Tobold's Blog
Sunday, September 06, 2009
Thought for the day: Success

Blatantly stealing a frequently used headling from Killed in a Smiling Accident, I'll experiment with a for me unusual form of writing: Just throwing out a single thought, without writing several paragraphs about it.

The thought for the day is about success, triggered by a comment from a reader who said that people who concentrate on playing a single avatar are more successful than those with alts. Yes, but only if you define success as linear progress in the end game. If the purpose of a game is to entertain, isn't the guy who is completely happy with a dozen alts more successful than the guy who has a single avatar and who is starting to burn out?
Agreed, There are 2 types of Success, Some People find success that of, completing the game, or getting The "Best Gear" completing all the quests etc. The Other Sort of Success is Fun, You May not get good gear, complete all the quests or go on super hard dungeons, but find your successful because the game was fun, but isn't that what success in a game is, Fun? that's what i thought anyway, a game makers make the number top priority of a game is to make it fun, that's why people buy games
I like the new format. Also, success really comes down to your own definition of the concept. Gevlon is obviously very successful in his own mind, as is the guy who wants to have an alt of every class so he can fill any position.
Yes. and No.

The guy with multiple alts, sometimes wishes he was at endgame, but may not reach it. Also the guy with multiple alts might have several end game alts, and be successful with all of them.

In the end, it depends, but as to the specific comparison you made, Yes.
I'm not sure you can measure success in a game by weather or not you are having fun. Sure you play games to have fun, but that isn't a measure of your success within the game, that's a given.

Games, in all forms have a goal. How well you achieve that goal measures your success. If a game has no goal its not really a game, its a toy.

If all your looking for is an outlet to have fun without achieving anything, I recommend Masturbation. You'll save yourself a lot of money, and you'll likely come away more satisfied.
I'm the guy with one character and i'm having as much fun as someone with alts. I simply don't like leveling in WoW. Instead of leveling alts, when i get bored in WoW, I play Atlantica or Astral Masters (btw, check this game if you hadn't already).
So if I don't play the game like you do, I'm doing it wrong, and I'm a wanker?
Success and satisfaction are two different things.

May I Share the Definition of the work "Game" with you?

Noun; "an amusement or pastime"

Note, that Amusement means Enjoyment, All Games are based around Enjoyment. Even if the game doesn't have a goal, you can still gain success, by having fun.
I don't buy the premise. I'm probably still in the top 5 best geared people on my server, have progressed through nearly all end-game content, but I've got 3 alts also at level 80.
Some people just play the game differently, they look for different things in the game. People like Xash don't seem to get that a game is just that. A game. When people start taking it seriously enough to consider it something more than an entertainment endeavor that is when they seem to lose sight of the true goal of the game, to have fun.
@ Tobold.

No, my point is WoW has goals. It has many goals. Success is measured in your achievement of said goals. Having fun is not a goal, having fun is the reason you play. Raiding is a goal, PvP is a goal, Achievemnts are a goal, getting a character to level 80 is a goal.

In other words. Say you enjoy chess. Win or lose you enjoy it, but that doesn't change the fact that to be successful in chess you'd arguably want to win more often then you lose. Sports are the same way, sure pleatny of people play sports because they love the game but the successful players are the ones that win the most.

Since Arena is really the only avenue in WoW in which you can "Win" it becomes more difficult to judge success, I just feel that confusing success with enjoyment is wrong.

And the Masturbation was a joke.
Thank you Tobold for not deleting @Xash's comment. It is borderline offensive but @Xash does give an insight into a mindset I find hard to understand.

The comment that stands out for me is:
"If a game has no goal its not really a game, its a toy"

It surprises me to find there is someone out there who thinks that computer games are not toys. Of course they are toys. They are a form of dress up and make-believe for adults.

This seems obvious to me but going along with your voice of tolerance and reason Tobold I guess I have to accept that some people think otherwise, bizarre though that seems to me.
No, my point is WoW has goals. It has many goals.

Yes, and why is it you who gets to decide which of these goals are valid? Isn't "collecting all pets" or "leveling an alt of every class to 80" a valid goal too?

Having fun is not a goal

If the goal is to have your character at the very top, wearing the best-in-slot item for his class in every slot, having beaten every single raid boss, aren't you saying that 99% of players aren't having fun, because they never reach that goal? And are you saying the 1% who reach it, they didn't have fun in the thousands of hours that took to get there, but only in the single moment where they reached the goal?
Some definitions of success:

# an event that accomplishes its intended purpose; "let's call heads a success and tails a failure"; "the election was a remarkable success for the ...

