Uplink Analysis: Server Communities

Written by David "Scooter" Bass on January 28, 2013

WildStar Uplink is a bi-weekly conversation we hold with our fans about MMO design, philosophy, and news. The main goal of these conversations is to gauge how important certain issues are to the WildStar community. More than just a simple conversation, we ask questions about topics that are important, and we share your responses with the development team directly. Want to participate? Follow @Team_WildStar on Twitter for the weekly question, participate using #WSuplink, and keep an eye on the community team (CRB_Atreid, CRB_Aether, and CRB_Scooter) to interact with us throughout the discussions.

Last week's topic was one we've been debating internally for quite a while now:

How important are server communities to you? What game features could be used to improve relationships on a server?

First, we explored some of the specific responses to the questions:

WolfpackCasey:  Not having separate servers. Use "sharding", but have everyone together.

jleithart: Server communities are one of the biggest reasons to play an MMO for me whether it's competing against other servers for world 1st. Or competing against each other on the server it's a part of feeling like you're on a team.

oneniisama: Very Important. Alliance Chat/Support, Private Chat Channels, Squad/Raid size groups, LFG, Last Played timer, etc.

jleithart: A big thing is not having x-server PvP or dungeon finder. If people know that they are "stuck" on the server, they lose anonymity and are less likely to troll or act like a jerk.

Gazimoff: Server forums are very important to me for community building. They're a great way of getting to know people

jleithar:t Outside the game, having server specific forums (if there are multiple servers) is a big deal. It allows for friendly trash-talk. It also allows for getting to know others on the server, whether they have a good or bad reputation.

Gazimoff: It would also be great to build server widgets that guilds and bloggers could embed on their sites

AgentNardz:  A guild alliance/rival system that actually did something (shared chat, etc) to allow for more cooperative play.

qn2Quid: Not that important, i tend to play with a "closed" group of friends, but server events is good way of bringing people together. Server forums is also good for the community, guilds can post progress and recruit new members. And its fun to read gossip :)

BlackBigBang: Huge servers are really important to discover new people all the time and to do dungeons, quests, ... easier !

jleithart: It's easier to feel at home in a smaller section of the playerbase (say 1%). But the servers have to be big enough to feel alive

OniOnidra: Community is very important on a server. The most important thing is a global way to communicate from anywhere with everybody

Iwantafreecar: Forcing people to group or not progress forces an awesome community, but you will lose tons of subscribers.

A great conversation about in-game events came up as well:

real_lethality: Server communities are the cornerstone of an MMO. Forums/out-of-game, sure. But creating an in-game "neighborhood" especially! Though the concept of "single server" game worlds seems desirable, I'm not sure that social scale is appropriate for most games.

jleithar:t Exactly, if there are a million players on multiple shards, you start feeling like a stranger

real_lethality: If cross-server needs to exist for gameplay reasons, with an "LFG tool" to facilitate it... It would be nice if the matching algorithm let the user weight parameters like "from my own server only".

Gazimoff: I'm a big fan of in-game events to help bring a community together. Advanced support would be great.

real_lethality: Indeed! A tool to help manage that would be interesting. Almost like a "sadbox quest builder!" ;)

Gazimoff: Aye! My best in-game server memories are the events that players organised. GM support for these would rock. Could you imagine holding an RP market, only for a delegate from Protostar Corp to turn up? Amazing stuff.

real_lethality: Maybe there are certain basic "themepark events" you can trigger as a "sandbox event" organizer, a status similar to GM.

jleithart: Announce goals achieved by guilds (whether PVE or PVP) over the entire server. Like the Onyxia buff in Stormwind in vanilla WoW

real_lethality: As @jleithart said, zone-wide (and as appropriate server-wide) notification of certain major achievements by guilds or players!

Here's our response:

Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s Uplink discussion! Since the formation of the Community team here at Carbine, we’ve been doing lots of research into server communities. It’s a very important sub-community of any MMO, and it’s one we feel hasn’t gotten enough love up until now. We want to bring you into the various conversations we have internally each day, but understand that we can’t promise any or all of these ideas will ever actually make it into the game. These are the results of our brainstorming sessions over the last few months, and we’d love to hear what you think.

First, the most obvious server communities that form are based on the standard server types. You know the basic four by now: PvE, PvP, RP, and RP-PvP. But we’re starting to wonder if there’s more than that that hasn’t been explored. There’s always a subset of people who clamor for a “hardcore” server, one where your death means the end of your character. What would that kind of server look like? How would it sustain itself? Would the risk be too high that no one would play on it? What kinds of servers would draw tradeskillers to it? Which would attract griefers? These questions are ones we’re attacking right now, to see what would work and what wouldn’t in a new type of server arrangement.

The other big topic we’re discussing is how to manage and support server communities. In other MMOs, active server communities mostly maintain themselves via a server forum. The most social of the players might organize large-scale events for their server (like Weatherstock in LotRO, for example). But in those cases, a new player needs to go looking for that information, and we worry that most players may miss out on these amazing events.

Imagine, for a moment, how this might improve if when you logged in on your server, you were presented with the latest news and events for your server. What if each member of the community team was responsible for getting to know specific servers intimately, so that you could have a personal member of the team taking care of your specific server’s needs? Would that make people more loyal to their servers, or would it serve to create rivalries between the “best” servers?

As you can see, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered as we drive towards launch. We’ll work towards answering them ourselves over the next year, but we’re very curious to hear your thoughts as well! Is there something we’ve mentioned here that’s sparking some ideas on your side? Let us know by responding on Twitter, Facebook, or on any of our esteemed fansites!

Until next time,

Your WildStar Community Team

Thanks again for participating in last week's Uplink conversation! Remember to keep an eye on the #WSuplink hashtag for a heads up when we begin a new topic on Monday. See you on Wednesday!

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