have World of Warcraft that turned things around and made a subcultural genre popular. Of course the “cool kids” will tell everyone that before WoW, MMORPGs were actually good and different. The funny thing is: these games aren’t gone. If Ultima Online, Everquest and/or Dark Age of Camelot are better for your taste, they’re still there to be enjoyed, and they wouldn’t mind getting more players. Two of those are even subscription-only MMOs. Just like you can still listen to pre-Teen Spirit-Nirvana albums, you can also go and play DaoC.

The player base

 

Sometimes, i feel as if we, the players of MMORPGs, are the toughest gaming customers out there. We are very, very demanding and complain just about everything that doesn’t meet our increasingly high standards. We might also take offense on something and seem to be rejoicing in a game’s, a company’s or- even worse, a human’s failure (remember SWTOR in the early time, Trion/NCSoft, Smed, McQuaid).

We’re hard to please and very critical of just about everything. Of course the newer breed of MMORPGs, those who truly are an evolution of the genre (ESO, The Division), do everything in their power to avoid being categorized as an MMO. If they’d do, they’ll possibly have us as their customers- and while they want us to spend money on their product, they don’t want us going into their game with the expectations we have regarding MMORPGs.

Regarding the “normal player” in-game, i’ve found negative behaviour most often excused with the opinion that other players behave badly, as well. Things like “i have to run for this resource node or the other player will get to it first” or tagging mobs first. That one really bothers me, because frankly, you have a choice here. For that other guy you are the one rushing to get the resource node, you are the thief. Everytime one is doing something like that, another player with the same mindset is born.

The choice is yours to make

All of this doesn’t mean there’d be no room for criticism- there is. There is no need to put a positive spin on everything- that’s the marketing departement’s job. But there’s a difference in being disappointed by how ArcheAge turned out and wishing Trion bankrupcy- or Funcom, for some failed launch 15 years ago.

In-Game, it’s possible for every one of us to behave differently. Going for the same quest? Build a group. Going for the same resource? Take a step back. Share advice if “dumb” questions are asked in general chat.

And it’s the same thing with blogs, opinion, or comments- instead of focussing on all the shortcomings of the games in this genre and reading about them, thereby leading you to believe that your current game of choice is on a downward spiral, a buggy mess and generally a lackluster attempt at creating an MMO, we could go out and read forum posts, blogs or listen to podcasts created by people who love their respective game, the genre, the community. Because there’s many of them and they’re much more sustainable. MMORPGs aren’t easy games- sure, some of them might lose you as a player, but when they keep you, you’ll continue to find things you like while playing. You’ll also find a few things you dislike, but that’s nothing bad in itself.

The turning point

But here’s what i truly believe: we are the best community in the gaming world. We are the ones who made Massively Overpowered and Blizzardwatch possible and still fund both via Patreon, we are the ones chipping in for the wife and a child of an EVE player who died in San Bernadino as well as medical care for Matthew Rossi, one of Blizzardwatch’s authors.

We write a ton of blogs (take a look at Syp’s Blogroll while i set mine up) and are connected via Twitter, Anook and other means- we support and engage each others with projects such as the Newbie Blogger Initiative, Blaughust and so on.

It’s us who are also actively driving in-game communities like guilds, we provide events like Weatherstock in Lord of the Rings Online, we host radio stations like Radio Free Gaia. We create useful websites providing guides and character builds for our favourite games or fashion blogs for players who really dig cosmetic outfits in MMORPGs.

It’s in this genre that you’ll find tens of podcasts to listen to, both game-specific and general.

There’s one thing that hasn’t changed in those 20 years the genre as we know it exists- those who love it, or remember earlier times/games fondly, they almost always remember experiences with the community in a wider sense- a great guild, chatting with other players while waiting for a boat, the pre-Warhammer-blogging wave.

The MMORPG community is a very passionate one- sometimes, that passion turns a bit negative, but on the whole i’m of the opinion that the MMORPG community is a great one that makes me actually proud to be a part of it more often than not.

/Saved – week 6-2016

One thing i used to do on my old space and stopped later for some reason was highlighting a few posts i enjoyed reading during a week- i’d like to take that up again here on my new site.

My new blogging home is still far from being set up in the way i’d like and it’s going to be a work-in-progress for some time, still. As far as i can tell, importing the old posts won’t be done quickly- there’s still a workaround i’m going to try and if it works, i’ll have my old posts here, as well, but if it doesn’t work i might settle on getting a few posts i like over here.

While browsing through available Themes for this blog i found the one i’m using right now and instantly liked it- i couldn’t put my finger on it, because it misses a few features i’d like a Theme to have (nice, big pictures on individual post pages, for instance) when it hit me- this seems to be the Theme Massively Overpowered uses. I’m still debating whether i should keep it, because it doesn’t feel so good using the same Theme- but on the other hand, it’s not as if i’d be competition for them or that i’d do something illegal here- it’s a free Theme, after all (with optional purchase, which i’m sure they opted in for).

Anyways, on to the posts i /saved in my Feedly this week.

/Saved Posts

The Secret World

I like it when “old faces” return- this year, a blog resurfaced that i used to read before the author stopped writing- DocHoliday’s MMO Saloon has now returned as Doc’s MMO journey. He plans to cover a bit more than MMO’s this time, but spends his time in The Secret World again. Here’s his take on the new subscriber benefits in The Secret World.

Ironweakness gives insight into his state of mind which he’s monicked “Zone Fatigue“- basically, it’s the feeling you get when you just want to leave one zone for the next one. Especially if you want to complete everything a zone has to offer, you’ll often run into trouble such as Overlevelling content or simply that a zone feels a bit like a drag.

Blade & Soul

Blade&Soul’s reception is surprisingly good. After most posts i read about the early impressions gave the vibe of a nice, albeit not very special game, it seems to grow on those who stick with it a bit longer. Bhagpuss more or less stumbled into the game, but seems to enjoy it even more the longer he’s playing. And surprisingly, it’s neither the combat nor the story, but a combination of good (world-)design choices, a connection to the character as well as its pet and scenery/setting at large in Blade&Soul.

On Guilds

Interestingly, guilds- or guild management, to be more precise, is not a topic you can often read about in blogs. Maybe it’s because it’s difficult to do these kind of posts without offending anyone, especially if the guildies know about your blog. Navimie touches on the subject of guild management quite regularly on The Daily Frostwolf, this time it’s about Sunshine Patriots and Winter Soldiers. I like what she (?) is doing here, because it’s hands-on and down-to-earth experience, opinion and advice.

Podcasts

This week, i discovered the Tales of Tamriel podcast. Listening to them saying they gained like a few hundred listeners in the last few months makes me think most of those who are interested in ESO-specific podcasts already know about them, but i’d still like to point it out. It’s a great mix of news, opinion and gameplay experience with a bit of banter and lots of information regarding Elder Scrolls Online. I can’t believe they can talk about one game for 90 minutes and it’s interesting to listen to the whole time.

They also do it live and on youtube, as well, so you can actually look and see stuff.

Regarding Podcasts, Justin from Massively Overpowered put together a great list of game specific podcasts, take a look if you need more podcasts in your life.