Tobold's Blog
Monday, June 29, 2009
 
Achieving happiness in MMORPGs

Happiness, chemically speaking, is the release of certain chemicals in the brain. One of them is dopamine, which is related to rewards. If you get an reward, dopamine is released, and that in turn increases the happiness you feel when you get the next reward. So one way to be constantly happy is to be on a constant dopamine high, fueled by frequently receiving rewards. Which is exactly how MMORPGs work.

Basic MMORPG gameplay consists of setting yourself a goal, and then achieving it, which leads you to the next goal, the next achievement, and so on. As achieving a goal is coupled with a reward, that makes you happy, especially if there isn't too much time between the achievements. Ideally, of course, the gameplay between the rewards should be fun by itself, or at least not frustrating. But very often players are more attracted by the constant stream of rewards than by the gameplay leading to it.

With developers eager to give the players what they want, getting from one reward to the next has constantly become quicker. While in earlier games you still needed to set your own goals, now in most games the goals come pre-packaged as quests, easy to do, and with a reward at the end. And often you don't even have to explore or think any more, as Larisa noticed even World of Warcraft will soon patch in an official "Questhelper", showing you where to go to do your quests. And of course because other players could cause delay and possible failure, soloing went from an emerging gameplay to being the norm.

Thus the standard gameplay of a modern MMORPG consists of you accepting a solo quest, performing a trivial task, and then being rewarded for it. After which the next quest starts, and the cycle repeats over and over. The "ding" of gaining another level adds another dopamine rush. Being constantly rewarded is what makes playing MMORPGs so addictive, although the drugs involved are produced by our body itself, and not some controlled substances. Still, taking that drug away can have consequences.

Dopamine's function in the brain is related to learning, and acquiring new behavior. We learn through carrots and sticks, and dopamine is the brain's carrot. Thus getting constantly rewarded in a MMORPG also changes our behavior, especially our expectations towards rewards. There is a certain danger involved in that. Not only that sooner or later the effect of receiving the same type of reward over and over dulls, and we get bored with MMORPGs; but also in that life is not a MMORPG, and is usually handing out rewards a lot less frequently, so there is a mismatch between our expectations and reality. MMORPGs teach us the wrong things about life, that success is easy to achieve, and anything you do gets rewarded.

But because it makes us happy, the MMORPG game design with ever increasing rewards in shorter and shorter intervals is going to remain with us for some time more. Until one day we collectively get bored of the virtual rewards, and they stop making us happy any more. Then maybe one day MMORPG design goes back to include other things that can make us happy: Social contacts, interesting gameplay, having to think to overcome challenges. I still have hope that one day we'll wake up and realize how dull a gameplay of constantly getting rewards for nothing much is.
Comments:
Which is why I consistently advocate sandbox end-games as being where MMOs should put their attention. That style of gameplay presents less of the "do this menial task for a small reward" as there is a more player-driven self-fulfillment. I know I have a lot more fun in an MMO when I achieve a goal I set for myself than when I complete the same quest in Nagrand for the eighth time or figure out that I can get a WoW achievement easily.

As far as I can see (and I might be wrong here), only through player-created content, or at least player-created goals, will the task and the reward ever realistically hold any meaning for the player. That is the only way for the reward to transcend beyond mere pixels on the screen, which is why I play MMOs for the social aspect nowadays more than anything.
 
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Another thing to consider is the increasing (and increasingly vocal) population of immature gamers who, in order to be happy, not only require that the game provide them a reward, but that it NOT provide any reward to anyone else which it doesn't provide to them.

See: the endless gallons of tears about being "forced" to arena, being "forced" to raid, etc. etc.
 
That's too pessimistic. To get together a group for Oculus heroic for the 4 hours per day that I have for WoW, going through it healing and explaining the instance for noobs, and after the 2nd week to get my healing staff .. You think that is a faster and faster becoming reward system?

Yes, leveling in WoW is too easy. I agree, as most people do. But there is so much more to MMOs and WoW. AS I repeat to say: MMOs are about the endgame and the rewards sometimes take months or even a year to complete. That was how long it took us to down Illidan, after he was introduced.

Yes get rid of the levels and let me start my MMO endgame right away. Quests can still be used as money supply (or without any reward if they are really soo much fún).
 
Challenge in a game like WoW if you are soloing is difficult, because it's very numbers oriented. If your character is capable of beating a given monster, you should beat it all the time if you know your class.

There isn't a lot of mystery.

If you want more challenge, PvP. Playing against other players means you are playing against a vastly superior "AI" than you otherwise get in the game.
 
