Action, Interface, and Communication/Community
Posted by Player Versus Developer [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 April 2013, 9:57 pm
A few otherwise unrelated tidbits from podcasts have me thinking about how the design of current MMO's may be affecting their function.  Specifically:
  • The folks at OotiniCast have been discussing gaming peripherals of late.  It started with a conversation about gaming mice with ever increasing numbers of buttons (I actually own one of these, a story for another day), keyboards with macro keys, use of controllers/gamepads to run your PC like a console, or even keypad replacements that move your non-mouse hand to a device that can't type.  The common thread is that all of these things take your hands off the typing keys - if you want to type in chat, you're literally taking your hands off the controls to do it.
  • Action combat continues to be the buzzword in recent big budget MMO's.  Never mind that having ground effects players have to run out of has been in MMO's for years now.  Never mind that increasing numbers of games are taking away auto-attack features in favor of requiring a click or keypress for every single swing and adding in some sort of dodge-roll mechanic.  (Aside - if you're making a game, I get that you need to build hype, but don't expect me to be impressed if your game has the above features, since they are pretty standard these days.)

    The beta reviews of the FFXIV relaunch are remarking that the game's global cooldown - 2.5 entire seconds - feels long in an era where it's usually half that in other games.  The common thread is that the pace and level of interactivity required by modern MMO action combat makes it especially likely that you will pay if you do take your hands off the controls.
Some portion of this may be unavoidable.  Players are quick to criticize both combat systems that feel non-responsive and the downtime that gave players in eras gone by more opportunity to sit around and chat.  Perhaps the issue is that we're still working on the technology that would make integrated voice chat less bad - it's telling when so many people voluntarily install, run, and sometimes pay for third party voice software. 

Even so, I wonder if all of this isn't part of what is driving the sense of limited community in modern MMO's.  I've been running group flashpoints using the group finder on some of my low level alts in SWTOR, and I do make an effort to say some things in chat, but I'm very conscious that this is likely reducing my performance if anyone is watching that closely.  Maybe none of the characters in my groups are in guilds that are recruiting, or maybe my performance is that bad, but it does seem striking to me that I have yet to be offered a guild invite when grouping on an unguilded character. 

How can you have community if you can't communicate? 

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