Even after seven years, my original article of 300 is still as poignant and valid as it was then.
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 they 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 a 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.