# an attainment that is successful; "his success in the marathon was unexpected"; "his new play was a great success"

# a state of prosperity or fame; "he is enjoying great success"; "he does not consider wealth synonymous with success"

# achiever: a person with a record of successes; "his son would never be the achiever that his father was"; "only winners need apply"; "if you want to be a success you have to dress like a success"


You can see very well, that success totally depends on the defined goal and the perspective. In WoW, the guy with 1 hour playtime a week can be 100% as successful by reaching lvl80 or getting his flying mount (personal goal / achievement) as the guy with the Algalon world first kill (global achievment).

The world-wide recognition of the individual success is of course different, but in personal terms, pressuming that both achievements are the maximum these two individuums could achieve for themselves (based on playstyle, time and skills), they are equal.
For me 'having fun' is the primary goal of leisure time activities. Achieving that = succes, regardless of how succesful i am within the bounderies and criteria of that activity. When theorycrafting on goal systems, this might be interesting:
I reckon you'd probably find that all of the players with the best gear probably have about 3 other level 80 alts!
Why limit the example to a game? Is success in life defined by being the CEO of a top 100 corporation, making oodles of money, having a happy family, being a famous media celebrity or musician, dedicating one's life to community service to the poor?

And why did I pick those examples and not examples like being a free spirit without a home, the owner of a pet shop, or an insurance salesman?

(Though I am positive there are individuals belonging to the groups above who perceive themselves to be highly successful in their chosen endeavour... and I'm not saying their perception is wrong, either...)

Wherever you go, success is defined both by norms (and the majority that set the norms) as well as yourself choosing your own goals.

See dictionary definition:
# The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted
# The gaining of fame or prosperity
People play games for different reasons and objectives. To say that my way of playing is 'better' than yours is somewhat akin to the neverending hardcore vs casuals debate. So yes, playing with multiple alts is cool, and playing with a single toon is cool too, as long as YOU enjoy it. Why should other ppl's opinion matter when 'fun' is a totally subjective? If everyone played the same way ie. your way, I'm sure we'll be griping about something else ... ;)
I don't think you can succeed in a game without having fun. But the number of alts, epics or achievements is not a measurement for fun or success, just an indication for your play style.
Two thoughts in return:

1. What about the guy who is completely happy to have, or at least to mostly focus on, a single avatar? (Hint: I would be such a guy)

2. Not always, and not even most of the times (please keep the beginning of this sentence in mind - there's a lot of people who put a lot of effort in every one of their alts and use them for the maximal benefit of the group; these people tend to focus on a small number of alts though, and won't be trying to keep literally a dozen at the same stage), but often enough, "the guy who is completely happy with a dozen alts" is so happy because every one of his alts is more or less being carried by the more focused people to the same goals they invested much more effort to achieve. He earns 12 times the success with 1/12th of investment - sure he's happy.

Sometimes, people burn out not because their feet are getting weary, but because their back starts to hurt.
@Rem, you seem to be upset at someone who alts alot in your raids.

@Xash, masturbation, above all other passtimes, actually has a very clear-cut goal.

@Topic at hand (see i did a pun there, you may laugh), Success in a game is based on your goals for it.

But success as the game sets it, can be measured through it's many styles of play (Leveling, Raiding, PvP, low-level PvP, Achievement Hunting).
"playing a single avatar are more successful than those with alts"

Thats only true for people who don't have much time. A maxlevel character will only progress through raids. Raids take place at about 3 nights a week, so if you work 9 to 5 you have 4 nights left to play your alts. And if you are a student you can have even more time at your hands to play alts without hurting your main even a bit.

I believe it was Will Wright, the creator of Sim City, The Sims and Spore who said(and I'm Paraphrasing) that he created toys not games. That games had goals and that he wished to make creations free of goals in which the only goal was to simply play.

So since I'm sure we can agree that wow has a number of varied goals, that would make it a game and not a toy. A game free of goals as purposed is not a game it is a toy.
@ Tobold

Your simply blurring the line between cause and effect. Regardless of what your goals are in WoW, you still have them striving towards these goals is the Cause. The effect of achieving said goals, regardless of what you perceive those goals to be is enjoyment.

Thus in a Game Completing Goals ---> Enjoyment.

MMO's, especially "theme park" style such as WoW make their living on the "carrot on a stick" mentality. They dangle something in front of you you want, This is your Goal, whether its the best gear, to see all the dungeons, to get some rare mount or become some Arena god, its what drives you to play the game.

If you wanted to imagine wow without goals then imagine if they removed PvP, Raiding, Dungeons, Pets, Mounts, Money, and Levels.

