As this year’s GDC coverage is winding down, I am finally coming to the topic I saved for last: community. MMOs are more than just multiplayer. We attract the “alone together” people more than the “FPS hero” crowd in our comments section for a reason; MMOs are virtual worlds. They’re a digital space inhabited by other people. We may not talk to them, but we watch and listen. Maybe we engage, maybe we group, maybe we guild. We do stuff in a shared environment because we think, or hope, we’re part of a larger system.
And this is why we need to talk about cross-platform communities and the strength of in-game, embedded community tools. As social media rises and mobile crashes against our PC fortress, increased console cross-play should be a reminder that we’re all gamers, and (some) developers are finally getting that.
Secret World nomads rejoice, for you finally have a new home outside of the game. Funcom finally opened up the official forums
for Secret World Legends
(along with ones for its other titles), giving players a place to chat and find information straight from the developers’ mouths.
Speaking of info, last week’s hour-long dev stream went into greater detail about the upcoming agent system. The online/offline agent system unlocks at level 15 and contains six types of missions to send your roster of minions to complete. Players can collect up to 40 agents in all. There are some complicated mission chains, and subscribers will get one extra mission spot. Funcom said that it will be delivering story content shortly after the agent system comes to the game.
Secret World Legends players and other Funcom fans are eagerly looking forward to Wednesday and a big reveal of the studio’s latest game.
It takes two in the new Destiny 2 Crimson Days event
. Specifically, players are tasked with taking on a 2v2 Clash and a new Burnout variant in which two players must group together in order to keep the light from fading completely. In other words, you’ll need to work together with a partner in order to earn rewards and pick up new mounts, emotes, and decorations. It’s about as romantic as you can get in a game that’s chiefly concerned with shooting one another, let’s be real.
Should that not work with you, it’s important to note that the official forum rules are being changed somewhat, so you might not actually be able to complain about it on the official forums. If you haven’t yet reached the Farm in Destiny 2, for example, you won’t be able to post in that game’s Feedback, Gameplay, or Off-Topic boards. So you’ll actually need to play the game a little bit before getting a platform to talk about it. That seems fair.
Sometimes you really want to stick around to the very end of developer livestreams for any surprise announcements. In Friday’s dev stream, Funcom shocked and probably pleased many fans with the announcement of brand-new forum software for all of its titles.
“Moving forward, we’re going to be launching new forums for all of our games,” the studio said. “We’re going to be using the Discourse platform. All of our games will eventually be under this system, so we’re unifying all of our games under one single umbrella.”
Age of Conan should see the new forum software very soon — if not already — with other titles to follow. And yes, Funcom specifically confirmed that this announcement includes Secret World Legends and Conan Exiles.
The lack of official forums has been a particular sticking point with the Secret World Legends community, which has been forced to scrounge around on Twitch, Reddit, Twitter, and the occasionally updated website for official information and discussion.
Would you like to have Guild Wars 2
developers arrive at your home unannounced to talk with you about various issues with the game? Probably not. Thankfully, that is not
what the development team is planning for next year; instead, they’ll be hosting a series of forum chats
running for about two hours, with members of the team stopping in to talk with players, answer forum threads, and generally provide insight about the state of the game.
It’s important to note that all of these discussions will be focused on the game at the time of the chat, rather than being predictive. It’s almost inevitable that certain forward-looking moments will happen, of course, but those are the exception rather than the rule. But if you’re mostly concerned about getting to find out more of what’s going on behind the scenes and why, well, you’ll have your chance next year starting in February.
It’s a really weird and interesting time to be a World of Warcraft fan. While the announcement of WoW Classic has revitalized discussion about the launch version of the MMO, it seems just about nobody can agree on what Blizzard should do when it implements the legacy servers.
For their part, WoW’s devs are still sifting through ideas. Two of the game’s community managers spent some time discussing class balance while the dev team continues to be formed. “Should class balance be left as it was, or should it be tweaked within a certain margin, or should it be constantly tuned and worked on?” one CM posted. “I’m not so certain that any specific one is the default, correct choice.”
It sounds as though Blizzard is trying to elicit feedback before it makes any decisions: “If folks want a true 1:1 Vanilla experience, then we want to see the discussion of that. If people think there should be changes here or there, then we’ll want to see that too.”
Feedback is important for every MMO, and that includes Star Wars: The Old Republic
. But where does feedback come from? If the developers never ask you about your opinion specifically, how will they actually collect your feedback? Community manager Eric Musco
chimed in on the forums explaining where the development team looks for feedback
and how his job involves filtering and synthesizing that feedback from multiple sources, all of which serves different purposes and offers different inputs.