Fortunately there are these other interesting beasts that I like to call non-massive-multiplayer-online-games, or just "games" for short. They too feature all sorts of neurotransmittery goodness that can lead to just as much enjoyment with less addiction:

http://blog.ihobo.com/2009/02/why-you-play-games.html
 
Thus the standard gameplay of a modern MMORPG consists of you accepting a solo quest, performing a trivial task, and then being rewarded for it

Here's an interesting question: If performing trivial tasks is so much fun, why don't people go for it in a single player game? In a good single player game, the player is expected gradually to take on harder challenges. For example, the first few levels in Portal are trivial, but they get significantly more difficult. Even extremely casual games like World of Goo get more challenging as you progress. If they didn't, players would get bored very quickly. (See Raph Koster's "Theory of Fun").

In WoW, the quests start out trivial and pretty much stay that way until the endgame. Getting and mastering new skills might keep things interesting at the beginning, but by about level 30 you've got all of your main skills. So how does an endless series of trivial quests keep people happy in an MMO, whereas it wouldn't in a single player game?
 
Raph Koster is big on the dopamine stimulation effect as a driver for MMO design, isn't he?

I've seen it cited many times as part of the underlying "addictive" nature of MMOs. What I don't know, however, if there's any respectable peer-reviewed, well-designed experimental research that actually demonstrates

a) that the release of dopamine or other mood-enhancing chemicals is stimulated by certain actions taken while playing MMOs and

b) if so, precisely which actions, or chains of actions, do have this effect and

c) how it compares to other, similar activities in comparable entertainment.

Until I see some data of this nature in a trustworthy journal or from a respectable research institution, I'm going to remain sceptical. Maybe that's what's going on - maybe not.

On a personal, anecdotal level, yesterday I played WoW for the first time ever. Within ten minutes of logging in I was angry and frustrated and after less than hour I had to stop and lie down for 15 minutes until I felt calm enough to carry on.

Why did I have that reaction? Well, mostly, as far as I could tell, because it was too fast, too bright and after just a few minutes I felt trapped and claustrophobic, on a conveyor belt heading to no fun at all. In a matter of seconds after logging in I had been given several tasks to do, for people I'd just met, with whom I had no connection, and my performance was being tallied in front of me.

I found it highly stressful, enervating and de-motivating. I don't think any mood-enhancers were being generated.

By the end of the evening, however, I'd played for five hours and mostly enjoyed myself. My mood elevated the moment I stopped taking quests and started to explore. The scenery was lovely, I found plenty to do on my own, for my own amusement, without running errands for strangers, and there were many interesting sights and sounds.

Compare and contrast with FFXI, which I have been playing all week, where the less I actually get done, the more time I have to spend just travelling, the more I have to explore and investigate to find if anyone even does want my help, the more relaxed I feel and the more my mood raises.

To sum up, I don't think MMOs are going to work for everyone any more than films or movies or sports. Some activities or sets of activities will trigger some mood changes in some individuals, while the same sets will have different or no effects in others.

Needs a lot of real research before we are all just talking "stands to reason" talk.
 
I totally agree that there needs to be more research on the neurochemical effect of MMORPGs, especially if some politicians demand warning labels for addictiveness or similar nonsense.

But just from observation of player behavior, and the evolution of MMO game design, the fact that these games are reward-driven is pretty much well established. Tolthir's question of why MMOs have a design which rewards you for trivial tasks up to the level cap is very relevant here. Why doesn't that happen in single-player games?
 
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It doesn't happen, because people enjoy a restaurant full of people more than a restaurant that is empty - especially if they want to eat alone.

Humans enjoy a social environment even if they do not actively engage with it. Just to know that 'there are others' makes your achievments (even.. especially if trivial) matter more.
 
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@ Mark Asher:


Challenge in a game like WoW if you are soloing is difficult, because it's very numbers oriented. If your character is capable of beating a given monster, you should beat it all the time if you know your class.


There are a lot of 3-man quests in WoW since TBC and as a feral druid I soloed almost all of them. They were the most fun parts of the game. Sometimes it failed several times in a row before I got some idea on how to do it.

Solo PvE content can be hard and rewarding. To 'know-your-class' can be pretty hard considering the number of cat, bear and casterform abilities you have.

Problem is that this kind of solo content is extremely hard to balance - probably impossible if you have too many too different classes and talent builds, which are quite desireable to have in an MMO otherwise.

That's also the main problem with 5-man instances. I remember a wiping fest in a PvP-emulated boss fight in the heroic 5-man dungeon of the sunwell in TBC.
We went there with 2 priests (shadow/healing), me as feral tank, and 1 mage and a warlock (4xcloth).

Although all of us were good players and well (although not overwelmingly well) geared and had cleared the instance quite often already, we were unable to beat the encounter in this constellation of classes. We tried until we were red and then got a rogue instead of the warlock. Suddenly it was trivial, as it has always been before. (Sap, blind, interupt, stun, mindnumbing poison >> fear+seduce in this encounter)

Fazit:
If you have a lot of different classes and talent builds solo content is absolutely unbalanceable. Since you need to make it beatable for everybody, this leads to very easy encounters for most players.

Months later, when I leveled my mage I tried to solo most of the 3-man quests as I did with the feral druid. I utterly failed at almost all of them. I either went oom or just could burst the boss fast enough, which is always necessary if the boss is unkiteable.
 