You sat at level 1, with your level one spells. Some level 1 monsters and a chat window where you could talk to other level one people. You yourself have previously explained that combat at level 80 is fundementaly no different then combat at level 1, so if enjoyible combat was what kept people playing WoW then surely it would't matter.

But its not, Goals are what keep people playing WoW. One-Upmanship a "Keeping Up with the Jonses" Mentality that dominates modern western society. People putting up with fierce raiding schedules isn't any different then people who work 50 hours a week at a job they hate because it pays very well. Sure they never get to enjoy their money because their working all the time, just like hard core raiders gain no benefit from their improved gear other then to allow them to commit more time and effort into raiding the next big thing.

This isn't indicative of WoW or MMO's in general, this is simply the nature of people. A pursuit of pleasure at all times with no effort or goals is Hedonism and its typically frowned upon in Society.
"the guy who is completely happy with a dozen alts" is so happy because every one of his alts is more or less being carried by the more focused people to the same goals they invested much more effort to achieve. He earns 12 times the success with 1/12th of investment - sure he's happy.

You are assuming that the goals would be the same, which can be quite far from the truth.

You also seem to imply that only in-game achievements are worthy of consideration when it comes to interacting with other players. Again something that can be very different from person to person.
The consensus so far seems to be that success is about achieving goals. In a very simple game we might all have the same goals, as there may only be a handful to choose from.

In games as complex as MMOs, however, there are a phenomenal number of goals, both explicitly stated in the game (WoW achievements, for example) and created by ourselves.

In life, and in games, we are best served defining our goals ourselves. Looking to someone else's criteria for success may not lead to personal satisfaction (and if you believe gaining the approval of these goalsetters is the reward in itself then I wash my hands of you).

Success is achieving what you want to from a game.
Response of the day: Yes.
I love my alts, I've got a lvl80 of nearly every single class. When I hit 80 I get kinda bored and feel the need to start again.

My wife is running Ulduar with her fully epiced out mage. She has got so many tokens and heirloom items and raiding rewards that she doesn't know what to do with them.

I envy my wife, I wish I had all those heirloom items to dish out to my alts.

My wife envys all my 80s, she wonders what it's like to play all these different classes at a high level.

I wouldn't call either of us successful, we are both just having fun. Afterall, you can't "win" WOW.
No, not really. Let's say I encountered different sorts of people on my journey through MMO-land and am rather happy not to share a space with some of them any more. I don't think you're interested enough in my person to listen to the full story ;)

Absolutely not. I am not assuming nor implying neither. I'm all for different goals and even pursuing different goals myself. If you (collective "you") are a talented tavern musician, an engaged RPer, a fascinated altoholic, a dedicated crafter, quester, explorer, fisher, whatever and having fun with it - power to you. I'm serious. I have nothing, not in the faintest least, against people enjoying the game (games) in different ways. My way, whichever that may be, is only one of those ways too, after all.

What I am suggesting and implying though, is that some of these ways are not easily compatible - not in a way that mutually benefits both sides. What you spend your game time with, is your decision. But if you (again, collective) decide, that you want to spend that time not delving too deep into the mechanic of any particular class or role, but instead enjoying the diversity of every single class and spec in the game, you're simply not much of a raider. There's nothing wrong with being an altoholic, as there's nothing wrong with being a progression raider. But you can't be both at the same time. Not because of a rule I just declared, but because the day only has 24 hours (and rumour has it, some of those need to be utilized for things like sleep, work, feeding and sometimes even talking to other people). Depending on your overall experience and efficiency, you might be able to command a stable of 2-3 "main alts" you're proficient enough with to actually contribute - your mileage, as they say, may vary, and your raid/guild might greatly benefit from those people (this is no turn around, I stated this in my first comment as well). But there is a limit, both in terms of time and content, where generalization is trumped by specialization, and you can't exceed a certain number of "specializations".

[Post too long, breaking up]

In nature, it is said, there are neither rewards, nor punishments - there are consequences. Everyone is free to choose not to invest themselves into play style A, and there is nothing wrong with that, as far as I'm concerned. They should, as a consequence, not expect to reap the reward from play style A either, in that case. In the game I previously played, it was a constantly reoccurring theme in the community, that people who couldn't be even bothered to do group quests, let alone raid, would verbosely and regularly complain about not having access to the best gear. Gear, which they'd not need for anything but raids (which they hated) anyway. I never got that.

And in yet another line of thought (Tobold, you're a bad man, writing comments that are longer than your original entry is NOT what we're coming to your blog for! :P), imagine you are a guild which avidly raids, but is not a "hardcore, raiders-only, attendance or /gkick" club style thing. You have those who go bash bosses, and also those who hang out at the inn. Why? Because both groups get along nicely, and have fun in guild chat, respecting the respective other's preferred activities. Yeah, that's actually possible.

