THE PLAYER COMMUNITY
Even the best-designed MMORPG would be nothing without a supportive and friendly player community. However, this has been much neglected by even the biggest MMORPG developers nowadays, particularly by Eastern imported games from Korea and China. They all need a reminder of that it player-player interactions are the true differentiator between multiplayer games and their single-player counterparts. It is not the player who defines the game, not the developers who defines the game, not even the gameplay and graphics that defines the game but ultimately the players, plural, as a collective that defines the game. Directing attention and resources elsewhere may prove deadly to the game if the community is at stake.
If the players are hostile against each other, and hence the community is filled with harsh competition, then even the best MMORPGS with the most outstanding graphics and gameplay are in essence transformed into single player RPGs. They are deemed to be boring and phrase out of the industry, and then facing their inevitable collapse. Through co contrasting the pairing of Runescape and the Kingdom of Loathing showcases the importance of player community most effectively.
Runescape’s player community used to be rather tight back in 1999 and the early 2000s. However, as the game expanded to boast its title as the Guinness Record’s the world’s most popular online game, its community gradually deteriorated. Players began to drift apart, and the community is filled with unhealthy emotions in two levels.
First, the majority of players simply despise Runescape’s developers Jagex. This heated atmosphere is a result of a series of unwelcomed updates –started from the initial removal of the Wilderness and Free Trade, and then the largely unsuccessful Evolution of Combat (aka ‘the game killer’, as some players refers it as), Solomon’s General Store, the Squeal of Fortune and then finally landing the final stone with Bonds.
Then, second, fueled by this hatred, players began to take it out upon each other. The initial small helpful community became populated with scammers, hackers, and the worst of the all, trolls. Mutual respect and friendliness are now much replaced by bitterness and hostility. With the downfall of the player community also comes in the falling apart of the game itself and its declining popularity. Player numbers exponentially decreased, albeit that the game is often described by Jagex as moving in a positive direction.
In contrast, the player community is a cardinal and irreplaceable integral of the Kingdom of Loathing. It is best described by the words of tight and helpful. When a new player enters the game, he or she is immediately greeted and often sent useful resources and tips by numerous older players. In fact, this newbie-friendliness is best illustrated by that there is another entire chat channel dedicated to new player support, and this is the most populated channel, by far, in KOL.
The moderator team is also highly down-to-Earth, and has fast turnaround time and responsive player support. Moreover, the general atmosphere in the chat channels is just laidback, polite, and outright friendly. Surely, this is further reinforced through the official forums, providing quest help and all forms of support. Last but definitely not least, a plethora of contests and other community events are held from time to time, and even annual real-life KOLCon meet.
It is much due to the player community alone KOL is able to survive past some of its most devastating events and its recent decline in player base. Although peaking with success in 2005-06, KOL now only has a player population of below 1000. Yet, those who players are veteran players who both love the game and also each other, and whose loyalty can never be swayed. For this reason alone, this niche gem will easily live for another 10, or even 20 years.
SOME FINAL WORDS
Admittedly, the online game industry is no longer in its prime. Whilst the market has long been saturated, there are still many valuable opportunities yet to be explored by game developers. It can be recommended to developers to take a break from being bogged down with the technicalities, but rather to view the game from a more conceptual perspective. The creation of a surreal, relatable game world and the facilitation of a likewise appealing player community are two priorities which today’s developers simply cannot neglect. Those who capitalize upon these two elements may find unprecedented success in their game.