Monday, November 27, 2006

Lack of Community in WoW

So I play MMOs with a guild called Shadowclan. We've been in existence since the early days of UO and have since participated in many other MMOs together and we're a very solid, tight-knit group. But, for some reason, we can't seem to keep a large number of members active in WoW. I was mulling over this problem recently and came to the conclusion that WoW not only lacks any community tools or support, but also, simply by its design, greatly hinders any community development beyond the hardcore raiding guilds.

When you join a guild in WoW, the only things you get are another chat channel, a guild tabard (which is hardly noticable on any of the character models) and a guild tag over your head! There is no guild hall, no uniforms or clothing/armor customization. Huge gaps in the crafting patterns available make it so that guild crafters have minimal use and the separation of players by zone/level leaves little opportunity for face to face interactions.

In fact, the players are so severly segregated by levels, that really the only chance to form strong bonds comes when everyone gets to level 60 and you can start hitting the high-end instances together. Unfortunately for Shadowclan, we're not really a raiding guild.

But the hardcore raiding guilds have their own issues. Squabbles over loot, players coming on going on a regular basis, membership restrictions based on class balance, and often, huge schisms amongst the guild members that usually results in a split, merger or complete abandonment of the guild entirely! Some raiding guilds manage to hold things together better than others, but for the most part, it's an extremely dysfunctional community.

Sadly, this lack of a coomunity feeling has led to my guild gradually dying off in WoW despite several resurgences and even an attempt at an entirely different guild concept (The Cog on The Venture Co. server). I expect another resurgence for Burning Crusade (and maybe even a small one for the new honor system), but given that Blizzard shows no interest in promoting and supporting community and player tools, I don't think that Shadowclan will exist in WoW in the near future with all of the upcoming MMOs next year.

I think WoW is too far involved in itself to make any signifigant changes along these lines, but, for the purpose of discussion and thought, here is one simple way I would go about trying to foster a greater community feeling in WoW.

1. Expand crafting. And I'm not simply talking about adding in more level 60+ epic weapons. The lower levels are really where the crafting system is lacking. For example, I'm an axesmith. Yet, for some reason, I can make a level 18 two-handed axe and a level 39 two-handed axe, but nothing in-between! That's a 21 level gap where my specialty is completely useless (not that either of those axes require a specialty). If I'm an Artisan Axesmith, I should be able to make all sorts of axes for all levels and classes. Same goes for every other profession. Alchemy and Enchanting are better covered, but they could all use some help.

I don't have any other suggestions off the top of my head. The very limited amount of player interaction and world interaction within the game creates a difficult barrier to overcome. Feel free to chime in if you have any comments and/or other ideas!


Tholal said...

Also, one sort of odd thought that crept into my brain was about the secure trading interface. I appreciate this feature, and realize how important it is to a large portion of the playerbase, but I wonder how something as simple as this effects the community. Ultima Online didn't have a secure trade option, and the much newer, A Tale in the Desert doesn't either! What good could come out of players getting ripped off, you might ask? Well, for one, I think it would greatly enhance the feeling of community. Honest craftspeople and traders would be known. Noone would be willing to trade with level 1 alts. Those who did rip people off would have a reputation across the server. Guilds would form that were comprised of only honest and fair with their customers.

Along with this, of course, comes the Auction House. Not only is the AH another secure trading window, but it completely removes any face to face interactions. I don't know who's buying the things I sell. Nor do I really care. And again, this feature is something that I use all of the time and that I have a great appreciation for, but sometimes these features can have important, unintended consequences. Just something to thnk about.

Anonymous said...

Slab here, in my opinion the only guild that can truly flourish in the WoW environment are twink guilds. Team work, daily interaction, and the willingness to help your guild mates are key ingredients in any twink guild. The only downfall is the playerbase that usually flock to the twink faction. It's plagued by a large number of prepubescent teens who are looking to be the bad ass numero uno instead of going above and beyond to make the whole team shine.

In conclusion, Shadowclan should make a twink guild.

Scott Thigpen said...

Wait a second, UO had nothing for its guilds, either, but a title. Yet SC prospered into the biggest guild ever seen in any mmorpg. So, saying that Blizzard needs to do more to make guilds work is not correct.

What makes a guild like SC not work is the level based system. It's simple, and amazes me more people dont see it. In a level based system, a level 60 player can not hang out with a 1st level character, other than to sit and talk, without boring themselves to death. This means that level 60 characters will group with only level 60ish characters. This means that while it is possible to have a guild that accepts all level characters what you end up with are several seperate leveled groups (guilds) within the same guild. We won't even discuss the zoes, most first level characters could not even make it to the area where a level 60 character stays.

UO suceeded because after a certain amount of playing, you could compete in a team setting. A gruntee with 70 archery could be a helpful asset in a pvp fight. A 5th level character can't do anything helpful to a level 60 character.

That is the problem with MMORPGs today, they are not meant as a place to make large guilds or for guilds with open membership. They are meant to be played with a set group of friends throughout the game.

This is Ug'RugRat/Blok, by the way.

Tholal said...

The guild stuff was just part of my complaint. UO also had a crafting system that supported players of all levels and that was readily available, player housing, interactive enviroments, no area segregations, the ability to dye clothing, and many many more features that helped, and even encouraged, the players to develop a community.

Scott Thigpen said...

Right, but, in a level based system, you can't have all of that due to the large differences in players at the end of the level spectrum.

A guild system full of bells and whistles is not required to build long lasting guids in a MMORPG.

Can you tell I think level based MMORPG's truly suck?

Xira said...

Hey there,

I was Mug'zug on Catskills in Ultima Online and I decided to visit the old SC website. I just found out that there was a branch on The Venture Co! But unfortunately, you guys are inactive now.. but uh yeah.. I totally agree with you on all of those points. The only reason why I know my guildies well is due to us being a part of the hardcore raiding scene.

What is your name in the SC forums by the way?

-Mug'zug Hedbiter Ug'Ligzr

Anonymous said...

Gorg here.

I've played WoW (for about a year, including beta) and agree in full.

I've been enjoying the hell out of Eve Online. No levels, no character classes to make for boring predictable PVP, and a very rich crafting system.

I can and often do help out newer members. As others have helped me.