Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Quality of the community

World of Warcraft is frequently accused of having a "bad" community; "bad" being defined as a few jerks behaving badly due to internet anonymity, and a general lack of a wider community spirit outside of guilds (If you don't believe that, just read last weeks comments on how strongly some people react even to a suggestion that they should do something for the wider community). But of course that "bad" is compared only to some utopian ideal, or to older, much smaller games, where a smaller community held together better. Cast your net wider, and you'll see that it is perfectly possible to create online game communities which are far worse than that of WoW. And the easiest way to get there is to have people play for money.

I checked out Magic the Gathering - Tactics some more, and all my experience with the old Magic the Gathering Online and various other online games tells me that MtGT is heading for the worst possible kind of community. And the reason for that is money. Not only do you have to pay to play, but the structure is set up in a way that a few players will be able to play "for free", by basically fleecing the less good players. Draft tournaments cost $2 entry fee plus $12 in boosters, handing out $12 in boosters for the winner. By selling some of the cards he drafted, the winner can get back the entry fee, and thus "go infinite", playing for free as long as he keeps winning. Pro tip for bad players: Rare draft! The most valuable cards in a booster are not necessarily those which the best players would pick. Thus if you find yourself in a draft with a lot of good players, they'll pick the cheap but good cards, and you can take the cards that'll make you lose the tournament but increase the value of your collection.

Constructed tournaments cost $3 entry fee, and even normal, ranked games cost $0.10 to participate. And the games aren't even fair with both sides having equal strength! Not only will spending a lot of money on cards get you a better deck and increase your chance of winning, but also paying for the single-player campaign will net you levels and talent points, which will make you stronger even against an opponent with an identical deck.

Experience shows that this sort of setup quickly leads to communities resembling pool halls, where the sharks prey upon the casual players. Playing Magic the Gathering - Tactics costs a lot of money, and by winning and going infinite the sharks end up playing for free, while their victims pay double.

Now other Free2Play games also have a minority pay for everybody. But the structure is usually different, the rich voluntarily pay the game company for various luxuries, while the others play for free, but without the advantages money can buy. In the MtGT structure the rich just get fleeced without getting any advantages for themselves, in fact they pay to suffer the humiliation of constantly losing. You don't need to be a brilliant social engineer to realize that this isn't sustainable: The people with money leave, and sharks stay, circling in the pool and waiting for another innocent victim to fleece.

So, unless you want to rare draft to pay $2 extra to increase the chance of finding useful cards for your collection in the 3 boosters you open, I can only advise everybody to stay well away from tournament play in Magic the Gathering - Tactics. You would most certainly regret trying.
You pay for the entry fees with gold. You can but gold for Sony Cash - you get 1 gold per 10SC, which means 1 gold per 10 cents. You can also do a daily mission that awards 2 gold - so if you spend 20 minutes doing it, you get an awesome pay of 0.6$ per hour. Also it's called a daily mission but from what I read it's not available every day (maybe it depends on campaigns you have bought? I only have the free part and haven't yet seen it).

To me MtGT is a demo - you get a small taste of the game and then can pay (a lot) for full game - why are companies trying to convince us that demos are free versions of their games?
Interesting. You're right, such a model is clearly untenable, and will likely either crumble or change. You've shown us an example of terrible social engineering that can destroy a community, but how do you build up a "good" community?
MTGO, the original version of the CCG, has been operating on a similar pay model since 2002 (yes, older than WoW)

The community hasn't imploded yet, so maybe you're worrying too much here.

Yes, for average players, stay away from constructed, unless you have a few dollars to sink into the game, or you're playing professionally.

For drafts, it isn't too difficult for average players to do ok and win a few packs, if the population is large enough.

There are only so many sharks in the pool, and the pay model gives a huge incentive NOT to suck at the game.

Incidentally the game is variable enough to swing games in the average player's favour, IF the average player knows what he or she is doing.

