[MUD-Dev] Community feeling (was: To good to be TRUE, in an M MPORPG?)

Koster Koster
Sun Jul 29 21:43:22 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Alex Kay

> I've been playing AO a little, but having trouble getting 'into'
> it for some reason. One conclusion I'm coming to is that there is
> no sense of community. Maybe this can be attributed to it's youth
> or currently buggy state. However, I believe the following points
> are also playing a large part;
 
>   1. One 'server' with a large (10,000+) population - This sounds
>   good in theory, but in practice...

I'd be curious to hear you elaborate on this. I don't know why
people assume it's better in theory (any more than why people assume
bigger worlds are better), but it does seem like the question of
whether the game encourages microcommunities matters a lot.

I inherently distrust the concept of virtual apartments, rather than
actual houses on the land, because they are less conducive to
neighborhoods, in my mind. Less odds of bumping into a neighbor,
less odds of seeing a house and getting curious about who lives
there, far less ability to express yourself to a passerby and
thereby catch their attention.

>   2. No visible names, so no immediate recognition of others - PC
>   appearance needs to be more visibly unique for this to work.

It also needs to be easily conveyed to others, which I am not sure
mere appearance will be able to ever accomplish (we have trouble
with it in the real world, after all). A lot of online social
interaction seems to depend on referral as well as recognition.

>   3. No 'fixed' dungeons to explore & have a shared experience -
>   and that doesn't mean having to be in a group either.
>   4. Rewarding, individual quest dungeons - you aren't going to
>   meet anyone in there.

A long time ago on this thread, there was an observation (perhaps by
JCL?)  about how the fact that UO was overcrowded was what led to
many of its key community-building effects. I believe the term used
was "hothouse." Also related is the whole socialization and
convenience thread from not very long ago. If you add more and more
lubricant to ensure that a player gets a good experience without
needing to rub up against anyone else, compete for resources,
interact for things that they lack, then you are increasing
convenience and removing reasons and opportunities for
socialization.
 
> The whole thing feels very impersonal, and you often feel your
> playing a single player game.

Of course, they also recently announced a feature to actually let
you toggle off other players on screen. :) Rather amazing, IMHO,
totally contradicts the point of a massively multiplayer game, but I
do seem to be reading many observations like yours that compare AO
more to a single-player game.

> Despite EQ's flaws, and my tendancy to play 'solo', I rarely
> experienced this feeling...

Even as a solo player in EQ, you are constantly bumping into other
players who want the same things that you do, or who have something
you want.

> It's funny, because before experiencing them for myself, I was in
> favour of those points above. A case of 'careful what you wish
> for' it seems.

I don't think it is bad to wish for greater convenience in these
games. I think that you have to be careful how far you go. Certainly
thousands of people seem to be enjoying AO very much.

-Raph
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