Sunday, September 18, 2011

Social Networking and MMO's

Most of you are already aware of SWTOR's pre-release guild feature. Guilds are being formed and recruited for, and falling apart due to drama months, and in some cases years, before the game is even released. As entertaining as I find the guilds who are recruits for PvE, PvP, RP, Raids, Questing, Dungeons, Social and Back-rubs without even having access to the game, if I spent my writing time correcting people who were wrong on the internet then my blood pressure would skyrocket.

No, I've had a bit of a pet cause here for a little while that I've mentioned in comments on other blogs and I'd like to expand on it. It's about social networking and MMO's. SWTOR is just one example of such features that I think should be capitalized on.

Let's begin with Turbine. I don't think it's a stretch to say that when it comes to designing a website that works, Turbine is not on the top of my list. However, they have put together community tools that are not only interesting, but keep the community connected to each other. I'm talking about your own personal web page. Let's pick one for example from the featured pages: Samiusbot's Page

Much like a typical forum profile, you have a small section for a profile picture, a bit about yourself and what they are up to. Though I loathe the huge length of the page, you also have a journal/blog of your own. A friends list, a characters list, an RSS Feed, a wall to post on, a screenshot gallery, and even a character log of what your character has been doing lately. This can be easily summed up as a DDO Facebook, and even under a username instead of a real name. Anyone who briefly glanced at the gaming community during the RealID fiasco knows that this part is an important feature.

The site has flaws, of course. I am no web designer, in case you haven't noticed the generic template for the blog, but navigation is difficult and finding other players on your server or who share similar interests in difficult to say the least. But it does attach to your forum account and makes for an excellent addition to the community.

Next up we have SWTOR. As mentioned above, they have allowed the creation of guilds before launch. What you may not know are the tools guilds are given. Once again, it is worthy to note that guilds are connected to your forum accounts. Here is the search feature for finding a guild in SWTOR. The criteria are staggering on comparison to any other MMO site, and that isn't all. There is a built in application system to apply for a guild, a guild site to explain your goals and activities, a public forum for potential recruits or friends of the guild, a private forum for guild members and, of course, a roster.

Guilds are free to use these features as much or as little as they want, but not using them is missing out on one of the easiest ways to recruit from the community. The same goes for those looking for a guild. Now, whether a guild lives up to the criteria it sets for itself is another story altogether, but giving them the tools to expand rather than leaving it up to third party sites and trade chat is a major boon.

Lastly, I'd like to briefly discuss RealID. Cross-game chat is worthless when talking about an MMO: MMORPG players are typically loyal to one game and I know very few who would use such a feature already, not to mention how many actually subscribe to more than one game from one company as is. No, I'm talking about grouping with friends who aren't on the same server for a dungeon finder group, and being able to chat and play with them. I'm a role player, and I prefer to play on RP servers. Though I have joined a guild that facilitates that, my friends in real life aren't into it. So they play on normal servers. Being able to chat and play with them, even though we prefer different server settings, is an excellent addition to any MMO and should be considered whenever a dungeon finder system is implemented.

I am waiting for the day that an MMO company puts together a polished community system that allows gamers to network on their own terms. We're capable of making very good communities when given the resources. And it would sure help keep people around and subscribing, if the bottom line is all you're worried about.


  1. I agree with you about the RealID thing, and I'm amazed that Blizzard hasn't pushed it further. Then again, these things tend to be limited to consoles with PSN profiles or Xbox Live GamerTags.

    Where have X-fire and Raptr got to though? If it was that big a deal surely these firms would be doing incredibly well?

  2. I don't know, MMOs are like you said such dedicated games, that establishing community simply doesn't work the same way as on XBOX live for example (where players meet for fps, sportgames etc.). you need people on the same server to create guilds, bonds, trades together - so in my opinion x-server chat and grouping has its downsides. if you want to play together, it's easy enough to migrate, and seriously now: how big a difference is there really between pve, pvp and rp servers in WoW? what are the chances that your best friends are all so different from you that you cannot decide on the same mode? I doubt this is a real issue.

    realID, x-server functions, all undermine what I consider healthy server dynamics. you might as well just have 1 big 'world server' then.
    I miss the days when everyone knew everybody on our small servers and alliance and horde would greet each other in yet another battleground match. cross-server has made everything more anonymous, in favor of shorter queues etc. and while I see that advantage, it's a very high price to pay.

    personally, I don't want more and more social networking addons in MMOs. I'm perfectly capable of finding mates myself on the server I am playing. if anything, I'd like improved server chat functionalities because frankly they were abysmal in WoW.

  3. @Gazimoff - I was only marginally aware of those two sites before you reminded me they existed. Personally, I'd like to believe it is because they are a third party company, and not being pushed by the parent companies of the game, but I can't be sure.

    @Syl - Though I agree with you fully about cross-server chat and grouping, and do prefer when servers are allowed to cultivate their own communities, I'm accepting cross-server dungeons and battlegrounds as a part of the theme park genre now. It's become a convenience that everyone is used to, and taking it away or releasing a game without it tends to bring unfavorable responses.

    I liken it to the invention of the car. Before, you would ride a horse or walk and have the chance to meet someone going your way and possibly make a friend, whether just to travel with or for longer than just the trip. with the car, you decide who goes in the car with you and you are heading so fast (as well as everyone else) that your only interaction is to get out of someone elses way. But it's just so much faster that people aren't willing to give it up.

    I still believe the site features should be given a hard look by companies. Guild hosting is one of the major issues of many guilds trying to organize, and many players will make blogs about a game and connect with others blogging and making forum posts anyway. Giving them the tools to connect would be a smart move, in my eyes.