Tobold's Blog
Saturday, April 25, 2009
 
Player classification

As Dr. Richard A. Bartle himself might have said, "I've already seen Bartle's new player classification, it was called Players Who Suit MUDs". The explorer turns into Alice in Wonderland, who goes wherever fortune and fancy might take her. The achiever turns into Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, who follows the yellow brick road. And the socializer turns into Wendy from Peter Pan, who makes up her own stories. The killer is dropped, because there were only these three girls in the child pornography graphic novel Lost Girls, and world literature is curiously void of children stories having small girls killing her peers.

But while maybe not being original, Bartle's keynote at the Independent MMO GDC is very good, stating that games that focus only on one player type aren't as good as balanced games in which they all play together. And that while following a yellow brick road is great for newbies who otherwise would get lost, is somewhat lacking for veteran players. About PvP he says "RvR is never resolved and therefore pointless. Pvp is better - if you’re good at PvP, but the results are also pointless." Which I completely agree with, although it is strange in this context that the only game figuring as positive example in that talk is EVE Online. Isn't it strange that the only significant player interactions MMOs have come up with up to now is either killing each other, or getting each other wiped in a pickup group?
Comments:
Actually walking the yellow brick road is also pointless, as you well know. As is the exploration .. what is the point of THAT?
The point of all these things is fun. The illusion of a temporary non-pointlessness, a temporary purpose, meaning. A game that theoretically allows you to conquer the entire universe, but realistically never will let it happen is pointless but not perceived as such. That's why it is fun, as are all games and all sports.
The German Soccer League is resetted every year, but temporarily it is certainly not pointless to win the matches.
 
.. It is certainly not strange that "the only significant player interactions MMOs have come up with up to now is either killing each other, or getting each other wiped in a pickup group". 99% of all games ever developed by humankind basically offer as a reward the removal of the opponent from the game (by killing them or removing them in a more civil way (like in chess or ludo)).
The removal of the opponent is the evolutionary background of all games. It is no coincidence that humans like to play, this desire fulfills a purpose.
 
With regard to EVE - you do realise that there is a huge number of committed EVE players who never fire a single shot at another player. I know its the pvp that gets all the headlines but the reality of EVE is much much more complex than that.

It is a great pity Tobold that your brief flirtation with EVE got you only as far as the backward turning cusp of the (hilarious but true) learning curve before falling off. The game has fault to be sure but the richness of the game world is undeniable and it is not just about pvp.

You mentioned that you were getting bored with WOW so I assume you will soon be shopping around for a new game. Here is a challenge for you - Start a new EVE account ans see how quickly you can make 1 million, 10 million, 100 million.. a billion even without engaging in any combat at all.
 
Where would be the challenge in that? I can make 300 million in 5 minutes, the time it takes me to buy a game card and sell it completely legally for ISK.
 
Then you could invest that in learning skills and spend the next few months only logging in to train the next level of the skill.
 
Before this gets out of hand, I should point out that the Alice/Dorothy/Wendy categorisation applies to virtual worlds (or whatever umbrella term you use to talk about SL, WoW and everything in between). It does not apply to players.

Indeed, I mentioned this distinction in the "Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades" paper itself. As well as listing four player types, it lists four stable configurations of player types. Type 1 equates to Dorothy worlds, type 2 equates to Wendy worlds, type 3 equates to Alice worlds, and type 4 is the null case.

Any of the four player types can be happy in any of the three non-null configurations, they're just present in different proportions.

Richard
 
Dr Bartle is always entertaining and his presentation is beautifully put together. However his message is basically MUD1 was a better game than WoW is.

I didn't play MUD1 but I did play some muds in the late 80s. The best way to explain them is by pointing to COH's recent April 1st joke, which seems to be parodying a mud. To us older gamers it's not a parody though it's a reminder, this is EXACTLY what they were like.

http://www.cityofheroes.com/news/news_archive/ncnorcal_announces_city_of_her.html

Check it out, it's very funny, but then ask yourself if that would be a better game than WoW.
 
Interesting read. I looked over the pdf of his presentation, and it seems in his parting statements that he's advocating a return to the DIKU-MUD philosophy of game design...which as a historical statement is interesting. Isnt that where these divergent paths originated in the first place?

Also, I think he's glazing over the fact that technological advancements should soon allow procedurally generated content to pave the way for exciting new instance/dungeon group encounters. Create a character set, texture set, scripted event cueing algorithms...ect, and let the procedural algorithms build the instance on the fly. There is absolutely no need to procedurally generate the non-instanced parts of the Home-game world. Build a lush and interactive world. Let the procedural content define the experience and guide the player on their journey within that lush world.
 
