Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Action, Interface, and Communication/Community

A few otherwise unrelated tidbits from podcasts have me thinking about how the design of current MMO's may be affecting their function.  Specifically:
  • The folks at OotiniCast have been discussing gaming peripherals of late.  It started with a conversation about gaming mice with ever increasing numbers of buttons (I actually own one of these, a story for another day), keyboards with macro keys, use of controllers/gamepads to run your PC like a console, or even keypad replacements that move your non-mouse hand to a device that can't type.  The common thread is that all of these things take your hands off the typing keys - if you want to type in chat, you're literally taking your hands off the controls to do it.
  • Action combat continues to be the buzzword in recent big budget MMO's.  Never mind that having ground effects players have to run out of has been in MMO's for years now.  Never mind that increasing numbers of games are taking away auto-attack features in favor of requiring a click or keypress for every single swing and adding in some sort of dodge-roll mechanic.  (Aside - if you're making a game, I get that you need to build hype, but don't expect me to be impressed if your game has the above features, since they are pretty standard these days.)

    The beta reviews of the FFXIV relaunch are remarking that the game's global cooldown - 2.5 entire seconds - feels long in an era where it's usually half that in other games.  The common thread is that the pace and level of interactivity required by modern MMO action combat makes it especially likely that you will pay if you do take your hands off the controls.
Some portion of this may be unavoidable.  Players are quick to criticize both combat systems that feel non-responsive and the downtime that gave players in eras gone by more opportunity to sit around and chat.  Perhaps the issue is that we're still working on the technology that would make integrated voice chat less bad - it's telling when so many people voluntarily install, run, and sometimes pay for third party voice software. 

Even so, I wonder if all of this isn't part of what is driving the sense of limited community in modern MMO's.  I've been running group flashpoints using the group finder on some of my low level alts in SWTOR, and I do make an effort to say some things in chat, but I'm very conscious that this is likely reducing my performance if anyone is watching that closely.  Maybe none of the characters in my groups are in guilds that are recruiting, or maybe my performance is that bad, but it does seem striking to me that I have yet to be offered a guild invite when grouping on an unguilded character. 

How can you have community if you can't communicate? 


  1. The thing is also that you won't have the need to communicate if you feel that activities which should have communication in them (like group activities, due to the fact that you have concentrated X amounts pf players doing task Y) a) don't require communication and/ or b) if they require communcation, the incentive to do the task just is not good enough (examples being WoLK raids were lots of casual raiding guilds refused to try progressing and instead opted out to wait a few weeks for the next raid patch and get even better gear than they would have gotten if they had progressed). Which leads to: How can you have communication and a community if the need to communicate is taken away? A lot of these things happen to me mostly of the old "because I can do X" (in this case not communicate) and still be as good if not better than everybody else.

  2. Yeah, this is a tricky followup to my previous blog post about multiplayer focus. I think that encouraging people to communicate is key, but it's obviously going to be hard to do during combat if the expectaiton is that it'll be fast/active combat.

  3. It is a tricky juggling act. The only communication that is possible in current action based games would be VOIP either native or outside the current client (Ventrilo for example). However, that does little for community communication. Planetside 2 has a local area voip chat that people can use. Even then it is of little relevance to community building. I remember long interesting discussions in /ooc and /general in EQ and EQII. In the action based games today it is hard to find something like that. Well maybe some Chuck Norris jokes.


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