It’s been a while since I last posted and mostly that’s been due to real life stuff. I’m really having a great time in my new job and I have an awesome new apartment in a truly beautiful part of the world but I don’t yet have internet at home. This means that all my personal internet use has to happen at the office during times when I’m not being gainfully employed with actual work.
So, what do we have for you today?
I’ve been following (and sticking my oar into) a debate on Broken Toys about the rights of players ingame. It didn’t start out that way but somehow the to-ing and fro-ing over Blizzard’s new mod policy devolved into an argument about how much control players should have over the game they play.
Jeremy Dalberg posted recently on the subject of supermassive communities. Actually the post is mostly about the relative benefits of official vs unofficial forums but that’s been done the science is in and the deniers have been denned. Scott Jennings mentioned the headline comment and, as is usual, the weird and wonderful came crawling out of the woodwork in the comments section to display some extremely poorly thought out opinions.
Jeremy’s post is mostly a critique of some points that Ryan Schwayder made on the pros and cons of official forums, but amongst all of that she makes some very interesting points on community scalability. Communities, it is very clear work best when they are small. How small? Jeremy brings up Dunbar’s Number as a possible limit but in reality I think the answer is mutable. For a game community, a single server is probably too big to be considered a single community, an alliance or a guild is a better basic unit of community and those tend not to exceed a few hundred. If your alliance exceeds that number then the chances are you have several communities within that umbrella that can be said to be independant of each other as discrete communities. For all that we might talk about ‘the community’ on a particular server, the reality on the ground is a lot grainier than that. Just because we might end up fighting the same battle, we aren’t necessarily part of the same community. It isn’t necessarily limited to the number of simultaneous relationships any one member can sustain – hence why I don’t think Dunbar’s Number applies – but once you start going beyond second degree associations then I think you can start to define a boundary. The smaller a community is (above a certain sustainability threshold) the more tightly knit it tends to be, this is something we see in every aspect of life from geographic location through to international associations.
The basic point of Ms Dalberg’s post is correct. However we are measuring the cohesiveness of a community, 5 million is way too many to be considered as a single entity. That’s crazy talk and is akin to assuming that putting the entire population of Belgium in a room to chat to each other and then trying to manage that would be in some way productive.
So how do you manage a 5 million member community? You don’t. You chop it up and manage a few hundred smaller ones.
How much power is too much to give to your players?
By now the latest EvE dramaquake is old news but the discussions are still happening. Scott Jennings gives a pretty flippant account which then turns into a threadnought in the comments as is usual. The actual story is pretty simple once all the extraneous bits are trimmed away – guy gets fed up with life in one gigantic power bloc, defects to different gigantic power bloc and turns the lights out as he leaves the building.
So we have these games and they’re called MMOs and the first two Ms stand for Massively Multiplayer. This is cool because it means that we can play a game with thousands of other people simultaneously and we’re all sharing in the same experience, we can team up, we can fight each other, we can chat and talk about the football or roleplay or we can validate our deeply held opinions on the narcotics habits of games developers. Or whatever.
Basically there are people who aren’t us in our game. Sometimes they’re annoying and we want to smack them. Sometimes they’re awesome and we laugh and laugh until our eyes are red, there’s bizarre white goo coming out of our nose and the wife has wandered in to make sure we aren’t having some kind of seizure. Mostly though they’re background, they are an ever changing tapestry of additional content that we can sample and pick through as we like.
Still though we increasingly tend to play by ourselves.
A few weeks ago I ran a small survey of people’s information gathering habits about games. It wasn’t very scientific in nature and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get enough responses for the sample size to be large enough to draw meaningful conclusions from, but with 64 replies it did better than I hoped. ANyway, for those who are interested, the results are after the cut.
I recently got a bit of a surge in viewer numbers here and, checking the stats, it seems that quite a few people are coming from this WoW forums thread to visit a link post I made regarding PvP MMO design. It’s a little odd because I didn’t actually say anything on the subject in that post, I simply pointed to a discussion that was raging elsewhere. However a good chunk of people seem to be headed this way to see what it is that I have to say for myself on that subject. Never one to disappoint, here I go.