Aggro Me: You Got Web 2.0 in My MMO!
You Got Web 2.0 in My MMO!
I know, I know, it's cool to abuse Web 2.0 right now. There's been a ton of Web 2.0 backlash: a lot of the terminology (including "Web 2.0" itself) is cringe-inducing and companies with horrendous ideas are getting tons of venture capital thrown at them for merely including the world "social" in their business plans.
This criticism is perfectly justified and the bubble is going to explode. Back in the day people thought they would make billions with websites where you could buy cat food online. Now people think they can make billions with websites that have "social networks" for cats. No, seriously. More than one. But because of all the trash out there, it would be easy to miss the fact that there are valid ideas in the Web 2.0 world. In the original bubble and crash, were there a ton of garbage websites out there? Sure. But did we also have some awesome sites like Amazon and Ebay that we still use today? Sure. Likewise, sites like Digg or YouTube will be around for years to come and will be enjoyed by many.
So I'm going to try to find some Web 2.0 ideas that can be applied the MMO world. I'm sure there's going to be or already has been a lot of pontificating on this very subject probably with words like "folksonomy" and "clouds" being bandied about. So I'm going to try to be as concrete with my ideas are possible. To be honest, none of these concepts would be a selling point for me in deciding between games but I'm just going to throw them out there.
I want to be able to log on to Netvibes and have a tab fully dedicated to my MMO of choice with tons of delicious feeds. I'm going to use Netvibes and EQII as an example of what I would like to see, but you can substitute any feed-reader and your MMO of choice.
* Official News (obvious)
* Dev Tracker (preferably with different categories for Technical, Design, etc.)
* Community News Aggregator (one feed which aggregates all the community blogs and fan-sites)
Okay, those are fairly straightforward. But let's get more MMO specific...
* Server status
* List of friends/guildmates with online/oflline status and current zone information
* News specific to my Guild, both player generated (i.e. guild news postings) and automatic (guild status points)
* Ranking of Guilds on my server
* Ranking of Wizards on my server
* Ranking of Gnomes on my server
Heck, let's get even more specific on the rankings. Let me choose to have an automatically updating ranking of most damage done with a single spell by Gnome Wizards on Antonia Bayle in the level range of 10-20 in the Commonlands. You have the data - use it.
I'd also like to stick a widget in there which lets me search an item or player database.
The idea here is for me to be able to open one web-page and have absolutely all the news, resources and information I need, updated in real time.
Let Your Users Do the Work
Your users are an amazing resource. May as well tap into them as they are the best marketing department you can find.
The obvious one is supporting the people who contribute to your community with blogs, podcasts and fan-sites. For instance, EQII has the Town Crier which helps users find blogs and fansites they might not know about.
You could also make it easy for your players to capture screenshots or gameplay video and automatically upload them to a Flickr group or YouTube. Alternatively, a game could have it's own screenshot or video sharing page, with rankings for the most popular or most commented on media. Similar pages could be set up which allow players to post stories or artwork and let others comment and vote on them.
Every game should have a Wiki with user contribution. We all know official documentation is hopelessly lacking and dated. New users often have to spend extensive time searching for bits and pieces of information on the forums and it's so important to get new users over that initial learning curve. By having a Wiki, you have an up to date, living resource that can benefit both new and current players.
The final extension of this concept would be to allow for some form of user-created content in the game, itself. But that's a topic I've discussed before already and is too in-depth to get into here.
I firmly believe that it's the social connections we make which keep us playing an MMO. The friends we make and the community we become a part of may just be the most important factor in our enjoyment of any game. So if a company can in any way facilitate those social interactions, they should definitely do it.
I don't use Facebook or MySpace so I'm a little out of my depth here, but what I am envisioning is a Facebook-esque page for each player. This page could have all of their character information updated automatically along with whatever personal data the player chooses to enter. There should also be room for a player's journal or blog, favorite screenshots and in-game videos and some fun widgets (some of which could be created by the company and some by users).
And of course, there's the social aspect. A player should be connected to his friends from the game, guild, and people known in real life. Each of these "classes" of people could have different permission settings when it comes to viewing that user's page.
The great thing is that MMO's already have so many ready-made social groups. In addition to player-made groups like guilds or a friends list, each player is part of server, a class, a race, a level range. These groups are the perfect foundation for creating a social network.
Players should be able to send and receive messages or media between individual players and to send out group messages to all of their friends or guild. Friends should also be able to comment on the aforementioned screenshots or journal postings on the page.
And Back Again
Can we take some of these social and community aspects and bring them back into the game? Sure. Players could be awarded titles or house items for having, say, one of the top ten most popular screenshots in a given week. Badges could be given for having a great page in the social network or for other ways of participating in the community. This would tie everything back together and encourage people to utilize the community features. And likewise, the community features would encourage people to keep playing the game.
MMO companies have always been been leaders in building online communities. I know that SOE has already tried to accomplish many of these goals with EQ2Players. I'm just suggesting they keep at it and take it to the next level.