Looking For Community

If you read through my commentary on this site and elsewhere, you might think I worship at the alter of Blizzard.   There is no question I admire their revolutionary approach to MMOs, and the changes that World of Warcraft has wrought upon the genre, and I enjoy “WoW Clones.”

However, there is one side effect of the technology developed by Blizzard that is perhaphs the most unfourtunate and dangerous degredation of the MMO genre since its inception.

Blizzard killed community.

In the infanthood of the genre, (MUD, NeverWinter Nights, Ultima Online, Meridian, EverQuest etc.) server community was everything.   You felt a part of a living, breathing social and economic system.  Server identity mattered, attitude and aptitude mattered and the choices you made every time you logged in, had a lasting effect on your position within the community.

Perhaphs most stark of these examples was the concept of PK vs. Anti-PK.   This was born in Ultima Online, and flourished in EverQuest.   It was a decision each player made for themselves that defined who they could associate with, their access to guilds, alliances, gear, groups… even cities, towns and npcs.

This was foundational to server community and this epic and ever-present struggle between the forces of Good and Evil added a flavor to the game that has been lost in recent years.

I played on Rallos Zek in EverQuest.   Rallos Zek was a vibrant, open PvP Server with several distinguished (and now famous) guilds.   Notably Wudan and Curse.   Wudan were champions of light.   Defenders of the people.   Heros in the progression endgame raiding scene, and vehemently Anti.

Curse on the other-hand, stood in stark contrast, as the most feared and hated of Guilds in any game I have ever played.   Even the rumor of a Curse player entering a zone would get zone chat buzzing with frenzied calls for help, and perfect strangers would find one another and group up for protection.   High level players would race to the zone as their guildmates called for support.   Perhaphs the Curse villian was there and a great battle or vile gank might ensue, perhaphs not, but community was created!

Now as it stood, my friends were present in both Guilds, and many of us played both sides of the fence, but we stayed true to the roleplaying of the fact and there was never collusion.  It felt real, it felt geniune and every choice, every action, even your name, mattered.

To illuminate that fact, my PK alt was a Troll Shaman named Lootzu.   Let me assure you, in EverQuest if you saw a Troll Shaman named FluffyBunny you ran like hell, but when the name all but screamed PK you didn’t even wonder.   The first 40 levels, I played Lootzu as an Anti, and tried to convince people I was just roleplaying a good natured Troll who abandoned his tribes way of life and was seeking redemption amongst the Antis.   I never got a single group in 40 levels.  Every choice mattered.

So what does this have to do with Blizzard you ask?

Blizzard developed some very clever tools over the years, which have essentially destroyed MMO community.   Cross-Server Ques, Looking For Group, and now I have read, even Looking For Raid.

Remember Leeroy Jenkins?

Jokes aside, everyone remembers those players who trained the zone or aggro’d adds non-stop, or dropped heals a half second after the party wiped EVERY pull…   You also remember that Pally with no guild, and no friends who managed to off-tank mobs, heal everyone and do some decent dps without saying a word or hitting the spacebar the entire run…

We kept mental notes of the first so we never had to suffer that pain again, and we added the second to our friends list and pursuaded them to join our Raid Guild.

Community.

Well now Leeroy is Cross Server LFG and no one knows he sucks.  He can keep wiping raids day in and day out and no one will be the wiser.

You never met that quiet Pally because he was Queing Blackrock Depths with players from four other Servers.

You haven’t made any real friends, you don’t have any enemies, and the economy doesn’t change much because its cross-server now.  No one can corner the Ore market by buying out the AH and relisting it at a premium.

The tools that Blizzard has created work like a charm and are very ingenius.  They don’t make broken toys, but sometimes they work in mysterious ways, and Blizzard has unwittingly destroyed the single greatest commodity in the MMO genre…

“LFG Deadmines!”

~Cyndre

37 thoughts on “Looking For Community

  1. Smacker

    Totally agree with this, great post.
    The AH is cross-server? Really? I must have missed that one!

  2. Aillas

    Sounds like the real problem is having multiple worlds, and is this respect, Blizzard’s tremendous success is also their downfall.

    Good post, but if you weren’t lucky enough to be on the same server out of 200+ that the quiet Pally was in, you weren’t ever going to meet anyway. On the other hand, if you weren’t on Leeroy Jenkins’ server, you would never have him wipe your raid.