TLDR version: It's not so bad.
I meant MTGO, the original online version of the CCG.
but how do you build up a "good" community?

Hmmm, good subject for another blog post. But one game which did it very well was Asheron's Call 1, with it's liege and vassal system that encouraged veteran players to help new players, instead of exploiting their lack of experience.
The community hasn't imploded yet, so maybe you're worrying too much here.

Define "hasn't imploded yet". The game hasn't shut down yet, but that is about all. The community is a far cry from what it was in MtGO 1.0, both in quality and in numbers. MtGO 2.0 was an unmitigated disaster, and MtGO 3.0 was delayed forever, and as far as I know is still missing features. I would not consider MtGO as a positive example in how to manage a community or an online game.
I don't see your example as being a bad community. To me it's someone being intelligent with their money. Unless this is against the ToS of the game itself.

When people accuse WoW of having a bad community, they don't mean play style, they mean they are poor at social interactions (and on purpose). Everything you mention makes me think more of a persons play style than how they interact in trade or general chat or with their fellow players. It also makes me think of investor mentalities where people buy a commodity and then sell off bits of it to get their money back plus.

If you want to see a bad community, go to DCUO. I'd say it is far worse than WoW at this point. When I played this weekend another player kept waiting until I had killed all the mobs to take the object I was obviously trying to reach. They did this multiple times and when I finally got to look at their name I saw we were in the same "guild"!!! I quickly quit that guild.
I thought the community was pretty tight knit when I played FFXI, but that's probably because of the forced grouping and interdependence necessary to get a lot of things done. I feel I have better connections then, and now in FFXIV, then anytime I played in WoW, really.
@brad re:ffxi
I was thinking the same thing. It's certainly the type of game that benefits people who have good social skills.
I'm reading this and something seems odd too me. Do you have to buy the boosters for draft AND pay the 2$ ?

Else it seems a cheap way to collect cards, 2$ for 3 boosters worth of cards (drafted, but still cheap).

What am I missing here ?
Yes, as I said in the post, it is $2 PLUS $12 for 3 boosters to play a draft.
@ Vims - the rewards for tournaments on mtgo are much higher than the ones in MtGT. Compare paying 2$+3 boosters and getting 3 boosters to paying 2$+3 boosters and winning 8 boosters as is the case in mtgo...even in the less hardcore 8 player drafts you get 4-3-2-2 prize payout, so you only need to win your first round to get most of the draft cost back.
If you want to see a bad community, go to DCUO. I'd say it is far worse than WoW at this point. When I played this weekend another player kept waiting until I had killed all the mobs to take the object I was obviously trying to reach. They did this multiple times and when I finally got to look at their name I saw we were in the same "guild"!!! I quickly quit that guild.

He probably thought that you are just being nice, because you're in the same guild, ye know ;)
Avoiding the problem doesn't fix it. How will that prevent him from doing that to you again? Perhaps saying something in guild chat or talking to him would have been better.

Even with DCUO limited console chat functions I assume that is somewhat possible.
I'd say the DOTA/HoN community is far worse than the WoW community (don't know about LoL, since I haven't tried it). If you're at all new to the game, you'll be trashed all game long.
The MtG tactics drafts cost to enter? What are the prizes like? Really seeing no reason to play this game over MTGO. On MTGO you win back 1 booster per game you win (assuming you're playing swiss queues, which you should be). Plus, MTGO allows you to theoretically qualify for high paying IRL tournaments and/or cash in a full set for the same cards IRL. And that's not forgetting the player run formats with low barriers of entry (pauper, MoJhoSto etc).
Seems like the two games cost pretty much the same to get into, but with MTGO having better replay value and higher rewards.
The WoW community gets a lot of flax because it is so large. This means that a wide variety of people exist - from trolls, elitists, etc.
ANY community will have a bell-curve distribution of community quality.

I think the most important factor in the curve and where a "majority" of the community falls, is determined by the type of interaction the game fosters between the players.

