Today’s MMOs are mired in a swamp of systematic problems from overconfident game designers, hyper game producers, companies with unlimited bankrolls, and fans that are inundated with such a variety of games that games fall out of favor as fast as apples fall from a tree. What is needed is not more, but less! We need a community within the game that is organized, demographic, and small. Yes, thats what I said. Small is better — Large is out! I purpose an MMO that hosts no more than 300 people at a time, with an average player population of roughly 6000 players per server.

We have seen with the recent selection of games, that over indulgence of graphics, promises, and PR campaigns can leave gamers feeling dizzy. There has been much discussion on how to keep game in the spotlight and at the top of the playing list for both the average as well as the hardcore gamer. There is nothing more confusing than to wander a world populated by people you have no idea who they are or what they are doing.

When I graduated High School, I had a class of 89 students. I knew all their names, and more, I knew each one as a person and what they liked or disliked. On most, I even knew their brothers and sisters, and where they lived and to many what their parents did for a career. I could walk down the hallway, waving and complimenting every student in my class, and with similar size classes in the other grades, I had a decent chance of knowing almost everyone I ever met.

Today, schools are huge with daunting classes of well over a thousand students per class. Four thousand students in a school, you would be lucky to even remember your own classmates’ names let alone anyone around you.

what does that cause? Its causes isolationism, tight social groups, and clan/gang mentality. This is what is happening in today’s MMOs. Instead of having a vibrant community from which you would more than likely know everyone on the server, or perhaps at least one of their many alternate characters, we are reduced to living in tight social groups, such as a guild, or worse, a small selection of real life friends. Suddenly, the MMO world gets very scary and unfriendly.

In the first MMOs, there was a sense of community because there was a community. Today, its more like trying to set up house in a shopping mall. Everyday someone new walks through your space, and even if you make friends, because the world is so populated, they are often reduced to a tab on your friend’s list, never to be seen again or worse.

I welcome a server population of 6000 players, spread out demographically across the world and through various time zones. With average player base at around 300. As one plays the game, you will suddenly start smiling with the realization that the players around you start looking familiar.

The bustling crowd of characters will be transformed into a group of friends, or at the least, recognizable faces. Instead of blurred names flying about the place, you will have ‘Hey!, Ratook, what’s up?” And not just from friends or guildmates, but from the server at large.

With smaller servers, the chance to become part of the development of the game increases. No more hearing about special events, but now often taking lead rolls or witnessing special GM events.

What does this mean for the game company? More servers, to say the least. Perhaps a hike in the monthly cost from an average of 15 dollars a month, to perhaps 18 dollars a month. I would be willing to pay more knowing that I will know more of the other players.



  1. I think there are a legion of gamers who feel the way you do, while only a scant few game developers would be willing to look at things through such a lens. Sometimes I feel like some sort of pen-and-paper RPG dinosaur who is tromping around in lands where we are now the minority. I can’t fault big corporations, whether we’re talking about SOE or Blizzard or whoever, for thinking solely about the bottom line ($$$). That’s what big corporations do. Unfortunately for us, there’s no alternative yet. We’re still at a point where it’s only the bigger developers who have the money and resources to pump into MMORPGs.

    I think this time will come eventually though–we’ve seen it happen with film. People can single-handedly make semi-professional films on their comps with relative ease. Think of what that would’ve cost 20 years ago. Hopefully this is on the horizon.

    For now though, I feel like we’re in a tough spot. What’s the alternative? Imagine a “gamer’s collective” where a group of revolutionary developers got X number of like-minded gamers to sink X amount of dollars into the development of a project–in a sense becoming the investors or funders so they devs would not be beholden to a bunch of stodgy suits looking solely at the bottom line. Sure, this is an idealistic, half-baked concept but there’s gotta be some other route.

  2. You knew the likes and dislikes of everyone in your class of 89 students!?! Wow. Maybe I’m a curmudgeon, but that makes you some kind of social savant in my book. I can see why you went into community management . . .

    I’m not sure I agree with your main point about “smaller server pops” being better. The games where I have had the most success making friends are ones where I get exposed to a lot of players. ” Joe Average” MMO player usually is not someone I’m going to want to hang out with. And I have a pretty thick skin, so I don’t mind wading through a bunch of asshats to find the gems.

    There are not yet such a wealth of niche products that I can choose one where those with my (apparently) peculiar predilections have been “pre-screened.” And I don’t see this getting better in the near term, because the market for niche and smaller budget MMOs is still in it’s infancy. There is nothing as widely accepted and fully featured as i-tunes or Netflix for games. The “long tail” that you see in other markets hasn’t really materialized yet, so companies will continue to focus on the masses.

  3. Spot on, Troy. Absolutely spot on. My impression of MMORPGs before I ever played one was exactly the one you described. I also thought the idea of factions (player factions) would encourage a kind of teamwork mentality and give some kind of character to a population.

    My entry into MMOs was, like many others, the Blizzard one, and I was curious when people new to the server would ask, “What is this realm like?”, “What’s the RP like on this server?”, etc. I was new to MMOs so I assumed from questions like these, that each server must have a different kind of player, different atmosphere.

    A little older and a little wiser I know that they are all exactly the same: Personality-less.

    There is little to no sense of community outside one’s guild in the games I play now. It’s more a case of capitalist cut-throat individualism. Which is fine I guess, but the multi-player has all but gone from this MMORPG genre /sob.

    What concerns me more is that it wasn’t always like this! Am I too late? To hear the guys on the VWC talk about past games makes me regret my late entry into this kind of gaming.

    Kudos for suggesting a solution instead of just a rant/whine, Troy. A small server population may well be the answer. I believe it would solve a lot of other problems and I recall MOG’s Ryan talking at length on the idea.

    An alternative solution might be to make the world big. Huge. Massive. Big to the point of inconvenience, and have settlements populated by players and NPCs become individual self-sufficient communities. Each settlement could establish itself so that players build relationships within the settlement.

    I want travel to be a BIG THING in my MMO experience and having to travel massive distances, not shorter ones, in my opinion, will also sort out the travel problem.

    Now I feel I have headed into TMOG territory and I should stop!

    But I really think that community makes or breaks the experience, and needs much more attention.

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