Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Games for explorers

I mentioned end of last year that I have a Guild Café page, and that Guild Café is also the current home of the Bartle test and similar quizzes about what kind of a MMORPG player you are. Now mbp just mentioned in a comment that he is mainly an explorer in the Bartle test, and that the World of Warcraft end game is appeals only to achievers. Which would leave him and his fellow explorers, including me, to play crap games like Project Entropia or The Sims Online.

I don't think the situation is quite as bad. World of Warcraft is actually a rather good game for explorers, because it takes hundreds of hours to explore all the zones, different classes, quests and dungeons. The only problem is the end game. The explorer in me went to Karazhan only a few times, made a tick mark behind it saying "been there, seen it", and didn't come back. An achiever goes to Karazhan several nights a week looking for tiny incremental improvements to his power, which will then enable him to go on to the next raid dungeon. Making an end game for achievers is a lot easier than making an end game for explorers. Explorers want new content all the time, achievers are happy with hitting their heads against a brick wall over and over, as long as they make tiny dents into that wall and thus "advance".

The result is that explorers jump from one game to the next more often than achievers. It is somewhat unfortunate that the biggest growth of my blog readership occured over the last 3 years, of which I spend 2.5 years in World of Warcraft. It makes me look as if I usually stay in a game very long. But only the original EQ and WoW were games in which I stayed for more than 6 months. I played tons of games for only a few months, because either I had explored all the accessible parts of them after that time, or further exploration just didn't appear to be any fun, due to the game being bland.

For me exploration is not only looking at pretty 3D graphics. That is why games like Second Life don't interest me. I want to explore gameplay, strategies, tactical options, game economy, and the influence of game design on player behavior. That requires a game to actually have a gameplay, and to have a variety of interesting strategies and tactical options. Many bad MMORPGs fall short in that respect.

So basically the game I'd like to see is a new World of Warcraft. A game as big and as good in gameplay as WoW, but different and new. A WoW expansion like Wrath of the Lich King interests me less, because there are only a few new elements in a sea of more of the same. For some time I was hoping that Warhammer Online could be a good next game for explorers, having 6 different races with 4 different classes per race, thus offering a huge replayability and amount of exploration content. But right now most WAR beta players I hear from say it is "like WoW without the fun". So the best case scenario is that EA Mythic needs some more time to find the fun, and I won't see WAR before christmas 2008. Worst case is some suit deciding to release WAR as planned in Q1 2008 and WAR becoming next year's Vanguard.

I sure hope they'll manage to make the leveling game of WAR fun. But even if it is very good, I'll sooner or later arrive at the end game, having tried all possible alts. And then I'll probably leave the game again to look for the next explorer game. A player-killer type of end game in WAR interests me as little as the achiever type of end game in WoW. I'll play with it a bit, but if you expect me to raid the same PvP zone for the umpteenths time I'm out.
If WAR truly is scheduled for a Q1 release, I don't see much chance of it slipping into Q3. The Summer months are simply too vital, as that's when kids have the most free time. Still, a June 2008 release would give Mythic a good 8 months. That's a pretty good chunk of time in the mmorpg development world.

Also, you've mentioned each WAR race having their own path. Does anyone know how many zones each race has before they reach the endgame?

And I'm making an effort not to be so cynical, but a topic you might consider for your blog is whether mmorpgs have peaked with WoW. It's possible that we'll never have it better than late 2004 and early 2005 and that WAR will be nothing more than a diversion, similar to LOTRO, but not even in the same neighborhood of fun that WoW was.
Loved to read more about explorers and not have it turn into "what's up with WAR". I think the first half of the blog entry really tickles my nerves.

WoW endgame is interesting simply because two types get merged:

*) Explorers and
*) Achievers

And in order to satify the achievers the TBC endgame got more and more removed from explorers. We explorers want to see the game. Achievers want to have others not get to where they got. So yeah I'll never see Illidan even though he's the big coveted person to "explore" given the intro cinematics.

Blizz has learned a little though and promised that everybody will get a chance to see and interact with Arthas, to be seen if that really is going to be a proper solution for explorers or feel like a token.
Tobold - I should have pointed you to my blog post from yesterday - I fully agree with you that new games appeal to explorers and I said as much in that post. In fact the few MMORPGS I have played appeal to all player genotypes when new. Achievers get the challenge of levelling up, Explorers have lots of new content to explore, Socialisers get to setup new guilds and killers can try out the pvp options. It seems that when games hit the end game they narrow in on a smaller target audience. WOW end game goes for explorers. Guild Wars goes for killers etc. I guess its is no accident that few games home in on explorers because new content is expensive to create. Mind you I think Explorers may be more common that R. Bartle predicted if the statistics from Guild Cafe can be believed:
You're not a true explorer unless you've stood "under and behind" Stormwind )

Too bad Blizzard finally sealed that off (
I'm ESAK myself with very high E (over 96%) and very low K (6.0%)...

