Archive for August 22, 2007

New online gaming platforms for people?

August 22, 2007 1 comment

Do you play one MMOG, or do you play multiple ones? If you play only one, is that due to lack of time for multiple games, lack of multiple good games to play or simply lack of funds to play multiple games?

MMOGs are becoming more “casual friendly”, which can mean many things. But one thing may be that you do not need to invest a huge amount of time to feel that you get something out of the game – no 4+ hour sessions required, but anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours could be perfectly ok. And also better opportunities to group with friends without necessarily keeping all characters in complete sync.

As this trend continues, which I think it will, the time factor could both introduce more people to MMOGs who previously did not have enough time for them and also provide more options to play multipleMMOGs for those that want that.

There are more and more MMOGs coming out in the market. Some may be crap, but overall the choices for MM playtime are increasing.

Costs may potentially be a bit prohibive with the subscription model that is quite common, but is still not that high compared to other forms of entertainment. Still, lots of free-to-play type games are also introduced, which at least also gives a lower cost of entry, even though the total cost in the end might not be lower.

With all of these trends it would seem quite natural that there will be more people playing more MMOGs and perhaps with less overlap. Many MMOG players would agree that the “people factor” and the socializing in game is an important factor for the staying power of a game.

So why are there then a distinct lack of community tools cross game servers of even cross games? In some MMOGs I cannot even chat with someone unless they play on the same server and even in the same faction on that server. Any interaction has to be through outside means, be it web site forums, voice chat tools and other means.

There are some games that provide a bit better facilities in this regard, for example the SOE games (EQ, EQ2 and SWG at least) allows chat and friend lists to work cross server and cross game. Same goes for City of Heroes/Villains. It is a good start, but is far from what could be done.

A problem here is of course that there are no standards in use here on how to implement and integrate community tools in the MMOG space, at least none that I have seen. And companies may be a bit cautious about letting in the competition or open potential malicious entry points into their environment.

If you use Microsoft Office at work, chances are that you use Outlook and that you have a contact list in there with work related contact at the very least. You may use facilities to synchronize this witha PDA or mobile phone so you always have that info available to you.

So what if you could have friend lists in the MMOGs you play that not only covers specific characters that some persions play on a specific server in a specific game, but all MMOG you play and have played and which could be accessible from any of the games you play? Or from your guilds or your own web site perhaps? Same goes for chat functions of various kinds, info about characters etc.

This is not really something new – in other areas different community tools are available. In the online gaming space there a companies like NCsoft, who are building an online gaming platform, according to their investor reports. This seems to include a couple of different community tools which are already there in the platform and then games can be developed to take advantage of that platform. This is mainly aimed at more casual and less massively multiplayer online games than the MMOGs, but is still a noticeable effort.

Community sites like Guild Café and Curse also try to provide some soem cross game facilities and there are tools like XFire to provide some help to keep track of friends cross games. But this is still many separate efforts and not much around to bind them together or to move information between all these efforts in a seamless or close to seamless way.

My guess is that Raph Koster’s Areae is working on something along those lines, with the talk of combining the worlds of MMOGs with “web 2.0”. They have not provided extensive information yet on what they are up to, but I definitely suspect it is about supporting community building efforts blended in with the game environments.

Personally I am glad that while there is still room for lots of improvements in this area for games to work on, the various online communities that already exist do a significant part to facilitate the socializing parts. One that I am a member of, The Older Gamers, have been a great place to keep in touch and meet (virtually mostly) new people.