Now imagine, the raiders occasionally grab some of the non-raiders and run them through whatever tier they have on farm and deck them out in epics - just because they can. You would hope the invited person would have a fun time, maybe consider doing it more regularly in the future, but you might also expect them to show some decency and maybe not roll on BiS drops (hint: when it suddenly appears like half the raid is having an orgasm on Vent, chances are, that thing which just dropped is something special).
And now imagine you have a person who frequently declares everything that's commonly referred to as "raid preparation" as boring and/or stupid, plays a regiment of different characters without mastering any, yet stands up and demands to be brought on a raid (they might refer to it as "gear run" instead) with a toon they want to see geared this week, preferably with a friend who is all of the above, plus pathetically bad at following even the simplest of instructions ("you stand here .. no, don't follow me, you stand HERE .. no, not where I stand, over THERE .. ah forget it, stand wherever you want, not that it matters"). Erm. That was a totally random example of course. Nothing I'd have ever experienced myself. Just a friend told me...
Okay, let's say I came in contact with both of the above scenarios, and didn't necessarily like both of them equally well.

(Did anyone read all this? Yeah, didn't think so!)
Meh, the first paragraph of my above wall of text was supposed to be "@Pangoria Fallstar", lost it in the splitting process apparently. It seems, I need to L2C&P!
Is the guy happy? yes. Is he successful? No.

Success is about external recognition of talent or ability. It's not just the goal meeting aspect-anyone can succeed in the goal of singing a song, but not everyone can be viewed as being a successful singer, because of the need for skill. Skill required may vary, but it's not just you, its people outside of you that determines it.

In MMO's, they aren't designed to reward the dilletante, but the person who makes careful, focused decisions. It's because of the massive amount of time it can take. A person who invests more time in a single avatar will see more overall progress and reward because he is making efficient use of time.

The developers reward that. Notice how uncommon it is for being rewarded for getting, say, 12 alts halfway to level cap? But you get big rewards to persevere with one in the form of endgame gears. People in MMO's see this, and determine success by it.

Fun though is totally irrelevant to this, and you can have a lot of fun without being seen as a success, even in real life. Meeting personal goals also is somewhat irrelevant, because the state of success is so external.

"But if you (again, collective) decide, that you want to spend that time not delving too deep into the mechanic of any particular class or role, but instead enjoying the diversity of every single class and spec in the game, you're simply not much of a raider."

That may be true if someone gathers every single class & spec (they wouldn't have much time over for raiding) but, in my experience, nearly all the raiders I would describe as skilled have a raid-capable alt. Why? Because it allows them to understand what their colleagues can and cant do. A tank who understands healing mechanics is simply a better tank.
Interesting question.

Let's look at classic Bartle types:

Socialiser: success is the friendliness and warmth of the people you play with. If 20 people say Hi when you log on and your chat is constantly pink from all the tells the game is working well for you.

Killer: success is measured by the hurt you cause to others. If you get someone to log off in frustration, see a furious rant about you in local chat then log off and read a flame thread on the server boards about what a douche you are you're a success (in your own terms).

Explorer: if you find something that you haven't seen before, tell people about it and they're all "wow, that's cool, how the hell did you get up there?" you're a success.

Achiever: purples, dead raid bosses, tokens, server firsts are the measurements of your success.

Now most of these types will not recognise players who are successful in the other archtypes.

A socialiser will feel nothing but pity for a player with no friends no matter what they are doing in game.

A killer simply thinks everyone else are stupid sheep who pay their subs to be murdered because they suck.

An explorer thinks the others are dull and unadventurous.

And an achiever measures other people's achievement by the same milestones as he measures his own. He will see the socialiser as a "leech", the killer as a loser, the explorer as a scrub who can't get a decent guild.

Of course it's more complex than that because almost no one is a pure Bartle type, we're almost all mixtures who define our own criteria for success and pursue those with everyone else unable to discern whether we're meeting our private goals or not.
Xash has a really good point there, I think.

This PoV answers the question, why optimizing the fun out of it is even possible.

If I look at myself while playing I have to admit, that I do not have fun all the time while playing. Definately not.
It's all dependent on what you define as success. And I see two layers here, where only one of them is the 'fun' aspect.

A major goal for me when I am playing a game is to have fun. If I didn't actually enjoy playing, I'd play something else. Or watch TV. Or take Xash's recommendation in mind. But, me having fun at game X is not a success for me, it's a success for me. The game succeeded at being entertaining enough to achieve its goal, keep me playing.

