Community in teams

December 30, 2011

I recently read a post on Massively commenting on the state of tools for finding teams in the Star Wars: The Old Republic and advantages and disadvantages with the current approach and what for example World of Warcraft uses. There have been a lot of comments there, mainly arguing for or against a tool like the Dungeon Finder in World of Warcraft.

I have not played WoW in 5+ years and I know very little of the details of SW:TOR, but it seems to me that the arguments were somewhat missing the core issue here. It should not be a discussion only about whether Dungeon Finder-type tool is needed or not, but rather about how a game in general supports team play and encourages community building. These may not necessarily happen at the same time all the time, but is of course an good opportunity for it to happen.

The main issue here with combining these I think lies with games that adopted a level-gated, holy-trinity-oriented, play-content-in-developer-mandated-order design. I do not know if this is the case with SW:TOR, but if a game has these elements then the game design hardly has considered it important to have community building and team play happen at the same time.

Community building is not only about forming guilds or similar constellations either – it is about how people in general interact with each other in the game, at any time. A single tool will not change that part completely, although it can adjust the balance.

It seems to me that World of Warcraft is a game that for a long time has encouraged gated communities over general community building, plus an emphasis on gated content or at least segregated content. The Dungeon Finder tool seems to me that it was a a way to try to work around community building issues, but only through addressing a smaller and easier problem than the core issue.

I think ArenaNet gets it whan it comes to general community building for their Guild Wars 2 title – at least from what they communicate they seem to have been giving this a lot of thought. Funcom maybe gets it for their next title – not quite sure yet about them for The Secret World. Paragon Studios seem to understand it, but sometimes perhaps only on a subconscious level and learning from mistakes.

The Massively post raised my curiousity a bit where Bioware stands here? Is there an overall pattern to be seen around community building in the game design of SW:TOR? It is not obvious from the general talk about the four pillars for their game what that pattern would be:  progressionexplorationcombat, and story. Admittedly, I have not looked much into the game yet so it might be obvious for those with a bit more insight here. But the four pillars mentioned are not elements that are specific for MMO-type games – it can be applied to any RPG-style game.

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