Vague Patch Notes: How to make your corner of the MMO space more pleasant

Oh, COME ON, what did that accomplish?

It’s 2020, people – let’s do this. What do I mean by this? Unscrew our MMO living space. That one’s a lot more fun to chant than last year’s new edition of this column, but it’s also pretty vital because the reality is that if your MMO space is full of people you hate and games you don’t enjoy playing, the architect of that is probably staring you right in the mirror when you wake up.

No, I don’t mean that you’re necessarily the lead designer behind games that make baffling and terrible decisions. (Although if you are in charge of a game that habitually does that – say, you work for a studio with a name that rhymes with “Wizard” – maybe you should stop doing that.) I mean that when you’ve got a shared social space, you are in part responsible for cultivating that space. And while you cannot entirely change the course of your community and the people around you, you can at least give it the old college try, right? So let’s start trying to make this a better place to occupy.


Talk more

One of the things that I see people lament a lot in dungeon groups in, say, World of Warcraft is that no one is talking. People only talk when something goes wrong or to call someone else an idiot. There’s no joking around, no silly memes, nothing but quiet grimness. But that’s always seemed to me like the sort of thing you can address easily enough by, well… talking. Just strike up conversation. Chat. Be friendly.

If someone’s new in the group, help walk them through it. If you’re new, talk about it. If you think a particular boss just looks weird, say something about that. Say things like, “This dungeon must smell like a fish kill at low tide.”

Yes, you might need to take a few seconds out of your damage rotation and may wind up killing things slightly more slowly. But here’s the thing: More often than not, if you don’t like going through a dungeon in stoic silence, no one else is enjoying it either. Everyone wants someone to break the ice, and if you all just stand there awkwardly killing stuff and waiting for someone else to make the first move, you might as well go back to middle school dances for socializing.

No, I’m not suggesting you strike up conversations over nothing just to fill the air with inane chatter instead of silence. But if you want your space and your community to be more amenable to chatter, you start by making some chatter. You start by being friendly. If it feels lonely at first, well, it’s going to, but it also means that everyone else is going to feel a little less anxious about talking to the group.

And if you’re worried that’s going to make your group go more slowly in group content? Yeah. Probably. That’s the point.

We should really go somewhere specific.

Slow down

Seriously, it’s not going to matter if your dungeon takes five minutes longer tonight. Chill out.

Yes, there are times when it actually does matter. Back when WildStar was still a thing, for example, you might need to finish all your objectives within a narrow timeframe; at that point, yes, speed matters. But there’s a difference between situations where speed is an advantage or a requirement and times when you’re just… rushing to clear something so you can move on to clearing the next thing. And the latter situation is a good time to just slow the heck down.

We are all in a great damn hurry to be bored, and I include myself in this list along with everyone else. I sometimes find myself getting impatient in Final Fantasy XIV because I want to wrap this dungeon up faster, until I realize that I’m getting impatient about doing something that’s supposed to be fun because I want to do the next thing. If I actually get all of my stuff done as quickly as possible, that just means I’m done faster. It doesn’t make it more fun; it just means it’s over more quickly.

Speed can be great sometimes. I enjoy actually trying to optimize runs and the like. But it’s also a good idea to recognize when you’re trying to go fast for no other reason than the simple reality that speed gets you… bored, but faster. Not everything is a race for world first, not everything is a test to go as hard as possible, and it’s all right when you are playing a game to not worry about pushing to the edge of your performance at all times.

That’s not the same as “play badly,” of course. It just means that… you can relax a little. You can move to be safer from mechanics even if it means your damage slows down. You can take time off from farming or grinding. You can let a couple days go by without selling things on the market. You can chill and slow down.

And on the note of chilling and slowing down…


Argue less

Actually, this is just a good life lesson in general. Argue less.

This isn’t about stuff like, say, defending your personal boundaries. This is about when you’re browsing a site and see, say, an article that insinuates something might have gone wrong with a game you like. Or someone in a game you like says another game you like is bad. Or someone in that other game is talking about how a game you dislike is bad. You can hear the sound of seats squeaking back against the bar floor.

And none of this is new, of course. When I was in high school, for example, there was a very real question of whether you were one of the people with a PlayStation, or a Saturn, or an N64. It was very important for you to state your allegiance and make it clear which one you supported. You’d have thought that the entire market for video games hinged on what some hundred-odd students played.

You know how much it actually mattered? Not one whit. The consoles lived and died completely on their own merit. My ownership of a Sony PlayStation was in no way a substitute for developing a personality, and it did not need my help defending it from criticism. I guess it helped me sharpen my thinking in a roundabout way for getting paid to talk about that stuff, but that seems like an edge case.