    The real solution for community can’t involve being lucky enough to be on the same server as others that want to build a community.

  3. lifedeathsoul

    hmm, yes you could say that’s how LFR destroys server community, by introducing a degree of annoymity for the members of the raid group. I would also like to point to certain improvements that Blizzard has done as well.

    In one of the smaller patches to 4.3, Blizzard also introduced the ability to create cross server raid groups among friends on different servers. Essentially you could pick raid members from 4 different servers and enter any raid dungeon from t7 to t12 and complete it. More importantly you don’t necessarily need to know a person’s realid to invite them to such a group. All you need is to pass the raid assistant rights to a person that you trust, so that you can invite such a person to the group. I personally feel that this feature seems to be overlooked.

    I would also say that it’s not so much a single server culture anymore. I feel that it’s better to look things on a much larger perspective and think of it as an entire cross-server community. Cross-realm friends and raids are starting to perhaps point in that direction.

  4. Bronte

    I actually don’t fully agree with this argument. As a vanilla WoW player, I remember standing in Arathi Highlands for up to two hours, waiting for an Arathi basin queue to pop, only to be decimated by an organized team on the other side. Cross-server PvP has effectively eliminated said distinctions, and allowed us to PvP effectively and at our convenience.

    The same is the case with LFG. The 5-man dungeons, at least up to Cataclysm, were the “first tier of raiding” to get the blues that would allow you to raid. But after you are done with said heroics, your alts had a very tough time finding a group for this content. LFG helps in that regard. Queues are a minute on most days, and in addition, there are rewards for taking in members of the same guild (community).

    The LFR is the only part where I actually agree with you. I understand the need for it from a business standpoint, as it helps a MUCH larger portion of the population see endgame content (For example, only 1% of the player base saw Sunwell in its original form), but it does hurt the concept of community after a while…

    1. musik

      he never mentioned “organized pvp”, i think ist pretty obvious that that is another case.

  5. Gameronomist

    I feel this the most when it comes to pvp. It is hard on so many servers to feel like there is great World PvP still. There are still servers that you can do it with, but it’s generally large scale fights, and guild vs. guild fights. The ability to walk around with 1 or 2 friends and get a small fight in Hillsbrad is really gone. That’s what I miss the most about the lost community with LFR and even cross realm BGs.

  6. darkeye

    I’m not convinced it’s solely to do with the rise of LFG systems, but rather the widespread adoption of the mindset that the only thing that matters in MMOs is acquiring gold and gear, it’s that selfishness that breaks communities, players sniping at each other when that progression doesn’t run smoothly. The popularity of LFG finder is that it allows players to get geared as fast as possible.

    There’s none of a more relaxed ‘win some, lose some’ attitude as in games that have ‘risk’ features like gear loss on death, becoming momentarily weaker and needing help of others. On the other hand I don’t think introducing ‘risk’ is the complete panacea, but just one element, there is other ways to increase cooperation and I’m holding much hope for GW2 to shoot down the selfish attitudes and gain a following that is all about playing with others and having fun in game, and progression is downplayed.

  7. Kiztent

    Yea, community. Because nothing in EQ was more fun than sitting at the zone line OOCing “SK LFG” for hours on end while people dumped trains on you.

    1. wilhelm2451

      “I engaged the community”

      Bullshit. You’ve probably never interacted with anything beyond a tiny percentage of people who make up the community. You filtered through people who were online when you happened to be and found people of similar level with similar needs and compatible time constraints and you ran with them.

      And that is fine. Good on you mate! But don’t tell me you’ve “engaged the community,” because you sound like a politician, and I don’t mean that in any sort of nice way.

      Furthermore, this sort of talk always leads to the message that if you aren’t playing the game the way YOU think it should be played, then GTFO. I don’t have a problem finding a group, so screw you and your problems, which is pretty much what you just said.

      The call for the end of easy ways to form groups… and people seem to be about as likely to talk in WAR open quests or Rift open groups as they do in Dungeon Finder groups, so put them on the list as well… becomes a simple matter of being angry about people who don’t share your view of the game.

      But those people are part of the community too.

      As the tale goes, I do not live in a big city because I want to make millions of friends. I live there because of the experiences and opportunities it offers relative to a small town out in the sticks.

      Similarly, I do not play MMOs to “engage the community.” I play because they offer an experience unlike that in any single player game. I play with old friends and I occasionally make new ones.

