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.
If you aren’t a veteran Games Workshop fan then this post will make no sense to you. Shoo! Go away! This one isn’t for you.
So at the weekend I was over in the UK indulging in my secret vice which happens to take place somewhere between Nottingham and Derby. Many years ago I lived in Nottingham and so I like to visit friends and my favourite stores whilst I’m there and so it was that as I was killing an afternoon before the flight home, I found myself in the Friar Lane Games Workshop store. Had a bit of a chat with the staff as you do then I browsed the books for a while. Not long after, another chap walked in and the staff did their customary greeting and sizing up routine to determine if he was a true believer or simply a confused passer-by. As it happened it was Jake Thornton – former White Dwarf editor, games developer, Fanatic Press manager and all round Nice Chap. If you cut him crossways you’ll probably find the letters of Warhammer going through him like a stick of rock. Needless to say the staff didn’t recognise him and so he and I had a bit of a reminisce and a general catching up with what had happened since I had left GW.
The accidental meeting however did remind me of possibly my favourite memory of my time in GW. We (being the games development team) had gone into Nottingham to buy reference books to use as source material. As it happened, the big Waterstones was right opposite the GW store on Friar lane in those days (this is when the Design Studio was still on Castle Boulevard and so it was only a short walk round the corner for us). On the way out we decided that we’d say hi to the guys in the store and so we crossed the road and wandered in. We had Andy Chambers, Nigel Stillman, Tuomas Pirinen, Gav Thorpe, Ian Pickstock, Warwick Kinrade, Andy Kettlewell and myself. Apart from me (who was still pretty new) all of these guys were featured multiple times with mugshots in every issue of White Dwarf, we barely had time to let the door close behind us before the over-eager red shirt came bounding up to us.
‘So’ he says, ‘Do you guys play the games then or are you looking to have a demo?’
Don’t worry I’ll talk about computer games again soon.