Tobold's Blog
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Boatorious on MMORPG insanity

Quoted for truth: "There is no end to the MMORPG blogs that actively ridicule people who are bad at MMORPG's. As I've said before, the people who are bad at MMORPG's are the only sane ones. Their mistake is treating MMORPG's like any normal, fun game -- you play the game, and you get better at it. Being good in modern MMORPG's requires avoiding fun, which is insane. And I have no interest in insanity."
Except it doesn't avoiding fun, or any significant amount of work, to be at the very least not bad at most MMOs. The game has rules, just like any other, and the other players will not likely suffer gently a player who ignores those rules.

Go to a chess game in central park, it's about the most informal setting you can play the game with other human beings, and try moving a pawn six spaces in one turn. You'll be corrected, and if you insist on that being your idea of "fun", you'll be dropped from the game. It's no different in any other multiplayer game.
This is the most bizarre claim that I've ever heard. Being bad in something as a PROOF of being good?!

How about this: "People who are poor are the only sane ones. Their mistake is treating work like any normal, fun activity, you do it and you get better at it. Being rich requires avoiding fun, which is insane. And I have no interest in insanity." This is more or less that the 70' hippies told. They died out for a reason you know.
Different people like different things.

That's really the only response to a silly statement like that.
Go to a chess game in central park, it's about the most informal setting you can play the game with other human beings, and try moving a pawn six spaces in one turn.

That seems a strange comparison. Bad players at MMOs don't break the rules, as most MMOs don't allow that or would ban/suspend players for exploiting if they broke the rules.

It'd be more like if you played chess and didn't make much of an attempt to keep your pieces from being captured. Or playing Monopoly and being perfectly content only building up Baltic Avenue even as your fellow gamers put hotels on Park Place. That's fully within the rules.
I think the problem with MMORPGs is that people will shout at me if I open my game by moving my pawn from B2 to B4.
"Being bad in something as a PROOF of being good?!"

I believe the claim is that being bad at MMORPGs is proof of being sane...not proof of being good at MMORPGs.

I understand the sentiment, even if it is hyperbole. At some point, the reward for playing a game is less than the investment demanded. At that point, continuing to play does not make sense, yet many players continue to play long past that point.
Fun is very subjective think..and there is also a very thin line between from being sane or insane..

Fun for me maybe a very hard work to aquire a reward as I bee more happy and excited at the for someone else might be to login, run a 20 min dungeon and get 3 epics..Fun for me maybe to have a 20 ability to manage and time while fun for others might be a Rift macro..

but to claim that the one is insane while the other is the normal guy is stupid...Insane is to present your opinion as a fact and to consider other people likes as insanity..
Why, exactly, is having a level of competence and being expected to perform certain tasks correctly in order to not inconvenience and negatively impact the other players in your group's enjoyment considered insanity?

For example, healers can only heal for so long on any given fight, so its expected that the DPS will be able to kill the boss before the healer is completely exhausted. The DPS being able to do this requires them to play at a certain level of skill. Furthermore, why should the healer be expected to have to exert themselves even more to cover for bad play by the DPS? How is that reasonably fair to the healer?

Passing skill barriers in MMOs is no different than passing skill barriers in any other game, if you can't perform at the minimum level required to complete a given challenge you don't get to progress. I don't think its outlandish to require people to perform skillfully in non-MMOs, and I feel the same way about MMOs as well.

Frankly I think this attitude of "I shouldn't have to put any effort into my gaming since its just a fun thing to do" is silly. Books require a certain level of intelligence and applying yourself to understand don't they? Even something considered passive like movie watching requires the viewer to be able to piece together what's going on. You can't skim a book or have a movie on in the background while you do something else and expect to really get anything out of it, why should gaming be any different in regards to applying yourself to the medium?
-In the games I prefer, like action games, or shooters, or pinball, you get better by playing -- and playing them is immensely fun.

Well now I get where he is coming from.
As Pzychotix said, different people like different things.
And if a little bit of research and reading is too much, MMORPGs might not be the right genre for you.
How exactly can you be "bad" at an MMORPG?

So you don't succeed at quests, progress as quickly as others or perform as well in group content?

Is this what constitutes as being "bad"?

