Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
Game-defining features

Telwyn recently talked about what he calls Quality of Life Features in Guild Wars 2, things like being able to access you bank from anywhere. Guild Wars 2 is good with such features, being repeatedly praised for features like giving everybody credit for a mob killed together. Star Wars: The Old Republic was also lauded for it's AoE looting feature. But here is the kicker: World of Warcraft now has AoE looting too. And the named quest mobs in WoW now are shared, everybody who contributed to killing it gets the quest completed, even if not in a group.

In short, these features are like the options available when buying a car. Yes, newer cars have options that weren't available a few years ago. But these options can be retrofitted. And they don't *define* the car. If you were to discuss the difference between a Toyota and a BMW, you wouldn't mention the MP3-player or the parking assistance, even if these were more easily available for one than for the other. But they are just features that could exist in both cars, and they aren't essential to the difference between the Toyota and the BMW.

The same thing applies to games. AoE looting doesn't define Star Wars: The Old Republic. It now exists in WoW, might well be patched into other games, and probably will become a standard feature for future games. Remote bank access already exists for some races and professions in World of Warcraft. And the algorithms on who gets what credit and loot when multiple players fight the same mob has been evolving for years in multiple games, and often evolved from patch to patch inside the same game. You can't define World of Warcraft by its loot system, or its talent system, or its looking-for-group system, because each of these have evolved over the years and gone through many different iterations. When WoW introduced the dungeon finder, some people were shocked; today you get nasty comments if your new MMORPG doesn't have a dungeon finder.

Thus when looking at a game and trying to identify what features actually define the game, we have to ask ourselves two questions: Is this feature certain to be still around in 5 years? And is this feature something that can't easily be grafted onto another MMORPG. For example I would say the "hearts" quest system is a feature that defines Guild Wars 2: It is unthinkable that it will go away, and it would be extremely hard to retrofit an existing quest-hub based game to the GW2 location-based hearts questing system. It is those features that really make the difference between different games. AoE looting or dyes are just options that might pop up in every game.

I wouldn't compare the mob taging, personal gathering nodes, deposit collectibles as the mp3 player of a car because these things change dramatically my gaming experience while mp3 player is not changing my driving experience.

It isn't such a small detail as you make it to be, it is a completely different gaming experience and philosophy. It is the difference where I drive in an autobahn with lots of options to go to my destination and if I drive in a small road full of bad drivers trying to hit my car for fun

I think that we together can illustrate Tobold's point perfectly. When I bought my current car, the salesman promised that it would be possible to connect my mp3 player to the car's sound system. On delivery, that turned out to be wrong: "oh no, it can play mp3 coded tracks on cd:s – that was all I said". Yeah right.

Anyway, I love my music and I want lots of variation. Consequently, this defect has affected my driving experience negatively for four years now. And I don't live anywhere near the Autobahn, so that has no bearing on my experience at all.

See? Different strokes for different folks! :)
Yeah, a game is more than just a collection of features. But some mechanics do serve an actual purpose other than just being annoying.

For example, accessing your mail from anywhere is fine and all. But when every town has a mailbox anyway, it's easy to go check mail and means you are more likely to encounter other players doing the same thing. The way GW2 encourages you to encounter other players is via dynamic events (which are random, unlike the mailboxes which are predictable) -- so those are two features which might actually affect player behaviour quite a lot.

I mean, dynamic events are cool and all but it is annoying when you need to complete some more for your daily and can't find any because they are random so you end up logging onto a lowbie because lowbie areas are more populated and have more DEs. That doesn't really improve my quality of life.
As Oscar says, "Different strokes for different folks". I'd far, far prefer to spend my time in low-level zones than high ones in just about any game, so being able to do all my dailies as a level 80 in a level 1-15 area hugely improves my quality of life, whereas it does nothing for and maybe lowers the same benchmark for Spinks.

If an MMO I played and enjoyed retrofitted compulsory AoE looting, that would come close to a deal-breaker for me. I want to loot all my mobs individually, every time. I want to open them or the chest they drop, look at what's in there, maybe consider it for a few seconds and then loot it. I am happy to do that in combat and indeed I enjoy the impression of grabbing the stuff in the heat of battle. Having it automagically appear in my inventory would substantially harm my quality of life while playing.

Of course if any developer wants to retrofit AoE loot as an option. that's entirely and indeed welcome. The law of unintended consequences is going to apply very heavily to any developer who thoughtlessly apes what appears to work for another game without really understanding the implications.
The hearts is one of GW2s defined features, the other major thing being the skill system; class based skills are tied to weapons, additional skills can be bought for earned "skill points".

Then there is the downscaling; arguably this could be retro fitted to WoW (I personally would think it would be a great idea even if it would just be there for dungeons and raids) but it would lead to a huge outcry from the community. Many people farm low level instances for items (for looks) or mounts (for, uhm, looks- or collecting) but will be bummed if that would cost considerable more effort in a downscaled environment to the point that some instances/raids aren't soloable anymore. It would make those items more prestegious though.
Thus while some things might be retro fittable it won't neccesary be done because it conflicts with the philosophy of the game or clash with the established player base needs. Therefore I would fit the downscaling mechanism in the GW2 feature list as well.

