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.
I know I said I wouldn’t talk about WAR here but this is too cool to share. I’m home sick today but last night we were given a press brief to distribute from today. I hope I’m not pre-empting anything here. The brief is from the EA Mythic studio manager April de Poisson and it’s about the patch system for WAR.
I need to gather some stats and I’d like to ask readers or visitors to this blog for their assistance.
I can’t imagine that any one reading this blog doesn’t fit the profile but just in case, please only answer if you are a player of computer games.
All I need you to do is to copy and paste the following questions into the comments field and add your answer to each one where relevant. You don’t need to register to take part but please don’t submit the poll multiple times.
I’ve been rubbish at updating recently I’m afraid. Partly it’s due to being enormously busy but mostly due to my propensity for being distracted easily. So let’s get the distractions out of the way first:
Yeah, I’m weak.
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Once again RMT (Real Money Trading) is in the news. First the various lawsuits against IGE – one from a former director and one class action suit which are putting the squeeze on the world’s biggest RMT operator. Then the news from Sony that they were splitting off their Station Exchange service to Live Gamer and finally the settlement between Blizzard and RMT/powerleveling company Peons4Hire.
Gamasutra has an interesting article about some comments made by Richard Garriott at the recent Independant Game Conference in Austin. He gave a speech about making MMOs and afterwards was asked what, in his opinion, went wrong with his latest game Tabula Rasa. I think it’s fair to say that TR has undersold its potential by a long chalk. I haven’t played it myself so I’m not going to comment on whether it’s any good or not, however for a title like this with a name like Lord British behind it, most people (including NCSoft) would have expected it to make more of a splash than it did.
Rather bizarrely Richard Garriott believes that at least part of the reason for the underwhelming reception is due to beta burnout.
For those of you interested in how games are put together, bookmark it. People who actually put games together for a living like Raph Koster, Scott Jennings, Richard Bartle, Steve Danuser, Ryan Shwayder and many other industry flag bearers pour out pearls of wisdom and nuggets of insider commentary there.