      But as in the city, I don’t kid myself about my relationship to everybody I pass on the street. Community is a pretty nebulous bond.

      1. Cyndre

        Woah… chill. He said he sat an spamming ooc lfg constantly in EQ. I didn’t. I had friends, made lots more and never lacked for people to run with.

        If someone else has trouble with that fine, but this is my blog post, my opinion, and my right to say read what I write or don’t and ya GTFO.

        I never said anyone else way was wrong. If fact I went so far in a comment to say the opposite.. that this was a lamentation of the death of MY style of mmo. Not anyone elses.

        Got a problem with that, then ya, GTFO as you put it.

  8. Yeebo

    Great though provoking post. But I also kind of have to agree with this from Kiztent:

    “Yea, community. Because nothing in EQ was more fun than sitting at the zone line OOCing “SK LFG” for hours on end while people dumped trains on you.”

    I think it comes down to whether you view MMOs as games or social spaces. From a “game” perspective WoW is arguably among the genre leaders. However, the social environment there is notoriously bad. Certainly there are more annoying twits there than any other MMO I’ve played in the last few years.

    When push comes to shove, I’ll take “a fun game” over a “a forced grouping grindfest where I will never be able to see most of the content because I can’t play 40 hours a week” any day.

  9. Ravious

    There are too many MMOs to always have the type of by-gone community I think you want. MMO devs realize this and have to give easier ways of accessing *content* that do not require “engaging” a community. If people were still required to marry their one MMO, and eke out a spot in community, MMOs would still be ultra-niche… instead of niche.

    People that want MMOs that require or have stronger communities will seek them… people that don’t want to be so closely engaged, or required to be engaged, will find those. I don’t think anybody destroyed anything. The genre has just expanded.

  10. Cyndre

    I don’t disagree with Ravious and Yeebo here, this article was a lamentation of the death of the MMO that I loved at the hands of Blizzard… not that it applies to everyone’s style of play.

    What is interesting to note, is that I wrote this about four months ago, and two months prior to starting my Eve adventure, and many of those lost features I bemoan here, remain untouched in New Eden, and contribute greatly to my love for the game… but that’s another post you’ll have to wait a few days for.

    1. Ravious

      Indeed, and I love your stories about EVE. My heart yearns to get back in to a game like that… or A Tale in the Desert, but I simply do not have time or the will to marry one MMO, one community.

      Coming from one of Zubon’s posts, I would say that the best, most dense content in an MMO will be accompanied by strong community.

  11. Letrange

    /me detects someone who’s been playing EVE online and realized one of the issues with WoW once he was slapped upside the head with it by his FC :P

    Call is callous, dysfunctional and cut throat if you want but one thing EVE online does not lack is a community.

  12. camazotz

    I’m sort of torn on this issue. As a lapsed WoW player I am in agreement….lack of community killed the game for me, but it was dwindling not long after BC came out for my own experience, and I had a hard time recovering that sense of comraderie I experienced in my first great guild from ’05. In the end, I blame myself more than the game because I lack the time or motivation to try and rebuild what was lost.

    My wife, by contrast, is heavily involved on RP servers like Wyrmrest Accord and has nightly events in guilds with hundreds of active players who have a vivacious ongoing community, raids, events, RP activities, a paid Vent server and so forth. Her experience is something to envy, but it manifested because the players in question wanted it to happen, so it did.

    Back in EQ’s glory days the population was (iirc) around 300K. Maybe, possibly, there’s still that same dedicated volume of players who want community playing WoW….but they are harder to find because there’s another 9 million players on for whom dungeon and raid finders are more than sufficient for their somewhat more superficial experience. Just a thought…

  13. TheWumpus

    WOW or Blizzard didn’t kill community. WOW players killed community by virtue of so many of them playing WOW.

    It’s pretty straightforward. If you want an intimate community where everyone knows everyone else and people stop to chat when they pass in the streets (in their cars), you live in a small town. You don’t move to Manhattan.

    Same with games. The reason Everquest seemed more like a small town was that it was — compared to WOW, a miniscule number of people played it. (Ironically when Everquest was the new shiny there were countless MUD players complaining, correctly, how cold and impersonal the Everquest community was compared to MUDs.)

    1. mk2net

      But WoW’s servers only hold several thousand people each, so technically you have many small communities within WoW, right? Prior to the cross-server grouping options, that is, and even still you only will interact (until you hit instanced content) with people who rolled on your server.

