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Don't Talk to Me - A Social Problem

By Tim Eisen on May 24, 2018 | Columns | Comments

Don't Talk to Me - A Social Problem

In a recent update Jack Kirby (no not that Jack Kirby) of ArtCraft dropped a few words on a subject that is very near and dear to this MMORPG vagabond’s untethered soul. Kirby spoke about the social system in Crowfall. (Because MMORPGers as known for being social.) Ah, I see your snarky sneer and raise you a question to ponder and maybe even answer in the comments below. Is it possible to be an introverted unsocial gamer type in the real world yet be an extroverted chatterbox within the MMORPG of your choosing?

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My belief is more than yes. Social systems the likes of which Star Wars Galaxies featured retain players far better than typical content. The bonds they form keep them emotionally invested in a game long past it’s shelf date. Who are the last players to flee a sinking MMORPG? Not the grinders or the soloers or the newbs. It’s the social players and, if a game dares feature them, the content creators playing social professions. (“I’m not really into it anymore but my guild is so I play.” MMORPGers) The problem is without forced social interaction via mechanics players won’t get social enough to hit that level of retention.

Rather than giving us tools and forcing interaction MMORPG’s have become far less social than they used to be even going as far as becoming single player games featuring group activities like SWTOR. I’ve often asked myself what would make a genre founded on the back of massive social interaction (that includes the PVP kind) stray so far? Even the marketing checks out! Within the intensely competitive field of gaming overlapping with multi media what can MMORPG’s exclusively offer? Mass social interaction! And yet they flee in the opposite direction. (/rantoff)

Part of it is the money and difficulty in creating the technology. Another is the incessant developer trend chasing that seems to be getting worse every year (LOL, NO DOTA2, NO PUBG, NO FN). Mayhaps the latest nail in the casket has been the social interweb itself. Social (antisocial) media, smart (dumb) phones and chatty VO apps (don’t break the immersion) have taken the social from within games to beyond stealth critting us before we had a chance to realize we were stun locked!

So what is Crowfall doing about this problem? “In fact, we encourage even more interaction between players than many other games in the genre: interpersonal relationships with your fellow Crows are of the utmost importance to secure your place as a master craftsman, far-ranging explorer, or expert warrior.” Sounds like the core philosophy is sound. Let’s see the goods!

The F key, when targeting another player, brings up our social options. Considering Crowfall is the kind of hardcore PVP game that games featuring PVP wear pictures of on their t-shirts I found it entertainingly ironic that F-ing another player gives you your options. (To stab or to talk, such a social conundrum!) This writer imagines many Crowfans will be F-ing one another every chance they get. Don’t worry you can make your own key bindings so you don’t have to F the other player if you want to skip the formalities and get right down to the actions. Once engaged Escape takes you back from the social menu. (Not the first time he’s tried to escape after being F’d.) In typical Crowfall fashion it’s not new so much as an effectively evolved version of what has come before.

“The above is just the first iteration of our planned updates for the social systems.” As a first meeting handshake this updated was a little less than I’d hoped for. It didn’t touch on any of the deeper social tools that made games like Galaxies so hard to say goodbye to. For what it was things look fine and I’m deeply interested in seeing what Artcraft comes up with as the social systems become more complex. Not unlike the crafting system I hope the Raph is strong with this one. Possibly the only MMORPG mechanic Raph Koster has done that topped his still unparalleled crafting system was his social system. May the Raph be with it.

Let’s try something new! I’m going to harvest a few or my carefully rationed words to offer a bit of writer to critic feedback. I’ve gotten some external heat for continuing to use my beloved Star Wars Galaxies as a standard bearer. (SWG has been dead forever, get over it.) I have to apologize...for nothing! (You’re old, no one remembers Triumph.) There is reason people still drop names like Jordan, Einstein, Breaking Bad, Optimus Prime and Leonardo. When something is exceptionally exceptional it becomes a time traveler using relevance as fuel. It evolves from a mere thing in its time to a one note mic drop of instant communication.

When individual letters find themselves assembled into specific order they generate great power. Perhaps no letters can communicate so broadly and so effectively within this genre than the likes of UO, DAOC, SB, EVE etc. With a few characters I can say paragraphs. That is transcendent. Until other games surpass what SWG and it’s peers accomplished 15 years ago I will continue to drop their power (like Mankind off a thirty foot cell). I channel them to efficiently communicate to the millions, and the Tim means millions, of MMORPG refugees clinging to this wayward corner of internet real estate we all call MMORPG.com! (Or until his editor tells him to knock it off.)

Tim Eisen / In my columns I walk the line between fan and critic as I document the development of Camelot Unchained, Crowfall, and Chronicles of Elyria.