I found it.
While staring blankly at my computer screen yesterday, it occurred to me why I'm always so disgusted with so many of the MMOs I play. It's the people, or lack thereof.
I used to consider myself a bit of a loner, so it never occurred to me that one of my biggest reasons for disliking many of the F2P games I've tried? Tthere isn't anyone playing them. Or the people playing them are clueless, hapless levelbots with a penchant for internet vernacular and drooling all over themselves.
Thus, I'm going to delineate the top 10 best and worst MMO communities that I, personally, have experienced. By community, I mean the general population playing the game, including forums, and where applicable, fansites.
If your favorite or least favorite game isn't here, it either doesn't stand out in either category, or I haven't played it.
Best MMO Communities
#10 - World of Warcraft
I know what you're thinking. And to a large extent, you may be right. The thing with World of Warcraft is; it's like a huge city. Sure you have crime, pollution, nasty taxes, housing costs, traffic, you name it, but you also have the suburbs, and the close-knit ethnic communities.
So while the majority of the World of Warcraft playerbase may fall into the drooling, internet vernacular wielding variety, it is very easy to find a group/guild/bunch of friends of like mind, due simply to the sheer numbers of people playing. Once you do that, it's just a matter of sticking to your own and ignoring the world at large. World of Warcraft makes the list simply because of probability.
#9 - EVE Online
I would have loved to have ranked this game higher on the list, because from what I have seen, it actually should be. The problem is, my experiences in this game amount to a pair of two week trials. EVE Online just isn't my type of game. There's nothing wrong with that. It's a preference... like Pepsi over Coke.
Despite the short amount of time spent in the world of EVE, I was struck by how friendly people seem to be toward newbies. All of my questions were answered quickly and concisely, I had quite a few people offer to teach me the ropes, and even a couple invites to corporations. The playerbase at large seemed to be intelligent and committed, and you can't really ask for anything more than that.
#8 - Warhammer Online
The population has thinned out a little bit now, and as is the case with any game boasting a low number of subscribers, the community becomes tighter knit. Individuals mean a bit more, particularly when they're at the top of their game. Perhaps my own personal status when I played this game made me a bit biased (I held the highest renown rank on my server for the first month and a half the game was released), but Order in Warhammer Online was a very close, very fun group of people.
We had multiple alliances, multiple guilds and warbands who were coordinated, respectful intelligent leaders, and dedicated, skilled members. That's all you can hope for in a game focused toward pvp. Even when I was a newbie, people worked together in their cluelessness to achieve some semblance of understanding. For Warhammer, your mileage may vary, but my server definitely warranted this #8... until they merged it. The thing with pvp centered games is: If you don't work together, you die. Communities grow strong under such adversity.
#7 - Perfect World International
One of two F2P games to make this list. The first thing to say about PWI? No bots, no gold farmers, no spam of any kind. This is still the only MMO I have ever played, free or subscription, that has found a way to deal with these people. PWI has a unique community that seems to thrive on friendly rivalries. Territory wars foster competition, and yes, tempers do flare, but in the end, things always seem to resolve themselves.
This is another game where the community is improved by the developer's choice of game mechanics. A system whereby higher levels are encouraged to help out lower levels with dungeons creates opportunities to make friends in multiple level brackets, as opposed to just those you are currently leveling through.
Beyond that, PWI is one of the few games I have played that doesn't seem to be a sausage fest. Say what you want about that statement, but I find that a few girls liven things up considerably... at least when they're not being hit on by every guy in a ten mile radius.
#6 - Aion
Yes, I know it's not out yet in the NA markets. I'm going by forums, closed beta, and experience on the chinese servers. The Aion community thus far is one of those with the potential to extend past the game. With many groups of experienced, tight-knit players and guilds transferring over from other games, Aion is going to receive a pretty big head start on the social aspect of things.
People in game have been more than willing to share their experiences, tips and tricks, and are quick to come to your rescue if you're unfortunate enough to bite off more mob than you can chew.
Outside the game, an impressive network of fansites has formed, with guilds encompassing regulars from these sites gearing up to roll together on the servers of their choice. I am already impressed by what I see from the Aion community, and hopefully things are only going to improve from here.
#5 - Lord of the Rings Online
No surprise here. In Tolkien's world, you'll find some of the most intelligent and friendly MMO gamers around. LOTRO seems to be comprised of two different kinds of people, the PvE lovers who were sick of WoW, and true fans of Middle Earth. In either case, the times when you will meet someone rude and obnoxious are few and far between.
LOTRO boasts an older, more mature and focused playerbase. You won't find many "core" gamers lurking about talking about their latest conquest of such and such a newbie. Monster play also offers an interesting social backdrop with epic fights frequently moving to the forums for discussion. Middle Earth offers a mature player everything they'll need to find a solid group of people to game with.
