December is a special time in small countryside communities around here where it’s customary to not just buy advent calendars stuffed with chocolate and toys for children, but to turn an entire town (for reference) into one big calendar with a different house participating every night until Xmas. Participants draw a number and decorate a prominent and visible window on the house they live in, to be lit through the entire night when it’s their turn in December (and onward from there until the 24th). It is a wonderful sight on a cold winter’s night to walk through such a town and discover what people have done with their windows, whether you celebrate Xmas or not. It’s one of those orchestrated displays of community that still work on some level, or so I have always found, and everyone is welcome to join for this tradition regardless of religion.
The MMO Blogosphere XMAS Countdown
December is almost here and constitutes the end of another year of blogging in the blogosphere as well as the end of a quarter that was difficult for gaming culture as a whole. We’ve been reminded that mainstream media still think fairly low of our pastime and that gamers are not one community. Some have stopped to identify with this label altogether, as is their right.
And yet, if we dig deeper past superficial labels, there is still a community of sorts between an ever growing number of individuals – a community by choice of active members in this here blogosphere and elsewhere, among gaming bloggers on twitter and G+, sharing daily quips or friendly advice, joining forces on cooperative events and seeking exchange and respectful discussion week after week while holding to similar standards of communication. At yesterday’s Blizzcon, Blizzard revealed a down memory lane documentary on WoW and their worldwide fanbase which was full of feels and nostalgia for this MMO. It was hard to watch without being reminded of that great idea(l), that promise of acceptance and belonging that virtual worlds still hold for so many players across the globe, no matter where they come from. To claim that it’s all just a sham would be overly cynical – every day, online gaming brings some people together.
Blogging buddies, twitter friends, kindred spirits – they exist. To many of us, they make writing about games that much more special and enjoyable. Nobody likes to blog in a vacuum. This is where the MMO Blogosphere Xmas Countdown comes into play and I call participants from all corners of the gaming blogosphere to join for this merry event through December! Sign up and turn your blog into a community window on a random day that will be assigned before the end of November! Join the calendar that is blogosphere town!
My thanks go to Belghast from Tales of the Aggronaut for graciously assisting me with the logo to this merry little event! Bel has been the host of the Blaugust blogging event this year and I am happy to be part of a community that has people like him in it.
How to join the blogosphere Xmas Calendar: Q&A
How do I create a “window”? What’s the topic?
Your “window” is a blogpost dedicated to the topic of ‘gaming and community’ which goes up on your assigned date in December. Form and content of this post are completely up to you: whether you include a number of pictures/screenshots or the official event logo, whether you write an essay or even a poem.
As for topics, the sky is the limit: write about how gaming has impacted on your life in terms of meeting new people, or what community means to you personally! Share the story of how you met a special person online, about your time in the blogosphere, times spent with your gaming buddies IRL or your guild online. Alternatively, you could take a more analytical approach as to why community building matters in MMOs and why it’s important to you. Either way, the point is to share something positive that has come from gaming/blogging for you as an individual and that involves others in some way.
Who can join?
Anyone who runs an active MMO or gaming related blog and has something to share on the topic of community! It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a dedicated WoW blog or write about different MMOs or mixed games, game design or gaming culture. The more, the merrier!
When do I get my date / number?
Dates will be rolled out and randomly assigned to participants. An official XMAS “calendar” with all participants will be published on MMO Gypsy by November 24th including a link to your blog and logo, so make sure to check back for your slot then!
Do I use a specific post title?
To identify posts participating in this event, the first part of your post title should read: “XMAS Countdown <number>: ……” the rest of the title being all yours!
How long does it all last?
I am am positive that we can make the calendar go all the way up to at least December 24th, with hopefully many bloggers up to join for some merry reminiscing! More sign-ups can always be accommodated – this event being about community more than the actual holiday, I’d like to keep it flexible and go up all the way to New Year (Dec 31st) if required.
Like for the poetry slam and other blogosphere events, all entries will be rounded-up on MMO Gypsy (and potentially more sites!) by December 31st. I look forward to some great contributions again and hope to see some new faces joining the ranks! Thanks for helping to spread the word over the coming two weeks, so we can fill this December in the blogosphere with some happy stories on gaming and community.
Sign up now – and get ready to light your own window!
