How and to what extent do Community Tools and Game Design itself promote and foster group play.
This report will illustrate how the game design within Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn [FFXIV] (Square Enix, 2013) promotes and fosters group play. This will be done, by analysing the games design and the techniques used to create communities. FFXIV was chosen as the focus of this essay as it is recognized in many places as being one of the best current MMOs for some of its unique features (Messner, 2016). By looking at techniques like, operant conditioning (B.F.Skinner, 1938), social norms within role theory (B.J.Biddle, 1986) and universal motivators within self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000), it’s possible to see how the game design encourages players to create communities while simultaneously dictating how players approach the game.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a Massively Multiplayer Online [MMO] game, which re-released in 2013 after an unsuccessful initial release with a rating of 49/100 (Metacritic, 2010). The 2nd release has been a roaring success with a score of 83/100 (Metacritic, 2013) and. The game has already released its first expansion Heavensward (Square Enix, 2015) and is close to releasing its second Stormblood (Square Enix, 2017). With each expansion, the community grows bigger as shown by the games growth after Heavensward released on June 23rd 2015 which took the game from 6,468,099 (April 2015) to 7,185,438 (July 2015) an increase of 717,399 players (FFXIVCensus.com, 2015).
It’s important to differentiate between the games design and the community features included within said design. Usually a player can experience the games design and use the community tools. For example, a ‘duty’, commonly referred to as a ‘dungeon’, is a unique copy of an area which can only be in use by a single or group of players. This area usually has enemies and a set of objectives for the player(s) to complete to beat the duty. This would be considered a part of the game’s design while the duty finder however, is a community tool for finding people who are looking to participate in the same duty as the player. A player can use the duty finder to experience the duty. Community tools are used by players to interact with the community. In this instance, community is referring to the player base, but other community tools can target other aspects of the community in which to interact with. ‘Linkshells’ are a perfect example of this, they act like chat rooms that anyone can create with an in-game item. This chat room can then be used to talk to other players whenever you want, if the player is in the ‘linkshell’. These chat rooms are commonly used by players who have their own group that they like to do duties with, as no one else’s chat in the game appears but theirs.
FFXIV chooses to engage its player base in group content as early as possible, this is done to prepare the players for the storyline which contains many instances where they are forced to complete duties to progress. This approach may be effective in creating communities and getting the player base to connect and interact, but it also divides the community, leaving players who prefer solo activities to rely on other players to progress through the game. This is especially prominent during the earlier levels of the game, where forced group play is first introduced to the player as a key part of the games design. This method of creating communities by force can also create ostracism within the world, as “solo players” and “group players” are normally motivated by different things. “Group players” tend to be more focused on progressing swiftly through the game, which is one of the main reasons they form groups in the first place, to avoid having to group up with players they don’t know or trust. While “solo players” progress but at a slower rate, possibly participating in the other activities i.e. fishing or gathering.
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