What is it about MMORPGs that keep us logging in? Why do we choose to pay a monthly fee for a game when there’s the option of picking up a single player game with no fee at all? There has to be some draw, some magical force that pulls millions of players across the world to join in this genre of online gaming. That one thing is the feeling of connectedness with other people - the feeling of community.
There’s something about logging into a vast online virtual world, one that lives and moves around you, that you just can’t get from single player games. It’s a world that imitates our own in diversity, economics and dynamics. But exactly how important is the factor of community to an MMORPG? Can our connections to other players, guilds and factions be the glue that holds the online world together? The players of Istaria: Chronicles of the Gifted would tell you the answer is without question, “yes.”
Istaria has had a rocky history - it’s a world of deep lore and great promise that has felt the heavy hand of management changes a number of times. Somehow, it has endured these changes and found its footing with a determined team who are currently working diligently to develop the game once more. Despite the troubles of the past, there are still a number of dedicated players who continue to play and whole-heartedly welcome newcomers into their online world.
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
What is it that has kept these players here in a world they call their home? What is it that brings old players to return to the game, despite the fact there are newer, shinier games on the market? If you were to ask just about any Istarian that question, chances are, their answer would be “the community.”
People play online games to be a part of a community, to find a place to fit in and make friends in a virtual world. Guilds and online relationships are important to MMORPG players. As the age range of players becomes more and more diverse, the connections players make with each other start to become the make-or-break for a game. Often, a player will choose to remain in a game due to their guild… or move to a new game because the rest of their guild is moving.
We want to meet others that enjoy playing the same game that we enjoy. We want to be a part of that guild to share quests and experiences. Deep down, we hope that our names and accomplishments will be remembered by others. Players may all do the same content and quests and raids… so ultimately, it’s what our group and guild members remember about us that becomes our legacy in our virtual world.
Could you imagine a world where you log in to the public chat channels… and it is a place where everybody knows your name? If you are an RPer, your character is more than just another character, they are an integral part of the ongoing flow of player-created storylines on your server. What if you could log into a game as a brand new player, be warmly welcomed in the New Player Assistance and quickly discover that you have the opportunity to play as an important part of the community, even from day one. You are not just “another player.”
Sounds like the sort of experience we often hope to stumble upon when we try out a new game… but don’t always find. That doesn’t mean, however, that such a community does not exist!
Nurturing an Online Community – What Istaria Does Right
When a new player has questions, they will be offered assistance to the best of veteran players’ abilities. When weapons and armor need crafting, the Marketplace is happy to oblige. When a young dragon needs a group to complete their epic Right of Passage quest, the server offers help. Yes, this sort of thing really does happen in an online game, all freely given by the players.
With all this talk of a tight community, one would expect Istaria to be similar to one of the old school forced-grouping games -- the kind where a player could hardly level past 10 without needing a full group to take an on-level monster. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Istaria is extremely solo friendly. There are, of course, objectives in the game that require a strong group effort. But the regular path to leveling rarely, if ever, requires a forced group to complete.
So… if there’s no forced grouping, then what is it that unifies people in this game?
It is the nature of Istaria’s game design draws people together. On the adventuring side of the game, the basis of the lore centers around the ongoing battle between the Gifted (players) and the Withered Aegis – the game is completely PVE driven, encouraging players to band together against a common and powerful enemy. On the crafting side of the game, massive community-driven projects have brought the server together to build structures that have meaning and can change the actual game world. On a more personal level, the intricate system for building in-game player housing and guild cities encourages the helping hands of friends and guild mates to develop settlements together, also changing the existing face of the world.
Istaria shines in one major aspect of unique game play -- it actually becomes what the community puts into it. The game relies on the players to shape, build, protect and empower their own world. And the knowledge that you, as a player, have control over the land around you – be it your own personal plot of land or in helping create public structures – gives the sense that Istaria in many ways belongs to its people. It is the connection the players have to their world, their sense of individual importance and the idea that every player can make a difference that has nurtured the Istarian community over the course of many years.
For those who still call Istaria home, we have hope that the community will continue to be the force that helps to drive the game for many more years to come. Lots of new developments have already been put into place to improve the game and we look forward to many more that are just over the horizon.