Games where "noobs" and "terribads" can contribute just by playing the game will probably have a "better" community than a game that splits the playerbase into groups based upon experience or skill.

Now, don't get me wrong. The FPS community for some games is extremely whiny. But, if you enter a random server in a FPS game, most of the time people yell at people on the other team, rather than people on their own team (most of the time, not always). I'd argue that the fact that you need people on your team, no matter how noobish or bad they are, you're less likely to get upset at them.

So, for a game like WoW, imagine if low level characters on Horde (or Alliance) could influence the outcome of world PvP battles, PvE dungeon status, or any type of world event, that would favor their faction.

While I know that WoW has some of those elements, like Wintergrasp in LK, those events were very limited, temporary world event that wasn't continuous. Not to mention, a large portion of the population was excluded, whether because of level, or existing participant numbers.

Or, I guess another way to say it is to establish an enemy for your faction to continuously spend time contributing to fighting. Basically, a two minutes of hate that doesn't end, and can be contributed to by anyone in the faction.

If you can create in-game connections between, say, 50% of the population, by arbitrarily splitting them into two opposing factions, than you're already half way there. Where WoW and other MMOs stop short is by fostering a split within that faction. So, PvE players and PvP players will give each other hell for playing the "lesser" version of the game. High-end raiders will give hell to casuals, and vice-versa.

Imagine if there was some constant faction exercise pitting the factions against each other (but changing to keep it interesting and relevant). While Warhammer had keeps, I think the faction exercise should change in regular intervals, so it isn't ignored.

Unfortunately, that requires a lot of developer interaction. So, do you spend more money (earn less profits) in order to create a better community, or do you just pay a few forum moderators and server GMs to police forums and general chat?
Winning is fleecing someone? Can you get much more competition adverse?
Would you play pool against a professional hustler for money? It's not the "winning", it's the "playing for money" part which is bad, especially in an unbalanced environment.
You nailed it again Tobold, great post. Ranked play costs 1 gold per game (that's 10 cents). Constructed tournament is 25 golds ($2.5 dollars). Draft tournament is 20 gold + 3 boosters ($2 + $12). To level up you need to purchase the campaigns ($20 total).

Without leveling up you'll be at a disadvantage (like not having +30 dmg avatar buff which is TOO CHEESY!). So, campaigns are mandatory, $20.

Auction House is a MESS. It costs at least 1 gold to auction an item, you lose your 1 gold if it doesn't sell. If it does sell, you pay 15% in gold for the service. To buy gold it costs $1 for every 10 gold. Usually the common card goes for 10-40 gold in the auction house, it depends on how good the card is (imagine, 1 common for $4..). Some Mythical cards are offered for 900 gold ($90).

The game is bugged as hell. Crashing, Exploit, Cheating, and what have you. You end up paying $100 without you knowing what happened, little by little you get consumed. For what? a buggy Beta Client.

What is a 'good community'?

Generally this seems to be defined as a group of tightly knit, friendly, people with similar goals that engage in discussions and promote the game.

I would argue that WoW is too big to have a single cohesive community, but rather people tend to be all those things in their guilds.

For all the people that complain about WoW's community, how often have they stopped to advise a newbie? Do they add to the positive discourse? Or do they use the DF, AH and then log for the night, occasionally using the official forums to argue that the game is dying?
Would you play pool against a professional hustler for money? It's not the "winning", it's the "playing for money" part which is bad, especially in an unbalanced environment.
I might, if he's entertaining in how he beats me (trick shots) and it's relatively cheap.

But your describing that person in derogitory terms. He beats lots and lots of people and never pays - therefore he's a badguy?

If the company are somehow tricking people into play where they are unaware they have practically zero chance to win, that's an issue with the company, not the players.
I think this is more an issue with the structure of payments and tournaments not community or at least that's not what I think of when I think of community. I think of social skills and such.
Just testing OpenID, feel free to delete this.
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