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DiscussionAug 16, 2023 8:00 am CT

How does an MMO’s level of “massive” or “multiplayer” affect your engagement with its content?

There are so many MMORPGs on the market compared to even just a few years ago, and yet sometimes you have to wonder how often the “massively multiplayer” element actually comes into play. World of Warcraft is an MMORPG — a departure from its RTS roots — and it certainly has the “massive” bit down, both in terms of its player base and the size of its world. It can easily be intimidating to new players entering a giant world full of unfamiliar (digital) faces. And as a persistent, always-on game world, it has the online part sorted.

WoW’s multiplayer aspect is one that some players have a love/hate relationship with. Most long-term players play because of their communities and guilds — the friends they brought into game with them or found along the way. There are players who play the game like a single-player experience, though, treating other players as unpredictable NPCs. Outside of grouping for instanced content or open-world questing or PVP, the in-game auction house is a also form of multiplayer content, as is mocking each other in trade chat.

Diablo 4 launched recently, and one of the things the player base has called out is the lack of community due to no in-game global chat. To socialize in-game, you generally have to socialize out-of-game first and get added to a clan of people you already knew. The opportunity to group up randomly is significantly diminished, as you can only communicate within the range of people who can see an emote. After the first influx in of players at launch, the number of active players seems to have dropped off precipitously. How much of that is due to the lack of stickiness brought on by the absence of active player communities is hard to tell. 

There are games that do multiplayer and role-playing without text communication quite well — Journey  is an excellent example, but it doesn’t quite fall into the “massively” multiplayer category. Other games put an emphasis on exploration and, while offering massively multiplayer experiences at times, largely put players in a universe where contact with others is minimal. But overall, the range of choices in a game labeled as “MMORPG” is a lot broader than one might expect based on its literal definition.

What’s your take on it? Do you seek out multiplayer in your gaming experiences, or is it something you avoid? Is role-playing something that elevates your play time or something you click through trying to get to the quest objectives and rewards? Do you like open-world games or tight on-the-rails experiences? 

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