A Response

 Another of my favorite bloggers, Spinks, has a great post up today.  There’s also a very interesting point she raises in one of the comments regarding chat moderation. She says:

 You could argue that if games took more effort to moderate server channels, solo-friendly multiplayer games could also be more polite.

 I was instantly reminded of a thread I saw on the Fallen Earth forums just a few days ago. In it, the original poster (OP) is complaining that since the mass-terminations at Icarus, Global Moderator (GM) presence is down on the Help line.

 Let me give you a little background, here. Fallen Earth is a rather complex game by MMO standards. It is quite possible to screw yourself in the process of allocating Action Points (AP) while you level. You can create a character that is utter trash quite easily if you don’t know what you’re doing. The Help line was a terrific place where newbies (levels 1-10, I think) and veterans (20+, and required the Vet to add the line back into their filter) could converse only about the game. The GMs were a constant presence and would nip all off-topic chatter in the bud. As such, it was a great tool for new players.

 Back to the first paragraph, the OP goes on to state that the Help line has since become comparable to Barrens Chat or WoW Trade Chat as a result of the lost GM presence. And he’s right – a brief venture into the Help channel the other day was a much different experience than when I first started the game. It’s unfortunate, too, because that is a great tool in capturing and retaining new players. A welcoming community is a far cry from what you get in most games. 

 The Help channel made FE different. Fallen Earth was the underdog, and people wanted to keep new blood in the game. They went out of their way to be polite. Not to say that isn’t happening now, but as many of you know, the vocal minority is often the loudest – and the stupidest.

 Reading the FE forums is starting to depress me; good threads are being outnumbered by PvPeen threads. I’m starting to think that any game with PvP is destined to have these type of posts, but the fact Fallen Earth lacks a true “end-game” beyond PvP may be causing it to become AION 2.0 – a place where the level-capped players are unhappy and just piss and moan about it on the forums all day long. If it wasn’t for the immersion, storyline, and significantly different gameplay, I’m not sure I’d stick around given the current community decline. As a sad finish to the original topic, much of the responses to the concern about the Help line were along the lines of “QQ Moar”. What happened to common decency?

[ I've hit on another point here by accident, I think. I've complained about the PvP-favored mindset before, but it's no accident that FFXI was such a great experience in that regard, either. There was no PvP to speak of. This is probably post material for the future.]

 I’m going to wax poetic on FFXI again for a second, and hit on another point that Spinks is making in her post. She states:

…And the less players need to communicate and cooperate with each other in game, the easier it is to treat the others as random objects of abuse.

 I think we’re well-beyond the point where a forced grouping game is going to be mainstream. Gone are the glory days of FFXI, but I think there is a lesson to be learned in the history there:

 When people are forced to work together for a common goal, particularly in a limited pool, they are less likely to be jackasses.  -me

What I’m saying is that in the “old days”, Server Transfers weren’t common. You had a limited group of people on your server that you were going to play with based on normal play times, level range, etc.; you needed them, they needed you. Leveling solo wasn’t an option (unless you were a Beastmaster).  Unless you wanted to become an outcast on your server – and back then we knew who to avoid – you acted civil and polite most of the time. Playing the game was fun, even if the grinding was not.

 Compare that with the Dungeon Finder in WoW. People barely speak to one another, and it’s more likely they’ll mock others for “lulz” or “being n00b” than to be polite. Just look at the number of awful PuG stories on blogs today, or the fact Blizzard has gone to the measure of putting a cooldown on the ‘kick’ feature for those who use it too much. People act like “sociopaths” because they’ve been enabled to do so. The Dungeon Finder is cross-server and the chances you’ll ever see these people again, or have your named cursed on a forum, are miniscule. There is no accountability.

 The Dungeon Finder may very well have set “MMO Community” back to the Stone Age.

 We cheered its inception because it was an easier way to get Frost Emblems – I was with you. Today, however, I think putting “casual” players into grouped settings with elitist raiders, hardcore PvPers, and just plain jerks they’d avoid otherwise, might not have been such a great plan.

 People need their games to be accessible today; I understand that, trust me. As much as I rave about the old days of FFXI, it’s not a game I could be very involved in today. My life is too busy, I have too many other responsibilities to have to group in order to make progress*. The cost, however, is the community. In order to play a less-demanding game, you have to accept the social standard is to improve self above others (to the point of demeaning others to feel better), and that asking a question in chat is much more likely to net you a “Alt+F4″ or “L2P n00b” response than a true answer.

 At what point does that cost become too high? That’s the question.

*FFXI is much easier to group in now with the Level Sync function, but with FFXIV on the horizon, I’m just waiting for that.

~ by Drew on June 4, 2010.

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