It's hard to find positive posts lately on the Star Trek Online forums. The amount of rants filling the pages is overwhelming. Most of the rants are directed at Cryptic and what they aren't doing right or aren't doing at all.
But I came across one post in particular where the poster had ended his subscription in large part due to the community. The zone chat is pretty horrific and has been one of the worst I've seen anywhere. For some reason I had envisioned Star Trek attracting more of role play community, or at least a more mature one. While that was part of the poster's issue, his main beef was lack of response from anyone when auto grouping. I had positive experiences in beta, but once the game went live, players just stopped talking when grouped. I've made a point to speak in every single auto team encounter, whether it's just "hello" or "thanks for the team." Pretty close to 100% of the time I get nothing back. It made me wonder where all the loud mouths from zone chat are. Do they only speak in community zones? Or maybe they just never leave the zone or team up.
There were several responses, however, indicating that many are in voice chat with their fleets or friends and pay absolutely no attention to the chat tab. And so their solution was to join a fleet. While I agree a guild/fleet can make all the difference in one's gaming experience, unfortunately many will never bother to pursue that route when their first impression is such a lack of community.
But I can't imagine every single person I teamed with who didn't speak was in voice chat. I'm sure some just want to get the quest done and not be bothered, while others may not even speak English since we're all on one server. But whatever the reasons, the silent treatment most are receiving combined with the obnoxious zone chat is very discouraging.
When I think of games that I consider to have great communities, I place LotRO at the top with EQ2 following behind. What those mmo's both have that's missing from most others is non-combat social activities. LotRO has a wonderful music system and I always stopped to enjoy any impromptu concerts. Often I'd strike up conversations with the band when they were done or with other listeners as we gave them a round of applause. Then there are those wonderful festivals and fairs, which both games offer, with EQ2 having a slight edge. Add to that the housing and guild halls, and there are just so many opportunities for socializing and meeting other players.
When you see these type of activities in an mmo, you also see more females. And when there are more females, the community is nicer. Yeah, yeah I know I'm stereotyping. I know there are some women out enjoying Darkfall ganking with the best of them. But in general, when I notice a higher female population, I notice a nicer community. And there is a distinct lack of females in STO. Our guild of 60+ in EQ2 has more women than men playing. In my fleet in STO, there were four of us out of 90 members.
The new crop of mmo's just completely overlook this aspect of gaming. I know budgets are tight these days when making games. But they're really missing an opportunity here. Without the foundation of a good community, they're just an empty shell of pew pew.