If you aren’t getting paid and you don’t work for these companies? Just argue less. If you’re getting whined at by someone in a random group not for playing badly but just because you aren’t doing what they want? You don’t need to argue. Just generally focus on enjoying more, which ties in directly with spending less time arguing over needless, pointless crap.

Because again, if you’re cultivating the space around you, there’s no one but you deciding whether or not it’s filled with negative energy. You can’t do anything about if, say, the company behind your favorite game turns out to be run by awful people who can’t hold on to employees. But you can choose whether or not you want to engage in arguing about that fact or if you’d rather just… play the game or not, based on your feelings.

So chill out and make your space more positive. That’s going to make for a better year.

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.

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Toy Clown

This is a process I started a few years ago. I can share the results of how that’s going:

The first thing I did was get rid of all the people that were impacting my life negatively. I read somewhere that you are the sum of the five people are you the most frequently around and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I took an introspective step back and knew I needed to burn the bridges with some people and the hardest part about it was to not feel bad about it.

In hindsight, I could have handled how I burned those bridges better. Another thing I learned is that those types of people are quick to make you a scapegoat when you exit the scene. In the process, they burned further bridges for me that I didn’t intend to burn, which had to do with placing trust in them at one point.

I was a person who angled up and down ladders, detouring to one side or the other and never took any garnered fame with me from one game to another, preferring to keep the line in place that I don’t let people cross, the one where internet life is on one side and real life on the other side. To this day, 20 + years on, I have never married my real life and internet life together. This is something the newest generation doesn’t understand, having never grown up with the dangers on the internet we did “back in the day”, so it’s hard to make friends with people who just want to play together or roleplay together without them wanting to know more about me. I miss the days when players just accepted that people had a life outside of the internet and it usually wasn’t shared.

I’ve always gone out of my way to help others when I saw them needing help. If I see a new player being trolled, I pull them into tells and help them out. 9 times out of 10 I’m the first one to say hi in a random dungeon. I keep doing it even though I might get a hi back 1 in 5-7 dungeons and if I’m really lucky, I’ll get a totally chill group that chatters the whole way through the dungeon. That’s about a 1 in a 50-100 shot.

The thing that has been hardest for me to work on has to do with my fascination with forums. I love reading forums. I spend a lot of time replying to player questions on reddits and official game forums, creating posts that offer links to youtube videos and blog guides. I’ll hype helpful bloggers and youtubers to the masses, linking their channels so players can find their guides. The part where this is bad for me is I tend to rear my personal ugliness at people who get out of line, who intentionally troll others or say terribly nasty things to people who don’t deserve it. I’ve got a sharp temper and I go for the quick, which makes it easy to tear into people I think deserve it.

I’ve realized that I could be doing this better. I’ve learned that when people are mean, someone had to put that in them. It was not only reflecting on my own experiences, but watching how internet bullies operate. To dally with them is to keep the cycle going, so I’m experimenting with other ways to deal with them while still standing up for people getting attacked. Part of me realizes that no one asked me to step into these things, but the other part of me that was a victim of bullies and watching no one help knows what its like to deal with bullies alone, but how I wish someone would have helped me out. Just once. So that’s why I do the things I do.

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Although this runs counter to what most people who don’t do this content think, the most social groups in WoW I’ve been in recently are ones trying to clear high level Mythic+ keys (say 17 or 18 and higher). Sure, we’re not talking about the weather while running a key, but if we’re not communicating we’re not clearing. And it’s not entirely unheard of to spend some time after a run chatting either, because you know what? We’ve already broken the ice, so to speak, because the content simply requires it.

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Paragon Lost

“And while you cannot entirely change the course of your community and the people around you, you can at least give it the old college try, right? So let’s start trying to make this a better place to occupy.” -Eliot

Until those in charge/control of the places that we visit/play/inhabit enforce rules that promote players treating each other with a certain amount of common decency nothing will change.

We can suffer in silence, we can turn a blind eye, rage into the void or what have you, but nothing will change while the those in control do nothing or very little. They invest very little into enforcing policies and TOS, basically doing little to nothing until forced to act.

I’m old, and not getting any younger and have been around the online multiplayer gaming communities since near the start if not at the start since the start points are often debated. That’s not really the point, the point is I’ve been around decades as a member of this community.

In my experience when things are truly better is when companies that produce these online environments actually enforce social etiquette, common decency between players and staff in a fair and even manner. Anything else and we end up with some variation to what amounts to 4chan. ((sigh))

So, yes, give it the ole college try, but beware that most likely until the companies behind these games actually get on board instead of taking a minimalistic lackluster approach to social conduct that you are probably just going to give yourself many a sleepless night and a stomach ache. Speaking from experience…

Tilt on.


Agreed and great post, Paragon!
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