Hang out spots

When I first started playing Star Wars Galaxies, I noticed there were certain “hang-out” spots in each city.  Even if you went to a different server, the hang-out spots were exactly the same.  I thought it was weird because back then, you could choose to start in any city on any planet.   There were no quest-hubs to draw anyone to any place in particular.

After thinking about what all the hang-spots had in common, I came to realize that gamers are very lazy creatures.  If the game mechanics didn’t force a player to go somewhere to hang out, they would hang out wherever they loaded in.  This meant the main hang-out in every city was the starport.  The developers tried to force people into the cantina’s by giving them a nasty debuff called “battle fatigue” that could only be slowly removed in certain locations.  They also tried to force people into hospitals to have their other crippling debuffs removed.  But even if these locations were 30 seconds away from the load-in spot, people wouldn’t make the journey.

You can’t artificially create game-mechanics to force players to hang out somewhere.  Oh, you can try, but leaving the load-in spot to go have a medic remove my wounds in the hospital was about as much fun as waiting in line at the DMV.  If they really wanted players to hang out in the hospital, then they should have made the hospital the place you load into after you die.  But they didn’t.  You woke up as a clone,  if I remember.  A wounded clone…. or something.

By contrast, everyone hangs out inside the Prancing Pony in Lotro.  Could the developers behind SWG believe that players use instruments to play music there on a daily basis without being forced to grind “entertainer xp”?  The Prancing Pony has several reasons it’s a hang out spot.  First of all, there’s a mile-stone right outside to make it a possible load-in location.  Second, the beginning of the Epic quest line forces you to go there several times.  Third, there are many amenities inside such as a barber, vendors, and a bard, so people can stop off there for multiple reasons.  And of course, it’s a memorable location from the books/movies.

Star wars Galaxies, if you want people to hang out in a cantina, let me land on the roof!  Put in bazaar terminals, mission terminals, bank terminals, and bounty-hunter terminals inside it, and then make the cantina the default place to land when coming from another planet.  Basically, if you let me load in and get my stuff done without having to move my little virtual legs, then I might consider hanging out there.

16 thoughts on “Hang out spots

  1. Andrew

    My favourite Prancing Pony memory is from a couple of Christmasses ago. One of the Kinships had spontaneously organised a ‘Meet Santa’ event.

    A dwarf got dressed in appropriate attire, sat himself down on one of the chairs outside the Pony and started handing out gifts. Other members of the Kin got dressed up as Santa’s elves and played music for the crowd.

    When I arrived there was a line of 20 people waiting patiently, everyone getting into the spirit of the event. You can see the screenshots I took of the event here.

    Did anything that fun ever happen in SWG?

  2. Thallian

    Basically, if you want players to hang out somewhere inconvenient, forget it, make the hang out spot convenient and they will gravitate there. There’s a lot of be said for this design philosophy in a lot of places, not just hang out spots. Some dungeons are run more not because they are less fun or have worse loot, in fact sometimes they have better loot but they are harder to reach, be it by distance, geography or some stupid developer induced faction grind or attunement. In any case, if you want players to be able to enjoy your content, don’t make it too hard to get to. Make it easy and natural to get to. I like it. Explorers will still find goodies. They should make random drops in far off places be worth more than they are in the current MMOs ;) Exploring should pay off IMO.

  3. Sok

    The SWG “go get healed” bit worked to an extent, but had a few failings. It only worked if there was an entertainer in the cantina. It was reactive — people didn’t want to go, they had to go. (And they were usually grumpy when they got there because of whatever beat them up so bad in the first place.) Finally, it was passive. You didn’t go there to “do” anything, you went there to wait, which is not engaging.

    Since there was nothing else to do in the cantinas, people who didn’t want to socialize would come in, drop AFK until they got healed back up, then leave. The people that really wanted to hang out and perhaps roleplay did stick around, and so the idea had some merit as a ‘hardcore socializing arena’.

    The socializers wound up having the same issue everyone else did, though: no reason to remain. In their case, the reason was Other People. If there were no other people around, there was no reason to stay in a cantina. Most socializers gravitated to specific cantinas in specific cities, leaving the other locations empty except for enterprising AFK Twi’lek dancers.

