On Schedule

I’d actually meant to put this entry up last time, but I got sidetracked with the subject of EVE income.  This, though, is a little wider ranging, game-wise.

In the worlds of MMOs, you can be dealing with people quite literally all over the world.  One of the implications here is that they are on different time zones from you.  Some are ahead or behind by a few hours; some are displaced by almost half a day.  But these time zones directly impact when a player is online-and as a result, when they can interact with other people.

This, then, is a major influence on the success or failure of the player organization, whether it is a supergroup, guild, corporation, clan, or whatever the name-of-the-week is.

It’s well and good to join a big guild (I’m using that name for convenience).  But if all the members’ prime-time is in Pacific time, and you’re an Eastern time player…what are you getting out of it?  Even worse if you’re on Pacific, and the majority of people are on during European prime time.  From this rises discontent, disillusionment, and eventually departure.

I’ve been on both sides of this situation.

In World of Warcraft, I made the choice to join the recommended PvE server at the time.  The problem?  It was a server for the Oceanic client base-Australia and the like.  While it was a novelty to play when the sun was up in Azeroth (which tends to use real-time for days), I found that my playing schedule didn’t match up very well with the people I found myself inhabiting the world with.  Raids and dungeon-crawls were scheduled inevitably when I was unavailable to get on.  Because of that, I didn’t tend to stick around in the guild for long, and eventually drifted onto permanent solo-play.

In City of Heroes, I’ve had a mixed bag.  The Virtue server is West Coast based, but since it is the unofficial RP server, it gets people from all kinds of time zones.  The first SG I was with was a top 100 SG, but I quickly found that most of the players were West Coast time zones, or played far later than I did.  Sometimes our paths crossed, and things were well, but in the end, most of my interaction with membership tended to be via forums.

On the other hand, I eventually became involved in an SG which tended to have more people on during my hours, and I became much more involved with them in-game.

In a game like this, however, a player can have many characters, and they can be spread out pretty far-not necessarily in the same SG.  And that brings me to one of the keys that has made the latter SG work out so well for me.  Scheduled events.

Yes, go ahead and cringe-but having a set night with set times regularly to do the RP, to do the task forces, to do the missions and arcs-that’s made a big difference.  When you KNOW when people will be on, you increase the chance that there WILL be people on.  No guesswork, no “I’ll log in-nobody here-log off” issues.

This is one of the reasons why I think things have gone pretty well in EVE as well.  Our corporation is small, and our personal schedules are iffy at times.  But we know that on one night a week, at a specific range of time, we’re going to have people online to DO something, whether it’s mining or missioning.  We know that people will be there.  It’s a social contract we’ve made with each other-we set a consistent date/time to do something on a weekly basis-and activity grows around it.

I feel compelled to note that these events need to BE events-things to do.  That first SG I mentioned from CoH had regular meetings-but they tended to be just meetings.  Administrivia kind of things, which really didn’t do much except get people together to remind us that there were other folks in the SG.  Those meetings were some of the only times I saw members in the group-and it was painful to sit through them much of the time (and again, that time zone detail got involved-the meetings were pretty late by my lights, but early for the west coasters).  The goal isn’t to bore the membership-the goal is to keep them interested, to invest themselves into the group.  And that’s where events come in, no matter how small, no matter how large.

If you can regularly get people together to take on Imperious, to mine out an asteroid field, to blow up an Imperial Star Destroyer, to lay the smackdown on Onyxia…then you’ve got a solid core of a guild to build around.  And you get a group of friends to play with every week.

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