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What The Secret World Anniversary Did Right

July 10, 2013

Dear Reader,

While I recently discussed that I was a bit underwhelmed with TSW’s anniversary event, I’m still quite glad I participated in it.  Each of the bosses were essentially just zergfest, but I liked the lore that was introduced and the cosmetic rewards that players got for defeating the bosses.

More importantly, TSW’s anniversary event showed what a solid community’s appeared in the game.  While I’m sure there’s still instances of trolling in bgs and instances, for the most part, the global community was very supportive.

The primary community feature was a special chat channel – #anniversity – which acted as a meeting ground and information source for players, new and old, participating in the event.  The channel grew from community needs and community desires into a subculture of its own, with its own rules, conduct, and enforcement.

Watching the channel develop from day one of the event was fascinating.  At first, it was just a meeting spot for people looking to do the bosses.  Then it moved into an organizational channel with specific players acting as spotters who watched for bosses and called out when they spawned.  It then added a linked FAQ and Important Information resource; whenever someone asked a question that was covered by one or the other, people would link the in-game knowledge pages to them for quick and easy access.

By the fourth day, when all the bosses were up, the channel was a well-oiled machine.  I was able to navigate from boss to boss almost instantly, spending little to no time waiting in between and having people volunteer to use the in-game portal system (meet up).  Twice I was the first to spot a boss, and I reciprocated by calling out its arrival and clicking 40 or 50 “meet up” requests.

In contrast to the crappy community interactions I’ve endured in other games recently, TSW provided a stark contrast to what I was missing.  MMOs and their support pages (wowhead and the like) have become so ubiquitous that there’s hardly any wonder or surprise any more.  Rather than supporting new or returning players, some MMO communities become hostile to their ignorance.  In TSW’s case, the community banded together for mutual benefit, a practice that if not completely missing from other MMOs and MOBAs, then certainly greatly lacking.

Riot’s tried to handle this problem of pulling apart by putting data about bad behavior resulting in bad outcomes into its tooltips, but clearly the message isn’t being received.  Most other companies have simply done nothing.  I’m not sure what TSW did differently – if anything – to end with a culture of support that pulled together instead of apart, but it did.  Maybe the niche category of the game has something to do with it, which might fit a kind of modification of the “small community” theory (that smaller communities get along better until they grow to a point when they start to squabble and eventually split, becoming two separate communities).  Then again, maybe the somewhat “outsider” status of TSW gives its fans a banner around which to congregate.

Whatever the case, it was an extremely welcome change from my more depressing gameplay.  But then, that’s mostly gone by the wayside.  Since I’ve returned to Skyrim and have been playing Card Hunter (more on that Friday), I’ve been very happy with my game play.

I hope you are too!

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and mending)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sylow permalink
    July 10, 2013 8:07 am

    “Maybe the niche category of the game has something to do with it, which might fit a kind of modification of the “small community” theory (that smaller communities get along better until they grow to a point when they start to squabble and eventually split, becoming two separate communities). Then again, maybe the somewhat “outsider” status of TSW gives its fans a banner around which to congregate.”

    I personally think you are on the right path here, althoughi would say it’s not so much the size of the community, but the composition. It might sound sarcastic and probably also is somewhat elitest and arrogant, but i still think that the same design decissions which drove away many players, at the same time resulted in (in lack of more suitable words) “better quality” of the community. The whole concept of TSW rewards good players and punishes bad players more than many other games.

    Just as an example, in most other MMOs, you can easily and around every corner find people who:

    - run an absolutely inefficient build. (If you bother to check other peoples setups in those MMOs where the gear of other people can be viewed, you’ll be astonished how often you can find the “all-strength-mage” and “all-wisdom-rogue”. )
    - refuse to inform themselves about the game.
    - refuse to invest any time to plan their character or playing style.
    - refuse to cooperate with other players.
    - refuse to even communicate with other players.
    - refuse to take advise from other players, no matter how polite it was presented and how helpful it would be.

    This behaviour is supported by many MMOs as their design goal clearly states that even the most incompetent player has to progress and has to have fun in the game. A game educates it’s community and i find it not hard to see towards which behaviour such game design educates its players.

    In contrast TSW challenges the player very soon. Kingsmouth might still be “the hatchery” of new players, but while the rest of Solomon Island still teaches abilities, it does so by raising the bar. (Good movement and building good setups are the first two challenges, which the player has to tackle at the Savage Coast and in the Blue Mountains. ) Due to these challenges many players claimed to game to be “too hard” and left. At the same time, still active players fulfill at least one, often more than one, of those conditions:

    - invests time and brainpower to update and optimize the setup.
    - invests even further time and brainpower to adjust the setup for zones and fights.
    - informs him-/herself on the web on effective setups and uses those.
    - cooperates with other players to overcome challenges he/she can not tackle alone.
    - talks with other players about setups and either asks for help in building and improving their setup, or at least takes and uses the setup of a successful player.

    All of the above require at least a minumum level of dedication and intelligence. (Yes, many people enjoy socializing and disregard it as “chatter”, but indeed doing so requires time and communication skills, which are of high value in an online game. ) As either way is “work”, this indeed drives away the “lowest performance” portion of the playerbase. They can’t succeed in TSW, but are guaranteed success in another game, so they rather move (and pay money) there. This way TSW only keeps the “best 80%” (to throw in an arbitrary number) of the possible playerbase.

    Keep in mind, the channel on the weekend peaked at well over 1k of online players. Communication discipline was great, no trolling happeend and off topic statements were usually followed by a “sorry, wrong channel”. Public channels in TSW, like anniversity is one, have no moderators or any means to penalise offenders, thus only the participarting players discipline prevents them from abusing the freedom of the unmoderated chat channel. It also has to be noted that such good behaviour is not limited to the events chat channel. I also found it very amusing that during bossfights people gave comands to the tank on what to do better (often in short sentences and with several typos), but afterwards made sure to excuse to the tank that commands were so short and harsh during the fight and thanked him for doing the job and giving him good (and well-mannered) in-detail advise on how to tank next time, so the next boss can be done much smoother.

    And if somebody still thinks, this is also connected to the event, i dare to challenge everybody to look at the global chat channels throughout the game. You might unfortunately find a streak of elitist attitude when looking for group for nightmare dungeons (aka: endgame raiding at high difficulty. ) but you’ll be hard pressed to find even a single troll and even spammers are very rare, compared to other MMOs. Parts of the community might be a bit snotty, but manners are valued highly.

    So, as mentioned at the start, my attidude here probably is elitist and arrogant, but i believe that the design of TSW makes sure that players below a certain “quality threshold” get weeded out and the overal quality of the remaining community improves accordingly.

  2. July 10, 2013 9:11 am

    It’s been about six months since I did anything serious with TSW (when the rest of my guild lost interest) so I’ll not comment on the weekend event but only in general. I’ve found that the smaller games tend to more civil, especially if you don’t have server transfer or name change escape hatches. The old saw about reputation does hold somewhat true.

    Mostly, though, I’ve found that community decency scales inversely with challenge level and game size. The more you need to rely on other people to get things done (either cooperatively or competitively) the more likely you are to hit nasty behavior. The size of the community magnifies this problem and also introduces other deviations (like parking a mount on an NPC or the max level PvP hero proving his skill by camping a low-level quest hub). TSW may be at a sweet spot now where there enough people for a functional community and not so many that you attract the more difficult people looking for an audience.

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