Senior Staff Writer Chris "Pwyff" Tom decided to go in-depth with what he thinks makes for the perfect MMORPG. In this article, he explores the role that community plays in making a great game.
One game that recently attempted to bring community back into MMORPGs was Square-Enix’s struggling Final Fantasy XIV. I really wanted FFXIV to succeed because it was the first MMORPG I had seen in some time that still wanted to create strong player communities. Unfortunately, Square-Enix’s attempts to "hybridize" FFXIV for more casual players ultimately ended in disaster. These days, SE has done a lot of things to fix their game, but I remember my first month of playing, when it was far more efficient to grind out levels alone and navigating market wards was a nightmare, and how disappointed I was that so much of my experience was disconnected from the community. Especially, in relation to my previous experiences in Final Fantasy XI, when players in the Ballista community would send each other items after fun matches, or when I spent two days tracking down my server’s top leatherworker so that he could craft and sign my Unicorn Cap.
Even in Star Wars: The Old Republic, BioWare notes that its four pillars are progression, exploration, combat and story. While I’m still very excited for SW:TOR, my big concern, these days, is just where community will fall into it all. That being said, BioWare has a history of creating strong communities in all of its more traditional MMORPGs (both Dragon Age and Mass Effect have significant communities that BioWare has done well to encourage), so I’m not entirely concerned here; just curious.
One MMORPG that has piqued my interest, and largely with regard to its community appeal, was the recently announced WildStar, a future fantasy MMORPG being developed by NCsoft and Carbine Studios. While not much information has surfaced, I’m really interested in the concept of different paths being available for players. If done right, it seems that each of the four paths, Explorers, Soldiers, Scientists and Settlers, will need to rely on each other to advance through the game, which is a fantastic premise for encouraging a strong player community.
At the root of it all, the problem here is that in society’s eyes, it’s a negative thing when someone wants to be a part of a video game community. More and more, it’s becoming acceptable to play games, sure, but when it comes to connecting to the communities that play those games, everyone gets a bit weird. If I were simply looking for solid gameplay mechanics and deep character customization, I’d be able to find that in great RPGs like Mass Effect, Demon’s Souls, or Bastion. Community, however, and that feeling of being connected to a community, a server, and a guild, are all incredibly important things when it comes to crafting the perfect MMORPG experience, and I believe it’s something we’re losing touch with.
Next time, I think I’ll talk about Character Classes and Customization!
Chris "Pwyff" Tom, Senior Staff Writer