I don’t know where I fall as far as whether I am normal or abnormal but I prefer quality in these areas instead of the fact they are there. In EQ I was very much a grouping person because group content was really well done, easy to find, and challenging. In SWG I was a sociolizer (really surprised me). I would spend hours finding just the right spot for my house then hours more decorating it. Again; it was easy to do and easy to find. I now play WAR and I am very much into PvP. It is (my opinion) the best designed and balanced PvP and with open warbands it is very easy to find.
The main thing in all of this is that all of this content was available from almost the very beginning of these games. In EQ you started grouping by lvl 10, in SWG you could have a house and decorate it pretty cheap, and in WaR I was running scenarios at lvl 2 and RvR by lvl 5. Moral of the story? Create good content instead of more content and make it easy for players to play many different ways. WoW would be a lot more interesting to me if I could have a house and PvP before 80 wasn’t pointless (not saying that would make WoW a better game, just better for me).
 
@Tobold says "I can make 300 million in 5 minutes, the time it takes me to buy a game card and sell it completely legally for ISK".

If that is how you choose to play then gz you have met my challenge. It is very possible (and an enjoyable challenge) to do it in game though. Without firing a shot.
 
I totally agree that it would be more enjoyable to earn the ISK yourself. But I do think that the legal possibility of buying ISK is taking away from the enjoyment of doing it manually. You feel like the guy climbing a mountain, only to find there is a lift to the top.
 
Someone had to earn that ISK for you, the ISK doesn't come from thin air. You can also be the one using ISK to get gametime and play eve essentially for free (save for time spent playing the game earning ISK)
 
"Isn't it strange that the only significant player interactions MMOs have come up with up to now is either killing each other, or getting each other wiped in a pickup group?"

How's your insignificant Guild doing these days then?
 
"The killer is dropped, because there were only these three girls in the child pornography graphic novel Lost Girls"

I haven't read Lost Girls, have you? I just find it hard to believe that Alan Moore is a sexual criminal. Why do you believe so?
 
@Tobold: "But I do think that the legal possibility of buying ISK is taking away from the enjoyment of doing it manually. You feel like the guy climbing a mountain, only to find there is a lift to the top."

Isn't that at the heart of the conflict in any group or personal appreciation of goals/success in an environment where external currency/activities can influence game resource distribution? Ie, any RMT/"Microtransaction" environment. Someone paying cash to play the game on "easy mode", etc upsets people doing it the "slow" route.

Of course, were someone to say in EUni corpchat (for example) "Hey, I just earnt my first 300M!", you'd get congrats. Add "...I just sold a PLEX." and people would shrug and wonder you'd mentioned it. I've never sold a PLEX, but I don't think "badly" of those who did - they did it for specific purposes that made sense to them at the time - I think one person was fitting out a dreadnaught for corp ops, but were bored/timeshort for the ratting, or perhaps their corp was bootstrapping nullsec access. I know several people (young players in particular) whose only way of acquiring gametime is by earning the ISK to buy a PLEX.

By giving more people access to play EVE the PLEX trade is doing the overall game community a service, really.

Add in to that that EVE's content is gated by _time_, and there's no way to accellerate that with PLEX=>ISK (except by buying a set of +5 implants, but the benefit over cheap +3/+4s isn't that high), so someone who can fly a carrier has _spent the time_ to earn that ability, no matter how they got their ISK. Same with any ability in a game. Someone who's in a ludicrously expensive Marauder battleship has gone through months and months of ISK to get there, the ISK required to purchase one is, really, pretty much trivial by comparison.

And since the PLEX<>ISK transfer isn't an ISK faucet, there's no negative economic impact. Someone exchanging 300M isk doesn't devalue the 300M ISK I just earned by building ships, or mining, any more than someone in nullsec getting a 300M item dropped in a belt.

I might feel upset of course if, in some ISK-based e-peen comparison, they had the bad manners to pretend the ISK came from a different source.
 
I haven't read Lost Girls, have you? I just find it hard to believe that Alan Moore is a sexual criminal. Why do you believe so?

I haven't read it, because as Bartle mentions on his slides, the book is actually illegal in several European countries. US law seems to be different.
 
"Isn't it strange that the only significant player interactions MMOs have come up with up to now is either killing each other, or getting each other wiped in a pickup group?"

You can actually have PvP that doesn't involve killing people -- crafting in games like SWG and UO is a good example (I know it has been mentioned before). It seems like you could combine the achievement oriented aspects of WoW (leveling/raiding with the player killing and PvP (crafting) from other games and have a better game. Add housing and you would also end up with a game that would appeal more to socializers.

Obviously crafting has to be balanced with raiding as far as rewards go, but it seems perfectly possible to have some of the best items come from crafters and some of the best items from killing things.
 
Coming back to this discussion after some thought.

I read an interview with Dr Bartle several months ago in which he referred to questing to max level in WoW as "updating his qualifications" and despite the fact that it may well have been meant somewhat facetiously I felt obscurely irritated. Because it misses the point of WoW.

WoW is not a levelling game. WoW is not just a chain of quests. WoW is not just a yellow brick road.

WoW is a sandbox.