      I’d also posit that the lack of substantive negative interactions between players (of the sort found in sandbox games like Ultima Online, Darkfall, etc. – aka griefing) means that most people won’t ever care enough to know other players.

      These are all arguments that will be familiar to regular visitors to Hardcore Casual, I’m sure.

  14. Coriolis

    The “problem” isn’t with the number of people, but with the type. The people who used to play online games before WoW were hardcore nerds, like me, and most likely you. The people who play games like EVE today are the same type. And so they create the same type of community. The people who play WoW are not, and therefore they don’t.

    The only sense in which blizzard killed the community is by being successful enough to attract all sorts of people, who do not form a community nearly as easily.

  15. Archangel

    I find this article a bit amusing. This idea of “community” and all the lamentations around it remind me of listening to my grandpa go on about “the good old days”.

    This “community” that you’re talking about, really is a sub-community of the true population. You never met “Quiet Pally” because he wasn’t part of the clique (the sub-community) that consisted of FluffyBunny and Lootzu. You never heard of him until someone reached outside of their comfort zone and outside of their clique. “Quiet Pally” sure as hell didn’t feel this sense of “community” that you guys talk about.

    So, stop calling it a loss of community. You have the population which was all players. You have the “community”, which was the (much) smaller subgroup of people involved in the “high school drama” that people created. Under that, you had the sub-community of the PK / Anti-PK groups.

    As for Blizzard’s involvement, the reality was that the population that YOU did not INCLUDE in YOUR community felt something was lacking and complained. Blizzard realized this would be bad for the wallet and did something about it.

    And, strangely enough, WoW still has somewhere in the range of 10 million subscribers. WOW. How is that? I thought everyone left the community?……

    Or did the community evolve and just leave you behind?

    1. Cyndre

      The community I refer to, existed in vanilla wow, and included millions of people.

      The examples I used were from WoW. The “Quiet Pally” was an actual example of a guy I still game with who I met in BRD when we were in the 50s and ended up joining our ‘sub-communimty’ so pardon me for pointing out your assumptions are, in this small regard, wrong.

      I didn’t know Leeroy Jenkins, and that was a stunt meant to me a joke, but the example is still valid.

      The community hasn’t eveolved… it has by the nature of the tools, grown complacent. You don;t need to try to develop community any more. You don’t even need friends lists, really.

      You just click Dungeon Finder or LFR or whatever the UI tooltip is and you race through something with as little social interaction as possible.

      If you think that is eveolution, give me the stone ages and knives made of bone. I am a fan of getting to know people, being known, recognizing the guy accross the field of battle in AB who is a beast… (OMG thats the guy just ganked me in Hillsbrand, lets go stomp him…)

      That doesn’t happen anymore in WoW.

      It used to.

      This isn’t UO was better, EQ was better, WoW is EZMODE post. This is Blizzard ruined the organic mechanism that created community, by implimenting tools designed to make social interaction ‘easier.’

      1. Curuniel

        Common mistake when speaking literally or metaphorically – evolution doesn’t mean improvement.

        WoW’s focus has changed over time, sure enough; what EverQuest offered isn’t what people are looking for anymore, and WoW is both a partial cause and a consequence of this. WoW still offers something and a lot of people love the community that they experience. A lot of those people will never have experienced pre-WoW MMOGs at all.

  16. Juno

    I personally hated the community in UO. I was amazed one afternoon when someone outside of town challenged me to a duel. This started because I was playing a bard and he hated the sound of my instrument. So I agreed to the duel (this was my first month of UO and I didn’t know any better tbh). I should have got a clue when a mob started to form. As soon as the duel started, the mob blocked me in so they could be the first to loot my corpse if I died (which I did, and I was looted).

    A couple weeks of effort wasted because of that experience and the way it went down was tantamount to MMO gang-rape.

    UO was also a game where u could wander around picking pockets. If you caught it and shouted “guards” in chat, some guards came running and killed the player. But again, any surrounding players could loot the thief first and now they have your loot, consequence free.

    Open sand-box type of games can be fun, but you have to prepare your new players for it before you toss them into the fire.

  17. Brainstrain

    I hate to be that guy, but in the first sentence, the word you want is “altar”. “Alter” can only be a verb.

