Tobold's Blog
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Frustrated players

I was reading various game blogs on my newsreader today, and came across two very different pieces of news. One is that Wizardry Online is out, Stropp has first impressions, and I was thinking "bad idea" on just about every feature he described: Possible permadeath with free-for-all PvP? Bad idea! Random stats you have a tiny chance of getting really good ones if you just reroll a lot? Bad idea! Alts being locked out of quests your main already did? Bad idea!  The other big news was that in World of Warcraft: "To encourage Raid Finder groups to persevere, each time an Raid Finder group wipes on a boss fight all players in the group receives a stacking buff that increases health, damage dealt, and healing done by 5% (up to a maximum of 10 stacks). This buff is cleared once the boss has been killed."

In other words, SOE releases a game which appears designed to frustrate players, presumably in the hope that frustrated players keep playing in some sort of "I'll win this next time!" rage. And Blizzard releases a feature that makes repeated failure significantly less likely, presumably in the assumption that frustrated players quit games.

I do think that both players motivated by failure and players only motivated by success exist. But I would think that most players have a certain degree of frustration resistance, below which they keep calm and carry on, but which once breached turns frustration into a rage-quit. I also think that the frustration resistance is a function of what alternatives you have. It is a bit like working in a frustrating job: Many people continue because they think they can't easily find another job, but if job prospects rise, they quit their jobs more easily. When I started playing MMORPGs, there wasn't much choice, unless you went for something rather niche there only was UO, EQ, or AC. People endured a LOT of frustration in Everquest, level loss, total gear loss, etc., because they felt there wasn't much of an alternative. They endured being ganked in UO until Trammel came for the same reason. Today there are so many similar MMORPGs out there that switching to a different one is a lot more viable. And in consequence games don't get away with the same degree of punishment any more.

While you won't necessarily notice from the reaction of the hardcore-friendly blogosphere, I do think that Wizardry Online will be a flop, and the LFR changes will be quite popular. In a future WoW patch the 5% bonus per wipe will become available for some subset of guild raids as well. The buff seems ideally designed to lessen frustration in players that aren't all that frustration-resistant any more. It works out as some sort of difficulty dial, where a less good group can still succeed by simply persevering. That is a win-win for the players that couldn't have done it without the buff as well as for Blizzard that can keep those players from quitting. Assuming that players in the majority are not masochists and would rather like to eventually succeed than to repeatedly fail appears like a safe bet to me.

I like the buff for regular raids that are not the most current content. But it should be optional, and have a consequence, like a stacking lowering chance of loot dropping.

On LFR it's just silly. I've had some great times wiping and coming back in LFR. it's the only raid experience many of us have.
As someone who has almost never raided due to an unwillingness to throw my time away needlessly, this new buff idea intrigues me. However, I do plan to try Wizardry Online because the novelty of such an antiquated mess of mechanics being treated as "features" sounds like something that has to be experienced to be believed. My guess is the same 10-20K people who like that sort of stuff and complain about carebears all the time will gravitate to it and like so many other games it will collapse under the weight of its own griefers.
I was in the Wizardry Beta due to a love of old-school Wizardry games. I don't have much to comment on because I managed to play it for about 20 minutes, but it was ok (my tolerance for MMO's at this point is about 20 minutes).

That said, that buff would seem to be ripe with abuse potential. "Everyone get naked. We're going to wipe a few times real quick." Does the whole group have to wipe, or could you send one dude into trigger the boss while everyone else sits back?

Of course adding a LFR feature would inevitably lead to this sort of thing, since the idea of leading a raid pug should give anyone heartburn. It was that or turn all the fights into tank n spanks.

They do say on their site that "Wizardry Online is the most hardcore fantasy MMO ever created." - indeed, it seems to be their USP.

That said, some of the ideas seem absurd. Re-rolling interminably with no penalty is just ridiculous. It would actually be better to allow people to pay for stats IMO. Permadeath and PK sound like an accident waiting to happen (perhaps they will have permadeath only in PvE, but of course that will be exploited by PKers anyway).

As for raid PUGs, didn't they start with the boss at Wintergrasp?
Hmm... That buff could also mean that a raid group will wipe a few times deliberately just to get the buff high enough for them to push through.

If Blizz wants to prevent that, they might want to up the cost of gear repair a bit.

Looking closer ast Wizardry Online: "If you fail to prepare properly, your character may be lost forever upon death."

Methinks proper preparation may involve a visit to the cash shop...
First off, it's LFR. It's hard enough to get people to do the fight properly. Coordinating a wipe is not going to happen.

Second, the buff only lasts for one boss. You might as well try to kill the boss normally.
Managing people's expectations is a key to leading a raid. Getting naked and wiping a few times takes less time than real attempts, and nobody is getting sick of that shaman who isn't carrying their weight.

Not saying most people would go this way, but if you had a weak group it might be better to intentionally wipe a few times. Basically if the time per boss is improved by wiping a few times on purpose, it will become SOP.

On a side note I was thinking last night that there were 5 types of quests in WoW, and I was looking for more.

1. Kill X rats.
2. Get 5 of item Z by killing X rats who have a Y% chance of dropping Z.
3. Gimmick quest like firebombing # of rats.
4. Escort NPC, defending against stages of rats.
5. Kill one really badass rat.

I can't think of anymore types. Am I missing something?
Thought of one more:

6. Get 5 of item Z, which is laying around in an area populated by hostile rats.

Bashiok has already indicated that you have to reach a certain threshold on e boss before a wipe buff will kick in. Where that threshold sits is still in design.
If you wipe in lfr 90% of the time its down to 1 of 2 things. Firstly too many people are afk, I wiped 4x on tsulong last week until we finally had 4 out of 6 healers actually healing, Or someone pulls the boss too soon, someone starts it with people outside or people dead.