As long as you enjoy your experience, your performance (for want of another phrase) in relation to others is surely irrelevant.

So again, I ask how can you be "bad" at an MMORPG?
Being good in modern MMORPG's requires avoiding fun, which is insane.

This is completely idiotic.
I think you've been trolled and you fell for it :)

For your chess comparison: if you play like a fool you'll be treated like one after you get obliterated by your opponent. This is no different than having 3k dps after a wipe.
Boatorious never actually said that you should play badly. He only said that the sequence of actions required to become good is not fun, because you don't get better at playing by practising moves that are only valid for one single encounter. And that paying a company to do a sequence of actions that is not fun is insane.
Tobold, you should be smarter than to buy into the whole "I'm not bad at raiding, I'm bad at dancing!" excuse. Learning how to handle mechanics in a raid encounter trains you to handle similar mechanics in future encounters, and quite frankly, Blizzard hasn't been too creative in their mechanic design this expansion. The healers got something somewhat new on chimaeron, and that's about it on the individual raiders plate for this expansion. Saying you can't figure out how to dodge tornadoes on alysrazor based off dodging clouds on Yogg is a joke. That's like saying that you learned to waltz to Schubert, but you can't figure out how to translate it to waltzing to Strauss.

As for the notion of the preparation required to become good at the multiplayer aspects of the game being too laborious to be fun, it's the fact of any game that involves teamwork. Literally any game. There is no multiplayer game where it's socially acceptable to show up without knowing the rules, without being willing to learn the rules, and to expect everyone else to accomodate your "special" playstyle. You want to use strength maces on your rogue? Go ahead, just not in my raid. You want to use primal strike at level 85? Feel free, but not in my groups. You want to play basketball without dribbling? Baseball without strikes? Soccer with your hands? Monopoly without jail? Go ahead, but don't expect me to play with you.

Ultimately, the right to swing your arm ends where someone else's nose begins. People are welcome to play in whatever manner they choose when they play alone. But when they get into groups with other people, then their toying around is impinging on the fun of the other members of the group, and it's within their rights to not play with you.
In my opinion, you managed to quote the only part of this blog post which is non-sense. It's an automatic psychological protection mechanism of someone who has been rediculed too often in the past and, because he thought he was good, was actually offended by it.
the whole "I'm not bad at raiding, I'm bad at dancing!" excuse

Nowhere in Boatorious text does it say that he is bad at raiding, that he think people should play bad, or any of the other strawmen arguments you all listed. He makes an extremely simple statement saying that to get good at raiding you need to practice the same move over and over, only for that move to be useless on the next encounter, and that he considers that sort of learning experience to be not fun.

I find it revealing how everybody here refuses to discuss what Boatorious actually says, and you all go off on some tangent that has nothing to do with this post or the quote. Nobody came forward and said "I consider learning the moves of a raid encounter over and over to be fun", nobody!
I think I understand where the author is coming from. A lot of folks draw deep conclusions on limited data, e.g. If you're bad in an MMORPG, you're likely bad at life in general. I've never understood that sentiment, even with all the "proof" that's presented, because of the innate flaw that a game is not a good place to measure these things. Being good at an MMORPG only proves, at best, that you're good at that MMORPG, and you can make circumstantial claims from there (e.g., if he's punctual I'm raids, he may be punctual in the real world).

The problem with his statement, quite ironically, is that he uses the same flawed approach to try to prove the opposite is true. "The people who are bad at MMORPGS are the only sane ones." This cant be true because being bad (or good) at an MMORPG is hardly a proof for sanity. At least on its own merit. Being bad at an MMORPG only proves, at best, that you're bad at that MMORPG. It doesn't prove your sane anymore than it proves you suck at life (the point he is trying to combat).

And taking his qualifier into account doesn't help his argument. "Being good in modern MMORPGS requires avoiding fun" cannot be a true statement. Fun cannot be objectively measured. One man's "fun" may be another man's "hell." And modern MMORPGs are sufficiently different from one another that can make the same activity fun in one game while not fun in another.

I appreciate what he's trying to say. I just think this quote fails to accomplish that.
"Nobody came forward and said "I consider learning the moves of a raid encounter over and over to be fun", nobody!"

