By: Sam Fisher
Corporate ownership’s effect on a game’s quality varies depending on the game and owner. For example, I would argue that the corporate ownership in Diablo II provides a player with an enjoyable experience, because I have enjoyed the game myself. It varies from player to player as well then. The only problem with corporate ownership may be the indirect means of communication with the players, as most interaction within the gamespace occurs amongst gamers.
There is a responsibility by the corporate owner to “please everyone.” The ultimate goal of the corporations is to make the most money by pleasing the most possible subscribers and make the most people buy the game. This has a good effect on the quality of the game if one is a member of this majority. Otherwise, the game might be less than desirable and there is nothing that the corporate ownership can do to help. This draws on the indirectness of the corporate owners and the players as there is no ideal way to directly communicate one’s isolated status from the group who enjoys the game. Owners attempt to patch games to help appeal to players, but we have seen in games like Star Wars: Galaxies that this can have an opposite effect in which veteran players who have become adjusted to old standards. Corporate owners have a tough time making these decisions but in this case a decision to try and help draw profit from a larger majority made the loyal gamers quit. Being a corporate owner proves to be the more difficult job than the whiney gamer who wants a game to suit him or her perfectly. Therefore, of course it limits experience, the game is through the eyes of the owner and not of the subjective desires of oneself.
By Justin “JCov” Covington
Don’t get me wrong, as much as I dislike the idea of some random corporate lacky banning me for body camping some little Mon Calamari twerp, corporations are essential to any large scale narrative driven MMORPG. They have the capital to supply countless servers and numerous technical assistants to maintain a large population and an epic storyline. Corporations can affect MMOs, and for the most part do, in a positive manner. They supply the players this wonderous world that only they could have created and maintained. They have the ability to listen to the player community and quickly update and change the gameplay to their liking. With a big corporation running an MMO like LOTRO, the players can expect new content through patches and expansions on a fairly reasonable timeline. This eliminates the pause in the storyline that can take a player out of the immersive experience. Corporations have the power to facilitate my emotional attachment to any storyline or narrative by making it beautiful, expansive, and free of anomilies such as glitches.
The downside of corporate rule is when their profit maximization strategy comes in to play. This can lead to their governance becoming apparent, thus ruining the narrative experience. The best example is of course Sony Online Entertainment’s Star Wars Galaxies debacle. They had a perfectly good game that had many players enthralled in the beautiful player woven narrative. SOE, however, decided that running this game in the manner that made it popular was not maximizing profit. They did not take up the corporate GM responsibility of listening to the player base. They simply took away their game and gave the players a new one. Talk about ruining a narrative experience…
So yes, corporations affect a narrative in an MMO. This can be good or bad. Slowly the bounds of ownership and rules in these narrative worlds are being tested and defined. This will lead to a better relationship between the corporate gods and their ploebes.
By Justin G.
Being mainly a console gamer, I do not really know too much about playing MMOs. The only MMO that I’ve played (unless you count Starcraft, Diablo 2, or CoD4) is LOTRO. But I think I can write about this topic anyway.
The quality of the narrative in games is decided by many different factors. There is, of course, the backstory (LOTRO has a huge advantage there). But there are also other facets of games that cannot be ignored. Corporations that own these games have to keep the games up to date in terms of graphics, combat, and PvP action, among other things. Truly the only entity that would be able to maintain all of these things (have many people in different divisions working nearly 24/7) would be a large corporation.
However, a corporation can have a negative effect on the narrative in some ways. The best example is Sony Online’s egregious offense of simplifying the game Star Wars Galaxies. In that case, the company was looking to increase profit and overlooked many things: the outrage of veteran gamers at losing all their accomplishments and skills, their own lack of sense in not testing the new system, and the fact that the new game was just not good. There are probably more example of the clumsiness of corporate ownership of MMOs and how they do not satisfy the gamers, but that’s all I can think of off the top of my head.
Basically, corporations are a necessary evil for MMOs. They may hinder the narrative sometimes (and ban people for what seems to be no reason), but without them the narrative would not exist. We, the gamers, give the corporations money, and in exchange the corporations keep the game running smoothly (most of the time).