These days I’m a dabbler rather than a hardcore raider, but my fascination with MMOs and the unique communities that form around each one remains undimmed. The nature of these games means that, whatever structure may be intended for them, elements can be purely player authored. Guilds set themselves quests, individuals decide to do something so unusual everyone stops to watch, and sometimes developers come in and play god.
Not all of these stories happened in 2022, that’s just when they came to light. Such is the nature of these spaces, worlds in a bottle with their own legends and myth. So whether it’s burning down the ill-gotten gains of item dupers, or taverns that provide professional companionship to world-weary adventurers, here are the best MMO community stories of the year.
The catgirl army
A game in the rudest of health, Final Fantasy 14’s huge playerbase and more unusual elements make it an absolute goldmine for curious community behaviour. One of PC Gamer’s resident experts is Mollie Taylor who, along with the rest of the community, began 2022 giddy with excitement at the thought of buying a house in-game: only to discover that the process left her a broken woman (opens in new tab).
After recovering, Mollie went on to interview the erotic roleplayers that make a living in the game’s equivalent of Vegas (opens in new tab). Nope, you’re never too far from a catgirl in this world. Speaking of which, one erotic roleplaying server found itself under the protection of a (friendly) catgirl army (opens in new tab).
Later in the year Final Fantasy 14 would add a new farming mode, intended as a relaxing activity for players. Clearly the developers have never actually met the game’s fanbase because what happened next was predictable. They started grinding the hell out of it (opens in new tab) and yes, spreadsheets are involved.
This one I can’t summarise better than the headline: Final Fantasy 14 producer asks players to stop saying “nice job!” to opponents then setting off fireworks on their bodies (opens in new tab).
Red hot schadenfreude
Ultima Online is an astonishing 25 years old (opens in new tab) in 2022, and its emergent systems are usually behind the best community stories. This one, though, came from inside. A former developer on the game recounts a time when they worked out how to identify players who were using a glitch to duplicate items.
The developers tracked them all down, waited for the right moment to strike, then went in and burned everything the item-dupers owned to ashes (opens in new tab): “It felt fantastic.”
The WoW factor
The grand daddy keeps delivering, and 2022 was no exception. Why don’t we start off with the classic MMO love story, of a young and determined dwarf who decided to solo a boss that should have been un-solo-able (opens in new tab). It took five hours but, somehow, he pulled it off.
The big WoW news of the year was the Dragonflight expansion, which did not launch without its hitches. Here an expert from within the community explains how one overlooked line of code ultimately brought a 10 year-old loot system to its knees (opens in new tab).
Dragonflight also brought some old favourites back out of the woodwork. WoW’s most stubborn peacenik, a panda that will do no harm, once again managed to hit max level without hurting anyone (opens in new tab).
As well as the main branch, this year World of Warcraft Classic got the Wrath of the Lich King expansion and Blizzard produced one of the best trailers the game’s had in years. The secret? They just got one of the best community creators to do the whole thing. (opens in new tab)
Tibia is a 25 year-old MMO created by four German students that, slowly but surely, found enough of a following that it’s been supported for that length of time too. This year’s update was a big one though: the previously silent MMO now has sound (opens in new tab).
This one’s a classic: The story of how, in the early days of EverQuest, a cheater and a designer waged secret war in a San Diego gaming store (opens in new tab).
Still hanging in there, and producing wild stories too. This year an Old School Runescape player who’d spent two years on the run was finally hunted down: and the player who killed him received an astonishing 16 billion gold (opens in new tab), the largest bounty in the history of the game.
Cheese at Christmas
Does Destiny 2 count? Eh who cares, funny stories come out of it, and my favourite thing about the Destiny players I know is how dedicated they are to knowing about the latest exploits. They love cheese more than a cartoon mouse. Which is why it was little surprise that, this year, a community event that was supposed to last weeks was over and done with in a single day (opens in new tab) thanks to liberal cheddar.
Mean old Atlus
Shin Megami Tensei Imagine Online shut down in 2016, but was revived by two dedicated fans in 2020, who began operating their own server for other fans of the defunct MMO to enjoy. Harmless enough one might think but no: Atlus has gone after them with the lawyers (opens in new tab), which could set a precedent for the preservation of abandoned titles.
Amazon’s New World hasn’t had the most exciting year, but one interesting problem did crop up: shell companies. Long story short is that players worked out how to game the MMO’s ‘companies’ system, basically the same as guilds, and would have multiple shell companies (opens in new tab) operating under the aegis of one company to rule them all, messing up elements of the PvP big time.
You win some, you win some
Guild Wars 2 players are used to getting their head around unusual quests, but one this year took the cake. Players needed to kill a particular enemy by following certain criteria that, ultimately, meant they had to ‘lose’ a group event. Problem is that players couldn’t stop winning it (opens in new tab), making some very angry about the fact.
Kill to live
Not really a community story this, but enough of an oddity to warrant a mention. Crowfall, a crowdfunded MMO, has been shut down less than a year after launch. That’s not uncommon but what’s odd is the reason: developer Monumental reckons this is the way to save the game (opens in new tab), by taking it offline while the studio works on its future. Don’t hold your breath.
If there’s one thing about MMOs, they do accrue certain community notions of right and wrong. The kinds of rules that are unspoken, but woe betide anyone who breaks them. So to perhaps the year’s greatest MMO story: how a bunch of EverQuest players broke sacred MMO code by waking up a 20 year-old dragon (opens in new tab).
That’s it, apart from the biggest MMO story of the year. Take a bow everyone: Earth’s passed the 8 billion concurrent users mark.