WoW is a game where players choose from a wide range of radically different play styles and sets of objectives:
- you can devote yourself to raiding competitively - to beat bleeding edge guilds
- you can raid casually, pitting yourself against content
- you can arena, pitting yourself in pvp against small teams of players
- you can spend your time outside Ogr/IF duelling, soloing other pvpers
- you can level very slowly smelling the flowers as you go, rerolling to a new alt if you ding 80, just exploring the solo quest content
- you can collect pets and mounts and other fluff
- you can top kill boards in battlegrounds, never going near an arena while still considering yourself a great pvper. Essentially you're pitting yourself against your own team.
- within a raid you can choose to pit yourself against your team and chase the meters or pit yourself against the content and play for maximum raid effectiveness (not always synonymous)
- you can log in and mainly just chat
- you can play the auction house
- you can grind
- and many others

So this is what Dr Bartle and several other commentators on MMOs are missing. By only playing the questing to 80 game and stopping they miss the fact that WoW is a yellow brick road initially but then becomes a sandbox game. The reason WoW has so many players is that it is not simply or primarily enforcing one playstyle on its players. Arguably there is no other game that offers so many avenues to be successful because players define successful in their own wildly different terms. I think WoW is also the best game at convincing players who frankly aren't terribly good to feel wildly impressed with themselves and that is partly because of its sandbox nature.

In other words WoW already is the game Dr Bartle thinks game designers should be making, he just doesn't realise because he thinks WoW is Warhammer.

(definition of sandbox game here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandbox_game )
 
Dr. Bartle is just frustrated 'cuz he can't run with the Big Dawgs in PvP/RvR. Seriously, all gaming is "pointless." Oh except for the basic premise, which Bartle seems to miss, which is having fun. Makes me wonder if he got his "Dr" title from e-Bay?
 
lemegeton, he has a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence from the University of Essex. I suppose you feel your PVP accomplishments are better credentials?
 
Ph.D. in artificial intelligence

You won't believe how much self-restraint it costs me to not make the obvious jokes about THAT one.
 
Stabs>However his message is basically MUD1 was a better game than WoW is.

Gawd, this time I was hoping people might actually have read what I wrote... MUD1 was an Alice world; WoW is a Dorothy world. I was saying that a world can be both Alice and Dorothy at the same time.

>Check it out, it's very funny, but then ask yourself if that would be a better game than WoW.

Interface has nothing to do with this - it's a gameplay issue. Of course, if all you wanted was kudos for linking to a good parody of a badly-constructed textual world, well, I guess my talk was as convenient a hook upon which to hang it as any other...

Chris>it seems in his parting statements that he's advocating a return to the DIKU-MUD philosophy of game design

Uh? My parting comments were saying that we SHOULDN'T esteem the past as better than the present..! Some of what the past did it did better than the present, but some of the things the present does it does better than the past. Some of the things the future will do, it will do better than both - because it has access to both.

>I think he's glazing over the fact that technological advancements should soon allow procedurally generated content to pave the way for exciting new instance/dungeon group encounters.

What you're advocating is the equivalent of a multi-player Rogue sub-game in the walled garden of an instance. I should imagine that this would indeed be quite fun, but it's not a long-term solution. It's a way to extend the DikuMUD paradigm without stepping outside its run-on-rails philosophy, but ultimately you still have a problem with players who have gone beyond wanting that. I'm sure there are other ways to extend the DikuMUD paradigm, too, but my point was that eventually players just grow tired of it, no matter how innovative it becomes, because the paternalistic attitude that appeals to newbies does not appeal to oldbies. Players grow up as players.

Stabs>WoW is a sandbox.

No, it's not.

>WoW is a game where players choose from a wide range of radically different play styles and sets of objectives:

So? It's not a sandbox. In a sandbox you have freeform choices by design; a large menu of enticing, designed activities does not make a sandbox. Sure, you can play it as a sandbox if you like, but you can do that with any game that allows for some degree of solo play. You can treat Tetris as a sandbox if you want; that doesn't mean it IS a sandbox, though.

>So this is what Dr Bartle and several other commentators on MMOs are missing.

No, it's not. Or let's put it this way: if you want to call WoW a sandbox, then you need to come up with another term that describes Ultima Online, EvE Online, A Tale in the Desert, Second Life, and all those other virtual worlds where you can just play for the sake of playing. Even LotRO has housing!

>By only playing the questing to 80 game and stopping they miss the fact

No, see, you really don't get it. I played to 60, then 70, then 80, because I was tired of being criticised by people who don't understand game designers, who seem to think that you have to play a game for 3 hours every night for 2 years in order to understand what it involves. Players might, but designers don't: I knew what to expect, and sure enough what happened was just what I expected. I was aware when I made 60 the first time that I would immediately be told "this is where the game REALLY starts" by people who wanted to secure their own sense of achievement; it's a never-ending thing. But, just as I knew pretty well how WoW would pan out for the levelling game, I knew how it would pan out for the raiding game, too. It would be very difficult for someone who has worked on these things for 30 years NOT to know! Yet you seem to think that I can't possibly conceive of what happens after reaching the level cap. OF COURSE I can! I knew what it would be like before I even started the levelling game! It's not exactly difficult: take an MMO you haven't played (LotRO, maybe?), look at the basic gameplay differences (classes, party sizes, deeds, monster play, traits, lousy crafting system, fellowship combos) and tell me that you don't at least have vague idea of how the elder game will pan out.