But fun is not the same as success, far from it. Going through dungeon X with guildmates, having a good time at it and wiping repeatedly at the last boss, is not success but it is fun. Going through a heavily ganker-infested zone to try and finish your last quest there is not fun, but it's a success when it works.

Now, achieving goals, i.e. being successful in game ups the fun factor as well, I think we all know it feels pretty good to defeat a tough encounter, but the two are not necessarily the same.

Heck, if success were equal to fun, I don't think I'd ever have had any fun in EvE.

Because Will Wright states something does not make it so.

In WoW as example there is no clear cut goals. WoW does not say "Complete this to succeed" and thus your examples fall short.

Leveling to endgame could be a goal, or twinking level 39 and getting 100,000 honor kills or getting a certain rating in Arena.

If for example, my goal was to Twink level 49 and have fun in battlegrounds, and the highest level character I had was 58, does that then mean, in your eyes, I'm a failure?

Where do you draw the line? Say I have a level 80 character with mostly BiS and many alts of differing levels - because I have mostly BiS does that mean I'm "failing at the game"?

What if I have a level 80 with no alts that has ALL BiS but has only progressed to Ulduar 10 man... failure?
Exception to the Rule: Eve Online. Due to their skill system it makes much mroe sense to have 2 accounts (if thats an alt?), one supporting the other
@ Cataclysmic

Forgive me if I trust Will Wright's opinion over those of random internet posters.

As for failure, people often mistake a lack of success for failure. If your goal is to hit 80 and your only 60 you aren't a failure, your still working on your goal. Your only a failure when you give up on your goal.

People seem to feel that wow has all these options when Blizzard has repeatedly taken measures to enforce the way THEY want you to play.

Raiding has been pushed to the forefront of this expansion, Open-world PvP was all but killed off by Battlegrounds. Battlegrounds where all but killed off by Arena's, something blizzard has acknowledged and is attempting to fix in the next expansion. Twinking BG Alt's has taken a huge hit since adding XP gain to battlegrounds.

World of Warcraft is a game, Blizzard has set out to design a number of different goals you can strive for. You can make up your own rules all you want to feign success but since success is a socially determined factor your always going to be held to the views of your peers.

You just argued against your own argument.

You have just stated you arent a failure if you haven't yet got to YOUR GOAL aslong as you don't give up on it.

All computer games have goals and Will Wright speculated regarding his Sim games as a selling point. In reality Sim City's goal is to create a large city that makes enough money to fund itself and to continue to spread. The Sims is similar but to create a family that can survive.
Quality vs quantity. I know many people who level alts because they enjoy it more than the raiding scene on their main. As they say, "wuantity has a quality all of its own." Vertical progression vs horizontal. To each his own.
Success is self defined. Especially in a game. In reality, success is partly self-defined, partly defined by survival, and survival of one's genes. At least, that's how I view it in the most elemental terms.

Though, hm. Ok, personal story. I recently went to a funeral for a neighbor's child. The kid was born with serious complications and ended up dying 72 hours after birth. His parents were naturally really shook up over it, and pretty much in pieces emotionally. On an impulse, I told the mother something about like this:

"It seems to me like what you want for your kid is to have a successful life. And what makes a successful life is having an effect, some sort of effect."

Then I pointed out the effect of bringing all the people together for the funeral, showing solidarity for our friends and family, and simply remembering this kid who had only lived 72 hours.

Sure, it's a tenuous point, but you've gotta make sense of the world somehow. We have a lot more freedom to define success than most of us believe, in my opinion.
There's a guy in my WoW guild who is legendary for the amount of alts he has.

He's got no intention or desire to see end-game content other than the occasional Naxx raid with the rest of the guild, and he couldn't be happier with his play-style.

Seems to me like he's succeeding at playing the game the way he wants to.
I'm of the opinion that you can't truly master a single class unless you have a broad experience with a good selection of other classes. You'll have a much harder time being the 'best tank you can be' if you've never played a healer, a DPS class, or a CC class. You will will have unnecessary difficulty understanding why those classes do things the way they do if you haven't tried them yourself.

That being said, certain games reward specialization more than others. In LoTRO, for example, each of the classes has a very different dynamic. Guardians use reactive skills while Wardens have to decide several moves in advance which gambit they're going to need to complete ten seconds from now.

Even so, if your 'main' is a Hunter, having played both these tank classes benefits you because you'll have a much better idea of how these classes generate threat, hence allowing you to fine-tune exactly how long to hold off before starting to unload the damage, for example.

These little details add up to true mastery of a class, in my opinion....
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