    So, yes: if you want people to hang out in a spot, you need to give them good reasons to go to that spot. Orgrimmar’s bank/mailbox/auction house/vendor area to the east of the bank building does this quite well (the only example that springs to mind offhand). If you want to set up a space as a social spot, you either drop it the center of that hub or you wrap your social area around one of those destinations.

  4. Shamutanti

    “Some dungeons are run more not because they are less fun or have worse loot… but they are harder to reach, be it by distance, geography”

    This is Maraudon allll over xD

  5. Julian

    “You can’t artificially create game-mechanics to force players to hang out somewhere”

    Depends on how catastrophic the mechanics are. *evil*

  6. Armagon

    Same for Ragnarok Online. Of more than a handful cities there were always only 2 cities with hang out/afk spots.
    a) Aldebaran, where a high-level dungeon was located in the center and warp points to other areas and
    b) Prontera, the capital city. The most crowded spot was one of the destination warp points – or rather 1 screen north of it.
    That’s where the game went laggier as well with 100 people on the map.

    All other cities were deserted, apart from maybe 1-2 guilds having “their spot” there. You only went there as a passer-by on the way to your levelling spot. No reason at all to hang out in those ghost towns.

  7. nugget

    Perhaps another aspect that hasn’t been touched on directly here is the nature of space and how humans react to it – even simulated space.

    I was at one seminar or the other (I can’t recall what it was for), but there was a very interesting presentation on manipulating the flow of people through spatial design.

    Such as, if you have a space shaped like

    V

    then people will naturally tend to sit/stand face each other, rather than the walls.

    And with a space shaped like

    ^

    (sorry… hard to make it bigger than that lol) then people will tend to naturally position themselves with their backs to each other.

    Also covered were things like – if you have a big empty town square that’s well… empty. People will just walk back and forth over it as if the space simply does not exist. And for them it doesn’t, since it doesn’t ‘register’.

    But if you want it to be a lively place… you can do something as simple as putting a big leafy tree, or a fountain in the middle of it – and people will start walking by, sitting down, spending time there, etc etc.

    While this doesn’t directly address the question of player-formed ‘hubs’ of activity, I can’t help but think the spatial environment itself has a marked, if subtle effect.

  8. Bonedead

    I know that if you go on any SWG server right now and walk into Mos Eisley cantina, you will see a bunch of people.

    True story!

    But yes, as Sok said, you just died to a mob and now you’ve gotta go wait in line AND pay money to do it.

  9. Bissrok

    There were always people in the cantina and hospitals in SWG. Those WERE the hangout spots, and they were packed even on the smaller servers. And they were busy because entertainers worked there, doctors healed there, harvestors and crafters traded there, and all the combat guys had to heal there. The only people at the starport were usually AFK spammers. Or, at least that was true back when the game had subscribers.

    And, in fact, I was on the most popular LotRO server, and the Prancing Pony isn’t nearly as some busy places in Moria, like Dolven View. It’s all just RPers and people playing music. It’s a long ass walk if you can’t port, and there’s nothing there.

  10. Sok

    You have failed at HTML tags! You have been eaten by a grue.
    You have died.
    Would you like to (L)OAD, (R)ESTART, or (Q)UIT? _

  11. Zubon

    Thanks, Sok. That second link was the one I was trying to remember. Now I don’t need to comment! Except I have by now. Curses!

  12. Suzina Post author

    Wow Sok, great find there!

    I think some day, the principles of layout discovered in online virtual places may help shape how planned communities are made in the future.

  13. Pingback: /AFK - April 19 « Bio Break

  14. nugget

    Warcabbit:
    I’m afraid I really don’t recall exactly where I watched that presentation / lecture. :(

    It might have been at ?last year’s? State of Play, it might not. >.> If I’m right, and any of the academic / industry folk who were there remember it they might be able to point you in the right direction.

    However, this PDF does touch on some of the stuff I tried (so crudely) to illustrate with little symbols and whatnot, though not with my exact examples.

    *hangs head* I can remember what their slides looked like, but I can’t for the life of me remember the presenter or their name(s).

    http://web.media.mit.edu/~dietmar/papers/FunctionFollowsForm.pdf

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