This the first post in what I hope will be a series of posts. It's long, wordy, but hopefully sparks some interesting discussion. I realize some may view what follows as a general topic. However, I feel this is a good place to discuss it, because if it's one thing that UO always prided itself over the competition, it was it's community. So while I may stray into discussions about other MMO's, please keep in mind everything said, I believe, directly applies to UO. And I promise, towards the end and in subsequent posts, it will focus intensely on UO. Scouts honor! ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Community Commentary - Part 1: Who matters? I came across an article that showed and discussed the following image (For the life of me, I can't find the original link to it - I just remembered the poster): <center></center> For those of you who don't know, this is from a game called EVE Online - It's a single world MMO (Think of it as being a one-shard game that EVERYONE inhabits). Goonswarm is one of the more.. infamous?.. guilds, known for their cutthroat approach to domination at all costs, their dedication to victory, and an all-bets-are-off approach to success. Some of the accounts of their victories read like Cliff Notes for some sci-fi novel inspired by individuals steeped in Machiavelli or Sun Tzu. From what I've read, EVE is a game where players can actually control "areas" of space. I'm not sure if this control gives them access to resources, choke points for PvP combat, trading routes, etc., but I know it plays some key role. Single guilds, such as Goonswarm, can conceivably control vast/multiple areas indefinitely. From what I understand, this directly influences the games economy, how and where others travel depending on their relationships within the community, and creates some interesting, if not sometimes brutal conflicts. ...Not to mention a metric ton of political and social drama, backstabbing, coercion, treachery, and social maneuvering. However, out of this quagmire of what can be boiled down to a-typical human interaction, communities, comradery, friendships, and bonds flourish, thrive, and grow. One could argue that common interests and goals does not a community make - it takes a common foe to truly solidify and focus the inherently mismatched energies, dynamics, and circumstances of individuals - A central objective that all strive to not only achieve, but to maintain in perpetuity. All this and the ad got me to thinking.. If there's one thing this sort of language and imagery does, is accentuate the role of the individual - how everyone plays a role in some way, shape, or form, that can have a larger impact than they realize. This heightened sense of purpose is part of the appeal of MMO's in general. If you think about it, if you wanted to be "THE" Hero, an MMO is not the ideal place to spend your time - a console would much better suited for that mindset, where you can, with effort, power through your enemies and massacre them in glorious combat. MMO's are a place where your actions, interactions, and distinctive nature are supposed to have an impact that affects others and the world around you, for better or worse. This also made me somewhat crestfallen - If you really think about it, what and who really matters in a virtual world where for the sake of common experiences and "fair play", any and all accomplishments are only significant on an individual level, leave absolutely no lasting impact, and are almost entirely transient? True, every virtual world is almost by definition temporary (Virtual), even if it's for very long periods of time - There's no guarantee they will last past sunrise. And it's also true that if there's one thing that Trammel, as well as WoW and other successful MMO's have shown time and time again, is that people don't LIKE consequences in a game. They don't to risk losing something of value under any circumstances - Even on an opt-in basis (No insurance, stay in Fel, Siege., etc.), most chose to opt-out of loss. I suppose that's human nature, and for most, a very safe and proven horse to bet on. But, to quote Theodore Roosevelt: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure...than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” It always seems to me, far more are happy in the twilight.. I'm not. Even if it's a small part, I want to take a shot at being part of something spectacular. I imagine for those of us who pine for the "Old Days" before Trammel, the feeling many of us can't shake in UO, and really any MMO, is that feeling of being of no consequence. The feeling that no matter what we do, on the whole, nothing we do truly matters in the virtual world. Keep in mind, this isn't to say that's entirely the truth, or that there was really ever a time where what individuals did mattered. I'm sure this whole spiel is subjective to the individual. I'm sure you can list a thousand examples of how individuals impact the lives of others every day, and therefore, matter. And you wouldn't be wrong. But the thing I'm missing, that I don't think any game will really ever do, is give you that feeling of involvement in an EPIC, or GLOBAL, struggle, shared by many to unite them under a common cause, on one side or another. EVE comes pretty close to what I mean, from what I understand. There's an impact felt by all in the game world as a whole by holding, protecting, patrolling, politicizing, and intelligence-gathering - A tangible, persistent sense of accomplishment and responsibility and effort that's enjoyable. What games really have that? Where's the game that has the one time event, where there's a MASSIVE DRAGON setting a major city on fire, which will require the participation of hundreds of players to take him down, hours upon hours and days of sieging and coordination and effort? And once he's down, he's not coming back! Whatever he drops, that's the last you'll see of it, if he drops anything at all! And if you DON'T stop him, that town's gonna be a charcoal briquette, for ever and ever, until it's either rebuilt by players or the world ends! He may even move on to another town! And yes, the town CAN be rebuilt, reshaped, improved - if the community wants to. It always and forever has the OPTION to do so. It can be done in small increments. Every brick, stone, and board harvested by the player, every monsters or player slain in order to permit it's reconstruction, no matter how small or how large, plays it's part. And in the end, it's something EVERYONE can take pride in either accomplishing, or preventing others from accomplishing (If you're on the "Other" side of the town for some reason.. which isn't the same as being "The Bad Guy"). Or even... destroying again! And if it's NOT rebuilt, then valuable training, resources, quest-givers, plot-elements, beautiful structures, EVERYTHING is gone for good! A rare resource that was only found in a now collapsed mine under the city means some things will never be made again, unless by chance it's found somewhere else! A rare statue of a fallen God has been destroyed! A brilliant smith there will no longer be able to enhance your armor with his specialized, secret spell! Where is THAT game?! It's not in WAR, where all your accomplishments can only lead to the sacking of a city in an instance that never goes away. Some entertaining PvP combat and good mechanics, but nothing lasting. It's not in DAoC, where yes, you can control structures potentially forever, but doing so has almost no real impact on the economy or other players, save to help keep relics, which add a small amount of damage in RvR, also with no lasting impact. It's not in WoW, where everything and it's mother is an instance that's reset in 15 minutes, and control of anything NOT in an instance is always given up without much of a fight, because one you have the items you need, why bother? It doesn't affect anything else. It's not in UO, with factions... and that's really the only shard-wide struggle that's possible within the bounds of the system! Sigils.. what do they do for you again? Random PvP for nothing but insurance money (Or sometimes, if your lucky, a carelessly un-insured item) that can be safely harvested in Trammel? It's all well and great that you enjoy it, but really, what does it ACCOMPLISH or AFFECT in the game world? Some say enjoy the journey.. The game, any game, LIFE, is a journey, not a destination. This is the mantra of those who live in the twilight. Those who can't see that even though the journey DOES matter, and yes, a destination isn't REQUIRED, a journey is best enjoyed when you occasionally set and reach mile marker. It's a good thing if the road stretches on forever, and people come and go, adding to your individual experience, for better or worse. It's good that you enjoy taking your own steps, that you make your own path. But I think the voyage itself is much more fulfilling if along the way, if only once in a great while, a group, a community, a nation, a people come together to accomplish something of such impact that future travelers who's paths happen to cross their wake can't help but stop and marvel at what was done before them. That it inspires them to take their own great strides that, without that impact, would have seemed daunting or fruitless, or worst of all, inconsequential. That instills in them a sense of duty to carry on what others had started, and will strive to continue, because for whatever reason, real or imagined, it was something they believed in. Make us all believers. Make us part of the flood, even if we're only raindrops.