Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Loss of Community

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.


Anonymous said...

My heart weeps when I read about the current (release) state of STO. Even positive reviews of the game sound horrific to me: repetitive space missions, one-sided PvP, cash shop AND monthly fee, nonexistent crafting or social opportunities. And those are from the _positive_ reviews.

That tired argument of "join a guild/kin/fleet" should be laid permanently to rest too. So what if I want to "fly solo"? Who are "you" (generic) to tell me that's the wrong way to play?

The developers clearly allow for solo players, so why is that a wrong or incomplete way to play? Anyway, in STO, I'm in a fleet already... Starfleet. But to experience the game fully, I've gotta join _another_ club?

So it's back to LotRO, where I can fish, craft somewhat useful (and decent-looking) items, listen to a concert by the Hobbiton Philharmonic.

Randomessa said...

As a female playing STO, I too have noticed the quietness in groups - I always try to say *something*, but I also find that most ground/space missions are too action-packed to spend much time going between my attacks and the chat window (I've not had that problem in other games I've played).

I will admit to being disheartened by the overall community in and around STO... I am having a lot of fun playing the game itself, but the overhwelming negativity surrounding it wears one down. I have contemplated leaving just because I can't stand the people, but what else would I play? I don't enjoy anything else nearly as much.

To Anonymous I would say: take advantage of a buddy key or free trial when those become available, and see for yourself. A lot of what people claimed to have problems with in the game were simply not an issue for me, and it may be the case for you as well; you never know.

Aspendawn said...

I was having a fair amount of fun but found myself not playing the past several days.

The community was a big factor in that but also, I've reached Rear Admiral 4 and completely have run out of quests. I hear you just have to grind it out from here.

Maybe in a few months after the dust has settled, the community that is left behind won't be so bad.

Yeebo said...

Launching without quite enough content seems to be a running theme with Cryptic. It's impressive as hell what they were able to do with such a short development cycle, but still perhaps not enough.

It's striking how different the communities of different MMOs can turn out to be. I'm sure that some of the design elements factors you mention play a role (e.g., having elements like housing and a music system). I suspect that some of it also has to do with how a game is marketed and whether the developers do a good job of managing player expectations. Also, all factors being equal, it seems like more popular games tend to have worse communities in my experience.

Lomax said...

"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"

I would totally agree that from the Star Trek community I would expect a much more roleplay type player base. But for STO I would blame the game, its all focussed on combat with ntohing in between.

Even then where the game could have had a massive opportunity to have players co-operate in flying on ship, its all solo based with everyone being a captain. A real missed opportunity.

The last sin though is auto grouping, WoW's got it and your comment about the silence in groups can be found on comments there. Without the need to socialise and communicate grouping loses the social element. Finally without a challenge (WoW suffers here outside of a raid) you don't even need to co-ordinate in any meaningful way.

Its a shame but I can see a lot of games going this way, the less challenging the content becomes and the less social interaction that's needed the more it feels like I'm soloing even if I'm in a "group".

Aspendawn said...

Content is most definitely lacking in STO. And that's a huge issue for Alganon as well. Seems like there's less and less to do in the new mmo's.

Initially, I thought the auto grouping would be a good thing. I don't do pick up groups ever so I thought it would be a good way to meet people and be able to get some group quests done. While it definitely speeds up the questing, I haven't met a soul doing this.

There are things I like about STO. But it's just so lacking in so many ways.