The first MMO I ever played was Final Fantasy XI, which meant that I got used to the idea of having no zone-wide chat. If you needed to get the attention of everyone in the zone, you used the /yell command, and that was considered intensely rude. It was only when I started playing City of Heroes (my second MMO) that I started getting used to the idea of zone-wide chat… which meant it seemed noisy at first. Going back to FFXI and then later in Final Fantasy XIV, it seemed downright quiet.
On the one hand, having a zone chat feature means that you get to talk with more people on a regular basis, so in some ways it helps with socializing. But it also means socializing that you might not want; Barrens Chat in World of Warcraft was legendary for being awful, and there’s a running meme in FFXIV to just turn off /shout when people are using it heavily. Plus there are people who prefer not to have it for immersion or the sense of immediacy. So what do you think? Is zone-wide chat a good thing for MMOs?
Acknowledging players who do well in Overwatch is a big part of what keeps players in the game, and to that end the latest developer update reveals that more tools will arrive to facilitate doing just that. The new endorsements feature will allow you to commend players on either team who display behaviors that you think deserve acknowledgement, like good sportsmanship and solid teamwork.
Players will also have the option of using the new Looking for Group feature to assemble a team composed of just the people you need. That’s on top of the upcoming Symmetra rework (which should go live with the next patch) and a reorganization of Attack and Defense heroes into a single “Damage” category. Check out the full video just below for a rundown of the social features (and other changes) coming to the game in the near future.
I’ve been fortunate, over the past couple of years, to make some really good friends in MMOs. Those friends are not the reason why I play games, though. Honestly, if all of my friends in Final Fantasy XIV stopped playing the game, I would still enjoy playing the game, and I hope most of them would still be my friends even afterwards. But they aren’t the reason why I play.
That is not universal. Some of my friends have even indicated to me that they’re only playing certain games because I’m there; if I left, they would leave. That doesn’t mean they don’t necessarily enjoy, say, World of Warcraft; it just means that their primary reason to stay centers around the company.
And I am sure that there are people out there who overlook issues in Star Wars: The Old Republic or Blade & Soul specifically because of their groups of friends; the games would be fun without those groups of friends, but it’s easier to ignore the non-fun parts when friends are there. So what about you, readers? How important is your MMO circle of friends to enjoying the game?
There are two sorts of cheating in MMOs. One of them, which is outright hacking the game, is capital-b Bad. Back in the days when Final Fantasy XI was a bigger deal, Fleetool was one of the more popular hacks to the game, resulting in many people getting bans for hacking the game to move faster. That was not all right (the hacking, not the banning).
But then there were the groups who jumped ahead of other groups to get into Dynamis zones. This was definitely not a good thing, and it could be argued that it was cheating; the server community agreed about how to use Dynamis and these players were violating that agreement. But it was cheating entirely based upon a social contract, not an actual one; it was rude and indisputably wrong, but definitely not breaking the specific rules of the game.
I think a lot of our readers have done things like this in the past. Sniping resource nodes in World of Warcraft, intentionally standing in things to make healers work harder in Final Fantasy XIV, things like that. So have you ever done something socially unaccepted in an MMO? Do you feel like you were justified, and do you tend to ignore those social conventions most of the time or usually observe them?
One of the first things I did in Shroud of the Avatar was get kind of lost. The last week’s activities were largely similar. Only now, it was a different kind of lost.
It wasn’t just that I didn’t have much of anywhere to go; that was how the vote went, after all, and while it might not have been my first choice that’s kind of the purpose behind voting instead of just letting me decide everything. It wasn’t just that the areas afforded me little to no guidance about points of interest. It was that I kept asking myself “why?” as I worked, fought things, explored, and so forth.
No answers were forthcoming. And perhaps that’s missing the point, but it also struck me that this is part of the reason why a guild may have made a major difference here. Albeit not necessarily for the best, but let me get into that as I go.
The Destiny 2
beta on PC has thus far allowed you to explore things like “shooting” and “further shooting” and “yet more shooting, how are you still shooting.” That’s kind of what the game is all about; you can’t expect the game to just drop you into a nice farm to play soccer. No, you have to wait until tonight at 8 p.m. EDT in order to kick the soccer ball around
, since that’s when the game is briefly opening up its social space for players to explore.
We do mean briefly, by the way; the Farm should be open for players to explore for just around two hours, and the vendors players will later meet and grow accustomed to will not be there. So if you’re really curious to see where you can cool your heels between bouts of the aforementioned shooting, be sure to pop over tonight to check the place out. Or just keep shooting for a while; you might find that more interesting than soccer anyhow. There’s a fair bit to be said about the beta regardless.
There are a few times in my life where I’ve stopped playing MMOs not because I’m tired of the game, but because of the people in the game. Specifically, people I have not wanted to see. There have been times when I don’t want to randomly run into an ex in World of Warcraft, for example (although that’s hypothetical, seeing as how I’ve only dated one person in WoW). Or I don’t want to log in and see former guildmates and have things just be awkward. Just… it’s better not to go there, you know?
It’s the great irony of MMOs, that as much as we tout them as social spaces that also means inheriting the awkwardness that can come with those spaces. So what about you, dear readers? Have people ever kept you away from an MMO? Was it a case where you just didn’t want to see someone or there was some bad drama left alone? And if not, has it ever crossed your mind as a possibility?
