5 Ways to Improve Sociability in MMOs

Last week, I talked about how we might improve community in MMOs, and these were pretty broad principles, based on perhaps some examples seen here and there in older MMOs as well as some (hopefully) common sense thinking about how people like to interact. But I thought this week, I might talk about some more specific ideas for improving sociability. That is, improving tools and ways that reward players to interact in a positive way such that a supportive community eventually arises. At the same time, I’ll try to keep the suggestions to things that won’t blow the development budget, or penalize players that prefer solo gaming.

Most of us know the current in-game tools for interacting and grouping, but here’s a brief rundown:

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5 Ways MMOs Can Improve Community

One of the questions that came up over on Massively recently was “What Do Fantasy MMOs Need?” That is, what, over and above our typical fantasy tropes, are the core set of features or qualities that would make for a better fantasy MMO? It got me thinking, not only about the specific MMO genre, but what draws me to the sci-fi/fantasy genre in general, and the answer came back pretty loud and clear: the sharing of ideas and common interest in what could be with others. With fantasy especially, there’s a nostalgia for home and hearth, somehow threatened that seems to lie at the center of The Hobbit and the early fantasy novels – Wizard of Earthsea, The Black Cauldron, The Sword of Shannara (yeah, I know…) that, if treated ham-fistedly, become cliché pretty quickly. And yet, that doesn’t negate the attraction of the feeling. It’s a wish for community combined with a love of the fantastical, and I think that’s what all MMOs are striving for, and never fully succeed in delivering.

So what are some things that could be done? Here’s a few ideas.

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Back in the Saddle

Well, it’s been awhile! Life busy-ness has kept me away from the blogging, but it’s good to be back at the keyboard again.

A lot of stuff has happened since I last wrote – we’ve had the release of Wildstar, ArcheAge, Elder Scrolls Online, Neverwinter (that’s actually old now!), Elite: Dangerous (still early access though), H1Z1 (another bit of early access – we should discuss this), Landmark. We had the re-launch of Final Fantasy XIV. Lord of the Rings Online downsized, World of Warcraft has a new expansion, talk of a new Guild Wars 2 expansion. Secret World continues to plug along (slowly), Rift and Star Wars the Old Republic, Age of Conan and Dungeons & Dragons Online and Star Trek Online and EVE are all hanging in there, some better than others. Still on the horizon EverQuest Next, The Repopulation, Star Citizen, Black Desert, Camelot Unchained, Shroud of the Avatar. We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to our MMO choices, really.

But are we happy with those choices? Everyone seems to have a gripe of some kind with all of these games. Not enough attention to PvP, better crafting wanted, too grindy, too much focus on endgame raiding, more non-combat systems wanted, too much cash shop, too much pay to win, too “on rails,” too “open,” not enough free to play, too hardcore, too carebear. When you are making games from the “massively” in MMORPG, perhaps that’s just inevitable. The audience is so large, the number opinions so great that nothing can every satisfy everyone. And, yet those crazy developers keep trying, God love ‘em.

At least it gives us lots to talk about! And that’s what we’ll be doing over the coming weeks. Woo hoo – Happy New Year 2015, and see you (more) soon.