What happens when the fun stops being fun? Do our dopamine levels crash into oblivion because the rewards stop being fun, or could there perhaps be a much deeper rooted causation of why we find things fun other than a simple chemical effect?

I had a blast playing WoW for 4+ years. I enjoyed many elements of it, but deplored other elements that -other- people enjoyed. I would hate to think it all comes down to the concept that we're all nothing more than Pavlov's dogs hooked on dopamine.

I'd like to think that I enjoy things based on a conscious choice rather than a benign chemical addiction, else why would I choose to stop playing after 4 years?

Tolthir's question of why MMOs have a design which rewards you for trivial tasks up to the level cap is very relevant here. Why doesn't that happen in single-player games?

It does happen. Depending on the game, rewards can be as simple as extra ammo, health packs, newly found weapons, access to the "next level", ect. The difference with single player games is that the lack of the social component means that the player has to find out what the rewards are on their own by experiencing the game as it unfolds.

MMO rewards are more clearly defined, and the presence of the social element means that you now have an added layer of competition that is not present in single player games.

If I encounter a quest that suggests 3 players are needed to complete, I immediately ask myself if I might not be able to solo it. At that point I've already created the meta-risk, and if I can successfully solo the quest that means that I reinforce the notion that my character is as "uber" as I imagine him/her to be. Which is my own little reward, albeit someone else may view it as a very hollow one.
 
Part of the problem here is the design of 3-man quests around the standard MMO trinity of heal-tank-dps. If you're a class that can do all 3 adequately (e.g. Paladin, feral Druid or BM hunter) they can be easily soloed. Specialists lose out here, but in a good game design, they would be compensated by an ability to do regular quests more easily. This could then be balanced by providing some good rewards from some extended quest lines, which the specialists could complete faster.

The trouble comes when games like wow are trying to balance 3 competing things: raiding, soloing and pvp. To make the hybrids viable in raids, their performance has been made close to that of specialists. When badly done, this makes the soloing advantages of hybrids outweigh their small (if any) raiding handicap.

The only way around this that I can see is to drastically nerf the direct performance of hybrids, but give them buffs that provide enough benefits in a group to compensate. It's still easier to say this than do it, though!
 

[..]could there perhaps be a much deeper rooted causation of why we find things fun other than a simple chemical effect?


For everybody who believes in the theory of evolution it is quite easy to believe the chemical explanation.
I do, and also think it is arrogant to think otherwise. I can look at myself and see perfectly clear why I like what I like (playing MMOs). Unless I desperately have to change this, understanding that doesn't change anything.

It's like Hotel California in that regard: You can check out any time you like / but you can never leave :)
[Just started WoW again after a 7 month break with abosolutely no WoW - and it is FUN!]

I also mistrust all scientsis who claim to have the explanation on a molecular level, but the general idea seems correct.

What would humans feel fun for, if not for specialisation?
A man finds out that he is good a hunting dear, earns the respect of the community and enjoys killing dear for the rest of his life. Any other solution would be stupid. Imagine he was good at hunting dear, but started to lose interest in it after two days, because "it's just a grind".

Now, for all those who don't believe in the theory of evolution: I cannot help you, but I, too, can imagine a million other arbitrary explanations - especially if they involve allmighty beings :).
 
The problem with artificial fun, like MMOs in our society is that not all activities you can do necessarily are good for the society. In an ape-like society the only activities you ever do help the society at least in some way. Those that don't very quickly make you a burden for the society and in such a community that is REALLY a problem.

Nowadays we *produce* fun activities. It started with gambling, went to some sports/games and social events.

Wether this is a curse or a blessing is hard to say.

Obviously, activities that were designed to be fun are more fun than working to make a living.
It could be argued that humankind is evolving and a time is coming when everybody can do as he pleases and have a fun (and selfperceived meaningful) life.

Whenever I listen to the US-President (I just love to listen to his speeches, although I don't agree on everything), I get some kind of a bad feeling, when he askes people to do some community organising..
He is *right* !
I *could* join a political party and do my part to make this world a better place. But I have to say: WoW, consuming political blogs and MMO blog is just more fun. Sorry. ... Perhaps in the next decade.
 
The overall point is correct when talking about mass market MMOs, and in particular WoW 2008+. However, most niche MMOs don't cater to the 'reward everything including losing' design. With EVE still growing, at some point in 2010 it won't be a separation of niche and mass market, but rather two different markets, the 'reward a minute' gameplay, and the longer, more personal goal design. (or whatever we want to call the other design type)

Which gets back to your final point, perhaps those leaving the WoW reward model are, in many cases, those that have had their fill of small pointless rewards, and are now seeking something with more 'meaning'? It might explain, in part, why current and future WoW-clones are not seeing as much success and player retention, as those already close to the limit on quick rewards are not seeing that same addiction they did back when they started playing their first MMO, WoW.
 
