Counter-Intuitive Insights

While providing a very similar experience, what Rift has going for it is a smaller community.

Keen

At first, I could not help but laugh. There is context for the quote, sure, but it struck me as funny regardless to take what would normally be a negative quality (few people are playing your game) and spin it as a positive. Especially when it is an MMO one is talking about, where the whole idea is the “a lot of people” part.

But… hmm.

It is undoubtedly true that an MMO “community,” such as it is, has an impact on one’s enjoyment of a game. I read threads like these on the Guild Wars 2 forums, and the sort of hyper-competitiveness inherent to the dungeon-running culture presented there makes me not want to bother at all. The people running these dungeons are getting them done in 20 minutes, whereas it will take me hours to get a similar level of competency all while I slow them down (assuming I am not kicked to begin with).

Incidentally, this is why you have LFD tools: there will always be abrasive social encounters when grouping with strangers, but at least with LFD you are not dependent on their goodwill to zone in at all. As long as you have reasonable expectations (i.e. not expect four strangers to wait while you soak up the atmosphere), you will be fine.

I believe that Keen is probably correct that Rift’s smaller community is a positive, assuming you are into that sort of thing. Fewer people means less of an audience for trolling, more reliance on social contacts to get things done, which probably all contributes to a Cheers-esque atmosphere. Or at least a “we’re in this foxhole together” atmosphere. So… yeah. The fewer people that like your MMO, the more you will like it. And the converse – the more popular your MMO gets, the less you enjoy it – is probably true for many as well.

All of which means you can never say bad things about hipsters ever again.

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Posted on October 24, 2012, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. A big game can also have a small community. As long as it doesn’t implement a dungeon finder.

    • I agree. As convenient as a Cross-Realm Dungeon Finder is, it really ended all sense of community for me back when I was playing WoW. I went from recognizing the player names in Trade or LFG chat and having a friends list loaded with good tanks and healers to hating the DF.

      I had a small guild at the time, and we took to mainly doing guild runs, but those weren’t always available. I was an excellent DPS, but the waits were excruciating, and more often than not the runs included someone being rude to someone else – those tales are well-documented across the web.

      • As opposed to the situation in GW2 (Explorable) dungeons, where you either never get a group at all or are holding everyone else back.

        That aside, what happened to your friends list? Did those tanks and healers stop playing? Stop answering your whispers? Or did you stop talking to them once they were no longer necessary to you?

        Everyone acknowledges that dungeons are better and more fun with people that know and/or enjoy being around with. So I do not buy the sort of rote argument that the historical community collapsed with LFD. It might impede future social opportunities, but it should not have affected your prior friends. Unless, of course, they were merely acquaintances you were using for your own gain. In which case, whose loss was it?

      • > That aside, what happened to your friends list? Did those
        > tanks and healers stop playing? Stop answering your
        > whispers? Or did you stop talking to them once they
        > were no longer necessary to you?

        They were already in a dungeon. Or not interested in another dungeon for that day. Getting into a dungeon was really easy (WotLK had about 10 min DD queues or less in the beginning). A dungeon wasn’t something “special” anymore. People would jump in as soon as they had time. That reduced the amount of your friends on your friend list outside of a dungeon.

        The huge pool the dungeon finder could draw people from depleted the way to small pool of people you could manually draw people from even more. That fact that you can’t add cross server friends to your friend list and couldn’t join a dungeon with them didn’t help either.

      • Basically what Kring said. In addition, it was no longer the social “norm” to whisper people for dungeon runs – everyone adapted the LFG process. Sure, you’d get the occasional “yeah, let’s group up and go into the DF”, but more often than not you just resigned yourself to joining the masses.

        You can not buy the argument that community fell apart with the appearance of the Dungeon Finder all you’d like, but I think you’ll find that the experience of many says otherwise. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many have lamented the loss of “community” in-game since the inception of the Dungeon Finder.

