Up or Sideways redux (cross MMO communication)

I wrote a lengthy blog post about vertical or horizontal scaling in online roleplaying games, and Leigh wrote a just as lengthy comment.   He made some interesting points which I thought I’d address in another post, rather than writing a lengthy comment in response to his lengthy comment.

I’m going to quote bits of his comment but you should really go and read the comment as well.

I’ve often wondered what a game can do for these types of people, who are, let’s face it, just after more experience, a higher level, or a bigger pot of gold than others in their peer group. While I do like the idea of more horizontal progression I think it ultimately leads to another dead end – it just takes players longer to get there.

Perhaps.  And maybe horizontal expansion of that kind won’t interest a lot of players either, but what I think it provides is a flatter range of power which lets new players get involved quickly, without totally destroying the ability of people to progress into new things.  If it’s done correctly.

How good would it be to have a chat system that shows all the channels available, makes it easy to set up your own and invite people, and gives a wealth of topics to talk about?

Without a doubt this is something I totally agree with.  It’s certainly something I don’t think many games exploit as well as they could.  There’s an increase in the tools to build web-based communities, but I know that a lot of players are only ‘in the game’ mindset, while they’re in the game, they don’t want to spend a lot of time outside of the game working on a forum or website.  If there were easier ways to communicate on a global level within the games, it would help build community.

One of my big bugbears with WoW is that you can’t (or couldn’t when I played) talk to people if you weren’t in their alliance (i.e. horde vs alliance).  You can’t even set them as a friend and see if they log on.  Ok, so there’s some big PvP element in WoW and you don’t want alliance members tipping off the hoard about their every move – except if they wanted to they could just IM them.  It’s stupid to prevent poeple talking to each other because of some in-game alliance mechanic.

Games should be doing as much as possible to facilitate communication, to allow persistent channels to exist, allow poeple to take part in those channels even if they’re not in the game perhaps.  As you said, there should be an easy way to view all those channels and take part.

That covers another big hatred of mine, which I’ve mentioned previously, enforced geographical splits.  Splitting up friends based on where they live to allow you to make support easier reduces community, it doesn’t build it.

Second Life doesn’t have a ‘game’, it doesn’t have a goal, it doesn’t have any progression mechanic, and yet it has huge communities built up around it, friendships, relationships.  I’ve not really delved deeply into the chat side of Second Life but I know people who spend a lot of time socialising there.  Which goes to show you don’t need a game to build a good community, but you do need good communities to build good multi-player games.

We’ve recently started using XFire to keep in-touch with friends spread through a lot of games.  A persistent channel we can join and read from within just about any game, even if chatting isn’t always easy.

Here’s what we should be telling MMO producers.

  1. Give us good channels, good communication methods and no restrictions
  2. Develop a standard for MMO chat
  3. Implement cross-game MMO chat services

How cool would it be if you could log in to your favourite chat channel (say #lunatics) and chat as EQ2.Realm.Nickname with WOW.Realm.Bob and LOTRO.World.Billy and SL.Vegas.Sarah.  Each of those people could be in their own virtual game world, using the chat system and communicating with their own native tools in the chat channel and everyone could take part.

I know MMO producers want us to stay with their game for ever, but if they provided a cross-MMO communication device that was standard, people wouldn’t feel obliged to leave a game just because a bunch of their friends had, they could keep in touch.

We want cross-MMO communication tools built into our games and virtual worlds, and we want them soon.