The ultimate content for MMO would be constantly dynamic world with changing content and crafting in which you could never predict 100% what you really get... well, that sounds already alarmingly boring...

I'm newbie, still, in WoW and I have come to the conclusion that I will start to recruit a guild from the newcomers in the server who want to explore the instances. The only drive of the guild would be to experience the instances, screw the loot. Instead of looking for the games for the explorers, I want to have the Explorer's guild! How to devise the trophies and prizes for the members, that is the problem, though...

On what mbp said, that explorers are more common than Bartle predicted: the pure achievers and killers don't find the time to do the Bartle test in GuildCafe, as they are overachieving in the games!

All in all, I think that Blizz could easily make even the Old World more dynamic and more interesting for us explorer types. All it would need would be some GM activities every now and then, some hidden questgivers or random/rare quests and/or questgivers here and there... to make the exploring worth the while!

The stage is set in Azeroth, why has it been left to decay? Sequels, sequels!!! Son of Sillithids! Revenge of the Burning Blade! Stranglethorn Strikes Back! Get the idea?

And yea, some humor goes well with the scenario design.

ESAK here as well. Uru Live is an MMO that seems targeted towards Explorers. Its part of the Myst franchise and is more of a puzzle game though.
I think LotRO is the most explorer-oriented game at the moment. Some great stories told in the epic Books, but the last ones tend to get weaker.

Tobold, it seems you left your LotRO-chars before lvl 30. Why don't you take the game up again, and go for the quests? Been 5 fun months for me, even tho I've got the game nearly mined out now.
The grail, at least for developers, seems to be player-driven content. That would allow players to create content at a fast enough pace to retain the explorers.

My experience with that is Shadowbane. I know, that game is much maligned, but I really enjoyed it. Players could create and destroy cities, and that created player-driven content.

I played on several different servers, and I remember starting a new character on a mature server and being somewhat amazed at what was there. One guild, I believe the name was Ebonlore, had more or less conquered the server. They were strong enough to crush any upstart cities.

By the time I got on the server, though, Ebonlore had vanished, a fallen empire. Something about the guild leader selling assets and everyone getting pissed, etc. So all of Ebonlore’s cities were there in various stages of repair or decay, like an ancient empire, and the power vacuum led to many guilds allying and vying for power. There were even a neutral city or two that were trying to be merchant empires, serving any adventurers who wanted to come and shop at the vendors. It was interesting seeing them try to police their cities and keep players from fighting within the city walls.

So for all Shadowbane’s issues, the ability to build and destroy cities and operate vendors allowed players to create content and drive gameplay.
Tobold, in case you missed it be sure to check out Damion's article on Nine Ways To Misuse Bartle's Four and the subsequent comment thread where Bartle responds.
Explorer here who had [b]almost[/b] every zone in Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms fully mapped by level 30, including Noob zones on both sides. Yes, I died many times in the process :)

I've been under Stormwind, visited Old Ironforge, sat in a plane at the IF Airport and seen the farm above Menethil Harbor. I've been to Hyjal before it was Hyjal and seen the famous "Under Construction Sign", and even visited the Ghostlands when there was nothing but empty texture covered terrain. All were performed without hacks, just persistence and some precise wall climbing/pixel hopping.
One of my biggest problems with the WoW end-game was that there is 1 specific tactic per target type, little to no room for anything different. You need to have 10 of you're 40 people paying attention on trash, 20 of 40 on bosses, and everyone paying attention at exactly the right time, because one hunter with a resisted feign death can wipe all of ya.

I like having options in my games. Take a game like 'hitman' where you can go in guns a blazing or be completely covert and stealth your way to the target for a 1-shot backstab. Yup, KESA here.
Dunno if you like PvP, but have you considered Fury?

Just a heads up.
I'm an explorer as well. I haven't gotten bored primarily because I've leveled a number of characters through the mid-levels, thus getting to know the content from both factions. Desolace definitely is a different place for Alliance players because Nigel's Point is right near the road from the Charred Vale whereas Shadowprey Village is all the way across the zone to the west. Once you know the zone well, that's no big deal, but the first couple of toons of each faction you level to the early 30s and take into Desolace have totally different experiences.

So even as an explorer I find the game continues to fascinate me. You'd think that as an explorer that I'd choose to play PvE, but in fact I always play PvP, though for no reason that I can explain.
I think Warhammer is a true gigantic puzzle for explorers to solve. There are countless hidden things and varying mechanisms to open lairs and other doors in the game, the world is massive and its not like you only have things to explore outside but in the cities as well. Also being a new game this makes it even more exciting. EKSA here and i really like it. Killers and Achievers i think would find the game very interesting as well. Only thing that could be done better for explorers would be the 2 roguelike classes to had easier time to stay stealthy for more time cause it runs off easily.
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