#4 - Ultima Online
The only game that I have not personally played that is on either list. And here's why: No other game over the years has fostered such a longing for it. I have borne witness to countless conversations begging, hoping and pleading for a new game to approach the wonder and nostalgia that Ultima seems to generate.
Ultima's community has resulted in many former developers and players becoming so enamored that they themselves have gone out to form their own companies in an effort to recreate a game similar to Ultima. My own friends have told me of the glory of this game, and frankly, its inclusion on the list stems from one fact and one fact only. The influence that Ultima and its community has had on the genre is undeniable, and recognizable as players still rally behind it even today, though they haven't played it in years.
#3 - Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
Let me just go ahead and get this out of the way right now. UGH TERRIBLE LAUNCH. There, satisfied? In the Warhammer blurb I talked about how a lower population fosters a far more involved and tight knit community. This is what has happened to Vanguard. You will be hard pressed to ever find a kinder, more helpful group of people in an MMO.
Ask a question in general chat, and you'll be inundated with so many responses that you'll have to start writing down notes in notepad. Ask for quest help, and you may find an entire guild setting aside time to escort you personally to your objective (this actually happened to me). Vanguard players protect and nurture their own, and if you're the kind of person who wants to get warm fuzzies from your MMO, you need look no further than Vanguard. Just pretend SOE doesn't run it.
#2 - Final Fantasy XI
Say what you want about a game that practically forces you to group for everything. One thing such a game doesn't lack is community. There are countless opportunites to meet new people. This game takes the guild(linkshell) rivalry concept to the extreme. FFXI can truly immerse you with the interesting developments that can happen when 200+ people in 7-8 different linkshells camp one single raid mob.
FFXI also benefits from one aspect that has yet to be duplicated by any other triple A title. All countries play on the same servers. There is no separation by region like every other MMO. You may think this would be a double edged sword, however FFXI includes an auto-translate function for key phrases and components allowing people from all over the world to group and raid together. All told, FFXI is a game that THRIVES on community as one of its biggest selling points.
#1 - Atlantica Online
Hands down, far and away, and without a doubt the best community and atmosphere in a game.
NDoors has done an admirable job on so many fronts integrating systems and events to foster cooperation, communication and rivalry among players of Atlantica. Everything from the mentor system's putting players in contact with others who can help them, to the gift system's encouraging players to get newbies going in their journeys, Atlantica pulls out all the stops.
Town invasions encourage players to group up together for a common goal. Nation dungeons draw as many as 10 guilds, and dozens of players together to raid. Even the cash shop is entirely unnecessary, as making money in Atlantica is not difficult and all cash shop items can be purchased with regular gold.
GMs are a part of the game, and their names are well known. Need help with something? You need but whisper a GM and they will actually talk to you. The game developers pvp with and listen to the players, and the myriad of pvp opportunites and the pyramid pvp system fosters rivalries and recognition.
If you want a game where you can truly be immersed in the entirety of the community, from your fellow players, to the GMs, to the developers, Atlantica tops the list.
#10 - Age of Conan
Full of ranting, raving ganking lunatics incapable of anything more than three or four words at once. AoC drew the playerbase they hoped to draw by parroting their own brand of castrated twitch combat, buggy gameplay, and nipples. The asshole kind.
Expect to be killed, ganked, ignored, degraded, derided and left to fend for yourself in Hyboria, the Barbarian free for all.
#9 - Rappelz
I can has bot please? When talking to another person in Rappelz, you have a 1 in 3 chance of whispering a bot, a 1 in 3 chance of being ignored, and a 1 in 3 chance of being told to stfu. In a game focused almost exclusively on grinding, with few opportunites to work with or against other people in any sort of structured setting, there is simply no incentive for anyone to talk to other people, much less break from their absurd grind long enough to - god forbid - help with anything.
#8 - Lunia
After being utterly and completely ignored by almost everybody on the entire ONE server that this game has, I actually began to time how long it would take someone to answer a simple question in town. The answer? 43 minutes. It took 43 minutes for somebody to tell me the purpose of a particular item I had picked up. Granted, I could have headed to forums or a wiki to find that out, but what is the point of playing a game where people as a whole are that oblivious and/or self-absorbed? It's a shame too, because the game itself is actually somewhat fun.
#7 - Everquest II
I'm not entirely sure what the deal is here. I've heard other people praise EQ2's community, but after trying four different classes and three different servers, I'm left with one impression. EQ2 players are some of the most arrogant and haughty individuals ever to grace an MMO. If you dare to ask a question, you will be ridiculed as a helpless newbie and cast into the vile pits of helpless newbie hell where you shall be relegated to kissing the feet of experienced players for all eternity. And boy do they stink.
