The Pantheon devs tweeted again asking another great question. This time they're eliciting responses about what's the most important part of a community. And again, the responses are across the board with respect to how people are interpreting the question.
Some of the answers in reply to the tweet are things like:
- Welcoming to newcomers
- A lack of elitism
- GM sponsored events
- Communication with the devs
All good answers, and there are plenty more.
I think the most important part of a MMORPG community has to be 'a reason for one to exist' and equally important are the in-game tools and mechanics to encourage community interactions.
If people don't have to get to know each other, they won't. If players don't have to play together, they won't. (Note: That doesn't mean grouping only. I can feel like I'm playing with other people even when I solo.)
If the MMORPG doesn't have in-game mechanics to bring players to together, then they'll drift apart.
Community is bigger than a guild or a group. Community is server or game-wide.
Dark Age of Camelot did a great job with community. We had our guilds, often small ones, but they all joined forces and banded together to form alliances -- an actual in-game mechanic -- to defend and take territory.
Why did we take territory? There was a reason built into the game: To claim relics to get buffs and to own the majority of keeps to own Darkness Falls. That's where we could all level our characters, get loot, level alts, etc.
Why did we work together with others to do that? There was a reason built into the game: We needed the numbers to make it happen, and the coordination of multiple people.
Why did people care when my guild was losing a keep? Again, because there was a reason that went beyond an individual or a guild. The entire realm benefited from our guild holding that keep. It was a realm-wide benefit.
Community has to be built into the core of the game. That's perhaps the most important part of all. It can't be an afterthought. It can't be left up the players to care. It can't be an out-of-game fansite. It has to be in-game, mechanic-driven, and gameplay supported effort. People have to be given reasons to care about other people in a way that doesn't feel like a penalty.