I sort of got the idea for this post in another thread related to Vanguard, but it brings up to me a very important issue in todays MMO.
It can be one of the most if not singlular factors in an MMO's longevity. Let's just say it's "up there" at the top of the list and should be. (not debating other aspects here).
Now everyone has an opinion on what makes a community, and a lot of us have experienced real community in games. For me it was UO, for most here it may be EQ1, and for some even WoW. I feel they each were different types of communitys though.
So posting here describe your game and community, and why you felt it was strong. Why it helped you stay in game, and what may have changed to make you leave.
UO's community had many different flavors, you had the general Red and Blue community, you had Guilds, Merchants (player vendor/trade economy driven), and local (town or city) community.
In game you'd interact with at least two of these communitys on any given session, for me primarily it was the merchant one as I ran shops and would always either be buying or selling "something" each night. Only later to adventure with one of 10 other characters (two accounts).
Interaction or communication with the trade side was either in game chat (text over head) or ICQ for contacts or connections involving substantial deals in quantity. The majority though was street vending communitys, very lively and fun.
On the local side, you had recognizable names hovering in certain towns on any given night, and for a long time (making them recognizable). Many were traders, but as many were not. They used the town and bank as a gathering place for idle chat and news.
In dungeons the Red and Blue community existed, also mixed in were guilds and territorial or spawn squabbles.
So it (UO) was very dynamic in terms of community, but why?
Well two reasons I feel, first was the PvP element that fueled the economy and gave community in dungeons much more meaning, and second was the method of communication. (text over head or even speach bubbles). Granted it was an "oldschool" game, but new then.
You did have server and combat information in a box (or lower left corner), but communication was on the screen. This made it easier to seperate the two, and no information overload existed between the two. (for me it's a problem if it is all in one area via chat box, and equally so if split up between chat boxes). Connecting with who said what was easier
(oldschool) It also gave your character more personality IMO, because of this. Added to community locally and not through World or regional chats where the author or origin of what has been said is distant and effectivly anonymous. Last but not least, it made you pay attention to what was going on around you, and not isolate into a chat room within the game. "made you part of the game".
PvP and community, how it helped.. Full loot where death penalty was very basic and real made the risk and reward formula much more binding to a community. Each faced the same risks, and hardship so in this you each shared an interest in each other's survival. Full loot meant that the economy had constant pressure on it to produce replacement equipment and at reasonable prices. It also helped that UO was not item centric, but it would not have harmed it by much were it not. So in feeding the economy, and with street vending the method most used to shop, community....
A circle of community from one aspect to another that you experienced each time you played was in constant motion within UO. Each town had it's personality, and that was defined by who occupied the town, not the towns design but player personalities.
That was the community that existed in UO, what was yours like?