Tobold's Blog
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Richard Bartle plays WoW

Sometimes the news comes from unexpected corners, like in a small footnote to a big story. The big story in this case is not a very good one: Richard Bartle, creator of MUD, made a bad joke in an interview and it backfired horribly with a "I'd close World of Warcraft!" headline in The Guardian. The real news is hidden in a blog entry where he explained the gaffe and said "I wonder if the fact I worked up 3 level 70s in WoW myself will save me?".

Now that is a surprise! Richard Bartle is part of the Terra Nova crowd of people discussing MMORPGs from a purely academic and designer point of view. In many discussions there Bartle took a very annoying "we designers made good games and the players ruined it" attitude, which didn't exactly endear him to me. (I believe player behavior directly results from game design, and is thus also the fault of the designer. It is a lot easier to change game design than to change human behavior.) That made me doubt whether he knew what makes a game fun. And now I find out that he must have spent at least 1,000 hours, and probably much more, playing World of Warcraft. So he *does* recognize fun when he sees it. He still says "I just want better virtual worlds.". Well, so do I, although our opinions probably differ what exactly would make them better. But in spite of all the discussion favoring "world"-type MMORPGs, he ends up playing the most "game"-like MMORPG there is. An interesting contrast of what he says MMORPGs should be like, and what he actually plays. I wonder if he realizes that.
Bartle responds at the bottom of this post on his blog:
Bah. I fail html, and there's no edit button to be found.

Copy and paste, I suppose.
The problem is that I don't play WoW because it's popular, as so many retards seem to think. I play WoW because it's the best thing on the market. Close WoW so people will play other stuff? Dunno about anyone else, but there isn't a single other game that appeals to me. (I've tried several, and every last one is a letdown coming from WoW.)
If WoW is scaring away other developers, I can see his point.

The reality is that after WHO and STO, there's literally nothing on the horizon.
Miraj, the html link worked just fine. Bartle's post there links to 4 QBlog entries on him playing WoW. In the first one he says "I did this for one reason only: credentials. Now, when I tell people that I don't play these games because (as a designer) I don't find them the same kind of "fun" as pretty well everyone else does, it's no longer viable for anyone to suppose that maybe the real reason I don't play them is because I'm not up to it. Well, now they know I am."

The last one is his "I quit" post, "after a total playing time of 113 days 19 hours 54 minutes 35 seconds across all my extant World of Warcraft characters, that's me finished with it". So correct the number of hours in my post from 1,000 to 2,500.

So the guy play 2,500 hours of WoW and then claims that he doesn't find it fun, he only did it for "credentials". ROFL!
Well I don't know much about the guy or what he stands for tbh. I just quickly browsed through that Qblog link last night together with a few links from there. I've got to say though that he deserves credit for thinking that the TBC attunement is madness.
2,500 hours is the same as working 40 hours per week for 15 months, or a full-time job for a little over a year. As it's not uncommon to work somewhere for a year or so, just to get experience, it's entirely possible Bartle's claim that he put in 2,500 hours and leveled 3 toons to 70 really was for credentials, or experience, especially given the field in which he is employed.
He seems to have missed the point, though.
People play to have fun, not to just level to 70 and then quit.
How pompous to say he played WoW merely for some kind of intellectual experience, rather than for pleasure.

He levelled 3 characters, all Alliance. Why didn't he level a Horde character?
That Terra Nova blog is a hoot. The smugness just oozes out of it. You could give those people a 300 million dollar budget and they still couldn't design a fun mmorpg.

Hell, they wouldn't want to. The word "fun" is beneath them. It doesn't have enough letters to sound important.
I happened to play in the same guild as Bartle did (past tense .. he quit the guild after making it to 70 on all 3 characters).

He helped create some guild drama (at a time when we were having a lot of it) because our guild didn't have a regular afternoon Karazhan run .. our guild being a casual progression guild in the US and him running a character from the UK on UK hours.

He was an OK player, but I couldn't help but feel really used by him.
I'm sorry capn john, but you don't level 3 Alliance toons to 70 for research. 1, maybe 2. But not 3.