>The reason WoW has so many players is that it is not simply or primarily enforcing one playstyle on its players.

That's "a reason", it's not "the reason". Plenty of MMOs before and since have not enforced one playstyle; indeed, some haven't enforced ANY playstyle.

>I think WoW is also the best game at convincing players who frankly aren't terribly good to feel wildly impressed with themselves and that is partly because of its sandbox nature.

I agree it's very good at what it does. It's not because of its "sandbox" nature, though, because the sandbox elements to it are fairly incidental.

>In other words WoW already is the game Dr Bartle thinks game designers should be making, he just doesn't realise because he thinks WoW is Warhammer.

Don't worry, no-one is going to take WoW away from you, there's no need to pledge your troth to it...

Richard
 
Stabs>WoW is a sandbox.

"No, it's not.

>WoW is a game where players choose from a wide range of radically different play styles and sets of objectives:

So? It's not a sandbox. In a sandbox you have freeform choices by design; a large menu of enticing, designed activities does not make a sandbox. Sure, you can play it as a sandbox if you like, but you can do that with any game that allows for some degree of solo play. You can treat Tetris as a sandbox if you want; that doesn't mean it IS a sandbox, though."

Thanks for your reply, Dr Bartle. For most of it I think we'll just disagree but this part puzzles me.

If you can play it as a sandbox but it was designed as linear then to my mind it is a sandbox. Look a wheel was something invented to make carts ride smoother. But when you put it on a car, it doesn't stop becoming a wheel. It certainly wasn't designed to go on a car though.

A product is not defined by the design intention it's defined by the use it is put to. Thus an entrenching tool is, in certain contexts, a weapon.

Generally speaking WoW end-game is non-linear. Or perhaps it is linear but there are a hundred different lines. At some point there must be enough lines in a linear game with different paths of play that it becomes a non-linear game.

Possibly this is where our differing backgrounds cause us to see things differently. I look at a game with 10 000 possible routes of advancement of which 9 990 are complete crap to be functionally identical to a game with 10 possible routes of advancement.

I realise we are essentially arguing semantics here but I think it's quite interesting.

This is an excerpt from Wikipedia's definition:
"For example, a nonlinear game may permit multiple sequences to finish the game, a choice between paths to victory, or optional side-quests and subplots. Some games feature both linear and nonlinear elements, and some games offer a sandbox mode that allows players to explore the game environment independently from the game's main objectives."

Different ways to win - check
multiple winning sequences - check
optional side quests and subplots - check
explore the game environment independently from the main objectives - check

When I look at wikipedia WoW ticks all the boxes, I genuinely fail to see how you feel WoW is just a Dorothy game. The only thing I can glean so far is that you have some notion of what the word sandbox means that is not the same as the wikipedia definition and which I assume is not as facile as "it's sandbox if the designers meant it to be sandbox".
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
What you're advocating is the equivalent of a multi-player Rogue sub-game in the walled garden of an instance. I should imagine that this would indeed be quite fun, but it's not a long-term solution. It's a way to extend the DikuMUD paradigm without stepping outside its run-on-rails philosophy, but ultimately you still have a problem with players who have gone beyond wanting that. I'm sure there are other ways to extend the DikuMUD paradigm, too, but my point was that eventually players just grow tired of it, no matter how innovative it becomes, because the paternalistic attitude that appeals to newbies does not appeal to oldbies. Players grow up as players.Well, isnt the basic DIKU premise that: You kill "X" monster to get "X" more experience(and better loot) which allows you to to kill the next, more difficult monster.....like WoW does? This kind of design philosophy dictates that we have a linear progression path in any game that uses this approach. If players are maturing beyond a basic design philosophy, then maybe the paradigm doesnt need extending. Maybe it needs shifting. In that regard, I feel that technology, in the form of procedural content generation, will prove to be a huge aid to developers as programmers become more acquainted with what it needs to do. From pen and paper games; to text based MUDS; to graphical MMO's, the players are still basically doing the same thing after all of these years, and up till now technology has been used to facilitate the delivery mechanism for this type of content, instead of being used improve the content itself.
 
I hate google formatting.
 
Stabs>Look a wheel was something invented to make carts ride smoother. But when you put it on a car, it doesn't stop becoming a wheel. It certainly wasn't designed to go on a car though.

So now cars are sandboxes?

>Generally speaking WoW end-game is non-linear.

Sandboxing isn't a linearity thing, it's a freedom thing. You get consistent, emergent behaviour from sandboxes that you don't get from non-sandboxes. The sandboxes support the emergence.

