Recently I’ve seen a lot of talk in MMO forums about this nebulous thing called “community.”
I’m not going to go as far as to say that people are wearing rose-tinted glasses but rather it appears that experiences have varied widely.
I’m a relatively introverted person. Unlike some stories you hear that doesn’t change for me to a large degree when I’m online. I’m keeping this journal mainly for myself, I haven’t linked it anywhere or tried to get other people to read it. That’s about my limit.
Many moons ago I started playing on a MUD due to a handful of people that I met in real life. When I wasn’t playing with those people I was soloing. When the users of a game count in the hundreds I am sure that some of the more active players knew all the admins (“gods”) and such but that didn’t really come into my gameplay. I just had a small circle of friends. That didn’t prevent me from giving random people buffs or helping out lower level players when asked but I didn’t go looking for such opportunities either.
Years later I began playing Everquest. Same thing, I had a few friends that were playing it and it looked interesting. Tried it out on one friend’s account before I puchased it.
Grouping was required to level in Everquest unless you played a couple of specific classes. I played a Cleric. Clerics were the most powerful healers in the game so I never had much of a problem finding a group to play with. Forming a group from scratch so that I could play with my friends was a different story and would sometimes take quite a long time. The server I was on (Erollisi Marr) had enough people that I very rarely grouped with the same characters.
Part of the problem with discussing something like this years after the fact is that the extreme things — whether positive or negative — are what stick in the mind.
I remember spending hours helping a person recover their corpse and xp (a game where you lose xp on death is not something I will ever play again). I loaded my Necromancer to summon his corpses (at least a dozen of them) and then switched to my Cleric to rez each. Did that help with my sense of community? I don’t remember ever seeing the player again.
I remember being on the other side and having a higher level player spend a couple of hours helping me recover my corpse. I think they were pretty annoyed by the end because it took longer than they thought it would. Did that help the “community?”
I remember ogres sitting in front of banks so that no one could enter (character collision may be good for immersion but it’s horrible for gameplay). I remember several players that had horrible reputations for “training” (pulling a large group of mobs onto other players in a way that they would aggro) raids. I remember “ninjas” since anyone in the group/raid could loot the corpse and nothing was bind-on-pickup.
I remember pick-up raids during the “Planes of Power” expansion. There were two types of pick-up raids: raids that were formed with a “core” group of experienced and well-equipped raiders and a bunch of random people joining in. These were the first and most successful. I believe that Rallos Zek was the highest level boss they took down. I’m no longer sure of the details but my friend (the same one that I am playing The Old Republic with now) did get flagged for the Elemental Planes this way.
The second type of pick-up raid was just random people (my friend organized a few of these) without help from higher level raiders. I experienced a few of these and sometimes they were successful, sometimes they weren’t. They were far more limited in what bosses they took down, I think Bertox was as far as these raids got.
These pick-up raids — and the people that routinely did them — are probably the best example of game “community” outside of guilds.
But even that did not involve the majority of the players on the server.
When I started playing EQ I grouped with random people quite a bit, mostly to try to catch up in levels with my real-life friends. The more I played the less interested I became in random grouping. Toward the end I would only play if my friends were online as well.
World of Warcraft
By far a more enjoyable experience than Everquest.
I started playing WoW in early 2005 and continue to enjoy it. In many ways, I enjoy it now more than ever.
One of the first things is that single-target buffs were instant cast and did not consume a reagent! This was a massive improvement from a Cleric in Everquest where buffs often took over 10 seconds and cost money. I buffed a lot of random people as I played and I continue to do so today, especially if I trip across a lower level player.
Groups were still a pain to form, standing in Ironforge (the popular place on my server since it was closer to the “trinity” of BRS, Scholomance, and Stratholme) for hours at times trying to get the last slot filled before someone else bailed.
With mob “leashing” and no player collision, people had less of an opportunity to be jerks. There were (are?) some ways that Hunters and Rogues could train other players but it was far less common than in EQ. “Ninja”ing still occurred as players would roll for items they couldn’t use but I didn’t see that happen too often.
I still had a small group of friends that I knew in real life that I tended to play with.
I also quit (for a time) playing World of Warcraft later in 2005 (around the time that Zul’Gurub was introduced). I had reached maximum level and was running the “trinity” instances over and over. The gap between those instances and “real” raiding wasn’t so much skill as equipment. But getting equipped well enough to make that jump was a massive grind.
