Dual Wielding LFG Edition – Sometimes 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?”
It started out innocuously enough. Weakness of Waiting For Rez sent out this tweet regarding Black Desert Online and Tree of Savior:
After an absolute conga line of responses later involving myself, Weakness, Gypsy Syl and Mersault, we all kind of came together to nod our heads in agreement that we should totally all blog about community-building in MMO’s. So this is my Tanker role post. Because I’m always the Tanker, dammit.
See, the point that came up was that a game with crappily designed UI or features made people stop, collaborate and listen. After all, challenge breeds cooperation, and I’ve written before about how the challenge of group content isn’t really something that feeds community. Thing is, though, there’s a whole lot more to making people come together than being obtuse about your UI or making dungeons.
So forced collaborative efforts seem like an answer…but then, there’s plenty of that in games like Blade and Soul and in Final Fantasy XIV where I’ve felt less like part of a team and more like a tool for the use of others. It’s not just about being acknowledged or pat on the back, either, though I wouldn’t mind a digital cookie once in a while. It’s really about fostering the team effort. Or at least making people want to come together for some reason or another.
So that leaves one of two methods for making communities – either make content that demands survival or strength in numbers, or foster places where social interaction is grown and encouraged.
For part the first, I point once more to the concept of the RvR style of MMO. I’m operating under pipe dream fantasies here, so there’s a very real possibility that I’m missing the point, but it seems like having an entire realm depend on each other to continue to subsist and survive is pretty much the best way to make communities happen.
Basically, realm pride is like factional pride but with actual implications. Having people feed and power the war engine is very much the sort of community building I think MMO’s are missing out on. There’s strategies, there’s tactics, there’s resources and supply chains – teamwork and cooperation and reliance to work together is exactly the missing link in MMO communities, and RvR seems to get that the best.
There’s also the potential for people to come together to complete a larger-than-themselves goal in the PvE space. Perhaps that’s people managing to usurp a well-established tyrant force that requires players to band together in order to maintain friendly lands. Or maybe it’s a game where people form up to explore a mapless frontier. There’s possibilities for this to happen that I don’t think have been fully explored yet.
As far as social tools go, I can absolutely say that RP’ers and other social communities are some of the best ones I’ve run in to. Sure, they have their wrinkles like any other game community, but overall these are the most fun to me, and having places or ways to make that happen more often is something that’s so rare in modern MMO design that it’s nearly a two-horned unicorn.
Take, for instance, Lord of the Rings Online’s WinterStock – a music festival completely run by players and fostered by the game’s robust music creation system. Or the housing in WildStar, which allows people to create not just private pads but social hubs that can host events. Or even a obvious public space like the previously alluded-to Pocket D or Atlas Park in City of Heroes. The ability to have a place to simply form up and hang out is just as crucial to making a community as ensuring groups form up easily.
I think this is stuff that should go a step further – let people own and run a weapon or armor or item shop in an MMO. Or how about we run a gambling spaceship. Or why not let us form a pro wrestling show that tours the game’s countryside and puts on shows? Why not give us the means to let this stuff happen?
Community isn’t a thing that has to be pushed at gunpoint or streamlined in or even demanded of people because your UI icons are shit. These things just sort of happen out of nowhere, and with ways that devs likely don’t fully expect. Still, it’s something that I think can be designed for through intelligent and creative systems and through lots and lots of playtesting at large. I mean, the stuff that Landmark is capable of wasn’t even fully understood by the developers themselves until people were let in.
Trust us, we’ll make fansites and podcasts and wiki pages whether you like us to or not. Just consider that we want to come together, design to make it happen and maybe you’ll be shocked at the results.