I agree with this 95%, however I can also understand how this happens from a developer point of view. Unless all encounters are going to be straight tank-and-spank, they have to have "something." In the creation of dozens of encounters over time, trying to make each new one different and unique, I'm sure you can see how you could easily wind up with pretty dance-heavy raid design.

I'm not sure if you have read it, but I have to agree with Gevlon's solution. Make mechanics that punish the individual (temporarily rather than permanently), not wipe the entire raid, such as a huge dps debuff for a good chunk of time, or a 10 second stun.

In your example earlier, it is fine that you move your pawn from B2 to B4 because you only affect yourself. Imagine if your move lost not only your game, but knocked the pieces off the boards of the next 9 or 24 games. Those chess players would be pretty hostile towards you.

And they would be even more hostile if you suggested it's okay to keep knocking over all their boards because "it's just a game."

I don't think there is anything special about MMORPG players that they are bigger jerks than any other population. It is simply a design which promotes hostility toward anyone who makes mistakes.
Yes, Boat never mentioned raid mechanics. You did, which was why I mentioned you specificaly in the preface of the comment.

"you don't get better at playing by practising moves that are only valid for one single encounter"

There hasn't been a mechanic that was valid on only one encounter since Yogg-Saron, and even that has been coopted into several other encounter in Cataclysm.

Boat, on the other hand, did say: "Ultimately, in MMORPG's, you get very good at combat by doing things like jamming keys, and running spreadsheets, and reading forums, and carefully monitoring skill rotations and cooldowns and procs, and watching youtube videos, and just playing forever so you can hit max level. In the games I prefer, like action games, or shooters, or pinball, you get better by playing -- and playing them is immensely fun."

Which is a vast overstatement of the commitment required to not be terrible at a game like tor or wow. MMOs have a much lower APM requirement than any of the genres he mentioned. Spreadsheets, while helpful for squeezing out the last 10% out of your character, are not needed to perform at a level that's viable for even heroic level raiding. Looking up a stat priority and rotation is really all you need to gain baseline competance in the game for a DPS class. The guilds that post the youtube videos by and large didn't have youtube videos to watch while they were learning the fights, and it's a simple feat to show up, get the rundown on the encounter from the raid leader, and start pulling. None of that amounts to the amount of time you would have to spend to learn the bare bones rules for most sports, and people who are unwilling to invest the 15 minutes it takes to learn the rules are people who are simply not cut out for cooperative games.
Did I really read this differently than everyone else?

I think his point was that in any normal game, you learn and get better by doing and playing (and failing). In the Chess-in-the-park example, the "normal" way of playing is to simply do the best you can - memorizing the best opening moves of Chess champions should not be a requirement of playing at all, but rather something you choose to do of your own volition (presumably because the hobos in the park are destroying you with the Siberian Sweep). How many times do install a brand new game and immediately go to GameFAQs or see if anyone posted cheats?

That being said, he is actually wrong when it comes to MMOs. The difference is that in an MMO, your failure is everyone's failure. Treating it like any other game is you selfishly wanting the benefits of social play without consideration for everyone else's wasted time. You owe your team every chance of success possible - anything less is leeching.

Or, you know, take the time to find like-minded people who also want to stumble their way into group content.
The way I read Boat's point is that in a modern MMO, you're often expected to arrive good and pass an exam on how good you are, not become good in the course of playing and have fun on the way.

In other words, it's often a cardinal offence in MMOs to play while not-yet-good. Which is, indeed, silly, by the standards of most games.
@Tobold: Nobody came forward and said "I consider learning the moves of a raid encounter over and over to be fun", nobody!

Does it really need to be said? I thought that would be implied.

Fine. I enjoy learning the moves of a raid encounter over and over until I perfect those movements. Similarly, I enjoy playing hard games where I'm slammed for hours on end trying to learn a unique dance. I'm playing the Impossible Game on my iPhone right now, a learning effort which has spanned a couple months now, and I've only beaten one of the levels so far.

Again, different people like different things. Calling others insane for liking what you don't like is just silly, and borderline troll.
It's easy to misunderstand that phrase, but if you are able to leave your own little mindbox for a sec (which apparently many won't), it's also easy to understand the gist of it.

anyway, I think Gandhi said it in simpler and probably better words:

"Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes."

and that is indeed something to consider for current MMO design.
He makes an extremely simple statement saying that to get good at raiding you need to practice the same move over and over, only for that move to be useless on the next encounter, and that he considers that sort of learning experience to be not fun.

