Friday, February 10, 2006
Sources of fun
I've been thinking of what makes different activities in a MMORPG fun. What I came up with is somewhat similar to the Bartle classification of player types into achievers, socializers, killers, and explorers. This Bartle test site shows that World of Warcraft is pretty much identical in player types to the original Everquest, with just a bit less socializing and bit more killing going on, while a pure PvP game like Shadowbane has much different scores. And these different player types are motivated by different sources of fun.
This is not just a different way to come to the same 4 player types under a different name. One source of fun can be identical for several types, while one player type can have several sources of fun.
One source of fun is a competitive spirit, trying to be better than the other players. I mention this one first, because otherwise I'll forget it, as I have very little competitive spirit. Competitiveness motivates achievers to try to achieve more than the other players, something clearly visible in the "race to 60" on every new WoW server that opens up. Lots of people achieve level 60, but only a few can claim that they reached it first on their server. But the same competitive spirit is clearly a major driving force behind the killer player type. If you beat somebody in PvP you can claim to have demonstrated that you are "better" than the other guy. Lots of verbal fights on "my class/spec is better than your class/spec" include the "lets duel and find out" argument.
But being competitive is not the only possible source of fun for the achievers. They are also motivated by the rewards for their achievements. You can achieve things in a virtual world, for example run with a level 1 gnome from Dun Morogh to Gadgetzan without dying, which don't have any tangible in-game reward. But most people like to report their achievements ("I killed Onyxia") with their rewards ("... and got this awesome Deathbringer axe").
Achievers can be motivated by overcoming a challenge the game itself sets you, like beating a dungeon or a boss mob. That is kind of competitive, but you measure yourself against the game, not against other players. Beating Onyxia is a big achievement, even if lots of others did it before you, and you didn't get any loot.
A source of fun common to achievers and explorers is doing something for the first time. My guild is immensely proud each time they kill a boss in MC or ZG for the first time. Even me, who doesn't like raids much, am looking forward to seeing Ahn'Qiraj at least once, even if it turns out to be far too hard for us and we end up with nothing but a huge repair bill.
The WoW raid game experience is a mix of these sources of fun: The fun of seeing a boss for the first time, the fun of overcoming the challenge he poses, and the fun of getting his phat loot. The first source is only valid once, but overcoming the challenge of beating a boss can be fun several times before you get the impression that you totally "pwn" him, and the loot is fun until there is no possible drop left at this place which is better than what you have. My guild hasn't raided Stratholme or Scholomance for ages, because all three of these sources of fun have run out for the people who went there repeatedly. We should restart doing these raids with the alts and people who haven't got the complete sets of equipment from there.
One source of fun which hopefully never ceases even after repeated raids to the same place is the social interaction. Although I heard that some guilds are very strict and don't allow any chat on big raids, being totally focused on the result. Raids are unfortunately not the best place to socialize. You can organize guild events that are pure socializing, just having a party or guild meeting. But I think that 5-man groups are much better at forming strong social bonds.
Me, I am very much motivated by doing new things, and by social interactions. I like to overcome challenges, but not fanatically so, if something is too hard I tend to give up after a couple of tries. And I don't care at all how my achievements compare with those of other players. I do like rewards, but only those which can be reached with a reasonable effort. As a result of all of these factors my favorite occupation is doing dungeons in 5-man groups, for the social interaction, the reward, and because in a 5-man group I can still identify what part I had in overcoming the challenge. Does this list of my sources of fun describe me better than a "70% explorer" Bartle test result?