Avatars are kind of a big deal to online gaming folk – we use them online and offline, as identities on social media, mascots for our blogs and forum handles. Some players switch avatar for every game, others stick to a random sprite or custom image shaped in their real likeness and never change it. If you’re after your ingame characters, tinkering with either screenshots or other programs such as a WoW model viewer is usually required.
I’ve used my own custom priest avatar in WoW over the years and have made a similar thing for Wildstar; I tend to disregard those MMOs which I don’t foresee staying with for long (which is most of them). On general forums, I’ll use my blog’s mascot most of the time simply because I don’t dig randomly created forum avatars or logos that make it hard to spot your own posts on a thread. Personalized avatars are always nicer.
I’ve been asked a few times how I created my pixel sprite for MMO Gypsy and it’s quite simple: go to VideoGameSprites.net and browse to your heart’s content. Find something you like and change it, mix’n match different characters, add items or change colors – easy enough with some basic Photoshop skills. If you can’t find any game you like, search for old VG sprites on google image search.
Casual fun with Avatar Generators
If you’re not into pixel sprites and unfamiliar with basic image editing, using a free avatar generator is a good option for creating something custom and unique. Popular resources include Nintendo’s Mii Creator or Face Your Manga which still require you to at least know how to take a printscreen and re-size an image. I’ve played around a lot with Nintendo Miis in the past and with some patience, you’ll be able to create quite stunning doppelgangers of virtually anybody!
Another great and very detailed avatar creator I’ve recently come across is this Chibi Maker by gen8, which comes with a ton of fun customization options. After spending the afternoon (I am on sick leave, don’t judge) generating my real-life posse, I set out to try and re-create existing blogger avatars / people in the MMO blogosphere:
There is some deviation but overall, they are quite adorable to say the least and I love the image quality of this particular program (which is free and downloadable too). This whole avatar creation business sure is addictive – have a go sometime and see for yourself (pro tip: change the background colors to white right away unless you’re looking to have a set background)!
I am blessed as a player of MMOs in that I have not one tiny jot of the Completionist gene. If I’m not enjoying something I can easily stop, leave and never come back. I don’t feel any nagging pressure to finish anything in a video game. If it isn’t entertaining me it can go die in a ditch. [Bhagpuss]
I want to say amen to a sentiment expressed by Bhagpuss yesterday about his relationship with completionism in MMOs. As a fellow explorer and potterer, I have given up such past ambitions after realizing three things about my own completionism-monster back in vanilla WoW:
- the (rat-) race never ends
- it’s not actually enjoyable (duh)
- this is not what I’m here for
I am not much into progressive content nowadays and yet, I am a fairly progression-minded player in the sense that repetitive tasks with foreseeable outcome bore me a great deal. There is a degree of repetition to all the games we’re playing but completionism in today’s MMOs is often defined by collectivism for collectivism’s sake (lots and lots of achievements of no further consequence) and the type of grind that solely exists as timesink and where the balance between journey and reward is broken. There’s no purpose or meaning in 100 of the same daily quests, no challenge and satisfaction in performing the same motions over and over in so many similar bossfights. The underlying narrative to many of our activities has become strangely reductive (as in stripped of all decorum) and circular:
Why do you farm 100 tokens? – To gain an achievement.
What does the achievement say? – That I should farm 100 tokens.
But this is not the time to get back into it all: the different playstyles and player focuses, intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivators, longterm vs. instant gratification, journey vs. reward, themeparks vs. sandbox worlds, the value of randomness, meaningful choices, incentives of cooperative vs. solo content and so many more topics that I’ve written articles about over the years. Instead, I am leaving you with three links, old and new, that discuss this subject in different ways:
- On MMO Gypsy: Achievement (Hate), Exploration and Mystery
About the ways questing and exploration have changed in MMOs over the years, why more and more rewards cannot make up for journey and how dominant achievements/achiever mindset have contributed to the current status quo.
- Tevis Thompson’s Blog: We are Explorers
The inspiring article for my own post and possibly the greatest and most important read on the subject of mystery and exploration in games I have ever read. Deals with the subject of how the illusion of scale and immersion in virtuality are juxtaposed to completionist mindset.
- Recently on Eurogamer.net: The man who made a game to change the world
About Richard Bartle’s dream of virtual worlds as a safe haven, MUDs/MMOs changing society and the ways current games have failed to live up to that potential (thanks Spinks for the link via twitter!).