This is a fine example of something which is part of the problem I mentioned in another comment. A "truth" which becomes a truth only because it's echoed and repeated. So I'll give you the shocking news that it's......roll of drums..... bullshit.

Honestly, do you really think that Blizzard is able to come up with a completely unique mechanic for every single damned boss??
You're giving them a lot more credit that it's due.

A lot (lot meaning really a lot, like almost 100%) of the fights use recycled mechanics (which is also why people get bored of raid bosses). Whatever you learn in one encounter is not "useful only for that encounter". It's reaction to a mechanics that you'll meet many other times in the future.

Of course it also depends on how you attack the problem: if you disregard any attempt at a "general view" of boss encounters then, yes, you won't be able to reuse whatever you learned. Just like learning formulae by rote memorization won't teach when to use them. But if you try to "metagame" the encounter a bit (i.e. split it in its elements), you'll very much be able to reuse what you learn on one encounter (and you'll see that in reality, there are very few "building blocks" for boss encounters).

"Not standing in the fire" is a fine example of something which you learn once and then reuse....
I think the most intreating thing here is GeVlon apparently considers monetary wealth in real life and success in a virtual world as the same thing, neither involves fun and having fun is not the point.

Someone needs a break from gaming.
I actually do find learning the moves to a raid encounter fun, even if they change for the next encounter - maybe especially if they change for the next encounter, since if they stayed the same it would quickly become boring. What I have a problem with is failing at those moves an extraordinary amount of times over, as a group, because the encounter is simply too hard for the average player.

The problem for an encounter design perspective is that there are only so many ways to push a pixel across a screen. There are inherent limitations in the input and feedback mechanisms associated with computers, and those limitations dictate the choices available to developers. That is the main reason so many games look and feel the same. Maybe that will change in the future, but for now we are stuck with an inadequate system for experiencing virtual content to the degree we would like.

Developers can, and must, do more to automatically tailor the encounter to the level of the players attempting it. For example, giving each player a hidden 'raid score' based on their past raid performance (some meta value determined from percentage of time avoiding fire, win/loss percentage, etc.) and automatically tailoring the encounter for the average score of the players in the raid (more/harder hitting adds, more complex mechanics, etc).

The devs cannot release these games into the wild and assume the ability of the players will be always be equal to the task.
I'm not a fan of the chess analogy. Chess is an individual (and pvp) game while raiding is a group activity.

A better analogy might be sports. At least in the leagues I have played in, players are typically segregated by ability. In order to play in high-level matches, you are expected to show up with a great deal of skill, knowledge and physical endurance; in lower leagues, less is expected for understandable reasons. There is a place for players of every skill level.

Interestingly, where I have noticed friction in these sports is when players do not place themselves in the proper skill bracket and then cop an attitude about it. If the new guy on the team shows up, screws up, and makes bizarre claims his about mental/ethical superiority he's not going to get a friendly reception.

I think the bigger problem in WoW is that it can be difficult to find a collection of like-minded players with which to do group content. I doubt I would want to play with Boatorius, whether in WoW or elsewhere.
The only thing hard is that mmo players don't want/expect and generally are worse at basic game mechanics like moving out of fire, this is a feature of mmos that makes no sense in context.

Why have such decidedly twichy mechanics in such a non twitch type of game? It's a result of any other good ideas that take little time and effort. It's very easy to make fire dancing mechanics as you just shift them around for each boss.
Gevlon, I think the point he is making is that the game isn't worth the candle. I.e. the time and effort spent become good at the game is a complete waste of time. It's like being the best kazoo player in the world; sure it's an accomplishment, but you're much better off being a mediocre guitar player than the best kazoo player.

Being an arrogant ass to people who don't want to spend the time to master the kazoo is a symptom of a deeply misaligned perspective that overvalues the worthless.
The quote appears to make an objective point using a purely subjective word: fun; as well as an emotion-laden word: insane.

The word fun has no static meaning. It only suggests a condition which varies along a spectrum, and is highly personal.

