In a week that has seen former Blizzard President Mike Morhaime talk about the decline of traditional MMOs, citing accessibility removing some of the social dynamics in World of Warcraft as an example, we’ve also seen Amazon make a bold claim that New World's siege warfare brings a new “social dynamism” not seen in games before. It’s an interesting contrast – one furthered by CCP’s CEO Hilmar Petursson talk about loss in his game, EVE Online, and how it can actually drive players to be more social in New Eden.
I was thinking about this topic all week since Morhaime’s comments, and I have to say that this is something I’ve felt keenly when playing any MMO nowadays. Unless I’m playing with my established group of friends, I don’t feel the need or push to be social in any MMO I play.
This was made clearer on Wednesday as I played The Lord of the Rings Online. I was getting ready for bed when a message came across my Facebook from a Kinmate (Kins are LotRO’s Guilds for those who’ve never played) that a group of members were going to take on a 12-man dungeon with 6 players. I jumped out of bed and became the seventh.
I’m racking my brain, but this group of multiple Kinmates was the first time I think we’ve all grouped in 2 years like this. At least with me – they might have since then. But it kind of struck home what Morhaime said more clearly. LotRO, despite it gating content behind a dizzying amount of quest packs and expansions over its 13 year history, has striven to be more mainstream – more accessible. I've soloed most of the story content in that time, and the times I didn't I simply used a group finder to accomplish my goal.
We saw this too with The Elder Scrolls Online. The initial launch had ESO feeling very much like your more traditional MMORPG – zones had level recommendations, grouping felt like a must, especially with story bosses and the like. Yet when One Tamriel launched, much of that was lost. ESO became more accessible.
And that’s not a bad thing, really. It made The Elder Scrolls Online a better game. But the cost was some of the social dynamics that made early ESO runs so much fun for me. When I did my Elsewyr review for IGN before I took on the editor role here at MMORPG, I played through much of the story content solo – or with just one other person. There wasn’t a push to group beyond that.
So I put the question to you – are MMOs really less social today than they were during their heyday? Do you agree with Mike Morhaime that accessibility has caused this new dynamic in, what should be the most social of game genres? What do you think can be done to bring back that missing dynamism if you agree with Morhaime – and if you don’t, why not?