Sorry (once again:) for spamming a comment section of one of your entries, Tobold. :)

I'd really like to ask everbody (Sven) to rethink his statement that WoW is limited to short term fun.

Do you have a 2200 arena rating? Have you ever tried to achieve one?
To work for that weapon is a major task. From assembling the group (correct classes?), planning schedules, up to the hard work of refining your coordination and team play it can take months.

Have you already assembled ~30-50 people and lead them into hard mode Ulduar several times a weak? Have you already completed this?

WoW offers everything. The leveling game is downright silly. IMHO Blizzard overdid it this time. I was a little bit shocked, when I realized that my single-target approach to killing mobs of 3 level above me was tupid in WotLK. Just get ~10 and AE them down - I did it in bear form - was faster than to kill them one by one as a cat. It becomes even more stupid as a moonkin.

However: WoW has it all and a 2200 arena rating is per definition hard to achieve, because it is per construction of the rating system only given to a certain amount of the top x% of the players. That's the reason they use this system that has been inspired by the system people use to determine your abilities at chess.
 
Simple enough in theory, but what is a reward for one person is not for another. Remember the bartle types? Socializers find the reward in chatting and meeting people, achievers like the levels, etc.

Successful MMO design should have enough for most personality types out there. It is after all, supposed to be a virtual world of sorts, hence it should have some diversity for different player types.
 
However: WoW has it all and a 2200 arena rating is per definition hard to achieve, because it is per construction of the rating system only given to a certain amount of the top x% of the players. That's the reason they use this system that has been inspired by the system people use to determine your abilities at chess.

I have two problems with that. One is that PvP in WoW is a completely different game, requiring completely different skills than PvE. You don't need to circle strafe PvE mobs. A hyperactive teenager hopping in circles around me is not what MMO combat is about for me.

The other problem is that it reminds me of WoW PvP pre patch 2.0, which also worked on a relative scale, rewarding the top x%. But there it was more clearly visible that there are a few people who reached that top x% by playing 16 hours a day. The WoW arenas now are *much* better in that respect, but you can still get an advantage by playing more than the competition, and having better gear than they do.
 

I have two problems with that. One is that PvP in WoW is a completely different game, requiring completely different skills than PvE. You don't need to circle strafe PvE mobs.


You correct in the regard that PvP requires different skills . Mainly because vs mobs you have lots of misconceptions what really works and what really doesn't, mainly because mobs are scripted retards and pretty much ANYTHING works vs them


A hyperactive teenager hopping in circles around me is not what MMO combat is about for me.


And then you proceed trying to degrade pvp by associating it with "hyperactive teenagers".

So here is the thing - you got burned in pvp, it doesnt give you that "reward" thing (instead you feel like being beaten) and now you try to constantly slander it .

PvP has certain barrier of entry: 1) You gotta be willing to learn and improve
2) You gotta be ready to lose. Sometimes in endless streaks (- that is until you do 1) )

Imho because of this barrier "rewards" in any sort of competitive environment feel more tangible. - As opposed to PvE , where you are rewarded no matter what.
 
And then you proceed trying to degrade pvp by associating it with "hyperactive teenagers".

That is not what I was saying. I'm saying that the main difference in needed skills is in the area of speed, reflexes, reaction time etc., where me as middle-aged man can't compete with said hyperactive teenager. He is so much better at PvP by nature, that no amount of willingness to learn will make me able to get a 2200 arena rating.

I can beat teenagers at anything which requires thinking on timescales that aren't measured in milliseconds. But when a fraction of a second makes a difference, anyone over 40 is simply disqualified.
 
Agreed on the Arena System. It very much reminds me of the pre 2.0 PvP ladder, as it is a throw back to letting a small number of players set the challenge bar, which will automatically discount the majority of players by definition. This is in stark contrast to their move to make raiding more accessible to the majority of players. Linking the Arena system in with most of the decent PvP rewards (even some battle ground rewards) was a major factor for my leaving the game, so yeah, the reward heavy system can backfire on you too.

And as far as chemicals go, PvP is probably more closely linked to Adrenaline in the case of actually having fun playing it.
 
Dopamine release as the drive behind mmo addiction is extremely reductive.

In my anecdotal experience, mmo addiction tends to happen when the person feels dissatisfied and listless with their real life. Maybe they are lonely. Maybe they are bored to death by school. Maybe their family life is bad. Maybe they hate their job. Or a mix of the three. I never saw someone who was simultaneously leading a life they found fulfilling and addicted to WoW. There was always something to run from. People who just enjoy an MMO and have fulfilling lives are generally casual gamers. Or at least I never met a happy addict.

It's only in the extreme absence of real life satisfaction that the paltry rewards MMOs hand out seem even remotely interesting.

Once someone starts using MMOs to get the satisfaction they aren't getting in real life, that's when addiction starts, and you have people forming their whole lives around their raid schedule or letting their grades fall to level to 80 or whatever.