The true traveler doesn’t know where he’s going. Happy exploring!
Two nights ago I logged back into Landmark for the first time in months, after what seemed to be the world’s slowest patch. I left Landmark towards the end of the closed beta, for lack of things to do and being fed up with the claim upkeep system and continuously losing my Inn of the Last Home. Much has been added since April: the crafting system and building tools have been overhauled completely, water and caves were added as well as fall damage and arena-based PvP.
Logging back into the game and hearing Jeremy Soule’s beautiful music made me painfully aware of the feeling and atmosphere this title is still able to create, its world’s beautiful potential. Yet, Landmark to me is a changed game, as I also mentioned to Belghast a few nights ago over at Bel Folks Stuff (Bel’s awesome new podcast for merry blogosphere banter, check it out!) – so overwhelming have been the changes that I might as well learn everything from scratch and start over. Ugh.
Thus my re-visit was short-lived. Frustrated with all the controls I couldn’t remember and the still pretty poor mailbox overflow system, I took a tour around some shards/islands only to find most of them empty. The few that still had builds on them were so large and bursting with detail that my PC got very unhappy every time I got too close. I’ve no clue what optimization SOE are still planning to do for Landmark but at this rate, it’s just as well that islands aren’t crowded. Of course that also makes Landmark a game of ghost towns and, few die-hard community builders aside, a game of non-existent player interaction. To quote an earlier Syl: “Landmark needs a purpose for all the housing, needs trade, quests, guilds and cooperative content if it’s meant to last down the road.”
To be fair, SOE never promised anything in terms of traditional PvE that exceeds hunting and gathering for resources as well as crafting. According to the latest blueprint, monsters and achievements are incoming this November and December. Beyond that, in lieu of server-based player markets / auction houses or any need thereof, Landmark remains a solo experience. All the while the beta testing stretches on with more and more players leaving to “return at a later date”.
The Endless Beta
Landmark’s alpha started in January 2014, followed by closed beta two months later. The game is yet to enter open beta and launch officially at an undisclosed time in 2015. Until then, every last person who’s been into Landmark at some point will be completely fed-up with all the pre-release play (some players don’t even realize anymore that it’s actually still in beta right now) and those that haven’t joined over the course of an entire year most likely won’t ever. That just makes me wonder if SOE haven’t done Landmark a tiny bit of disservice for having it out there in the open for so long, including players every step of the way and through so and so many rollbacks and revamps. Who wants to still play a game with such limited content after a year of beta? Who’s dying of excitement for such a launch?
I will admit, I’ve criticized other developers for not creating enough of a hype around their games as opposed to SOE. The fact that they’ve included their player base as much as they have is commendable. All too often do we see MMO betas that aren’t so much betas as they are two-week stress tests. And yet, how long is too long for a public beta? Maybe I really don’t know what I want but a year of playing early access is an awfully long time to get bored or burned out in my book!
My recent blunders into Wildstar’s raiding scene were more of a happenstance than anything, a surprise to myself first and foremost. At the end of 2013 my plans for this year were quite clear: play TESO, ignore Wildstar. Fast forward, I find myself not only among few remaining bloggers in our blogosphere still subbed to Carbine’s MMO, but attuned to raids and geared for endgame. I’ve written about my first raiding experiences here but having gone through a streak of heavy back pains these past weeks, I’ve decided to put an early end to a raiding career that I never meant to have. Too scary is the prospect of another episode of what I have come to call my “post-WoW raider back” since I left WoW in 2010.
Not many MMO raiders and ex-raiders (myself included) speak of whatever physical backlash, temporary or permanent, they may have experienced due to their focus on top tier PVE/PVP endgame. I’m not saying that every MMO player or raider is like me in terms of poor posture control, but I suspect that there are many among us who come to know such side-effects after reaching a certain age latest. If you’ve raided in a competitive and dedicated manner consistently over several years, it’s hard to avoid any form of physical repercussion for so much sedetary amusement. I remember a time when my youth would cradle me in blissful ignorance of such concerns, yet after I had turned 28 years old with five years of WoW raiding (12 hours a week on average) on my literal back, the physical reality of my hobby caught up with me. I’ve always had issues with my neck but from that point in time my back pains took a life of their own and spread to the rest of my body in one neurological fun fest.