Was a slower leveling system where I never did reach the cap better? I would never go back to Everquest, so I think not. I think I had my fill of grinds with EQ and didn’t want to experience anything similar again.
The other contributing factor to my quitting was that my best friend played more than I did, got the equipment, and started playing with a raiding guild. Which meant that he didn’t have time to run anything with me. That may come across more self-centered than I actually intend it to be. Raiding at the time was multiple hours a night, 4 or 5 days a week. He ended up in one of the best guilds on the server and though they didn’t complete Naxx40 before BC came out they were quite a ways into it and my friend had (still has, in fact) a near full set of Tier 3.
That’s a great accomplishment but as you might be coming to understand from reading this, I mostly enjoy playing with real-life friends. They are my “community” in the game. My best friend, his friends, and to some extent, friends of those friends.
I started up another character in 2006 and played it somewhat sporadically during Burning Crusade.
Wrath of the Lich King was the best experience I’ve had in online gaming.
I switched back to my first character and started leveling it up from 60. (Sadly, if you look at that character’s armory page, it is impossible to tell that it was created before Wrath came out.) I still have several pieces of “Tier 0” which I am now proudly wearing through the transmogrification system.
My best friend had burned himself out with raiding in BC (he absolutely despised the gated raid system that Blizzard introduced) but another friend of mine started up a 10-man raiding group. We started in Naxx, around the time that Ulduar was released. Completed that and progressed into Ulduar when Trials of the Crusader came out. Didn’t complete Ulduar. The mechanics of those fights aren’t easy for a group of average players. When Icecrown Citadel was released Blizzard also introduced the Dungeon Finder.
In my opinion, this was the single best addition to the game that Blizzard has done.
I could actually run instances whenever I wanted. Our raid group was a 1 day a week thing due to schedules and it was rare when more than 2 of us were online together any other time of the week. The Dungeon Finder allowed us to get Tier 9 and then progress through Trial of the Crusader and into Icecrown Citadel.
We never went back into Ulduar (which I tried to get us to do) and we didn’t get past 6/12 in ICC (but that was mostly due to players bringing in alts to get geared rather than focusing on progression) but it was the most fun I’ve ever had in an MMO. Killing Marrowgar for the first time was absolutely amazing.
People on the forums complain about the LFG tool killing community. For me it was just the opposite. It added a needed boost to my flagging raid group and let us see content that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
“Community” for me is the friends people that I play with. I couldn’t care less what people are saying in trade channel or Barren’s chat. Maybe my memory just isn’t good enough but the people that I did random dungeons with back in Classic and BC and never saw again (as far as I know) aren’t really part of my community.
The Dungeon Finder has been nothing but good for me.
Boy, have I gotten into rant mode or what?
On a side note my raiding group was killed by the difficulty of the Cataclysm heroics. I probably didn’t hit the Wrath heroics before some nerfs had been done but there is a lot more “fire” to not stand in and Blizzard made healing far more difficult in addition in their latest expansion.
Luckily, I still have a 5-man group of friends (who were once “friends of friends”) to play with.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
What does all of this have to do with Star Wars?
I’m currently playing on a server that often hits “full” status and has a small queue for entering.
The so-called community of general chat is already pretty bad.
I haven’t seen much “trolling” but players asking simple questions usually don’t receive any answer. Yes, it’s things such as “Where are the trainers?” that they can answer on their own with a little exploration and figuring out the map system but it’s sad to the point where I’m starting to answer. Me, the introvert.
Maybe it’s the lack of a server-wide channel (such as the trade channel in WoW) but it seems like there is very little conversation going on.
Yes, in WoW there are times when idiots start doing idiot things in trade channel but there is also a lot of banter. If anything builds a server “community” it is people talking to each other. I know that much even if I’m not interested in that type of community.
I just don’t see it happening in The Old Republic.
Maybe it’s better on the Sith side? There’s only 50 to 70 people in a Republic zone on a “full” server. Most people don’t get involved in chat in MMOs to begin with, so that’s not much to form a community with.
Maybe it will be better once players reach level cap? Maybe they’re busy leveling and not paying attention to chat?
There are players asking for groups for flashpoints and heroic areas or partial groups asking for more… and they continue to do so half an hour later (I hope they eventually get their groups together, I’m off somewhere else with my friend).
Oh, well. I’ll continue to do what I’ve always done. Buff random people as I run by and play with my friends.
The more things change, the more they stay the same?
Next time, I’ll describe duoing Hammer Station.