Most people, including most MMOS players, aren't addicts, and probably never will be. Even addicts will break off the addiction of their own accord if their real life suddenly presents a more attractive reward structure.


And yes, I am pretty much entirely talking about myself up there. But also the people I was addicted with as well.
 
While I agree that some people are naturally advantaged or disadvantaged in PvP because of their reaction times, I still see your categorizing anyone who "has a fast reaction time" as a "hyperactive teenager" is unduly dismissive. If you want to say "I don't have a fast reaction time and other people are better suited to that than me," go right ahead. But be fair when you talk about PvPers.

That said, PvE endgame also provides significant challenges. Sure, the leveling and solo content is pretty easy and is only a test of time and patience. But raiding can still be srs bsns.

Finally, I reject the premise that "easy task > small reward is a bad thing." It's definitely a bad thing if it is taken to extremes. But obvious article is obvious. I think that a high-quality MMO ought to include this sort of gameplay as an option alongside other forms. Granted, I'm not happy that Wow forces you to slog through 80 levels of mostly one type of gameplay to open other forms.
 
"Tolthir's question of why MMOs have a design which rewards you for trivial tasks up to the level cap is very relevant here. Why doesn't that happen in single-player games?"


It does in some. RPGs often give you lots of trivial tasks (I don't remember final fantasy being especially hard). Just its strung together by a story and lots of new places to explore. And although the monsters get harder, so does your character. Not sure if difficulty really increases.
 
@Nils

"I'd really like to ask everbody (Sven) to rethink his statement that WoW is limited to short term fun."

Have I misunderstood what you meant here, Nils? I didn't say that WOW is limited to short term fun. Could you please clarify?
 

That is not what I was saying. I'm saying that the main difference in needed skills is in the area of speed, reflexes, reaction time etc., where me as middle-aged man can't compete with said hyperactive teenager.


If were talking about FPS -sure. Superior reflexes are requirement there, But ,lol, we discussing MMO ,wow in particular. Very lax reaction time, and does not require subpixel precision aiming in 100 ms timeframes


He is so much better at PvP by nature, that no amount of willingness to learn will make me able to get a 2200 arena rating.


Just roll DK and get a resto druid partner. There , 2200 rating and t2 s6 weapon easy for you . :)


I can beat teenagers at anything which requires thinking on timescales that aren't measured in milliseconds. But when a fraction of a second makes a difference, anyone over 40 is simply disqualified.


On a serious side. WoW Arena pvp is 60% strategic metagame (class/specs, team setup), 20% tactics ( you action plan for the opponents you meet, - that plan is something you make before the match , not in it) and maybe 20% -the execution.

The last part is much more forgiving that you telling yourself

There are mouse clicking gladiators out there you know? here is how pvp looks for noobs - getting overwhelmed - too many things going on , health droppping fast , panic sets , no plan for action , heart pounding. WHHAM -res prompt.

After you get trough "acclimatization period" and get calm all the action start making sense. You make a few macros to minimize key presses , start seeing what other players are doing (as opposed to mashing frantically your own buttons) and it all becomes much more manageable


You would be surprised that most "hardcore pvp" guilds are mostly middle aged men and not teenagers. it is because hardcore pvp (eve, shadowbane) is more about coordination ,organization and communication than any reflexes or twitch skills. Those come dead last in any mmo to date .



And as far as chemicals go, PvP is probably more closely linked to Adrenaline in the case of actually having fun playing it.


Certainly the "rush" is something PvP has. But it also has genuine fun element in it , I most people who dont get it is because they are stressed in any kind of pvp .

It is like they are attacked in RL or something. It does not happen in FPS because players expect it , but in MMO people just don't look at pvp as a game ,hence the wrong attitude.
 
WoW-leveling is to life as porn is to sex: an escapist fantasy that provides instant gratification for little effort. I'm not making a moral judgment -- just calling it what it is.

Raiding and arena are completely different games, since they require effort to succeed. Even though Naxx was much easier than Karazhan 1.0, you'd be surprised at the number of people who have not beaten KT. There are many players who are not going to devote that level of effort to the game, and they level alts or work on dailies or achievements. I have an alt in such a guild. They congratulate each other for completing fishing or exploration achievements!

My main problem with WoW is the amount of committed effort to accomplish anything in raiding or arena. For those hours, I could be doing something with a more worthwhile end result, like spending time with my wife, or working more at my next promotion, or getting better at bass guitar. Because my WoW gear is guaranteed to become obsolete with the next expansion, while the real-life accomplishments will pay dividends in the long term.

Dopamine, or easy access to experiences that produce dopamine, is great. But when the cost becomes too high, it's time to quit.
 
That's a great comment, Toxic. I think you've nailed it. I'm a person who has enough to do in his real life that he finds rewarding. I don't need to play MMORPGs for rewards. I play them because I find the mechanics and planning opportunities fascinating and I want to learn them. I also have an urge to be an expert at things that may be considered difficult, if only in my knowledge of them. So I tend to move away from games when I get bored with their mechanics or when the power growth takes longer than learning the mechanics do.

