The Daily Grind: What could MMO taverns do to get you to stick around?

I have vague memories of ArenaNet talking about Guild Wars 2 taverns prior to its launch and how these spaces would be more than window dressing. Maybe that was a dream or something, but I’ve always respected the effort to make one of the most iconic of RPG locations — the tavern meeting place — more useful and engaging. Warhammer Online, too, was touting tavern brawls that would take place as public events.

We’re so conditioned to run in and out of such places that unless we are roleplaying for some reason, chances are we never stay for more than a few seconds. And that’s kind of a shame, because I like the idea of players spending some time in bars unwinding. I heard a myth of a dead MMO that used to put such an emphasis on this, but it was probably all bunk.

What could MMO taverns do to get you to stick around? Would you hang out for minigames, gambling, special events, or special buffs?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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mysecretid

This is a REALLY good question — I just wish I had an equally-good answer!

All I can offer, for whatever it’s worth, is that most developer-designed social spaces in games tend to be of the “small, dark enclosed room” variety, mirroring real-life bars, and whatnot.

Problem is, that there’s typically not much to see, or to do, or to enjoy in these spaces — so, unless you’re specifically going there to have conversations with other players, there’s not much to draw you there, or to keep you there after you arrive.

I contrast these dev-created social spaces with the spontaneous ones players tend to create themselves over time in MMORPGs.

My example here wouold be the way everyone used to hang around by the Atlas statue in Atlas Park, outside of City Hall in City of Heroes.

I guess what made the spot work as a social space was that, even if you weren’t deeply interested in the ongoing socializing, you were out under the game’s open sky — you could watch the monorail zoom by; look at passing heroes and villains; admire the downtown scenery; wander off to the nearby hub amenities next door at City Hall, and then wander back, and so on …

Basically, you weren’t stuck in a small, dark, static, enclosed room the entire time. If you weren’t actively socializing, you could still amuse yourself, and returning to the game at large could be done in moments.

That’s all I’ve got,

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Ben Stone

There is an indie MMO Kings and Heroes that uses it as the dungeon finder. I thought that was novel.

Aside from that – mini games? Maybe pvp arenas with spectators? Pet battle arenas? Those would probably draw me to social spaces.

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mysecretid

Putting the dungeon-finder in the taverns of fantasy games could indeed be a good step.

As you imply, I think the problem has its roots in the fact that there’s not a lot of reasons to go into most games’ social spaces unless you’re specifically looking to socialize (converse) — and perhaps even less reasons to stay in these social spaces after you do arrive — not when the play of the game is waiting.

They need to give us a reason to want to visit, and to want to spend time in these places.

Cheers

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Toy Clown

As a roleplayer, it’s easy to find reason to stick around a tavern if other roleplayers are there.

From an OOC standpoint, especially if mechanics lend a helpful hand to roleplaying, I loved how Star Wars Galaxies handled entertainers and cantinas. People congregated in cantinas for buffs and socialized while waiting. I really miss systems like that.

Ashes of Creation released an article on how they plan to deal with taverns to make them focal points for finding other players in the game. I really liked their ideas and I can see taverns being hotspots for roleplayers and non-roleplayers alike. In the article it described having the ability to get your groups together through tavern usage, where you could play games while waiting, listen to music and other things I don’t quite remember. But its what sold me on keeping an eye out on the MMO.

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Castagere Shaikura

Wow this is what every pre Wow mmo did all the time. Good for AOC for bringing this back.

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NeoWolf

My first thought was..serve real alcohol? lol .. you asked :P

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Castagere Shaikura

The social part of mmo’s died with Wow. The way the games are made killed the social part of mmo. So today players don’t care about it. If you played mmo’s pre Wow you should remember how the social part was just as important as combat was. My first mmo was Anarchy Online back in 2000. That game on the weekends was so fun to login to because of all the social events in the nightclubs held by players and Devs/GM’s,

Every weekend there was something going on in the game socially. That’s because Dev’s wanted this to be part of the whole mmo experience. Post Wow this part of the game was abandoned by Devs and then by players. Players today are more worried about gear scores and dps/meta than anything else. Players used to put on server wide events with the help of Devs and GM’s. They would get posted on forums when they would happen. Heck most game makers today don’t even add social hubs anymore. Anarchy Online has restaurants bars, nightclubs and housing when the game launched.

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JonSpace

I wouldn’t exactly blame WoW outright. Perhaps in its current state, but not vanilla. I have fond memories of the empty tavern in Stormwind’s Park district being taken over and filled with RP events. The Pig & Whistle in Old Town used to always be bustling, and there was usually a table full of RPers who would welcome the new arrival for some impromptu banter, or you could take a table off to the side or upstairs to wind down between quests and listen to the RP going on.

I agree that taverns in WoW now are pretty barren, but it wasn’t always so. I think the short attention span of a playerbase is just as much to blame for the lack of lively taverns in games as the games themselves.

Durenas
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Durenas

a good tavern brawl.

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rafael12104

Hmm. Does it have to be a tavern? I never was a tavern dweller.

I welcome anything that promotes areas as focal points for activities and community interaction. But I don’t sit around for fireside chats anymore.

Honestly, I’m tired of the old tavern trope as a requirement for a real MMORPG.

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Dug From The Earth

1 Thing – Mini games

Look at Witcher 3 and Gwent. The neat thing about card games is how you can integrate the cards into the game as collectables too.

WoW missed a HUGE opportunity to let you play the actual hearthstone game inside a WoW Tavern

Its not limited to just card games though. Drinking games, Darts, gnome bowling, dice games, etc etc. Allow players to place in game currency bets and more.

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Ben Stone

I agree, I thought it was strange you couldn’t play Hearthstone within WoW. Seemed perfect.

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mysecretid

People still wonder why the popular pazaak card game from the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic single-player games never made it into the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG.

There was some theorizing that “gambling = bad” might have kept pazaak out of the MMORPG, but that hardly seems plausible, considering that SWTOR has casinos with what amount to slot machines.

Star Trek Online has dabo, of course, which allows you to play a roulette-like game and win an in-game currency (latinum, of course) which you can trade for various odd little prizes.

It’s not the most compelling mini-game ever created, but it does pull me into the game’s casinos and bars every so often, just to play a few rounds and relax.

Cheers,

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Armsbend

Developer technology allowing me to buy real beer.

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Schmidt.Capela

I’m not sure if it’s still active, but back when EQII was in the hands of SOE you could type /pizza to order from Pizza Hut.

(Yeah, that one was real. The April Fool’s one was WoW’s Panda Express, which was supposed to enable players to type /Panda to order Chinese food.)

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rafael12104

I remember it.

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Jeff

During the EQ beta Taverns were used extensively, but that was before the doom players discovered MMO’s after that it was “STFU and kill stuff” and all communication went to /yell

I still think having the ability to build your own tavern or inn would be popular, Neverwinter could have done that with it’s toolset. but Cryptic/perfect world is/was all about the cash shop.