I could also see the shared "collection" bank for crafting materials being retrofitted- that would probably lift a lot of burden from mailing stuff from and to alts.
Sure any game can update it's feature set but man it seems kind of " why didn't we think of that" when you see a company copy major/key features. Plus copying doesn't always mean that it's done in the best way possible. Just because you remove mob tagging doesn't mean you change the mindset of your player base. I mean do you think the average douchey wow player is going to stop being douchey just because mob tagging got removed? It just means that you're going to be less annoyed by it. However guild wars has taught me to look at the map for down players and, when seeing an overwhelmed player in the area where I'm questing to stop and go to them and see if I can help them out. Of course maybe that's just me. I like the co-operative part of MMO's and I think guild wars gives me the most co-op bang for my buck.
Oh, ADD hit me there. I wanted to cite the difference between WoW and warhammer's achievment/adventure tome. Wow copied the achievement system but I think Warhammer's was WAY better implemented (disclaimer: I only played the newbie area of Warhammer, it might ultimately have ended up sucking)

I agree :) Is the little things that make the difference. I also love music and when I have a long journey to do with my car, I can spend 2 days to make mp3 lists and less than 1 hour to decide what else to bring and pack my things...the reason I said that mp3 player doesn't change my driving experience is because it still seems so little compared with the features of the game tobold mentioned :)

Whenever a friend of mine quit a game, the reason always is in details. My buddy quit swtor because he couldn't drop the hood from his chest..

For me mob tagging and personal nodes is a game changer. Hearts instead of linear questing is also a game changer. From the other side I am not fan of the events nor the lack of holy trinity, which is the main selling point of GW2. Different strokes for different folks as you said
Why are all the "quality of life features" mentioned calculated to break any remaining concept of "RPG" that may be left in MMORPGs?

you are totaaly wrong about hearts at GW2. They were added at alpha, because players had no idea where to go. There are 3 zones (at Orr) that have no hearts, it is only DE there.

So, if they decide to get rid from hearts or add new zones with no hearts at GW2, that will happens. Hearts are not the defining feature at GW2, DE are the defining feature.

Anyway, you won the bet. WoW had 67,659 hour played and GW2 had 40,773 at 30th september, sunday. However, that is the peak of MoP, while WoW a game that had 90+ k hours played. From now, WoW will fall. Anything bellow 100 k hours played show WoW is not regained the lost players.

Joao: I bet it won't fall, I think there will be either a surge in the next 2-3 months or else it will stay level. Because of players who were frustrated at Cataclysm and wanted to wait to see the reviews/reactions before they decided. Word of mouth is a big thing in WoW.

(Also, we don't have the actual numbers yet.)

But I don't think you should be comparing the games to each other like that. If they both do well, it's good for all gamers who like virtual world MMOs.

Word of mouth is saying that GW2 have a better "quality of life" than WoW and that MoP is the old same WoW, where everyone need level the old cataclysm zones from level 20 up... again.

And, sincerelly, "pokemon" is not enough for mantain player not bored for long time.

My bet is that that 60+ k hour played at xfire is the peak and from now wow will see a slow (or maybe not a so slow) fall. Everygame see the peak just after the launch, the same will happen to MoP.

By the way, there is something extremelly wrong with MoP salles or the investors weren't having doubts.
If MoP turns out to be a good game I could see it slowly gaining more steam over the next couple weeks. I think alot of people, atleast my long standing gaming group, are sort of burnt out on Blizzard in general. There was this long period of time where we would blindly trust anything Blizzard made, but after Cata and D3 I don't have alot of faith. We also have GW2 so it's not like we would be going back to WoW... we would be leaving GW2 for WoW and honestly it's just not worth it at this point.
Gw2 has bank accessory anywhere? I'll never try it now, sure it's convenient but how easy are they trying to make it? May as well say you have a bag of holding and there is now bank which would at least make sense but whatever, they r just killing the genre with simplicity

Yeah, and that's not the worst! You know, now we can even access the internet when we're out about town! In real life! I tell you, when I was a kid...

(sorry – couldn't resist)
Haha well if you like ur games without the challenge of travel than so be it but I enjoy having the world grow not shrink, and the social aspects of meeting up in large cities
I'm certainly pleasantly surprised with MoP, and feel this is probably the best expansion to date. I've already gotten a friend to resubscribe by telling him how nice it is.

We'll see how much that carries after the first few months however.
With all the kerfuffle surrounding the apple samsung patent issues, why dont we see any of copyright disputes in mmo titles when it comes to features like area looting, public quests etc. Surely those were original ideas at one point?
One of the guild perks in WOW is a remote guild bank. Also with a Argent gruntling and Argent pony bridle, your grunt can be a mailbox, bank or vendor every 4 hours.
Pretty sure you can't copyright an idea.

Samsung and Apple are in an interesting battle that will be... well interesting to see pan out as appeals occur.

I just googled it and it would appear that Copyrights protect expression and patents protects inventions, and neither protect ideas.
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