I'm not a normal player, in this regard, and I understand that. I think there are enough people out there, though, that are similar to me that a game or two that appeals to my kind of gamer has an audience.

Playing a game like WoW is a solved problem. All the quests are set in stone and have been done thousands of times. Raid bosses can be looked up online for strats. There are flavor of the month PvP builds and team compositions that will win given equal skill (though I do think PvP is the one unsolved aspect--unfortunately it's also unsolved from a design perspective). Because of this, the game is a flat, solved problem. There are rewards, but the tasks to do to get them are completely trivial and present me with little challenge.

I've learned that getting the reward isn't what keeps me playing a game, but enjoying the path I've taken to get the reward does. I want games that appeal to this sentimentality. Such a game will be more robust, in general, than a reward-everyone-for-everything reward-heavy experience-light game.
 
The WoW arenas now are *much* better in that respect, but you can still get an advantage by playing more than the competition, and having better gear than they do.

If we are talking about 2200 rating you can expect the same gear for everybody. The only reason time still matters is that you need it to get better.

Actually achieving all the purple items to start arena and then buy the standard sets is not that much of a time problem. You need perhaps 10 weekends at max! Just make the daily Wintergrasp and buy those items, make the daily PvP quest and some PvP during Weekends.
Doing some arena with less than perfect gear will also massively help.


I should mention here that I hate arena. It doesn't fit with the lore, it destroys my BG experience, it influences raiding, it produces healers that reg more mana than they need to heal against my damage. I hate it since S2 and have sworn to never do it again. In an RPG game I don't want to lose 50% of the time by definition.

But arena does provide a long term challenge that doesn't need much time, if you are good without training (which is an absurd assumption!!).
This argument of middle-aged men having worse reaction times is actually stupid. Even if you were right (you may well be a little bit right here) fast reaction times are not really what arena is about. 20% reaction times, 60% long term strategy (knowing what to do against which class-combinations before you meet them => you cannot solve this puzzle in real time, and 20% tactics.

You really need to sit down and be real honest with yourself, Tobold. You are a very intelligent man. I am pretty sure that somewhere inside you already know, that you are misleading yourself.
 
You really need to sit down and be real honest with yourself, Tobold. You are a very intelligent man. I am pretty sure that somewhere inside you already know, that you are misleading yourself.

Now this is something I'd love to hear. Tell me, oh wise one, who knows me better than myself, why do I a) suck at PvP and b) hate it? As you ruled out reaction time, you appear to suggest that I'm unable to grasp the intricate strategy and tactics of a complicated game like WoW. :)
 
I want to pick up on Toxic's comment too, it does contain a lot of truth about addiction and depression and going to put my personal perspective on it in my blog soon.

Anyways tl;dr version MMOs are not a place for a depressed person to "achieve happiness", just saying :)
 
Tobold I'd suggest you suck at it because you hate it. You just never put in the time to get decent cause you hate it. It takes a lot of time to get decent at pvp.

This isn't an MMO example, but after I quit WoW I picked up CoD4 after a few years of FPS rust. I literally died 10,000 times before I got decent at the game.

People who don't have a certain level of bloodlust just say fuck it and quit before then. WoW pvp is the same way, except worse because you have multiple axis of suck to work through, since your gear is so important.

It really doesn't take a lot of reaction time to do pvp well. Hell, if you do it right you don't need that much reaction time to win in FPS either.

But in a game where there is a 1.5 second global cool down, only sloths have problems with pure twitch reactions. Developing the internal calculator that knows that when an ice mage does X, do Y, whereas with a fire mage you do T, and if a rogue is around, you do D, that is the hard part of pvp in WoW.
 

you appear to suggest that I'm unable to grasp the intricate strategy and tactics of a complicated game like WoW. :)


Not that you are unable .He said that you are intelligent man (which I agree with). You are unwilling too.

PvP strategy and tactics is not just some theorycrafting about mob on scripted raid. There is theorycrafting for sure , but it just begins there

For most people its painful to realize that they don't actually know how stuff works , while they thought they were "good" at the game . When they pvp reality smacks them right in the face, that is one of the biggest reasons pvp is unpopular among masses.

And yes you will have to throw out excuses like " he circle strafes too much" ,"his reflexes are too fast". Pick the class which is least twitchy and more fotm (hint DK/Resto/pallies, not rogue/mage/locks) , pick a playstyle which suits you better , and play to the best of your abilities.

My personal example - I never thought I would ever do good in MP RTS. I was thinking "I am slow clicker, will never hit 300 cpm or whatver those crazy koreans do' . And avoided thme altogether.

Well fact is in RTSs there is no uber reflexes or speed involved, unless you pro. Majority of it is same old - knowledge of the game, good tactics and the rest falls into place. You do most of the "improving" offline , not in actual game.

p.s. Well now you can throw an excuse that you are not willing to invest time to learn all this just for a game :) - That is fine, just do not complain that you hit "the skill cap". Time one of the reasons I personally choose the MP games carefully .
 