Combined with was generally a deeply troubling and stressful time in my life, a fact that must be emphasized, my unhealthy way of slouching through long-session gameplay (during which I ignored all warning signs for lack of judgement) turned into a chronic pain condition that, after the usual series of medical examinations, is fair to say will never leave me. After quitting WoW and spending considerably less focus time in front of the computer, as well as regular massage therapy and healthier living, I’ve been able to recover slowly from the more acute and crippling pains that used to overshadow my life for at least three full years. I know I have partly my lack of discipline to blame – I have never been great at self-control when it comes to the things I love doing (and I am hardly a sports-fan either). I also realize that many people gamers or not, deal with backpains which are always multicausal; in a way, what happened five years ago opened my eyes to a variety of issues I had ignored for too long in my life. Treating myself better in every sense was one consequence, so in retrospective I’d like to see my time spent raiding as a catalyst, rather than the root cause of all the pain.
Nonetheless, my gametime is something I will always have to control in the future, no matter how tempting some aspects of MMOs might be. I’ve tried the whole “getting up during biobreaks”- and “loading-screen workout”- routines and for me, they simply don’t work. I can spend half a day casually at the PC, blogging, podcasting and carousing Steam, but raiding puts me into a state of emergency in which I grow tense and too absorbed to notice lousy posture. I don’t think there’s any gaming activity quite like online coop when it comes to demanding exceptional focus from each individual. If you ever get up from such a session and feel the pang in the back of your neck, don’t ignore it.
Alas, I have been there, done that and no epic pixel nor fleeting friendships were worth the physical pain that was caused or amplified. I love MMOs and the competitive aspects of online games but if beating endgame and obtaining shinies require me to sit still and focus in front of a screen for 3-4 hours on end, then I am happy to leave such feats to a younger generation – a generation hopefully wiser than me. Hindsight is 20/20 – and the story of how much their bodies must hurt is never told in Surrogates or similarly intriguing movies about virtual life.
Thus my raiding chapter for Wildstar is officially closed.
Or maybeee it’s just me but really, what’s going on with Shroud of the Avatar, Camelot Unchained and that Pathfinder MMO? Are they still happening, where are they in development and who’s holding their breath? Let’s have a look at some status quos!
Shroud of the Avatar
The assumed comeback of Lord British was successfully funded on Kickstarter in April 2013 and has since raised a total of $4,852,936 according to the official front page. For a while after Kickstarter, there wasn’t much to look at except for some worrying ingame “footage” of its pre-everything development stage, accompanied by an excited Garriot’s commentary. In general, lots and lots of Garriot appearances on twitch hangouts and other outlets. The official forums hit it off ever so slowly, with veterans of UO glory days tossing around ideas about features that should go into this new title (naturally, lots of notorious player killing and housing). Lo and behold, already at the end of last year the first playable build was announced to backers and more updates have followed since. This September 2014, the latest test build was released with promises of new polish and stability improvements. I’ll say no more than that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and SotA should probably suit a diehard UO or Darkfall audience just fine. The game was recently approved for Steam via Greenlight and you can read all about its spin on “single-player narrative meets sandbox MMO” there. According to the Wiki, we are looking at an official release end of 2014.
Camelot Unchained’s Kickstarter followed one month later in May 2013, beating SotA by 300k in funding raised by significantly less backers. After closing, an additional $3 million was contributed to the project by private investors, including $2 million directly coming from studio founder Mark Jacobs. From the very beginning, MJ made clear that this was gonna be a very PvP/RvR-centric title that welcomed an oldschool, non-compromising approach to player versus player. Over the course of this year, features such as the combat and crafting system and the somewhat uninspiring RvR map were revealed to assure the playerbase in wait things were moving. In the latest September 2014 update on their official page, MJ was happy to announce the imminent first round of non-public pre-alpha testing, with access for backers on the horizon soonish. In his words, the team has stuck to schedule thus far and having reached this first milestone, CU finally looks like a ”real game rather than an engine build”. While this is probably welcome news to some, it also means that for the time being fans of the project and DAoC-hopefuls must remain patient for any actual glimpses of the game.