For example, you could use WoW's chat system to play word games (eg. hangman). In some virtual worlds that lack content of their own, this is the kind of thing that players will do in order to amuse themselves. Sometimes, WoW guilds will do it as a bonding exercise. However, it's not something that's ever going to take off in WoW because it has too much structured content. Thus, while WoW has perhaps a number of small sandboxes dotted around its playground, almost all the play occurs on the swings and roundabouts - it's not itself a sandbox.

>Or perhaps it is linear but there are a hundred different lines. At some point there must be enough lines in a linear game with different paths of play that it becomes a non-linear game.

Not necessarily. Suppose that you made a virtual world that contained every single-player casual game ever invented as independent sub-games. You have a vast, vast collection of different paths of play, but you still don't have a sandbox. You can't readily combine those different paths in ways that enable you to create new play experiences. You have non-linearity - you can play those mini-games in any order you choose - but no sandbox.

>I look at a game with 10 000 possible routes of advancement of which 9 990 are complete crap to be functionally identical to a game with 10 possible routes of advancement.

I agree. However, I would point out that the 9,900 that you think are crap may not be the same 9,900 that other people think are crap.

>This is an excerpt from Wikipedia's definition:

You ... TRUST what Wikipedia says?!

>"For example, a nonlinear game may permit multiple sequences to finish the game, a choice between paths to victory, or optional side-quests and subplots. Some games feature both linear and nonlinear elements, and some games offer a sandbox mode that allows players to explore the game environment independently from the game's main objectives."

So how do I switch on WoW's "sandbox mode"?

>Different ways to win - check

You can't win WoW - uncheck that!

>multiple winning sequences - check

If you can't win it, you can't have multiple winning sequences - uncheck those!

>optional side quests and subplots - check

Yes, this is present. I'm not saying WoW doesn't have a healthy measure of non-linearity.

>explore the game environment independently from the main objectives - check

You can explore it in the sense of visiting it (although now, with "achievements", even this becomes a game-defined goal). What you can't do is change it in any way. It's like sitting in a sandbox where the sand is glued together so you can't actually play with it. You may as well say that a TV with 200 channels is a sandbox because you can "explore" them all.

>The only thing I can glean so far is that you have some notion of what the word sandbox means that is not the same as the wikipedia definition

I've no idea who wrote the Wikipedia definition. I know what "sandbox" means, though. Indeed, I know what it used to mean in an MMO context before it means what it does today: it used to mean that the first people to get to positions of power in a virtual world get to keep them, with little opportunity for late-comers to change things (many guilds are "sandboxed" in this way, for example).

However, I don't see the Wikipedia entry as being entirely different from what I mean anyway. It's talking about a particular feature of some games where you can flick a switch and you're in "sandbox mode", where the gameplay has been removed and you can do whatever takes your fancy that the physics allows without fear. A "sandbox world" is one that has this kind of feature as a general element of its design. There are different degrees of sandboxing (SL is all sandbox, EvE is heavily sandbox, UO is reasonably sandbox, LotRO is marginally sandbox - mainly through its housing), but at the very least you need to be able to make some kind of permanent change to the virtual world for it to qualify.

Richard
 
Tobold>Ph.D. in artificial intelligence
>You won't believe how much self-restraint it costs me to not make the obvious jokes about THAT one.

It's OK, one of the first things a young AI researcher is told is that people will make jokes about "artificial intelligence, real stupidity" etc.. By the time they complete their PhD, they've heard these so many times it's water off a duck's back.

I am genuinely impressed that you did exercise your self-restraint here! I was expecting someone to take the usual pot shot, but your remark prevented them from doing so.

Richard
 
Chris>Well, isnt the basic DIKU premise that: You kill "X" monster to get "X" more experience(and better loot) which allows you to to kill the next, more difficult monster.....like WoW does?

Yes, this is indeed the case. WoW uses the DikuMUD paradigm.

>This kind of design philosophy dictates that we have a linear progression path in any game that uses this approach.

You're right, it does. There will be differences at the tactical level (which quests to take, what to do next) but at the strategic level it's pretty well linear.

>If players are maturing beyond a basic design philosophy, then maybe the paradigm doesnt need extending. Maybe it needs shifting.

But if the basic design philosophy remains the same, how will that help?

>In that regard, I feel that technology, in the form of procedural content generation, will prove to be a huge aid to developers as programmers become more acquainted with what it needs to do.

I don't doubt that it will - indeed, I myself have in the past described some mechanisms by which it can take place (http://www.skotos.net/articles/DAWNOF.shtml, articles 23-34).

This doesn't alter the fact that if players grow weary of the "kill things to get stuff so you can kill bigger things to get better stuff" approach, yet more content which offers more of the same is not going to appeal no matter how good it is - procedurally generated or not. Procedural content generation has potential for people who are still happy with the paradigm, but if they want a different paradigm then they'll need a different kind of content (procedural or otherwise) entirely.

