Besides the game design portion, it’s important to have certain quality of life features for online games that cuts down frustration and helps to grow the community into a group that will stick around for a long time. For today’s post, we’re going to examine some of them and why they’re important to building a successful online community.
The first step in having a community is obviously giving players an easy way to meet and make friends. It’s common to have as little as two clicks needed on a PC game to add someone to a friend’s list : One click on a person, and one to add them as a friend.
While localized friend making is important, good functionality dictates that there should be ways to invite people onto your friend’s list without needing them to be online or immediately available. Many online clients and games allow you to add friends by simply finding their username or profile.
The point to keep in mind is that creating a list of friends should be as painless as possible and was a lesson that Nintendo had to learn the hard way. They’ve been making use of a “friend code” system since the Nintendo Wii for adding friends. Instead of having a simple user name or way to search for people, you needed to enter in a 12 digit code for every person you want to add as a friend. This system was finally changed with the Wii U and replaced with a username system.
Speaking of usernames, some systems allow people to have the same username followed by an unique identifier instead of locking usernames on a first come first served basis. It’s important to allow someone to easily look up their identifier and give it to friends if you go this route, which is what Blizzard did with Battle.Net.
For just about any game that features friend’s list accessibility, the next step is to provide some kind of a clan/group feature — Allowing multiple friends to communicate with each other through a single chat interface. Even if your game doesn’t feature player vs. player, it’s still good to have a way for multiple people to hangout.
It’s also important to mention that while having ways for people to find each other is needed, so are ways to block/ignore people who cause trouble. Privacy options can be a big deal and you don’t want someone’s rude behavior driving away your fan base.
Lastly and this may seem very simple but still something that designers can mess up on — making multiple easy to use chat options. It should be easy to quickly switch between local, all talk, private, group and any other chats that are available in your game.
The next feature is when it’s time for people to actually start playing your game and it involves finding matches.
A major lure of online games is obviously the online component of playing with people and is another element that should be as seamless as possible.
Whether your game involves anything from four player groups, 3 on 3 matches or even 16+ raids, the functionality needs to be there to make it very easy. In the last section, we brought up online communities/clans and while they are a great way to find people to play with, you still need to have features built into the design for people who aren’t a part of a clan.
An important feature that was introduced into MMOs a few years ago would be the functionality of letting the game set up a raid group. Traditionally, players would have to use the game’s public channel to broadcast that they are X and looking to do raid Y and this could take a lot of time and energy.
Now, any popular MMO allows players to select what raids they want to do, what their role is and then be put into a queue while the game puts together a raid group for them while they can do other things. There is still the option to set up a group manually, but this is great for people who just want to play.
Even if your game doesn’t feature massive matches, quick join functionality is still important. Titles like Team Fortress, League of Legends and more all feature the option for the player to let the game find them a match to join as opposed to just searching servers/game lists for the right group. Depending on the game’s complexity, a quick join feature may have to take matchmaking into account and setting up an effective system is a topic too big for this post.
And finally for this post and what’s becoming more important for designers to consider — an effective storefront.
Creating an easy to use storefront for your game is made up of a lot of different elements which we already looked at in a previous post– Selling the Store.
To recap, it should be easy to find items within the store, prices should be spelled out explicitly as to what you’re getting and most importantly the player should never be confused as to what they’re spending money on.
Online games are one of the most popular genres today which means that there are more competiting games to worry about. Even if your game has amazing gameplay to it, if the quality of life features aren’t there and the game becomes frustrating or a slog to play, people are going to go elsewhere.