Possibly the least visible title of the three, Goblinworks’ and tabletop Publisher Paizo’s Pathfinder Online only just made its second Kickstarter goal in January 2013, raising $1 million. Yes, lots of “fantasy open world pvp sandbox”-funding going on that year! After creating an initial buzz with a fairly decent looking and playable tech demo (also previously kickstarted), dazzling artworks and interesting details such as limited small-size servers, PO soon dropped below the radar. Undoubtedly the last year was spent “doing things”, polling the community on core features like respawns and permadeath, revealing war towers and the crafting system. That last one always seems high on any developer’s list. Finally in June 2014, the first friends & family alpha was announced and a trailer soon followed. After delaying the original date, the Alpha 9 patch finally went live this October 6th with future stress testing and “early enrollment” aka early access in mind. It’s safe to assume that Goblinwork’s FAQ page will see several more updates in terms of the still far off official launch date sometime in 2016.
It’s interesting to see several Kickstarter MMOs that were all crowdfunded early 2013 making their individual journeys. Shroud of the Avatar has taken a clear lead in terms of official launch at least, with Pathfinder Online closing in on that early access. As for Camelot Unchained, fans will clearly interpret slower updates as a sign of the devs taking time that will pay out in the long run. I keep my fingers crossed for everyone curently waiting; having no intentions towards either SotA nor CU, I remain at the most mildly interested in Pathfinder, assuming I can still remember its name in 2016. And then it’s probably still going to feel and look like something that should’ve come out 10 years ago.
Marketing and the Hype
As somewhat of a connaisseur of MMO hype machines, I’m also not convinced the fairly low profile approach all these projects seem to follow is such a good thing. Sure, some players are tired and disillusioned with alpha/beta and MMO launch hypes but keeping things down is risky business (hello TSW) and really takes much of my personal enjoyment in Vorfreude away. Carbine/Wildstar and SOE/Landmark have taken a very different road in making their games visible and transparent to a wider audience early on and that’s still something I personally appreciate. Sometimes the best thing about an MMO launch is the rush and excitement that goes on beforehand. Right now, I’m just not feeling any of these upcoming titles.
There seems to be a natural transition of the gaming blogger into other venues, such as streaming, vlogging or podcasting. The MMO blogosphere has seen a good portion of its longterm residents take up new projects over the years, sometimes leaving altogether to write for bigger sites or then, creating their own independent channels and collaboratives. For a while now we’ve seen an increase of great MMO podcasts hailing from our own neighbourhood, some of which I feel closely related to. I am therefore very excited to announce the launch of The Gaming and Entertainment Network – a new podcasting network by gamers for gamers, bringing the following independent podcasts together under one roof:
- Battle Bards
- Beyond Bossfights
- Cat Context
- Contains Moderate Peril
- Couch Podtatoes
- Massive Failure
- Roleplay Domain
TGEN is a collaborative relationship between like-minded podcasters and serves as an aggregator for general MMO/gaming themed podcasts that fit together from a synergistic perspective. It’s meant to make discovery easier for our individual audiences and helps spreading the word across different shows. All podcasts remain independent in their current form. In the future, TGEN may also host regular cross-podcast, round-table discussions between its members.
I want to thank Braxwolf for inspiring this collaborative and doing the lion’s share in terms of communicating between many different parties, conceptualizing and creating a shiny and functional layout for the TGEN homepage.
Another big thanks goes to all our regular listeners of Battle Bards who have been following our quirky little podcast since April 2013 and made this such a fun and rewarding experience: Thank you for your continued support and spreading the word about TGEN. We hope you’ll stick with us on our musical journey and discover some more great and new podcasts on the way!
So I started 20man raiding in Wildstar last week and have downed a couple of mini-bosses as well as X-89 in Genetic Archives thus far. It took my guild of jolly freeform raiders several wipenights to get a team of 20 people fully accustomed to the drill, something that players already need to learn during the dungeon attunement: individual performance matters. Even if some veteran 5mans get easier over time for a seasoned group of well-geared folk, many fights require every member in the party to be familiar with fight mechanics. Wildstar combat is a dance more than WoW ever was, unforgivable unless players continuously adapt their playstyles. The X-89 in GA comes with two different “YOU ARE THE BOMB!”-features which means an unsuspecting rookie is likely to ruin it for everyone else.