Richard
 
"Sandboxing isn't a linearity thing, it's a freedom thing"

You see this is what I don't follow. If you can do anything you like but there is a yellow brick road to follow should you choose to do so you are not less free than if you can do anything you like without that road option.

Let's look at real sandboxes. A half ton of sand tipped into a corner of a playground in a big wooden box. Add four-year old kids.

You get a very free style of play. Some kids run around throwing sand about. Some might sit quietly in the corner pouring sand from one hand to the other. Some might try to build sandcastles with their hands.

Take the kids out for a minute and tack down a strip of yellow plastic across the middle of the sandbox. Put the kids back in.

Many kids are attracted to the yellow strip, it's the feature in an otherwise featureless play environment. Some will walk along it, hands held out for balance. Some will crawl along it. Some kids will run around the rest of the sandbox chucking sand about and some will ignore the rest and quietly pour sand from one hand to the other or build a sandcastle.

That's WoW.

After a while the yellow strip will bore the ones playing with it and most will play with the sand. There might be a couple of kids still fascinated by the yellow strip and walking along it over and over.

That's WoW end-game.

Do you see where I'm coming from? This term "sandbox" seems to have become some kind of design grail, to have caused design fashion to deride theme park games as some sort of primitive MMO prototype we need to move on from. It's as if all you have to do to design a great game is leave stuff out.

I think it's flawed to only see WoW as the yellow strip. I didn't like your keynote because I think you try to shoehorn WoW into a box it doesn't fit in.

WoW's strengths need to be understood and built on rather than discarded.

Free Realms is an example of this done right. Free Realms essentially takes the cute minipet collection subgame from games like WoW and EQ(2) and uses that as the main thrust of its game. There's a little more to FR than that but from what I've read about Free Realms pet collection is the only thing that people get genuinely excited about (plus of course the opportunity to play with their kids).

Evolution not revolution. Looking at products in a holistic way not a reductionist way.

Fwiw I'm not pursuing this line out of pure fanboyism. I'd love to see WoW eclipsed by a better game.
 
Stabs,

the problem I see with your understanding of WoW, is in your understanding of "Sand." Can I kick over a chair in WoW? Can I dig a hole that someone else can jump in? Can I throw beer on the bartender? Can I build a house that someone else can walk into? Can I paint graffiti on Stormwind's walls? Can I form my only little bandit hideout in the middle of Elwyn Forest, evading the guards, and holding up other players for toll money? Can I form a posse and hunt down another player who has his own bandit kingdom in Elwyn and bring him to justice? Can I climb a tree and pick an apple from it? Can I even do so little as change the colour of my own armor?

We all know the answer to these things. WoW is not that free form. It is not "sandy" at all. It is more like playing with toy cars. I can do a lot with those cars, even pretend they are space ships if I like, but they are still toy cars, and they are still limited by their initial design and form. Fun, but NOT sand.
 
Hardly any of that is in Eve or Daggerfall or any of the other notably sandbox games. Where it is in it's a deliberate feature like ffa pvp or or player housing which is simply a designed addition to a game.

It seems to me that you're defining and admiring these games because they lack a central path not because there is something in there instead of the yellow strip nor even that it's absence generates play that is notably lacking in games with a progression path.

All of the sandboxy type features seem to be options in WoW or WoW-clones. I really don't see what the big deal with sandbox games is. I really can't see why decorating your player house is sandbox and cool but collecting a load of minipets is linear and rubbish.
 
Stabs,

Well, I can't speak for Dr. Bartle, but I would say the difference between being able to decorate or customize the appearance of something you have in game and the ability to simply collect pr-rendered pets is pretty clear. One of them allows you to have some impact on the world, it lets you change it somehow. The other, well, there isn't much difference between collecting pets and doing quests or achievements.

Player housing, or say, something as simple as being able to dye your armor, allows you to actually customize and change your world. It is pretty rudimentary, and doesn't touch on some of the other examples I mentioned, but if you look at Dr. Bartles' arguments here, he seems to be saying that there is a fundamental "sand box" quality to some of these design elements in these other games that is lackign in WoW. The design differences between collecting bottle caps and painting inside a colouring book should be pretty obvious. In this way, I would argue that WAR actually has a slight leg up on WoW due to the ability to change the colour of your armor. The same would be true of Guild Wars.

I suppose you could argue that a mini-pet is a kind of customization of your character, but you didn't really seem to be arguing that, as you mentioned the "collecting" element. I think in WoW, your better option would be to mention things like Easter Bunny ears, costume clothes, or the mini-pets as accessories. Then you are getting a little more into Sandbox type elements.

Now, if you can mishmash mini-pet parts to create your own mini-monstrosity to follow you around, then you would really have something.
 
Ha ha I do like the idea of mini-monstrosities!

I think my point is really that the sandbox/linear model is now much more blurred. In the 90s you had Planescape: Torment on the one hand on the other hand Daggerfall. The distinction is very clear.

Now, look at it from a player point of view.

