Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Limited and Unlimited Goals

Why do people play MMORPGs, and what are their long term goals in the game? The Bartle Test lists player types as being achievers, explorers, socializers, or killers. But if you look at these player types, you'll noticed that they work on different time scales: You can socialize or kill other players in a MMORPG forever. Exploration and achievement is limited by the amount of content the developers provide. At some point you have seen all the corners of the game world with nothing left to explore, or killed the last raid boss with nothing left to achieve. Socializers and killers have unlimited goals, achievers and explorers have limited goals, with the limit being game content.

Watching behavior of players in World of Warcraft, it appears that achievers and explorers dominate that game. Of course there is a lot of socializing going on, but that doesn't appear to be a prime motivation. If people were valuing social contacts more than achievement, they wouldn't guild hop that much. And killing other players appears to be a rather weak motivator. In fact WoW had to modify their PvP system to add more achievement motivation in the form of PvP epics to get a significant number of players to participate.

Now the big question is what motivations will be at work in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning? WAR is primarily a PvP game, but will people engage in that RvR because they simply like to kill other players, or will they participate because of the RvR rewards, trying to achieve maximum renown rank as a parallel level to the regular character level? Or in other words, will they continue playing once they reached the maximum renown rank and a keep? Obviously a killer type would, and an achiever type wouldn't continue when he reached the top.

Another question is how you prolong long-term motivation with expansions. As much as WoW expansions can be criticized for coming not often enough to keep the average achiever or explorer entertained, they seem very well designed to solve exactly the problems of these two groups: Add more zones to explore, and new levels and dungeons to achieve to the game. Their impact on socializers and killers is generally small, although WotLK at least offers new forms of PvP for the killers in the form of Lake Winterspring. I can see how WAR could add new pairings of races and expand the game for explorers. But how will they add something that would appeal to the achievers or killers? While an expansion that adds raid content is great for achievers, it pretty much spoils the fun of the killers, as Mythic learned from their Trials of Atlantis (DAoC expansion) fiasco.

I am pretty sure that WAR will have great success among all classes of players, as it offers new content to explorers and achievers, more PvP to killers, and a range of improved guild functions for socializers. How long that success will hold up depends on how many killers there actually are in the customer base. The achievers will probably end up enjoying raid PvE centric games like WoW more. The socializers will go where their friends are. And the explorers aren't staying long anyway, because new games lure with new content.
I’ve been beating on this drum for a while now. PvE games have a limited amount of content that eventual runs out. In PvP games, the competition is the content, so it has an endless shelf life for as long as the competition remains competitive. This is why Starcraft, Halo, and Half-Life all continued to be popular well past the enjoyment gained from the single-player game. The thing that makes PvE worse as a mechanic is that developers know this – so they slow down the progress or achievement to pace you through the content.

There is a misconception that people don’t like PvP. As I pointed out on Syncaine’s blog, this isn’t true because the majority of all games (not just video games) since time immortal has been players competing against other players. Even when games don’t offer ways to compete, people find them (how fast did you kill X? did you do it without dying?). It’s the nature of games to play against others. Solo games, outside of video games, rarely exist.

However, I’m a bit of the mindset that “good” PvP can’t exist in MMORPGs because of the inherent imbalance that comes in a character progressed game. I’m hopeful that WAR will prove me wrong, but my biggest concern is that it may just be a slightly more digestible version of what WoW offers.
Good PvP can't exist while the holy trinity does as it does in WoW.

Tanks do less damage, their survivability is mooted by high damage spells (and the lack of damage to kill a caster before they die), there are no LoS mechanics to allow a Tank to have a role.

Healers similarly, without the protection of Tank / DPS classes you have no survival, with no survival you don't get to do as well.

PvE is more balanced because the Holy Trinity works... PvP isn't because it breaks the fundamentals the game is built upon, and there isn't the balance of power within pure, hybrid, utility and fluid hybrid classes there needs to be to make it work.
Again, the Guild Wars as an awesome game argument applies.
The level cap is fast, even though there is a lot to explore (great land masses exists in this game and the separate campaigns)...
Yet, there is the PvP, for when you are done exploring.
And after 3 years it has stayed in the top 10 on Xfire, along with WoW...go figure.
So, I do believe the PvP does add to the longevity of the game...

But, it has to be GOOD PvP...and does WAR have that for sure?

As to the Bartles...I see so many players who have high socializer ratings, yet continue to state they play this a conundrum...and most importantly, is Bartles that accurate to begin with.
This topic is speaking the very truth of why rogues are so OP. They get too many forms of CC. Blind, gouge, kick, cheepshot, kidney shot.