To suggest that someone's fun is also insane is merely inflammatory and meant to create cognitive dissonance.
If you play a game like WoW for a few years then you cannot imagine how a new player feels in the game. He may try this skill or that one, and as the basic combat isn't challenging at all, he will get by. The game fails at educating a new player while he is playing. To get better he must use external resources, which to be honest, is not in line with other games, both single and multi player.
If a player gets a new game, let's say Skyrim, he will get better as he goes by. If he plays Counter Strike, he will get better by playing it extensively or just drop the game as too hard. In an MMO a player can reach level cap without knowing how to play because the game doesn't show him that he does badly, doesn't challenge him. Sure, he will be laughed at when he enters instance and do abmyssal DPS or cause wipe after wipe. But it still won't teach him a thing because he doesn't have any internal(in-game) tools to measure his performance against others. The community is often very off-putting so if he's unlucky, he won't find anyone to help him. He still may have his fair amount of fun, but other will see him as a worthless noob.
To get better he must use other, external resources. Which tbh is not as it should be. Yes, there are gamers that find fun or joy in theorycrafting, practicing rotations, etc, but huge majority of players just want to play the game and progress (get better) by playing that game, not by reading 100+ pages in EJ forum.
I still remember the first year of WoW and might have agreed with Frug then.

But if the game innately taught you how to play at a high level, you wouldn't need others. Needing others drives community which really defines a great multiplayer game.

Leveling is easy, you don't need others to do it. Many people love that. There is also the option to group and try to learn. You may need others to even learn how to group, and certainly what your role is.

And "others" can include random in game players, friends or coworkers who play, people who used to play, bloggers, data miners, add on writers and on and on.

I may have been annoyed early on that it was so hard to figure out the arcane details, but it's also the reason I still play it after 4 years.

Can you really have both an intriguing, complex game with layers that appeal to multiple play styles, AND a simple to learn game that hand feeds you everything you need to know to excel in all those layers?

Can something that feels like work really be fun? Yes, even concentration, studying, and working to solve annoying problems can be fun. Especially if it helps you discover a little humanity along the way.
But if the game innately taught you how to play at a high level, you wouldn't need others. Needing others drives community which really defines a great multiplayer game.

Yeah, because WoW is full of friendly, helpful, advanced players with all the patience in the world to teach new players how to do better. NOT. Sorry, this isn't 2004 any more.
Note that I include online sources of "community", which is frankly 90% of what I use to learn the game, and keep up with changes.

Frug implied that that not having exhaustive game instructions and tutorials is a design flaw. I disagree.
Having instructions and tutorials in game won't change a thing if the game is too easy. All the instructionas and tutorials just won't be used if the player don't feel a need to use them. The popular saying "Easy to learn, hard to master" will fail as there is no need to master the game. Reaching top level is not a matter of skill, just time. Even the worst players will reach it if the game is easy.
I'm not saying that a game should be only for hardcore players, but (slowly) increasing game difficulty as time/levels go by would do a lot to teach new players to acctually use the resources aviable by reading an in-game tutorial, asking community or browsing some web guides.

Then we can really disscuss the original statement of Boatorious - should the game be so difficult (not in general sense but difficult at getting good at) to require external aid. Should a player learn to use his abilities/modules/tactics by reading stuff on a forum or by playing? And I don't mean by himself (alone), after all not all games have such abmyssally bad communities as WoW.
"Yeah, because WoW is full of friendly, helpful, advanced players with all the patience in the world to teach new players how to do better. NOT. Sorry, this isn't 2004 any more."

I think it depends which community you're going to for help. The WoW forums are usually terrible, except for the welcome newbie forums.

The feral druid community is one I can personally attest to as being quite supportive and helpful to the extreme, as I've been on the receiving end of a lot of good advice, with no one ever calling me a noob who should quit the game etc.

@topic: The claim, as others have said, is just bizarre. "Being good in modern MMORPG's requires avoiding fun, which is insane." But what if people find it fun to min-max their character, and theorycraft about it? The people on elitistjerks come up with all sorts of calculations in their spare time, and they aren't getting paid for it. They have to find it enjoyable.

What's "not fun" for one person is fun for another.
I'm sorry Tobold for having so many stupid people posting comments. From now on I will just read you post and ignore the mindless zombies that post here.
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