    And while I agree with the point of your article – the community of WoW sucks, and Blizzard aren’t doing anything to help it – I think the nostalgic call-back you end with is really giving people the wrong impression. Standing around hoping to find people so that you can progress in the game you’re paying for is not fun. It is not good design. And it builds community entirely by accident.

    What the MMO needs, and what we’re beginning to see with games like GW2, is a game that intentionally builds community through gameplay. When Blizzard built WoW, there was almost no precedent. They didn’t know. And so in many ways WoW was anti-community from release: any quest that has you gathering or killing to progress has you competing with nearby players. Competition among strangers does not build community, only animosity.

    Anyway, I found your site quite recently, and I’m loving the discussions I’m seeing. :D

    1. Curuniel

      I have high hopes for Guild Wars 2 for just the reason you mention Brainstrain – so much of what I’ve heard of WoW sounds anti-social when it comes to day to day play, and so much of GW2 feels designed to be pro-social. Only time will tell how it works when you put players in it, but I do like to think that GW2 might present an alternative kind of game community for the current era.

      1. Brainstrain

        And it can only help that GW2 will have the fantastic community of the first game to build off of from the start.

  18. Azuriel

    Frankly, it’s a specious argument.

    Your vision of community is one of obligation; getting along with total strangers because you have to, and NOT because you actually want to. It is community-building by using other people as means to an end, rather than ends in of themselves.

    Do you get along with your IRL friends because without them you cannot play MW3? Or because you genuinely enjoy their company?

    The only thing that happened to the “community” is that people are no longer obligated to fake it. Social people will still be social, will still seek out experiences with people on their own server. The introverts will breath a sigh of relief, and no longer have to put up with the bullshit drama of dancing around others’ egos.

    And, hey, people confined to low-pop realms will actually be able to, you know, play the goddamn game. “Community?” Nobody, from either faction, killed Illidan on my server until well into Sunwell. No one got past M’uru until after Wrath. Yeah, that community was worth “saving.”

    Besides, what makes you think Blizzard caused any of this? Facebook didn’t exist at the start vanilla WoW. A lot has happened in the last 8 years. Communities are no longer bound to specific servers, specific games, or even specific companies anymore. Why would I limit myself to just the people I was randomly assigned to on a server years ago, when I can specifically find like-minded individuals way easier via blogs, forums, etc?

    1. Juno

      “…getting along with total strangers because you have to, and NOT because you actually want to. It is community-building by using other people as means to an end, rather than ends in of themselves. ”

      So true and so very well said.

  19. Ranzal

    What always gets me is the “That is YOUR style of play. If you don’t like the current crop of MMOs, GTFO” arguement. Given the “casual” nature of the group that typically takes this stance, the whole idea of this statement is enitrely too paradoxical to man ANY sense.

    So let me get this straight: Because a game GENRE is moving away from something we (“sentimental old timers”) enjoy(ed*), and venturing (although, it has probably already completely arrived) more into the realm of others likings, we dont have any right to voice our opinions and should just “GTFO”?

    But wait, I’m confused. Isn’t that the exact type of attitude that this other group of players constantly lament about? You know, all those arguements about “hardcores” being too clique-ish and too closed-door policy to allow anyone else to enjoy their gaming time? You can’t fight for “accessibility” then do a complete 180 and tell others to shove it if they don’t like it… It just makes you look stupid.

    It’s really all too ridiculous of a stance to take if you’re one of those “game your way” types, that it just makes me laugh sometimes.

      1. Bernard

        Hi, I’m one of those “game your way” commenters and I don’t want anyone to GTFO.

        But I also don’t believe that Blizzard killed anything.

        There are a number of sandbox titles available (EvE, Wurm, Darkfall) for people that prefer that type of gameplay.

  20. nugget

    I dunno. I’m kinda of two minds about this community stuff.

    I’m not sure Blizzard *killed* community with their decisions – just say they made community harder to build and maintain.

    That being said, community isn’t free. It has a cost. In time, in emotional investment, in just plain caring.

    And much as I miss having another world to really live in

    (see this here rant):
    http://nugget.posterous.com/its-not-that-i-resent-more-people-liking-pie

    At the same time, I can sorta recognise that I’m also less/not willing to put in the kind of time, emotional investment and plain *caring* it takes to live in a world like that again. I’m not even sure if I have the resources to make that kind of investment anymore.

    Granted, it could be that LegendMUD gave me what is basically a lifelong broken heart. ;)

    …but it also could be just that I got older and less juicy. :(

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