#6 - Mabinogi
It makes me somewhat sad to place Mabinogi on this list, because the game itself has nearly limitless potential. The combat system is difficult but fun, and it's one of the few true sandbox games out right now. The thing is, what is a sandbox without anyone to play in it with you?
The game world feels empty and lifeless, nobody talks aside from the gold farmer spam, and while out fighting mobs far from town, you will rarely run into anyone else. I'm not sure if the vast majority of players are clustered in one spot far away from civilization, or if so few people are playing this game, but you might as well pick up a single player RPG if you're considering Mabinogi.
#5 - Lineage 2
The undisputed king of dead subscription games. Lineage 2 is the first game I have ever played where I have been able to go an entire day without seeing a single other person. It's absolutely astounding to me how a game that claims to be focused on pvp can function with such a low influx of new players (I assume everyone who actually plays is already high level).
A game that fails to draw new players, or give older, experienced players a reason to interact with others moves L2 into the upper half of games with poor communities. Beyond that, even assuming that there were people playing the game, I envision a type of people similar to Rappelz: too focused on grinding to care one way or the other about your existence.
#4 - 2Moons
Acclaim flat out sucks. It feels as if they're leaving this game to die, sucking what little money they can from those desperate to eke out one more level. Bots are everywhere, gold spammers are everywhere. You can't walk through town without watching any attempts at conversation get scrolled off the screen by soihdflihaos and his recently slashed gold prices. Not only that, but it isn't as though you can simply ignore them and move on. They are far too numerous for that.
2Moons wins the gold spammer award, boasting the highest number, most annoying and most persistent sweat shop workers in all of MMOdom. Another shame, because 2Moons has a bit of potential to be fun. Combat is fast paced, and if it wasn't such a disastrous grind, I might try to look past the gold spammers.
#3 - Guild Wars
Ugh. Nevermind the game itself being a boring, instanced collection of poorly balanced crap, the article is focused on community. I'm always fond of pointing out to people: Guild Wars is not an MMO. Not only isn't it an MMO game-mechanics wise, it's not an MMO community-wise either.
Boasting some of the most immature, annoying and YOUNG (due to the game being completely F2P after you buy the box) players of any currently released game, you can expect to be inundated with Chuck Norris jokes, your mama jokes, stale, washed up internet memes and people named XxXxxXXKILLUXxxXXx play-humping your character. Guild Wars' success has always been inexplicable to me. With a poor community, and poor, almost entirely instanced content, I'm always left to wonder if anyone would subscribe to this game if it were $15 a month.
Guild Wars would be a top contender for #1 if I were to make a "Most Overrated Games" list.
#2 - Silk Road Online
The Ultimate Bot Game. Silk Road used to be a fun game with a decent community... until the bots took over. Real players in this game are almost entirely non-existant, leveling and farming bots represent probably 80% or more of the playerbase, and even those who aren't roboticized will assume that YOU are and thus will happily ignore you while they grind away, contemplating turning themselves into a bot.
So in a game where everyone is a bot, who wins? The person with the best bot, of course. Thus Silk Road has turned into a game where the object is to search the internet and find the most advanced way to automate yourself to success. Or simply use it as a primer for your C++ skills, and program your own.
#1 - Darkfall
Out of all the top ten lists I have made in my life for any purpose, never has there been such an enormous gap between #1 and #2. The people who inhabit Darkfall Online are, unsurprisingly of course, the most rude, miserable and intolerable individuals ever to set foot in an MMORPG.
Before the game ever even released, the Darkfall "community" was active on other forums, flaming every other game, insisting that Aventurine's billing "snafus", and garbage limited release was nothing more than a tool to weed out the non-hardcore gamers. The Darkfall community has and continues to insist that they are the true, skilled players of pvp, and that anyone who does not participate in Darkfall can't be considered a "core" gamer.
They flame on every MMO-focused message board, troll everywhere they can, defend Aventurine to the death, no matter what they do, and generally serve as an insurmountable obstacle to anyone who dares to set foot in their precious Agon. I could stop there, but I will go on to mention Tasos Flambouras, the voice of Aventurine, who is one of the biggest swindlers and scam artists in the MMO world today.
With the worst, rudest and most inflammatory community ever in an MMO, and one of the worst, rudest and most inflammatory developers ever in an MMO, it's no wonder that Darkfall laps the other games in this list and finishes far ahead of any other.
Unless you are a thick-skinned saint who is prepared for a deluge of teenagers attempting to take you from behind with no lube, do yourself a favor and avoid Darkfall, the undisputed king of bad communities.