As of today, there are dozens of Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMOPRG’s) slated for release or in beta. It is hard to decide on which online game to play. And most of us don’t have the time or money to play more then one game at a time. With all the competition, software companies need to come up with more creative ways of distinguishing themselves from each other and retaining their player base.
After all the hype from the initial release of a game subsides, what keeps players engaged in the virtual world? For one thing, the game has to be fun and must continue to be fun. Beyond that, the players need to have a sense of ownership – they need to have a tangible connection and personal investment in their online world.
Online games are an extension of our real life. What keeps us happy in the real world will often translate to what keeps us happy in the virtual world of a game. We like to feel special and have the ability to express ourselves in our own unique way. We also enjoy the freedom to choose of what we do with our possessions and time.
One of the most important aspects of a game is being able to customize the in-game character. Having a unique avatar or graphical representation helps players stand out. It is a key element that defines the identity of a player.
The latest online role-playing games let you tweak a multitude of physical including hair color and style, facial characteristics, height, weight, age, and gender. This lets players create a unique, one-of-a-kind avatar that defines them in the virtual world.
As voice chat is becoming more common in online games, players are feeling a need to customize the sound of their voice. These gamers may have spent a long time customizing the look of their avatars, why not have voices to match? Voice-changing products like MorphVOX from Screaming Bee allow these players to have a unique voice that matches their in-game character, whether they choose to be a mighty giant or space adventurer.
Opportunities to improve a character’s abilities or skills are an important feature of an online game. Just as in real world, people like to have the option of changing their lot in life through self-improvement. Between gaining skills and “leveling-up”, their online character continues to grow and improve.
Another way to customize character in game is providing a variety of clothing and possessions. Just as someone can look and dress a certain way in real life, their character in game should have the option to wear variety of clothes. Unique clothing combinations provide a form of self-expression, define your character’s style and allow people to find you in a crowded tavern or spaceport. And depending one’s mood, it is nice to have a variety of outfits to wear for in game hunts or special events.
A game with variety of loot and goodies is a big draw for gamers. Much of the excitement and interest in online games stems from the opportunity to discover new and cool treasure. People will literally spend hours and days of their real life “camping” spots on the virtual world of a game to find the latest and greatest loot or treasure.
Having a place to call home is no different in an online world. Players appreciate games that offer player housing. Customizable player housing can be so important that the people will continue to pay monthly fees for a game that they’ve stopped playing in order to keep a house that they worked so hard to acquire. They may often trade property to other players for exorbitant virtual or real dollars.
Different Roles for Different Folks
Just as in real life, gamers need a purpose. After some time, all the leveling-up and acquiring new possessions can lose its luster. Online games offer professions, player driven economy, and guilds to provide players with roles and, moreover, a way of creating a virtual society.
Interdependence on other players keeps people engaged in games because they have a tangible purpose or role in the virtual world. Some choose to be merchants who sell various goods, such as food, clothing, and weapons to other players. In return they barter for money or goods. Others can choose to be part of a guild, working for a common purpose or hunting together in larger groups.
Online gamers will often form long-lasting friendships as a result of their time in these vibrant virtual societies. You may see the same players move from virtual world to virtual world as the latest online game is released. And in the real world, these same people will choose to spend time together and support each other in both good and bad times.
Going Beyond the Virtual World
The success of an online game in developing ownership can be measured by its ability to go beyond the confines of the virtual world into the personal life of a gamer. Online games haven’t isolated people as some people may argue. They instead have enriched the lives of the many players who have invested time and energy into these rich worlds.