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Connecting Players to Virtual Worlds

Robert Lashley Posted:
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In the MMO genre I believe developers should focus on building worlds, not just games. The more developers do to create engaging settings that players grow to care about and become invested in the more enriching the experience it will be for the players. This in turn will make it more financially rewarding for the developers. Loyal customers, especially in an increasingly microtransaction dominated economy, help keep games a float.

There are any number of ways to create depth in a world, but that’s not what this week’s column is going to focus on. This week I want to talk about connecting players to those worlds. The more time I can spend with a MMO world when I’m not actually playing a game, the more time I want to spend actually playing that game. One of the simplest ways players can connect with the world when they are unable to game is just by reading about their favorite game. Fan and news sites do a good job of keeping players connected but developers need to ensure they have a strong community team that works to keep their audience engaged.

Another way to feel really connected with a world is through books. EverQuest and Warcraft have had a number of books written about Norrath and Azeroth, with the latter greatly outnumbering the former. Books allow authors to really go in depth about a character or location that the game would have a harder time conveying. It is difficult enough to get some players to read quest text much less a tome of information. Still there are others that relish in the opportunity to learn about their favorite in game locales.

SOE is using ebooks to lay the groundwork for their reinvisioned Norrath canon for EverQuest Next. You can find them free on SOE’s website. Tera also had 3 ebooks released leading up to the launch of their game. While none of them are literary masterpieces they did help set the tone for the world in which the game would take place.

The best way to really allow players to connect with the world when they can’t game however is through the use of mobile apps. WoW really established the standard with their mobile armory and the apps have only matured since then. While originally you could look at your gear and achievements and a few other features in the WoW armor, Rift took it up a notch with the introduction of guild chat. Trion also spruced it up a bit with the inclusion of a few mini games that were like daily lotteries. Something really key is that it rewarded you daily for checking the app. The more you can keep players connecting the better off the developer is. Final Fantasy XIV:ARR introduced the Libra Eorzea that allows payers to keep track of their characters as well and a number of features to track your friends as well.

One of my favorite sites that should have become an app but hasn’t is Neverwinter’s Gateway. Players can manage their in game mail, their auction house, and inventory which has become commonplace in most mobile apps these days. What really sets it apart, however is that players can craft and participate in the Sword Coast Adventures; which is a mini game that players participate in with their companions. Being able to manage your professions on the go is every convenient. Crafting in Neverwinter is a huge time sync designed to get players to spend those astral diamonds they earn. Being able to reset your minions as soon as their timers expire can save players a lot of in game, and possibly real money, while working on their professions.

Another game coming out soon that has a great mobile app is Destiny. Inherently FPS games are a little faster paced than RPGs so you do not always have time to slow down and read what you are looking at. When you discover things in Destiny they can open up cards in your Grimoire. These cards have flavor text that talk about a range of topics in game from the different classes and races the players can select to play from to the types of weapons, locations, and enemies are in the game. Players can also see a 3D rendered visual of their character on the app and while this is also available to players in other apps, Bungie has made it that players will actually be able to swap out their gear from their app. None of the features in any of these apps are paramount to the game but they are all really nice things access while you are on the go.

I’m a fan of mobile apps. I’m excited about the features they are bringing and the immersion they are providing players when they can’t actually be logged into the game. Of all the MMOs currently released I believe Elder Scrolls Online’s exclusion of a mobile app is a noticeable void. With the hundreds of books ZeniMax has taken the time to write and place in the game it would be wonderful to actually read those tomes outside of the game. This would also free players up to spend more time exploring the world itself. But maybe that’s just me. Let me know what you think of mobile apps in the comments below. Also let me know which MMO you’d most like to see develop a mobile app if it doesn't already have one.

Robert Lashley /  Robert Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can find him spending his free time checking out the latest games and technology. Feel free to hunt him down on twitter @Grakulen

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Robert Lashley

Rob Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can chase him down on twitter @Grakulen or find him on YouTube @RobUnwraps.