Last month in an Overthinking topic, Massively OP’s Andrew Ross issued what I thought was a provocative opinion:
“I’d argue Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, and Overwatch did more to cultivate social play in their respective genres over the past year than WoW has or will do for the next year.”
He’s looking at the big picture of “social,” which is to say putting players together on the regular in any kind of content, including PvP. And it’s hard to argue that all-multiplayer, all-the-time games are less social than MMORPGs that offer copious solo PvE opportunities. You might, however, say that the social experiences available in MMORPGs are richer.
… or you might think back to last night’s rushed PUG when someone shouting “GO GO GO” was the closest thing to social interaction you had in WoW and wonder whether that’s really as superior to dudes saying “GG” in Overwatch as we MMORPG players would like to think.
With that in mind, let me pose today’s multi-part Daily Grind question to you: Do you agree with Andrew that MOBAs and shooters have as much potential or more for social play as modern MMORPGs? Which ones do it best? Now flip it around — how do the best of both genres compare?
For a variety of reasons, I do not have the ability to remove people from the universe at a whim. I cannot simply make someone stop playing an MMO. But I can hit the Ignore button, which is the next best thing. I can’t stop seeing, the player, but I can at least decide that I want to have as little interaction with that player as possible, hopefully none.
Run right into the middle of an obvious roleplaying scene in Final Fantasy XIV and do your level best to be disruptive? You can go on the ignore list. Spouting vile racist garbage in general chat in World of Warcraft? Yep, that’s the ignore list. Name your character “Fart Candle” in Guild Wars 2? Ignored, once I finish chuckling despite myself because I am five. You get the idea.
Of course, I also know that I am not average, and I wonder if I use my ignore functionality more liberally or less so than others. I know of people who just auto-ignore everyone who does something that inadvertently disrupts a roleplaying scene, even if accidental; I also know people who won’t ignore players who walk into a room and start dancing on the nearest table. What about you, dear readers? What inspires you to ignore another player in an MMO?
We’ve heard a lot recently about huge territorial wars raging
in EVE Online
with thousands of pilots taking part, which some consider to be the ultimate endgame of EVE
. PvP on that kind of scale and with real consequences and territory on the line is certainly one of the game’s primary draws in an MMO space that is getting more crowded every year. The problem is that the kind of time investment and commitment required to be an active member of a large territorial alliance that’s under pressure can be excessive. The average PvP operation in EVE
lasts several hours, and some players even set alarm clocks to get up for battles in the middle of the night.
The demands placed on fleet commanders, corp organisers and community leaders are even more intense, to the point that they may spend all of their free time engaged in EVE-related matters. Those of you who remember my early EVE days from 2004 to around 2012 will know that I used to play EVE pretty hardcore, doing everything from helping to run a nullsec alliance and managing public corporations to running investment schemes, faction warfare groups, incursion fleets, and lucrative wormhole expeditions. I probably spent over six hours per day playing EVE during that time, but like many players, I’ve found my available play time each day has decreased over the years. Nowadays I find myself doing something that many people outside of EVE say isn’t feasible but that is actually far more common than they think: playing EVE casually and enjoying it.
In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at the split between the power players of EVE and its not-insignificant casual playerbase, and I discuss a few of the most casual gameplay activities that can fit into very limited play time.
I have a very difficult time doing group content without group finders. This may come as a surprise to readers, but I’m actually a bit shy and reserved much of the time; I don’t have a great deal of confidence when it comes to reaching out and enlisting people. It’s something I work hard to overcome, but it means that I have a bit of a rough time striking up conversations and engaging with other people in a game. Final Fantasy XI was rough, yes.
The net result, of course, is that when people who have that problem are reluctant to get involved, the only people left who are forming groups are boisterous and outgoing, which just leaves the shy and reserved people more certain that they’re not welcome in groups. But even with group finders, you can find yourself unsure. What’s the culture in this game? What’s the custom? If I say I need this item and roll on it, will that be selfish? What if I screw something up?
In short, social anxiety is a gift that keeps on giving, for a given definition of “gift” and “giving.” But what about you, dear readers? Are you reluctant to get involved in group content? Not necessarily progression, which is a whole different ball of wax, but just grouping up with strangers to try something new?
Online games are just plain better with friends. Trove aims to make it a little easier to get your friends into the game with a new update to its refer-a-friend system, offering bigger benefits to both referrer and referee. The biggest benefit is time-limited, though – friends that you refer before November 3rd earn double the usual amount of refer-a-friend points for eligible accounts.
Players who earn 30 RAF points will now be able to pick up the legendary dragon Disaeon the Immortal as a reward. Referred players also need to reach Mastery level 20 rather than 30, and everyone you refer will receive a free Class Coin to unlock any class within the game. It’s a nice batch of added incentives to let your friends join you in the game you’re already enjoying.
Late last year, I published on Massively-that-was a set of articles addressing current research on the relationship between shyness and online game friendships, including a detailed interview with Dr. Rachel Kowert, a lead researcher on the related paper. Kowert and University of Münster colleague Thorsten Quandt have now collected and published their work and work by other academics into a new book now available called The Video Game Debate: Unravelling the Physical, Social, and Psychological Effects of Video Games.
Kowert generously provided me with an early draft of the book to discuss here. Her goal, she says, was to make an accessible book about modern game research for the public, but the results are a little depressing, even though the work and research done make me wish I had enough money to buy a copy and send it to everyone in the professional games and media businesses.