Redbeard, 1 scenario+1 heroic. No deaths 23g repairs. Thats from last night.

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The buff can be abused in LFR if all agree to quickly wipe which is unlikely given the easiness, as well as unorganized group.

On Normal and Heroic if you progressed on the fight for long and are not advancing then it can make sense to give up. All will have to agree to quickly wipe, which leads to frustration to those who don't (feels like "free kill" and "giving up").

E.g. if you can finally kill Spine or Madness with 10% when you been trying for the past weeks on 5% it really doesn't feel like a victory, it feels like a bummer you weren't able to kill it with 5% nerf.
Wizardry Online sounds like a UO shard I once played on called Darkage. The % chance of "final death" increased each time you died to a player or GM-controlled baddy.

Due to the strict mature player and heavy RP aspect though this wasn't so bad because it meant often combat had more weight to it, rather than just "lol I kill u noob", and even the most powerful of players always had to be careful otherwise they would find themselves having to start from scratch.

That's what you do in tabletop D&D anyway so it's not such a big deal.
I don't see wiping as an abuse of the system, deliberately or not.

If you're good enough to clear it without wiping, do so.

If you're not, you will need to wipe, whether you realise it or not. You will pay gold for that privilege.
I'm sure that the LFR buff will kick in only if the fight duration is more than X minutes of if the boss health went down to at leasy Y%. It's not hard to make it so that wiping 10 times takes a lot longer than just doing the fight.

It will not be applied to normal/HM for the simple reason that LFR is already there to allow anyone see the raid content. There's no need to let them see it again on the other difficulty levels. LFR actually solved the "nerfing" of raid which was done to allow anyone to see it. which is why after DS (the 1st LFR raid), the "nerf 5%/month" disappeared, and now it relies only on the auto-nerfing over time provided by gear upgrades.

For the list of quests:
7. talk to an NPC somewhere
8. go somewhere and just "be there"

BTW the list encompasses any quest for any MMO, I'd say :)
Is the stacking buff optional or can it be turned off? I have played a few single player games that automatically lower difficulty if you die a lot and it is paradoxically very frustrating. Imagine that you have just figured out the reason why you keep dying and the next times you play, are ready to catch the guy who ambushed you from behind only to discover the game has already decided you suck too much and has removed that villain. I am all for adjustable difficulty but please let us decide for ourselves what difficulty we want to play.
One interesting way to combine perma-death and PK would be that every time you assault another player, and kill him you will have a debuff "if you die this is perma-death". At each new player you kill, the time this debuf is active increase. All your inventory is given to the first guy that find your corpse.
But without the frustration of defeat, can we at all talk about games? Is a "thing" where you can only win a game at all? Can you define victory in the absence of defeat?

There were some alternative quest types in WoW. For example the quest to investigate the burned out inn in Dustwallow Marsh (I could never find the footprints before they added sparkles to quest items). Or the riddles posed by the dwarf in the hills of Westfall that sent you all round the world for a very nice trinket. Or the quests that were basically stories, like the missing guy in Darkshire, or the little ghost girl in the Plaguelands. And there are increasingly many 'minigame' quests, often involving you driving some sort of vehicle or controlling a monster.

It is too reductive to describe the quests in terms of 'kill 10 rats' anyway. Quests are about atmosphere. The quest to find two chests in murloc-infested ships north of Auberdine was memorable, if not entirely for the right reasons. Escort quests also tended to have 'personality', sometimes too much of it.
Gevlon said - "But without the frustration of defeat, can we at all talk about games?"

Gevlon you were frustrated by Flame Leviathan with 4 towers up in Wrath when you did raiding. Now... Flame Leviathan would be solo-able (if you still played). How does changing the TIME that one defeats a certain obstacle make something less game like?

In the real world advanced economies all support ideas of guaranteed basic services for all. (Health Care)

I find it funny that a European would question the meaning of a GAME due to guaranteed basic advancement. Nerd rage in workers paradise?

You would think that someone was proposing a special tax on rich goblins or something.
But without the frustration of defeat, can we at all talk about games? Is a "thing" where you can only win a game at all? Can you define victory in the absence of defeat?

The problem with MMOs is that the only way they find to give meaning to defeat is "now go and waste X time doing something you don't want to do, and is likely unrelated to whatever you were doing before".
I always bring up chess for a reason: in a chess game you win or you lose, but this does not stop you from starting another match immediately (i.e. focus on the game itself). The MMO-equivalent in chess would be that your chess pieces are destroyed and you have to rebuild them painfully one by one starting from wood cubes and a file.
Just another example that people don't do LFR for content. Just get the valor points and drops and get out. Buffing bad play results in bad play becoming the norm. Next they will remove all wipe mechanics. That whole game is so broken.
What's happening to WoW is just sad. The game itself is completely immaterial. People just want to log in, mash buttons, and see their numbers increase every day. If their numbers don't increase, it's declared by the player to be a waste of time. Blizzard is apparently catering to this.

Helistar, your chess compare goes moot. Chess is a PvP game. WoW raiding is PvE. In competitive PvP games if you are playing in a competitive versus components of your (virtual) size (ie. league) you have a 50/50 chance to win.

PvE works different. In PvE the content is tuned, and some players are just not good enough to ever beat certain bosses.

The reason the ICC and DS buffs worked well was because the content ran long (10-12 months or so). Normally, nerfs are bigger, and implemented right before the next content goes live. True, LFR meant DS N/HC was undertuned ('cept for Spine), but also everyone and their mother was 6/7 HC in FL due to the massive FL nerfs, plus players had at least 378 epic gear from the new dungeons.
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