Maple Story: The AFK community

AFK in MapleStory

After more than 20 interviews with players and more than a few months playing the game, I found out that MapleStory wasn’t interested in User experience design. It seems like they just wanted to find new ways to make money with what they already had. I get that the game creators are in Korea but its imperative to start designing for the US and Global players. And not just designing new worlds and exclusive game-features, but re-designing what they already have to give the players a more intuitive interaction with the UI. Even thou I did a couple of UX projects related to the game and I tried to contact them, Nexon didn’t care much about it. I thought that was the case until one day they added the option for window mode (vs. full-screen) in their system. That was back in 2008 but I still think they need to do more to appeal to their players.

One of the projects I lead was called “What players really do: Multitasking while playing computer games”. It was a Maple Story case study regarding the prevalence of AFK (away-from-keyboard) players inside the game. Almost 80% or more of the players I interviewed where multi-tasking while playing the game. They were doing home-work, using instant messengers, listening to music, texting, video-conferencing (skype), some were watching videos and interacting with other online communities.I thought, of course, Maple Story is played on a computer and computers are designed for multi-tasking. It was clearly now that MapleStory was not designed for computers users. It’s a game designed with the idea that players want to be fully immersed in the game tasks.

That’s not what actually happens:
-Many players go AFK (away-from-keyboard) even when doing quests with others and there’s no direct feedback to tell if they are AFK.
-There’s no way to attract the attention of the AFK player.

Suggestions:
– Include a label to indicate player’s status. It could be automatic after a period of time or controlled by the user.
-Give the players’ friends, guild members, and party members a way to attract a players attention. Give them an audio-visual buzzer.

These are just a few of the many changes the game need to address. Maple Story is more than just a game. It is an MMORPG, meaning that players are interacting with other players. It is an online community just like Facebook or Twitter. Social interactions can be fluent or difficult. Its up to the designers to make these interactions more intuitive.