The official forums and Reddit, for example, offer the feedback of particular narrows slices of the game with a big time investment; Twitter, meanwhile, has much more breadth of feedback but less depth on individual issues. There are also focus groups and specific influential players courted by the development team just for feedback and information. Check out the full rundown if you’re curious about how the melange of feedback gets passed along to developers; this isn’t necessarily how every game does it, but it is how it happens for SWTOR.
When you’re done wheeling, dealing, and backstabbing in EVE Online
, the official forums are the ideal place to talk about all of that (while hiding the later dealing, backstabbing, and so forth that you’re planning for the future). So there’s reason to be excited that the game now has a new set of forums available
, which boasts plenty of visual upgrades as well as notable improvements under the hood as well.
The new forums will allow posters to add videos, reaction .GIFs, and even polls should they so choose. It’s also marking an end to the usual poster bannings; if you’ve been banned in the past, you’re allowed to come back on and start with a fresh slate. This coincides with changes to moderation and posting rules, although those changes do not mean that all further sins will be forgiven. So check out the new forums yourself, or just take a gander at a preview and a comparison image just below.
Earlier this week, World of Warcraft Lead Game Designer Ion “Watcher” Hazzikostas weighed in on a player thread about Legion’s in-game prices in a way the original poster probably didn’t expect: Hazzikostas penned a veritable essay on the nature of MMO playerbase feedback.
“Almost every facet of WoW is an activity that caters to a minority of the playerbase. That may sound odd at first blush, but it’s true. In a sense, that’s part of the magic of WoW. It is not a narrow game, but rather one that can be enjoyed in numerous different ways, by people with hugely diverse playstyles. A minority of players raid. A minority of players participate in PvP. A tiny minority touch Mythic raiding. A tiny minority of players do rated PvP. A minority of players have several max-level alts. A minority of players do pet battles, roleplay, list things for sale on the auction house, do Challenge Mode dungeons, and the list goes on. Virtually the only activity that a clear majority of players participate in is questing and level-up dungeons, but even then there’s a sizeable group that views those activities as a nuisance that they have to get through in order to reach their preferred endgame. And yet, taken together, that collection of minority groups literally IS the World of Warcraft.”
Consequently, he argues, any decision Blizzard makes that favors one minority is naturally going to find a majority of the others against it, meaning Blizzard must carefully navigate the feedback waters. “Ultimately, the approach we take is usually to tailor different content and rewards that can feel special to different groups, rather than trying to come up with a lowest common denominator that isn’t special to anyone,” he writes.
Let’s talk about Blizzard’s point of view. Is it right? Does it work in every MMO or just WoW? How does it apply to other MMOs, old or up-and-coming? Is there a better way to handle all the constituencies offering feedback in an MMO? Let’s hash it out in this week’s Massively Overthinking.
If you have a problem with Star Wars: The Old Republic
, don’t head to the customer support forum after October 5th. BioWare
announced yesterday that it is closing down that forum
in favor of handing off the task to EA’s Answer HQ
“This move from the existing customer support forum will allow players to help players in a better capacity, with EA employees monitoring replies and ensuring correct and useful information is promoted, in an environment where active and helpful players are rewarded,” the studio posted.
BioWare presented another potential upshot of this move: Non-subscribers will be able to receive web-based support through the new answer page.
Star Citizen is cracking down on forum abuse by instituting a new set of restrictions that went into effect yesterday.
CIG changed permissions so that only players who have financially supported the project or who have been gifted a game package can post across the entire forum. Those who do not meet these criteria can still read most of the forums and post in the new “recruiting station” subforum.
“As the project progresses we’re attracting more and more spam and harassment-only accounts, and this action will considerably curb that phenomenon, as well as alleviate much of the resource strain on our volunteer moderators and staff, and ultimately allow us to better serve the members of our community,” Community Manager Jared Huckaby explained.
Remember when you were in your first raiding guild, and it was nothing but drama from start to finish on your guild forums because no one had invented social media yet? Fast-forward to today, when Reddit is the global equivalent and the drama continues.
Apparently provoked by the firing of the Reddit employee responsible for AMAs (ask-me-anythings), the AMA sub locked its doors, leading to an avalanche of subs going private to protest the way Reddit’s admins communicate and do business. They’re calling it chootergate. I’m sorry.
Relevant to our interests: /r/gaming,
/r/mmorpg (back up now), /r/swtor (back up), /r/wowcomics, /r/gaymers, /r/skyrim, /r/elitedangerous, /r/elite, and /r/finalfantasy are all currently hidden, but most of the bigger MMO subs (WoW, Guild Wars 2, FFXIV, Elder Scrolls Online, WildStar, Diablo III, etc.) are fine at the moment. If you care about topics other than gaming, you’re even more screwed; /r/science, /r/books, /r/music, /r/history, /r/art, /r/movies, /r/videos… yeah, they’re all locked too.