        Being cross-realm was especially disastrous – leading to even more abusive behavior in groups based on lack of consequence. As a FFXI vet (being my first MMO), you played nicely or you didn’t play at all. The game required grouping, and the servers weren’t big enough for you to be a jerk to people and be welcomed into groups. Even through rose-colored glasses (my God, that game was a grind-fest), that’s certainly a better alternative to ninja-looting, tanks dropping after the boss that didn’t give them their item, etc. of today.

        Not that I play WoW anymore, but I suspect if I did, I wouldn’t be able to name anyone on my server outside of the few trolls that spam up Trade chat. Certainly wasn’t the case before the Dungeon Finder. You had PuG-leaders who were well-respected, and you knew who the good healers/tanks/dps were and who was a jerk to avoid.

    • Or you can have both a small community and a dungeon finder, like in Rift, right?

      By the way, if you pop over onto the Auchindoun-US server, you can soak up all the small-community feeling you want. As of a year ago, it was still the awfulness that it was way back in TBC.

      • They could have kept the dungeon finder to a single realm. Or added a cross server LFG tool. I think both would be better for the atmosphere.

        So, yes, I think I agree. If you have to have a dungeon finder, it’s probably better if the pool of people is of the right size. A pool of all Wow server from one continent and language probably was to big. It was for me.

  2. Wait, I think this makes me an MMO hipster! I’m gonna need bigger glasses and skinnier pants, stat.

    You’re right about the effects of a smaller community. There is a certain peace of mind that comes with playing one of the big, big MMO games, and I do miss that some days. On the other hand, there is absolutely a sense of community in RIFT (and potentially in all smaller games) that I really missed in WoW. Guild alliances are alive and well, and I bump into acquaintances on the beta test server. When your game only has two fan podcasts, for example, it quickly becomes a common touchstone for folks who are in to that sort of thing.

    For folks like me who are really into the community/social side of MMOs, a smaller playerbase can indeed be a positive.

  3. This is why I only run GW2 5-man’s (and any MMO for that matter) with my guildmates. 90% of the time the only people spamming for LFG in a chat channels are exactly the sort of people you do not want to group with.

  4. I don’t buy the “small community = good” thing for an instant. The difference between high-population games and small population games is the same as between a big city and a small village. In a big city, you’re not likely to cross the same person twice, which means that insults/bad behaviour are “anonymous”, i.e. someone may call you a noob or idiot, but he know nothing about you and anyway chances are you’ll never meet again. In a small village everyone knows everyone: if you don’t conform to the rules you can (and will) be isolated. Insults are not anonymous, they are personal. It always makes me laugh when I hear people complaining about the “bad behaviour” of people in WoW. The worst stuff you see in global channels there is random junk…. when on a very small population MMO I witnessed the worst kind of mobbing/bashing of a specific individual I’ve ever seen. It was not random insults, it was personal, direct and aimed at removing the person from the “community”.
    So no thanks, I’ll take my big cities and high-populations MMO any time of the day when it comes to “community”.

    • Indeed, the argument takes for granted that the community that exists is one you can successfully tolerate/integrate with.

      On Auch, we actually had a rather hideous “small community” incident when it became known that one prominent raider’s father was dying (and later died) of cancer. One of the more well-known trolls latched onto said information, and began a fairly widespread campaign of scorn and derision that was bad news all around; it effectively split the community between the “that is never okay” and the “well, that raider was kind of a dick and the internet isn’t real anyway” camps. To escape this sort of harassment, the raider basically had to leave the server entirely as all his alts were outed either by troll sympathizers or accidentally.

      All of that happened in Wrath, pre-LFD for those keeping track at home.

      • This is a rather key point which is often ignored, and is one that has caused me to keep countless games at arm’s length. General gaming/internet culture has some rather, shall we say, unpalatable social norms and conventions, and becoming too involved with it tends to ruin any enjoyment I might have otherwise been deriving from a game. Your Auchindoun anecdote is a perfect example. It certainly helps when (or if) I can find a tolerable clan/guild/corp/whatever, as it can offer a pleasant bubble within an otherwise repellant community-at-large, but this is often akin to digging through a pile of horse shit hoping to find a nickel. If I happen to see one sticking out of the mound, I might take a chance and go for it, but otherwise I have trouble mustering the will to dig in.