There is no hiding in Wildstar’s raids – addons are seriously recommended, cooldowns must be juggled and adjusting your tragically limited actionbar for every encounter is a given. Execution demands a high level of focus because the fights are so mobile. From that point of view the learning curve is quite steep, especially for genre newcomers. Considering how 40mans must feel in comparison, which are no less unforgivable, it becomes apparent why raiders have been crying out for Carbine to critically consider their endgame. In their most recent state of the game Nexus Report, they finally address this issue albeit just briefly:
malzek: That “other” MMORPG abandoned the 40-man model 9 years ago due to logistical issues. WildStar’s raids are much more unforgiving, leaving many scratching their head at this design decision. Has any consideration gone into bringing raid content to a more realistic level for the playerbase size?
CM: “All I’m willing to say right now is yes. Yes, there’s been discussion. I’m not going into details at this time…..the devs are listening.
With subscription numbers dwindling and complaints both from the casual and hardcore (see the rest of the Q&A), Carbine cannot afford not to act. New content dumps may appease some non-raiding players but the fact remains that Wildstar endgame is tuned to a difficulty level that not enough people enjoy longterm. For myself, I will say this: I had fun getting to grips with the X-89 mechanics and I didn’t mind wiping as much as we did – but I am also under no illusion that the really hard bosses are yet to come and will test those spirits further. Have raids felt harder than vanilla raiding so far? - No. Do I expect them to get much harder? Oh yes! Woe to all that underestimate this endgame.
The dreaded server merges of both global region’s PVE and PVP realms respectively, have been hinted at going live sometime around mid-October earliest. The names were decided by community poll and it appears I shall soon reside on Jabbit, a name I neither endorse nor understand.
Alas, for me the merges can’t come soon enough. Lightspire’s Dominion side has quickly turned into a graveyard, with probably 60% of its active members hosted by my guild and only one single other, competing guild in terms of raiding. The AH is dreadful, with entire subsections entirely empty or then, most likely offering an item or two by guildies (keeps the money in the family!). The costs for much coveted items such as runes amount to a subscription’s worth of platinum, just to get a basic gear set kitted out. No, I do not like this situation at all. We need a better market, we need comparisons and proper competition. For once, I don’t think a merge can do more harm than good – the fact that I cannot reasonably accumulate fancy hats and robes via the auction house is frankly intolerable.
Yesterday, Rohan tried to put a finger on why Wildstar isn’t doing so well only 3 months into launch. Wildstar the great AAA-hope of 2014, the polished, cartoony WoW-esque holy trinity, theme-park MMO that appeared different yet similar enough to accommodate the mainstream. I agree with Rohan that WS has a higher difficulty level than WoW, although the leveling process never struck me as hard or tedious on my Esper. WS is packed with some fun quests and a very linear, well-paced progression to level 50. I’d happily place bets on FFXIV:ARR being grindier than WS, only FFXIV is so fortunate to have a faithful, asia-based community on top of all the western influx since revamp.
However, it’s true that WS dungeons are tough and by the looks, raids even tougher. Even if you’re not after the attunement, bronze runs are a tricky to pug. That said, I don’t think endgame is the problem either – at least WS has an endgame that poses a bit of challenge and brings guilds back to the table. What does GW2 have? No endgame, failing guilds and not even great housing. Somehow, there’s always something to complain about.
I’m not convinced anymore that WS would be faring better if endgame was toned down to accommodate pugging. What I will say is that like ANet before them, Carbine took their good time to fix long-standing player concerns as far as the UI, submenus and other optimization concerns went and they are still far from done in my book. I personally know three potential subbers that still cannot run WS smoothly on their machine and have therefore given up playing. Then there’s players like this one who believe Carbine aren’t doing such a great job in marketing their title to a wider audience – but how big an issue is this, really?
Maybe it’s just that simple: WS isn’t WoW just like none of them are. And we have crossed the notorious 3-month mark. The dwindling player base was to be expected. Today’s MMO market cannot reproduce the successes of WoW, not with titles that are “similar enough” and not with titles that are completely different or exactly the same. Even if you own a niche like EVE does, you need to content yourself with 500k subscriptions. And while some WoW attachment still lingers on and declines only gradually, the rest of the market must cope with grazers and players opting for f2p or b2p over subscriptions.
Wildstar is a fine game. It can’t be helped that it wasn’t released in 2004. We’ll see if mega-servers are a blessing or curse for its core community. Maybe it doesn’t matter either way.