Massively online communities : the genre paradox II

by on Jan.24, 2007, under games industry, gaming, geek culture, mmo, mmorpg, new media, WoW

fitting communities together

As mentioned in my previous article, gamers expect a community from the game publisher. In a sense, this demonstrates the unique position of videogames in the landscape of entertainment. Consequentially, feedback and community become a cost of doing business.

I believe we’re quickly reaching the point where publisher-run communities no longer serve their purpose. The communities are too vast. Moreover, the gamers themselves have evolved toward a deeper level of sophistication. Gamers are the reason we’ve come this far, and we simply demand more.

The community problem in MMOs is compounded by three issues:

  • The sophistication of the gamers. Community software is becoming prohibitively complex.
  • These communities are too large to be managed centrally, so gamers form their own.
  • And, the publisher wants to maintain ultimate control over the content in their domain.

MMO providers and their respective forums capability is totally stagnant in the face of this. The key issue is that I don’t believe they can keep up. Since software utilities (ie. middleware) saves the licensee time and effort to develop these features internally, the time has come for official community middleware. Yes, leave it to the experts.

One such middleware solution is MMO Guildsites. Their approach to the community problem is quite unique, not only providing a “guild branding” solution through an extensive theming feature, but they also provide RSS feeds for the guild news page, the usual forums, a calendering service and a loot-tracker (using DKPs). It’s a modern community service at its very best.

I’m not certain if MMOGuildsites has a licenseable option for their software. If they don’t, then gearing themselves to publishers might be an additional revenue source.

I also think that they could go one step further.

The super-community solution

So we know that managing a guild is a prohibitive task for most people. MMO Guildsites offsets that burden by allowing players to concentrate on the game, rather than trying to run their guild as a mini business (although some uber-guilds actually charge for membership).

We also know that MMO providers/publishers can’t stay abreast of the evolving requirements for their massive communities. So what’s the solution?

In outlining a way out of this, I’m forced to invoke one of the worst marketing buzzwords ever conceived.

“Web 2.0”.

We can now merge, without merging.
Google’s CEO, Dr. Eric Schmidt on partnership with Apple.

Historically, content and its container have been indistinguishable. Most online content existed within impenetrable silos. An undisputed aspect of “Web 2.0” implicitly means aggregation. When you aggregate the content, you willingly create a breach between container and the information. This allows content to float freely, regardless of where it “lives”. Google News is a common example.

So, if MMO communities have fragmented into private guilds, does it not make sense to reel them back? The publisher already segments the community into realms, so further segmentation is inevitable. Guild forums are a natural place for aggregation. Furthermore, guilds could even aggregate each other. In a non-automated sense, they already do.

guilded communities These super-communities could be formally represented in the game’s official game forums.

The community interaction would become more guild-centric, which arguably serves both the publisher and the players.

A guild could “publish” one of their forum areas while leaving the rest as-is. And since the “public channel” for every guild is aggregated into the publisher’s forums, the MMO provider themselves can exert some editorial control over what appears there.

It makes sense to drive massive communities towards guilds, at least to me. It’s a natural arrangement. So what could meta-gaming services like MMO Guildsites do? Build in this capability right now. Let the gamers aggregate each other first, and you can be sure the publishers will follow suit.

In the end, it’s the gamers that drive the market. It’s always been this way.

Technorati tags: , ,

13 Comments for this entry

  • Brooke

    Actually, member/player accounts are completely free of charge. Only guild accounts carry a monthly fee.

    Ie. I want to create a guild so I choose a plan and pay that fee monthly. Anyone in the world can create their own free member/player account and apply to my guild for membership. Once a member of my guild and logged in, they can view all the member-only features (however, as GM, I do have privacy control settings that will allow me to share that content with anyone should I desire).

    You do point out the vagueness of their homepage instructions though, so I'll pass along this information and maybe they'll clarify things a bit.
  • b1alpha

    Wait a sec! That was false info, its just the chat that takes members oooonly
  • b1alpha

    In order to see the calendar, and other advanced features, the visitor must log in. To log in, you must have an account and that is where it is costing each member 9$ for something that should be free.

    So, yes it may be pocket change for the very lowest level of interaction, but for more advanced information its gonna cost you.

    From what I could understand. And I did make an account check it -->>
  • covert.c.


    That's less than a movie ticket! In an average-sized guild, that's pocket change among the members.

    (IMHO) It's good for what you're getting...
  • b1alpha

    it may be the greatest game forum site in the world but w/t pricing like this -->

    Standard Plan
    Instant Access!
    Packed with features
    Unmetered bandwidth
    1000MB (1GB) Image Gallery
    [Signup for a subscription]

    Thats not amazon style pricing is all im going to say. I wonder if they use S3? for this.
  • covert.c.

    Your clock details seems to have been cut off, but I get the gist. You're right, it's inevitable that the community goes 'round the baked-in mechanics of the game or community. I think companies should embrace that (more). Google has.
  • UNO

    Ok so what I was trying to say is that the community always finds a way around the lack of company innovations. This clock being a prime example of motivated individuals out-producing the existing game mechanics.
  • UNO

    Actually I have been Guild Wars lately and I stumbled across an interesting exploit. Some clowns have learned to predict the precise moment to enter the tournament and obtain victory through use of a simple clock.

    I'd like gwShack to have a timer on its first page than tells when next hall win will happen, and when is the best time to end a fight and jump.

    This mission consists on writing hall_jump.js.php, a JS script dynamically created by a PHP one.
    The JS script will show how much time there's left till following Hall win, then how many seconds there are left for the perfect time to win a fight and jump to HoH (say ~15s since I don't know how long it exactly is). The output should be a element:
  • covert.c.

    Gamewise, I totally agree. From what I'm told, Planetside had greater ambitions for player cities and the like. But the reality of releasing the game and it's ultimate lacklustre popularity curtailed the devs' hopes.

    I think SWG did a lot for creating an in-game community. Player-player economy was supported by actual game mechanics. Player cities, though not perfect, were fuctional and many players enjoyed them.

    Some upcoming MMOs (Huxley, Tabula) may not have that stuff, but I actually point to a new game that has it. Vanguard, with respect to player housing. From what I hear, it's quite promising (though again, it's not perfect).
  • UNO

    Planetside rocked but it has in game ads and a subscription fee and with no real City building or sense of gain or lose from the sectors...I think maybe SWG has more to offer than Planetside. Honestly there ought to be more competition in the Sci-fi world.
  • covert.c.

    Planetside had updates to the current state of the war in every zone, and also had live stats for your character that you could include as a forum sig. Not, however, as an RSS feed, which expands the possibilities significantly. I think this goes to show that even some MMO developers are recognizing what vestment individual guilds have in their games, since that sort of feature is likely not easy to do and is totally geared to re-posting elsewhere (outside of the 'official' communities).

    I think it would be cool to be able to aggregate combat and war status. My imagination leads me to want even more granularity... to allow players to share their 'current location' in the world, or even the state of the fight they're in (ie. the opponent). Not realistic, I admit. Fun to speculate, though.
  • Nazgum

    I like your thoughts on aggregation between guilds, and if publishers like Vivendi/WoW aggregated more information it would make for such a more community feel all around for sure.

    EA Mythic/Warhammer Online has stated they will be taking what they did with DaoC by putting the state of the war, guild information, characters stats and more up available as XML feeds on their website - and doing even more with WAR; which sounds very interesting and perhaps if they are successful a few other MMORPGs may follow suit to the point where it becomes expected.
  • Uno

    I am reminded of the Anthropological relationship between loyalty to Family -> Village -> State. Art mimics Life!

1 Trackback or Pingback for this entry

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!