And this, my friends, is "Bliss". Simply place the patch anywhere on your skin and the experience will begin.
 
I agree with the previous posters that being good at WoW PvP is primarily a function of knowledge rather than reaction times or gear. For the same reason that raiding is primarily about knowledge of boss strats rather than reaction times or gear.

At one point, I realized this and wanted to get better at arena. So I made a spreadsheet listing all 10 character classes times 3 main specs (not all are viable at high-end arena, but you do see them at the low end). Then added columns for DPS / heal / CC / survival and how to counter each one. I didn't have the patience to fill out the chart, and quit arena soon afterward. But I bet that any 1800+ ranked player could easily fill out that chart with a lot of specifics I'd never considered.
 
This game caught my attention and set off my dopamine from the sheer size of the game world, and the fact that while it isn't really a sandbox world, you are free to play how you want, for the most part. Now, to jump on the PvP aspect of the comments, even if it isn't exactly part and parcel of the main topic.

PvP is how I started playing online video games. Starcraft, Quake 2, Counter-Strike, and then the Battlefield series. RTS-FPS. Always PvP. I started playing WoW because there were no good FPS games out, and I quickly latched on. Mostly it was PvE while leveling, so the PvP part wasn't there, but I knew it existed.

Ultimately, I started doing PvP because friends from FPS games came over and its just what we do. Since then I've raided, done PvP, screwed around exploring and doing my own thing, but PvP is still what I consider my main focus of WoW (and not lolarena, but BGs and even, gasp, world PvP).

I'd say that PvP isn't necessarily harder than PvE in terms of knowing what to do, and when. If you and a friend are trying to down a melee and healer combo in an Arena or BG, you can hardly claim that millisecond reaction time has anything to do with actually bringing them down. It's more knowing how to contain one player while focusing on another player, and even at times switching the containment and focus between the two.

PvP just has a larger learning curve, almost like the picture of learning curves and EvE compared to other MMOs. Ultimately, PvP just requires more patience, and you have to learn other classes and what their spells do and how to counter them.

Not so much reacting in milliseconds, as much as knowing how the class about to start hitting you beats you...and how you beat it.
 
As far as I can tell, people are driven to get things done. We are also taught to feel good for accomplishments. Children are rewarded for doing their homework or chores, teachers give grades, jobs give salaries and bonuses. The lesson is: Accomplishment is good.

It is good. However in real life it is difficult and can take a very long time. For the most part it is not fun. Games aren't so restricted, they can be faster and can remove all the non-fun bits. This means that the accomplishment which we are driven to constantly seek, that can be provided constantly by MMORPGs.

Compare the peaks. Compare the time and skill needed for 2200 with being a top-notch doctor. 2200 requires some time investment, but pretty low risk. Becoming a doctor means a pre-med program (bye bye several years), med school (bye bye several more), residency, finally becoming a doctor, and then a long time to prove yourself. During this you could end up spending a dozen years working your ass off and possibly having no income.

Short version: We achievements of all sorts and MMORPGs are the fastest, easiest source. We're being efficient.
 
"Here's an interesting question: If performing trivial tasks is so much fun, why don't people go for it in a single player game? In a good single player game"

First I'd like to say, research shows that to get the biggest dopamine reaction from a player is to "make them think they are going to die" (and they generally have to want to live, in the game).

Also a quest's difficulty is not tied to levels.

For most quests handed to you at any given level, those quests are tested to give you a challenge, but make sure you CAN do it.

The "harder" quests are mixed throughout anywhere between level 1 and level cap.

Also analytical reports 4 years ago explained that Blizzard built WoW as a 1-player game.

People will always see challenges in different ways, or find challenges where others find boredom. WoW appeals to the masses, many small free games appeal to niche audiences(take Shaiya with it's mass PvP which no doubt shares a lot of it's player base with FPS games like Halo)

PG-13 movies found a way to appeal to the widest audience possible for maximum profits.

MMO's are NOT about endgame. If that were so, we'd already have games catering to "your" niche(being the endgamer niche), indeed PvP is a bigger niche than endgamers.
 
"perhaps those leaving the WoW reward model are, in many cases, those that have had their fill of small pointless rewards, and are now seeking something with more 'meaning'? It might explain, in part, why current and future WoW-clones are not seeing as much success and player retention"

Syncaine, I think we'd need a whole lot more data points to support such a bold theory.

(not to mention that I'm not sure how a _future_ game could be not seeing success and player retention.. wouldn't it have to actually be released before it could achieve or fail to achieve those things??)

My hypothesis is a lot simpler: WoW is a solid game which has been polished over time. EVE is a solid game which has been polished over time. These two games are enjoying success. The other WoW-clones we have seen crashing and burning were not solid games, and any polish was applied too little too late. Hence they did not achieve success and player retention.
 
