Of Social and Themepark MMOs

If you spend any time in the MMO community, you will inevitably see discussions of how these games can be made more social, how can they can be designed to foster more player interaction. Given my famously antisocial nature, it may surprise you to know that I am entirely in favour of this. These are social games, and building bigger and better online communities can only be a good thing.

A random group of players wait for a world quest objective to spawn in World of WarcraftBut I do take issue with a lot of the ideas that get bandied around for how to make MMOs more social. Most of them are the sort of punitive design that will drive me away, rather than make me want to reach out to other players. It’s mostly people who are already social trying to find ways to force solo players to be like them. We don’t hear from soloists what would make them want to reach out.

It’s an issue I tackle in a new article for MMO Bro, where I speculate on how to build a social MMO for the solo player. I can’t say for certain my suggestions will apply for everyone, but I know these are the steps that would help me become more social.

While I’m pontificating on MMO design, I also have an article on why themepark MMOs work. Hopefully this isn’t taken as a knock against sandboxes; while some comparisons are necessary, it wasn’t really meant to be about what genre is better. It’s just an analysis of what makes the themepark such an enduring formula.

Comfort Food + For Honor Thoughts

I’m not sure if it’s because of how dire the news has been lately or what, but lately I’ve been feeling less interested in seeking new sources of entertainment.

Rachel Nichols as Kiera Cameron in ContinuumInstead, I’ve been revisiting old favourites. It’s sort of like comfort food, something warm and familiar you’re sure you’re going to enjoy.

Firstly, I’ve cancelled my Netflix/CraveTV subscriptions for the time being and dug out my DVDs to rewatch Continuum. I very rarely buy DVDs, as they are quite expensive, so the fact I have the entire series on DVD is a testament to how much I love it.

In a lot of ways Continuum is actually better the second time through. You can really take note of all the subtle bits of foreshadowing, and it’s interesting to see how things changed over the years. I totally forgot how cocky and lighthearted Alec was at the beginning. He’s almost unrecognizable as the character he became in later seasons. I’m also paying more attention to Garza, knowing what I know now.

Meanwhile, despite still having a couple of new and unread books lying around my apartment, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite StarCraft novels. Specifically The Dark Templar Trilogy by Christie Golden.

In a strange way I almost wish this wasn’t a StarCraft series, because few if any people who aren’t StarCraft fans are going to end up reading it. And that’s a damn tragedy, because it’s brilliant.

The Dark Templar books aren’t just good StarCraft books. They’re just straight-up excellent sci-fi literature by any standard.

A cinematic in StarCraft II: Legacy of the VoidThe trilogy tells the story of Jake Ramsey, a human archaeologist who has a chance encounter with a dying Protoss woman. But she is not just any Protoss; she’s a Preserver, with the memories of every Protoss who has ever lived stored within her mind. When she encounters Jake, her mind, with all of its memories, is downloaded into his brain.

The story is then split evenly between Jake’s struggles in the present and the memories of the ancient Protoss that he relives every night when he sleeps.

Now, I’m a huge Protoss nerd, so of course I find this fascinating, but I think even if you’re not as keen on the Firstborn as I am it’s still an excellent story. One of the most powerful scenes in the series — really one of the most powerful scenes I’ve read in anything — has Jake reliving the exact moment when the Protoss invented written language.

It’s an amazing scene because while the characters don’t know they’re laying the earliest groundwork for an empire that will one day span the stars, they do understand that they’ve discovered something profound, something that will change everything. There’s such a beauty and purity to the moment.

And of course the characters of the Dark Templar books are excellent, because this is Christie Golden and she always nails the characters. In retrospect I can really see how R.M. has inspired a lot of characters in my own writing in various little ways.

Honor duels:

Charging into battle in For HonorIn other news, For Honor launches today, and over the weekend I was able to dive into its open beta and see how it shapes up. It’s the subject of my latest article on MMO Bro.

I’ll say this much: It’s a very fascinating game, but I don’t think I’m going to be in a rush to buy it anytime soon.

Also, I keep wanting to spell the name with a U. A pox on American spelling!