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Dec 09, 2004



What happens if a MMORPG creates a shard for each major city, such as a Boston shard, a London shard, etc.? Players might be more likely to set up meetings with one another offline. Does the MMORPG then become a virtual nightclub where people go to meet people? (Old BBS systems used to act like this since most of the users were local due to the cost of long-distance calls.)

If I set up a MUD (or MMORPG) on my home computer and only let 100 of my closest friends visit it, is this still a virtual world in the traditional sense? Or is it a private club? (Contemporary MUDs frequently use this approach.)

If I were to set up a MUD (or MMORPG) on my home system and run it only when my friends and I were online playing it, what would this be? It's not exactly a persistant world, more like a multiplayer CRPG.

Similarly, all my friends could come to my house and play over a LAN... sitting around a few tables and eating pizza. Now it's closer to a traditional tabletop RPG, especially if one of the players is logged in as administrator and creates the MUD/MMORPG content.

If a parent and child explore ToonTown together, but on different machines, what is this? A family trip to Disneyland?


Nathan Combs>From her work with LAN parties in Australia and New Zealand Melanie suggests that these are communities in a shadow-land between the real and the virtual.

There were two things about Melanie's talk that got me thinking.

First, what she described was pretty well what the D&D crowd went through when adventure games came along: a strong social network was disrupted by a new technology that took away its members. I asked her if she was aware of this, and she said she was but that she hadn't found any studies on it. I got the feeling that it didn't particularly interest her much, though; her real focus was on LAN groups.

The second thing I wanted to know was whether she had asked her respondents what they would like to see in new computer games that would help their community. She hadn't. To do so would give her a role of conduit between the players and the developers of the games the players play, which was not what interested her. I understand that this is how ethnographers work (they don't want their studies to change what they study, Star Trek First Directive style), but the fact is that designers do read her stuff and therefore could make the changes anyway. By asking the players explicitly how they'd like to see thing change, the ethnographer can help the designer; otherwise, the designer has to use the ethnographer's research to divine what the answer to the quuestion would have been had the ethnographer asked it. It's an interesting dilemma.



"And in the future, perhaps these or some other (e.g. volunteer) structures could grow into edge-places where tighter bonds are drawn between real and virtual communities."

The meetup.com MMORPG meetings are a great place to see this. I've been attending the Austin Ultima Online meetups for almost three years now. A game played by a set of goegraphically-dispersed players, segmented in 20+ different 'worlds' ("shards") does mean that the chance of meeting someone who plays in your instantiation of the world is diminished but proportional to the size of the community. However there is much shared cross-world, enough to where attendees that are drawn to it by their game hobby continue attending even when their game interests take them elsewhere - and jolt of community 'belonging' sometimes brings them back.

A phrase I've heard very often is "I come here because of the people, not the game"; and the conversations that take place reflect that - there is the common bonding of shared experiences derived from the gameplay as well as deeper bonding on a personal level: The standard greeting is "How have *you* been doing?" and not "How has your *avatar* been doing?"


This is another great example of extending the game world out into the real world. Much like the discussions on the other threads on this topic, additional communications that reach out of and between worlds are very powerful.

One of the active discussions within Linden is what happens when we start hosting servers in other countries. The world will still be a connected place, there will just be parts of it will be more responsive if you live in North America, while other parts of it will be better if you live in Europe (or the Far East, or wherever). Will these differences be enough to drive populations to "live" in those spaces? Will American "tourists" go and visit the European regions? Final Fantasy has started exploring some of this, although the impact in a generalized space will likely be different than in a more typical MMORPG.


Mike Rozak>
MMORPG creates a shard for each major city...
on my home computer and only let 100 of my closest friends...

"I come here because of the people, not the game"

what happens when we start hosting servers in other countries


(A.) I suppose there are only really two possibilities for building hybrid places. One approach is to favor real-world communities first, then incentivize virtual ones. The other is vice versa. Bootstrap? Sure, just a question of who plays lead.

(B.) Looking at some of the original visionary material of MMOGs: 1.) everyone online can be dog, but you wouldn't know (and who cares); 2.) everyone, everywhere is free to join in.

If (B.) is important, then it constrains (A.). If it isn't, there are more options. For myself, I hate to see an erosion of (B.), but on the other hand, a synergized sense of place is attractive.


One of the active discussions within Linden is what happens when we start hosting servers in other countries.

I think the differences will only matter for doing twitch activities, so European players will tend to FPS and race with each other, but continue to be part of the wider community for everthing else.

Players tend to join Quake servers with the lowest ping, but often participate in slower paced MMOs across continents.

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