JoeBob is a Hunter in WoW, he tries raiding and he's crap, his guild kicks him out. He turns to pugging 5 mans for a while. Gets his gear. Gets bored. Decides to try pvp. Does arena for a few weeks. Is crap and loses a lot. Decides to focus on battlegrounds. Finds his niche hiding at the back of his team and sniping. Looks at his place as top on Killing Blows. Concludes that he is god's gift to WoW and is really enjoying himself.

His brother plays Eve. Tries pvp, is crap. Tries crafting it's too complicated and difficult. His remaining option is to mine for his corp over and over and over.

Conclusion: WoW is a linear game with only one option and Eve is a freeform game supporting any option you can think of.

This is what I'm not understanding. How people are reaching this conclusion from the afore-mentioned player experiences.

But thanks to everyone who has contributed, especially Dr Bartle. It's been an illuminating discussion for me although I don't think we've achieved much common ground.
 
Sorry for the late response, but in the off chance that you revisit this thread Mr. Bartle:

>>But if the basic design philosophy remains the same, how will that help?

I was thinking in terms of applied problem solving skills versus presentation.

When I was a child, sticks and stones were the implements by which I defeated my imaginary foes. As I grew older, the mechanics of my imagination changed as my life experiences provided new fodder for my mind to contemplate. My imaginary gameplay became more complex and more involved as a result. Basically, every so often I "outgrew" my own imagination, and as a result things became boring until my life experiences provided my mind with more things to contemplate.

The problem with the DIKU design philosphy is that it relies on known outcomes as the means to further the players progression. This is what players grow bored of, or outgrow. When a player is given a quest, they are automatically given the outcome, the reward and the closure even before they choose to accept it. Once the first person does the quest, or a particular questline, everyone else will know what to expect without even talking to the NPC. Thus, the social aspect of the game sometimes defeats the designers intended impact of a particular questline.

But, what if the design philosophy shifted by virtue of using dynamic, or procedurally generated quests which required the player(s) to actually -solve problems- instead of requiring them to "kill ten rats" or "gather ten foozles"? What if there were no more "end game" encounters for players to defeat, farm to gear everyone up, only to sit around and twiddle their thumbs afterwards waiting for more "static" content? What if a Warhammer type of dynamic public quest were implemented, which after being procedurally generated on the fly, the group could recruit as many members as it needed to battle a procedurally generated instance boss(for a limited amount of time - one week maybe) until the timer ran out, or success was achieved? No strategy guides, no canned or scripted attempt measures....letting the group determine its own success...or failure. Take the current "static" design philosophy of DIKUMUD's and shift it to a "dynamic" design philosophy. It would alleviate most of the "outgrowing" or "boredom" issues you mention above. IMHO.
 
Stabs, I think the only way to truly understand what Richard and others are saying about what is or isn't a sandbox world is to try one of these other worlds out. And it doesn't have to be a MMORPG. In fact, if you stray from MMORPGS, you may have played many actual sandbox games.
 
Chris>in the off chance that you revisit this thread Mr. Bartle:

I did, yes.

Oh, and please call me Richard - this Mr Bartle thing sounds unnecessarily formal (and besides, I'm Dr Bartle!).

>The problem with the DIKU design philosphy is that it relies on known outcomes as the means to further the players progression.

That's one of its problems, yes. It's a strength early on, rather than a weakness, but as people progress it becomes less and less relevant until eventually it presents more of an obstacle to fun than a facilitator of it.

>Once the first person does the quest, or a particular questline, everyone else will know what to expect without even talking to the NPC.

Indeed. Once the explorers have explored, the achievers move in.

>But, what if the design philosophy shifted by virtue of using dynamic, or procedurally generated quests which required the player(s) to actually -solve problems- instead of requiring them to "kill ten rats" or "gather ten foozles"?

OK, well there are programs to generate Sudoku grids, so we can write programs to generate quests. We can write programs to generate whole puzzle books of assorted puzzles, so we can write programs to generate whole suites of quests of different types. This will indeed mean that we'll get a variety of quests that involve puzzle-solving.

They're still constrained, though. Instead of seeing web sites telling us where to go and what to kill, we'll see ones that tell us how to solve the various puzzles.

>What if a Warhammer type of dynamic public quest were implemented, which after being procedurally generated on the fly, the group could recruit as many members as it needed to battle a procedurally generated instance boss(for a limited amount of time - one week maybe) until the timer ran out, or success was achieved?

In the old days, we used to call this "man versus random number generator".

Yes, you can do it. Yes, it might be fun for a while. In the end, though, players realise it's pointless. The intellectual problem of dealing with it may be stimulating, as with puzzles in general, but it has no meaning. You kill the boss, and next week along comes another one with a different set of randomly-determined features you have to notice, figure out and overcome.

>It would alleviate most of the "outgrowing" or "boredom" issues you mention above. IMHO.