My pet theory is that the MMO market is getting set up for a major collapse. WoW will die eventually, and a lot of those people will leave the MMO market forever because they just can't get into a new game, ala the great Atari crash.

Then the MMO will return to its natural roots as a place for hard core nerds to put way too much effort for virtual rewards.
 
Now this is something I'd love to hear. Tell me, oh wise one, who knows me better than myself, why do I a) suck at PvP and b) hate it? As you ruled out reaction time, you appear to suggest that I'm unable to grasp the intricate strategy and tactics of a complicated game like WoW. :)

I'm sorry for being a little bit presumptuous :). But you are again fleeing into an excuse:
PvP in WoW is a very complicated thing. This is not easy. It has intricate strategy and tactics.

For example try to write a guide on who to fight an ice mage as a disc priest. For example:
The mage will first try get me to 60% of health. I make this harder by mana burning him. Then he will start his CDs, because he cannot allow me to manaburn him too often. At this time I will have to be ready for a nova+icelance combo. Therefore I need to be ready to dispel the nova. This works only if I have not too many magic debuffs on myself. Therefore I should clean myself before regularily. I should generaly try to be next to him to be in range of a fear but not too near for a nova. The mage cannot me to be in that range and will therefore be forced to keep range r close the distance for a frost nova, which will lower his dps and make the whole thing more difficult for him. Alternatively he could trust his insignia or iceblock. But that's taking good CDs away from him. Eventually the mage might need to regain his mana. To to this he needs to sheep me first. If he doesn't do this I have to be ready to fear him once he does. Perhaps keep your fear CD just for that (?). While you do the whole thing I need to keep my HoT on myself and from time to time a shield. I should really try to at least be within manaburn distance - which is less than the range of most mage spells (afaik).
...
..
This is just out of my head and doesn't acknowledge level 80 abilities. Probably a dozen things could be added.

Now, actually priest vs. mage ís more or less trivial for the priest, but there is still a lot to know as you see. These are things you need to know BEFORE you start the duell. The only time when you need a fast reaction time is when you are frost novaed. Thus, you need to expect it and know what to do against it:
-Dispel if it makes sense (nomber of debuffs?)
-Insignia if it is really critical
-Fear if he is near enough, but be careful to dispel right after - otherwise he uses insignia and does the icelace combo.
- Shield if all else fails.
- Careful with not-instant spells. They can be counterspelled!

Add to the whole thing two rogues- one for him an one for you and the whole matter becomes a hundred times as complex. In addition you need to talk to each other to coordinate. It would be better (and necessary for high raitings) to reduce the amount of necessary communication by training, because otherwise too much information needs to be transfered too fast. You cannot both talk into your headset extra fast all the time.

...
 
Okay, I can accept that explanation for the narrow case of arena PvP. Which I only did once or twice.

The PvP I did far more was battlegrounds, especially Alterac Valley, Wintergrasp, and, in a different game, keep battles in WAR. And strategy in those cases was most prominent by its absence. I remember feeling sorry in several AV battles for the lone guy shouting strategy instructions and being ignored by everyone else.
 
Big battles work like a gaussian bell curve. Although there are a thousand more possibilities to consider, the probable outcome tends to be the same.
So - I agree with you. Especially for very large vs. very large battles all those games (especially WAR) tend to run into this trap.

Blizzard designed one of the very best scenarios here, IMHO: Arathi.

I, personally, await the rating for BGs, because I remember a time in classic WoW, when I played 16 hours the day and were part of the one group that produced high warlords. It was a hell of a lot of work, it was a hell of a lot of fun and it cost me one semester ;).
It also was one of the best times in my life so far - for some that might be a reason to pity me, but that would be very wrong. I wouldn't do it again, but I also don't want to miss this time.

Whatever. At this time you sometimes came up against the group of allies who tried the same on their sie of the server. They also worked day and night (more at night:) for that goal and the battles against them were more tactical than anything else in WoW by a wide margin. I have written guides on Arathi PvP at this time that were 10 pages long. Others have contributed. BG-PvP can be great - but it doesn't work with PUG - just like a good raid doesn't work with PUGs - and if it does work the PUGs complain (rightly) that it's somehow boring.
 
The PvP I did far more was battlegrounds, especially Alterac Valley, Wintergrasp, and, in a different game, keep battles in WAR.


The thing all of things, (except possibly Wintergrasp which I have never done) have in common is that they are shit.


If you want to have fun with pvp, you have to find a group of people to pvp with, and work with that team on a regular basis until you start getting good.

Pugging pvp is a recipe for suck. The only time I enjoyed pugging pvp was when I was so overgeared that I could obliterate people.

The greatest pvp I've ever had was when two teams fought tooth an nail down to the wire. The only place where you can find that at all in WoW anymore is in arenas. They killed premades in bgs when they switched from the rank system.

Good pvp is vanishingly rare these days in WoW.
 
what if hogger died and eventually a different randomly generated creature replaced him? Certainly would at least shake things up a little.
 
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