He clearly enjoyed the game much more than he is willing to admit.

All things considered, the guy doesn't command much respect.
This comment has been removed by the author.
If I had to play WoW in some official research responsibility, I'd probably take the following approach:

1: Horde to 70
1: Alliance to 70
1: of each class to the late teens to early twenties
1: of each race to the point where you end up in the same zone, probably 20

For a total of two 70s and seven 2Xs. Then I suspect I've seen everything the game has to offer pre-raiding, providing I throw a mix of professions on the low level characters.

let us assume you can level a Character to 60 in 15 days. This is more than enough time to read all quests carefully, travel around, work on your tradeskills and secondary professions. Many peolple did all that and made it to 60 in 9 to 12 days (on their first chars) their alts reached the levelcap in 6 to 9 days often. Then add another 10 days for 60 to 70 for 25 days per 70 toon. than you get:

25 * 24 = 600 * 3 = 1800 hrs.

that give us ~700 hrs spend addtionally.

I think that there was quite some time spend ingame that wasn't just for credentials and resarch. I would say that to level 1 character of each fraction would be enough and a far better way from the research perspective. Additionally test some starting areas which can be made in about 30 hrs each and then try some different charcters on the test realms to get a feeling of the different classes and playstyles.
Im sorry in my opinion this Bartle guy is full of it, he says he doesnt "play" mmorpgs, he only analyzes the design. Well I call BS. You dont analyze 3 characters to level 70, you "play" them. Why is he ashamed to admit that?
To play Devil's Advocate (even though I think Bartle had more fun playing WoW than he seems willing to admit) Bartle's argument is probably along the lines that he needed to level to 70 to fully experience WoW, including Raid content, and he needed to level three toons to 70 to compare how the Raid experience changed for different classes. But I concur, why three Alliance? Why not two Ally and one Horde, or vice versa? At the very least, considering he began playing pre-BC, he should have been leveling a Paladin and a Shaman, and a third non-Healer class.

By playing mostly Alliance only he did nothing more than take a sample poll of Liberals and think that represented the world.
Sorry for not having responded earlier, I've been offline for a week...

There are too many posts to reply to them all individually, so here's a summary:

1) That 113 days 19 hours etc. figure was just for my extant characters. I did play some other characters, which I deleted (eg. I took a hunter to level 25 then got rid of it).

2) Yes, I did only do it for credentials: I haven't touched WoW since the moment my warlock hit 70. It is indeed the case that I put myself through all those hours of playing just so I could say I'd done it. However, just because I didn't play for player-fun reasons, that doesn't mean I didn't make friends.

3) I'm in an impossible position here. If I don't play virtual worlds, I get accused of being out of touch; if I do, I get accused of being a fanboi. Yes, it IS possible to play WoW for all that time AND not enjoy it as a player. It's just a long slog, made bearable by the presence of other people who are playing for regular fun.

4) I was always up front to my fellow guildies about why I was playing. I don't see how I could be accused of "using" anyone, especially as I always dropped everything to help a guildie if they needed it. One of the advantages of not playing for the same reason as everyone else is that you can do that kind of thing, because there's no pressure to get gold, XP, reputation or anything else.

5) I played Alliance because I wanted all my characters to be in the same faction so I could move stuff around between them. I chose Alliance because my first character was a paladin, which wasn't available as Horde. I chose a paladin because I looked at the stats, figured it was set up for solo play (and fairly easy, too), so went for that.

6) I didn't swap between Alliance and Horde and a bunch of different classes because I wasn't interested in researching nuances of their play that I knew would be patched to pieces anyway over the next year. I only wanted 3 level 60s (except they brought out TBC just as the last one was coming up, so I had to go to 3 level 70s instead). It was always about credentials.

7) I did lots of things in-game that didn't amount to power-levelling, for example helping out my friends. I also did things that were interesting to me for game design reasons, for example swimming round the entire coastline of the Eastern Kingdoms or seeing how many voidcallers I needed to kill to get the recipe for Robes of Arcana (362, if you're interested).

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