What other class has 5 forms of crowd control?

To take things a step ahead....rogues can also go immune to spells and vanish. These being also forms for CC, although your oppenent can still act, they cannot act towards you.

All in all I wouldn't complain if rogues did moderate DPS, however rogues tear the crap out of casters. GOOD GAME. I get hit with a 6k ambush out of stealth? Followed by a 2k backstab, followed by a blind, vanish and repeate? I ONLY HAVE 10k HEALTH?!?!?!

Personally, I've discovered that my Bartle type varies with the type of game I'm playing. In a PvE-centric game I'm an Explorer and Socializer. In a PvP-centric game I switch into Killer mode.

My Explorer side is definitely going to get tickled by the all new content in WAR, at least for a while. To make me stick around though, WAR is going to have to deliver on its PvP to please my inner Killer. I've never been much of an Achiever, so my main motivation for PvP'ing is the slaughter and not the rewards.

Interestingly, if WAR manages to deliver on its PVE as well as PVP, it's highly likely that I will create separate characters on FFA and "carebear" servers and play them in Killer and Explorer/Socializer modes respectively.
About Longevity: I wonder what WoW would be like if they raised the level cap every 6 months instead of every 2 years. In the current scheme, most explorers and achievers run out of things to do in the time between patches.

About PvP: most "games" since time immortal do have a PvP element. But in general, more people enjoy passive entertainment than active entertainment. More people spend more hours watching TV and movies than actively play sports and competitive games.

A solo game is halfway between a competitive and a passive game. The exploration / achievement parts are more similar to rock climbing than to tennis.

I love playing Starcraft in solo missions and against friends, but I never play on -- the level of competition is too high, and I don't like the feeling of being "below average." I think that's what drives the majority of people away from competitive PvP activities.
Time immortal? Don't you mean time immemorial?

Anyway, I don't attribute too much to Bartle's schema. I liken it to the Myers-Briggs of MMOs.

Players need to feel a sense of accomplishment. PvP is no fun if you always die. PvE is no fun if you don't raise a level or stat.

Keep the sense of progress and accomplishment and players will continue to play.
I like to socialize. It is a component of my motivation when staying in a game, but there comes a time, when I just don’t care about the play anymore. In UO, it was when you could simply teleport to carebear land. In DOAC it was when there was the ridiculously long grind to get legendary weapons. In Shadow bane it was when I realized while they had a great idea it was poorly implemented. In WoW it was when I realized that PVP was the underclass and Blizzard expends about 1% of their effort designing for PVP.

In WAR I’m looking forward to socializing with my friends and making new ones. I’m looking forward to exploring all the new content and learning the Workshop Games lore. I’m looking forwarded to PVPing at level 1 all the way up to 40. I’m looking forward to our guild gaining levels, creating keep taking strategies, and playing the RVR city siege event over and over again just for the fun of it.

As long as WAR stays competitive, Ill be there.
I logged into WoW on a trial account, first time in over a year. I saw a warrior, outfitted in season 1 & 2 gear. So I inspected him and saw his arena win/loss record. 1 win, 29 losses. lol WoW caters to the weak and underachiever now. That game is sooo out of date it is pathetic. Unfortunately, I'm unsure if WAR will offer anything since it is what WoW was originally based on. From what I've read, you'll be back in the balance game for the next few wears just like WoW has been doing for the last few years. no thanks!
What makes mmorpg's unique is the creation of an avatar over time that exists in a social environment. It's the society that gives the avatar its context; Sartre would be a fan of mmorpg's I imagine...

So you could argue that the longevity of a mmorpg is based on the value of your avatar within the context of its society, and currently mmorpg's are very western in their approach of value, that is material or gear based, at least outside of the explorer, which is content based.

So the best way for a game to extend its popularity, or the value of a created avatar, would be to continually create more "expensive" gear for players to buy...which is certainly the model WoW has embraced.

Is there an Eastern solution? Perhaps something akin to Fable, where your avatar would reflect your actions in the world? That would be the kind of thing that would keep an explorer like me playing.

Any thoughts on this?
Bartle Types... I have already discussed those somewhat. In a nutshell, we've found that players act on a complex set of needs and motivations for which the Bartle Types inform us of very little.

For the moment, what they really express is most activity types presented to players in MUDs and by extension MMOs. About the only thing missing is creation/building, which is at least as important as the four listed.

