The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutraís community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
Platforms like Steam and Origin have given players so many choices, we spend more time shopping for games than actually playing them. This is where MMORPGs are king - they give the ability for players to affect the world they play in.
Giving a player something to get invested in will ensure you retain their interest and keep people coming back, and spread the word about your game. There are a few ways, both inside the game and out, that a developer can achieve this.
- Player involvement in storyline events: All players love to "oooh" and "aaah" when the developers add fresh content. New areas, challenges, and lore are great for keeping a game world vibrant. What really engages the players is offering a chance for them to be involved in the introduction of new content. It gives the characters stories to tell for years after, and maybe they can even get a mention in related news articles afterwards!
- Indulge their creative talents: A quick look around websites like Youtube, or DeviantArt will show you that players love to take inspiration from the games they play: to write, draw, or even create physical items that pay homage to the game. As a developer, think about ways to encourage this level of involvement, and even incorporate the best of it into the game itself. The popular MUD Achaea, for instance, holds monthly bardic and artisanal contests, where players submit their written and creative works in order to win the virtual currency of the realm.
- Allow players to add to the game: Allowing players to design and customize items in the game will help you draw and retain a crowd whose interests lie beyond just the normal trappings of games. When a player sees their creative ideas brought to life in ways that can be seen, used, and even traded with among other players, it invests them in the game in a way that's difficult to match.
- Give players a voice: While everyone has the tendency to disagree on the internet, players are in your game everyday, and often have insights regarding what works, what doesn't, and suggestions for things you might not think of yourself. A carefully moderated forum for ideas can allow all players an avenue to express and discuss different possibilities, and help keep a game world evolving in terms of playability. It also helps players feel like they matter, and so long as the virulent hate that often pervades forums is kept in check by moderation, an ideas board can really generate change for you.
A playerbase is made up of myriad talents, and a community working together can create amazing things, allowing you to build your game into something that might rival the most immersive MMOs. A game developer would be remiss in ignoring such a rich and willing resource. Some of the above ways are just a few measures that can be taken to make players feel like they matter and can make a difference. Appreciation and even just acknowledgement are key in keeping players returning time and time again.
Guest author Nicola Newton has played one of the world's most popular MUDs for years. She has contributed fan art, game ideas, and worked as a volunteer for the company. When she's not dedicating herself to making her favorite game more enjoyable for others, she can often be found out walking her dogs or working with racehorses.