Playing Guild Wars 2 dynamic events makes me very aware of the importance of community in MMO games. The mechanics of combat (no trinity), the downed state and ability of all characters to revive fallen heroes and the need often for a certain critical mass to push events to a successful conclusion do all seem to depend on players actually wanting their characters to interact with others more than has become the norm in so many MMORPGS.
This of course makes a ‘good’ community ever so very important to the long term success of the game. Now by the rather generic term community I implicitly am refering to the community of my home server Piken Square – the community of all the other servers has little to no direct impact on my gaming experience (I don’t PVP at all). But even within that sub-community within the wider Guild Wars 2 virtual community there are plenty of possible subsets. It’s the unofficial EU RP server as voted for by the pre-launch online RP playerbase. I see plenty of general PVE style players – those who are focused on playing, chatting OOC in the open channels etc. I haven’t yet seen anything I would class as bad behaviour or anti-social behaviour, though I’m well behind the zerg so I see less players around me than those who attended the prelaunch and launch day rushes.
I have played LoTRO on and off for years and will continue to do so once the new game shine has worn off GW2 a bit. I still feel that Laurelin the official EU RP server in that game is, by far, the best in-game community I have ever experienced – and this despite the game having a weird mix of very social and some very individualistic features. It’s with great sadness that I have read about some pretty awful extreme examples of griefing on other servers. There are now several very hotly debated threads about the festival emote issue; items that when used force an emote on those nearby. Said items can be used to grief other players – interrupting everyday activities like crafting or, as has happened in the examples on the forums, disrupting organised RP events or social activities in game. I find the callous responses of those doing the griefing, and rather heartless responses on some of the forum posts defending this behaviour saddening.
Our virtual worlds live or die by the quality of their communities, whatever type of community you want, there is usually one right for you. Whether it is an immersive RP experience, a competitive PVE progression environment or a full on open PVP server. That’s why we have choices of server types in these games, to give a choice and guidance to players on what to expect. I always choose an RP server in every game I play, I simply want a more mature and welcoming virtual playpen, and RP servers usually give those. I’m very happy to engage in random improv RP with characters I meet in game, but have little real interest in scheduled epic RP story arcs.
There are plenty of forum posts on both sides of the LoTRO festival emote issue, though the opt-out setting really should be a no-brainer in such a socially-oriented game. How on earth the devs thought it a good idea to enable griefing on such a scale I cannot fathom, how they have not yet implemented a choice in the game already I cannot believe. LoTRO is an old game now, with some very stiff competition in the free to play and subscription markets. The game’s main USP is its story and setting, which can be very immersive. I think this issue is proving pretty devisive in a game that depends very much on the strength of its communities to maintain player involvement – all games of this age depend heavily on the shared sense of community for players to keep motivated and engaged. Just like with SoE and the Pro Sieben debacle, I think developers like Turbine should be very wary of underestimating the importance of community.