Community Engagement

The feeling that I did this myself and it’s good, often beats the feeling that Professionals did this for me and it’s perfect.
— Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus

I think we tolerate far more flaws in the MMO genre not just because making massively multiplayer games is especially hard but also because we feel a sense of collaborative development. Players feel like they are contributing something to the game in a way that is not possible in “one and done” games. There is iterative development. There are forums with developers there. There is player-created content. The community participates in testing. It is our game, not their game.

On the other hand, the vast majority of the playerbase is not engaged in the forums, and the biggest game in the Western market has the smallest player input relative to “Professionals did this for me.”

[Update: Alternately, someone has probably worked out the mathematically optimal build for your class. How often do you work through the options on your own, even knowing the math has already been done? How often do you see that theory-crafted build and tweak it, making it your own even though it is most likely slightly worse than the guide-perfect build?]

: Zubon

6 thoughts on “Community Engagement”

  1. That’s a good book you’re reading. *puts another title on the to-read list*

    The community engagement also extends to indie games. So presumably indie MMOs are the pinnacle of community engagement? :)

    On the other hand, quite a lot of people settle for professionals did this for me (talent builds, raid strats, theme park quests, art assets… or painting miniatures or cooking, for that matter.)

    Possibly out of lack of time, or lack of interest in developing said activity to master hobbyist status?

    Or is it that they’ve simply never had the opportunity to try and do it for themselves, to get the “I did it, and it was good” feeling that crowns the “someone else did it for me and it was perfect” feeling?

    Or maybe they tried once and it was bad, which scared them away from ever going further.

  2. Helluva series of posts from that book you’re making.

    While a sense of “collaborative development” may be palpable, I can’t help but wonder if it is a self-imposed restriction, or an unsaid requirement of the MMO genre.

    Certain titles, (*ahem* Alganon *ahem*) deserve the relentless bashing they receive. Certain other deserve a second chance and an increased dialogue with the engaged portion of the playerbase, such as STO.

    My point is that collaborative development is an interesting concept on paper, but one that should apply both ways. If it is our game, we should have fun playing it and see our suggestions for improvement in it. The fact that for ten years, no developer has been able to remove mob grind from the game is proof that the collaborative development isn’t really all that collaborative after all.

  3. Really, it’s a win-win for both players and developers. Players are more likely to have favorable opinions about a dev they feel is listening to their concerns and implementing changes they enjoy (in some cases). Devs get a constant feedback stream from eager communicators and improved morale among their playerbase. A happier playerbase is a larger playerbase.

    You can not expect any MMO to compete without wide open and well-tended communication between players and developers.

  4. Not quite sure I agree with Shirky there. I think he does a good job of qualifying that a personal result has to be “good” (which few things really are), but as you point out a lot of people are still interested in the works of professionals. I’m a reasonable cook, for example, but I still enjoy going to a nice restaurant for a fine meal.

    I also think some things you simply cannot do yourself. I can’t read my own stories for enjoyment, for example, because I know it. My mind has already explored different possibilities, and if I could think fo something better, I would have put it in.

    How does this relate to MMOs? Most people can’t produce something even just “good” (yes, even some professionals). And, if you could do better, you might find it hard to go in and just enjoy your game in the same way you enjoy an MMO done professionally.

    Interesting things to consider.

  5. I think the story example is slightly misleading. Creating a story and reading a story are very different activities. Think of the case of pen and paper roleplaying games. Creating those stories, especially with others who through elements you didn’t think of into the stories, _can potentially_ be much more fun then reading a novel even of superior quality to the story you’ve created. That would be the parallel case in the story example I think. Not just an amateaur writing a story down (for NaNoWriMo perhaps) and then sitting back and reading what they’ve written when they’re done.

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