When you are creating new content, although it has a base action type you can't think of creating it "for" one of the four motivations. If it doesn't involve all of them it will be a problem. If you add a new zone in which to perform the killer action, you need to also create an achievement path, the crack cocaine way to do it is to pre-parse all the time management in the zone for the player so that they feel exceptionally efficient without having actually done anything. You also need to ask yourself what social dynamics are being created, what is there to see and explore in the zone's paint, and what is there to explore in the 'system' of the zone.

Most of WoW is built to accommodate all four of the bartle activities anywhere any time. Now as I've said in the above blog post, their polishing of the balance has led to a rather shallow experience in any one segment. You probably won't see WoW's social side as much because they haven't built very many, if any, good social spaces within the world. Instead they have created a weak global interface, which players have augmented at times with stronger tools such as ventrillo or xfire and will probably soon be augmenting with PLayXPert.

Again you also may not see it, but the customizable interface is actually their olive branch to the builders and creators. If you take a step back and look at all the mods you have, and extrapolate out a certain margin for error for people creating mods for their own private use, you may find a fascinating number of WoW players actually take part in that particular minigame. And the participants again show the complexity of motivations as almost all of those who release their work enjoy some feeling of status and recognition from their peers and their place in the greater UI modding community.

It's not really an either or of player motivations, though it can be. While most of the time it's easy to define a primary motivation, the secondary motivations both complimentary and contradictory make using any 'simple' model of player motivation genuinely untenable.
If there was a Fable-MMO game out there, where your actions and their consequences were reflected in your appearance, I would definitely be interested in something like that.
It's too easy to apply Bartle's scheme simplistically. No one is 100% killer or 100% socialiser in these games.

Generally people are much closer to 25% in each than 100% of anything and are looking at the full game experience to see how much it satisfies them. As gamers we want to do interesting quests, win lots of pvp fights, make online friends, and build a cool character.

The game itself determines the playstyle. In WAR the game will determine whether our main goals are sacking the enemy capital, killing a big raid boss, or farming pvp kills or something else. And the reward system will pretty much determine this.

If I am raiding and hear that my capital is under siege will I get better gear by sticking with the raid or going back to defend the capital? If it's ultimately all about attacking and defending the capitals and everything else is minor (which it probably should be in a true RvR game) then a player's evaluation of his success in all 4 Bartle types is measured in terms of capital sieges. Did I kill many of the attackers? Did I find new elements of the game under the stresses of intense mass pvp? Did we win? Have I made the friends and contacts to get invited along on our side's counter-attack?

You can't analyse an MMO accurately as if it were 4 little fishponds, one for killers, one for socialisers, one for achievers, one for explorers. Every element of the game and every player's enjoyment depends on a fusion of the four Bartle types in relation to what the game defines as important.

WAR will succeed if people have fun and if it matters to them what happens. In terms of a RVR game that means that WAR has to make capital sieges a vital and exciting part of every player's life. Even the guys who just lurk in the pve zones should feel that their 15 bear paws are making a vital contribution to winning the war and should feel recognised when their side wins.

I fear that WAR may fail to make RVR matter enough and that in turn will cause the game to underachieve. WOW has created a standard of suiting every player no matter what they do (epics for loosing arenas, for afking in AV etc). If WAR makes the mistake of imitating that then they will fail, if they have the courage to make a game where everything ties into winning this month's capital siege and winning really matters to players they will succeed.

Limited and unlimited goals don't matter, it's a matter of whether players believe in their realms. Just like in Football where the only reward for playing well in the League is that you might win the League and if you won it before you can't win it any better than last time. It's limited, it doesn't improve. A league title has the same value every year. Yet people still care passionately about the game.
I think WAR does a very good job of making PvP accessible to those who normally avoid it. I have never been big into PvP, and yet with WAR I find myself having a good time with it. With the open-zone RvR they've made PvP bite-sized, meaning you can just wander into the area, fight a bit, then leave at will. The way they've laid out the RvR areas into the PvE zones doesn't make you have to PvP but very much encourages you to check it out.
Uhmm if you are going to talk about Bartle types you should actually remember what they mean.

Killer types aren't identified by their desire to kill, that's just a consequence of their mentality.

Killer types are people who desire to exert their will on others. Killers would be an easier term to understand if Bartle had called them Dominators.

Explorers aren't just interested in finding hidden dungeons, explorers are also people who like to examine game mechanics.

Your misunderstanding of the Killer types doesn't really change your point about time scale.

But your mistake with explorers does impact that particular point.

Blizzard's combat formula's and macro/UI options allow a lot for certain types of explorers to have fun.
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