I think it could perk people up for a while, but the ennui will return. It still falls squarely within the basic philosophical position of DikuMUDs, in which content is streamed specifically for predefined archetypes, with no opportunity for individuals to break out and do their own thing.

Richard
 
Stabs>Some will walk along it, hands held out for balance. Some will crawl along it. Some kids will run around the rest of the sandbox chucking sand about and some will ignore the rest and quietly pour sand from one hand to the other or build a sandcastle.
>That's WoW.

No, that's not WoW.

Instead of sand, think of a swimming pool. You jump in, splash around, dive to the bottom, change stroke - you can do whatever you like. Except, if everyone else is doing that and you just want to swim for half a mile, they're in the way. So, add lanes, and now you can achieve your aim of swimming for half a mile. Yes, you can stop and splash and dive and go backwards if you want, but only within your lane.

That's Wow.

>Do you see where I'm coming from? This term "sandbox" seems to have become some kind of design grail, to have caused design fashion to deride theme park games as some sort of primitive MMO prototype we need to move on from.

Designers do want to move on, but what's driving this is that players want to move on. Theme park gameplay is fine for newbies, but we have millions of people now who are no longer newbies. Why continue to give them things to do that are all predicated on gameplay that newbies find fun? Isn't there some kind of gameplay that oldbies can find fun?

>I didn't like your keynote because I think you try to shoehorn WoW into a box it doesn't fit in.

I wasn't talking specifically about WoW - I was talking about all MMOs in the DikuMUD tradition. They gained something in the split from social worlds, but they lost something too. Now they've become established and self-confident, they can look back at what they lost and take it back.

If WoW is a sandbox, tell me anything I can do which has a lasting impact on the world. There are very occasional server events and some scripted phased content, but these are things that were always going to happen - they're just the same world, overlaid. How can I do something personal and creative that makes an impact?

Richard
 
>If WoW is a sandbox, tell me anything I can do which has a lasting impact on the world. There are very >occasional server events and some scripted phased content, but these are things that were always going to >happen - they're just the same world, overlaid. How can I do something personal and creative that makes an >impact?

This is what I was getting at with my own responses. It is important to understand the nature of "sand" when discussing the design elments of a "sand box" : a colouring book and some colours, or a blank canvas and some paints.

I also don't mean to imply with that analogy that one is necessarily more mature than the other (because I think that a novel, which is about as on-rails as you can get can be a VERY advanced form of art in the right hands), but one IS more creative.
 
If WoW is a sandbox, tell me anything I can do which has a lasting impact on the world

- write an addon. Kenco's threatmeter radically changed the way people play their characters.

- pioneer new theorycraft. Mage theorists at Elitist Jerks converted a majority of end-game raiding mages to the Frostfire Bolt spec which was not an obvious spec unless you crunched numbers to a pretty advanced level.

- make a machinima movie. Nhym's films bring extra depth to the IP.

- create a great raid guild. Magtheridon EU server has seen a tremendous influx of paid character transfer migrants who moved there because they felt they would see a better raid game on Nihilum's server.

- shut down a lowbie zone with your level 80 Rogue by killing quest givers and questing lowbie players. While the impact only lasts as long as you actively do it you could certainly remain active for 24 hours which is the amount of time Goons' famous "sandbox" coup over BoB actually lasted before BoB reclaimed all those territories under its new name.

- create an auctionhouse monopoly or an auction house glut. Blogger Gevlon is well known for becoming rich by creating a service which lets people on his server by any glyph they like any time - a facility most WoW players don't have because for most glyph-making players it's too much hassle to list every glyph.

- play the forum game and get a class nerfed or buffed. Paladin players have issued death threats and published designer's real life home addresses in their campaign for dps buffs - they got them.


I think my point really is not so much that WoW doesn't have rails, it obviously does. Just that it is more open-ended than your example of swimming in a lane, Richard.

A secondary point is that sandbox games are not really sandbox. Take Eve. I'm a spaceship pilot right? So today I want to go clubbing and get laid, then I'll infiltrate the tax service and engineer a way to embezzle millions then I'd like to get myself elected President of the Universe. Wait I can't do that? What can I do? Mining or fedex runs. How sandbox!

A tertiary point is that at one time in the distant past I did actually know what sandbox meant. It meant a game like Daggerfall which was basically an offline version of WoW.
 
Afterthought: Eve isn't sandbox because it supports options to do anything you like. It's sandbox by omission, its sandbox because it lacks rails not because it has anything to do instead that is better.

My point really is that I don't see sandbox by omission as a design grail. Sandbox by inclusion - a game design that really did let you do anything (or at least a reasonable facsimile of anything) now that would be a design grail.

I guess I see the IDC presentation is saying:
"Don't make a wow-clone. Make a wow-clone but leave out all the quests after level 10. By omitting that content you'll take gaming to the next level"
which is obviously nonsense.

I'll work on some concrete ideas then blog about them. Fwiw you may not have convinced me to agree with you, Richard, but you did convince me to think.
 
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool