Tobold's Blog
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Have the achievers won?

I mentioned Bartle types in a comment yesterday. Now I know these are disputable, and especially the Bartle Test, which wasn't created by Dr. Bartle at all, isn't really providing scientifically correct results. But people in the MMO blogosphere tend to know the concept, so it is useful as a base for discussion. I found one source which said: "The website shows that sixty percent of the people who have thus far taken the test are Achievers, fifty-three percent are Killers, forty-seven percent are Explorers, and forty percent are Socialisers". (Note that Bartle test numbers always add up to 200%, not 100%) While I wouldn't bet on those numbers being correct, I do consider it likely that overall there are similar number of people in each Bartle type, and that achievers are a bit more numerous than other types. But be that as it may, my question is whether modern MMORPGs are still supporting all four of those Bartle types.

I wrote yesterday about exploring not really being much of an option in many MMORPGs any more. Many games now show the way to your destination somewhere in your UI. And games like Guild Wars 2 (and if I hear correctly Wildstar as well) replaced the "find a destination" aspect of exploration by a jumping puzzle.

Killers have been out of luck for years: Free-for-all player killing has nearly completely disappeared, even the majority of EVE players are rather safe from being killed most of the time. And it is arguable whether a carefully balanced battleground provides the same motivation for a player killer.

Socializing has taken big hits too: You don't need a group to play through most of the content. Gone as well are the times of "we need to wait 20 minutes for the boat, might as well chat with that stranger". Even the most socially advanced activity of a MMORPG: Planning a raid now can be done without people exchanging any words.

What remains is games that seem to be pretty much exclusively tailored for achievers. Which, judging by the comments I get, suits some people just fine. But even there developers realized that it was impossible for average players to have a constant stream of real achievements, so they designed "achievement systems" which basically handed out rewards and medals for just showing up and playing the game. A few real achiever types started making an achievement out of NOT receiving certain achievements in the game, because it turns out that not getting them is a lot harder than getting them. If in a typical MMORPG which is all about kill ten rats quests you get achievements for doing quests and killing monsters, it is harder to try to level up without getting those achievements.

But ultimately the idea of Dr. Bartle was that people play MUDs (and by extension MMORPGs) out of different motivations. And the Bartle Test suggested that most people have a mix of motivations, and aren't purely 100% motivated by just one thing. Thus for example the concept of somebody having grown bored of the game, but continuing to subscribe because his friends are still playing. By turning MMORPGs into games which are nearly exclusively about achievements, and don't give much room for exploration, killing, and socializing, you end up with people being less motivated to play. Which could explain why people leave new games after such a short time these days.

Well, IMHO the next WoW expansion is being made for achievers...

And all Pandaria content was temporary...
I love achievements. I truly love them. And WoW was a heaven, in that sense: stupid achievements, funny achievements, silly, hard, easy, impossible, obsessive, absurd, ... Thera was a choice for everyone.

I realy don't see the problem, I've always considered achievements as side-quests. You do them if you like them, that's all.
If anything I'd say that most modern games I've played might throw prizes at achievers but are really built for the explorers.

Theorycrafting is quite alive and well. What's the best build to use for raiding? For pvp? For pvp in this specific composition? What gear to use? What stats to value? Which trash can be skipped in a dungeon to finish faster? What glitches can be found to trivialize a boss mechanic? What farm path yields me best gold per hour? What areas are best to farm to find tier X materials? Should I use more travel skills to speed up my farming or more dps skills to kill stuff once I get there? What markets on the AH can I use to make money? What is the most efficient way to spend time limited currency if all I care about is pvp? if all I care about is max level raiding? If all I care about is solo farming? Is it better to farm solo, in a group of 2 or 3, or in a big zerg of 10-15? And so on.

It's nice to have shiny loot and sexy armor, but at heart our current mmo's are giant optimization problems. And testing and figuring out the optimum is solid explorer content.
I think the different elements are still there, but not as compulsory for those that don't like them.

Which is probably good as having a compulsory aspect of play that is loved by some but either disliked or impractical for lots of others isn't great.

- Some may enjoy killing other players, but most of us don't enjoy being attacked without any choice in the matter of whether we want to PVP at any given time.

- Some may enjoy exploring all corners of the world, but others find that tedious, and just want to get to the next bit of combat or hear the next part of the story.

- Some enjoy socializing, but what about people that don't? Or would lpve to, but haven't found a kin they enjoy, or whose playtime is limited by real life constraints in ways that don't fit socializing?

I think the options to explore, socialize and PVP are there for those that like them, just not foisted on those that don't.

I've seen plenty of post from the explorer types about nice little things they found on their travels.

What is maybe more limited is opportunities for people that don't care about progression and achievement to play the game their way.

You need to level to be able to explore, to follow the storylines, and to play along with your higher-level friends.

Let me skip the leveling grind and just go do the things I like, and I'll be a lot happier.
I don't think that any gamers is just one thing. I am rarely an explorer, though I did some in vanilla WoW.

I'm mostly an achiever and when achieving required groups, I went the way of a killer, albeit, organized killing in battlegrounds.

I agree with Tobold that most extraneous activities have ceased to exist, maybe some of them don't scale well (exploring is one). The point is that MMOs have become as stale and predictable as a counter strike game.
I don't think most developers think in these terms. I think their top concern is having enough content to keep players playing. They can only make so much content, and so want to make sure players experience all of it by directing them to every last bit.

After that, achievements are just an incredibly easy addition to your game that will take hundreds or thousands of hours for those achievers. At the same time, this all has basically no negative impact on other types of gamers, as would open pvp for the killers or 20 minute waits for the socializers.
I'm an explorer/socializer myself apparently, but I wonder if your theory is the other way around.

More games or upgrades for games are being built -for- achievers/with the achievement mindset so more players (especially the younger gen) "learn" that's the thing they like to do?
Note that some tend to bemoan the growing "gamefication" (e.g. Fit Bit, Fuel Band, Square check ins) That tends to be used mostly to refer to achievement sort of rewards.


While I agree that exploration seems to be in decline, I again dispute that being shown the way to a quest has much of an impact on what i see as exploration. I.e., poor quest directions do not count as exploration.

Say a game had hundreds of lore/nodes/NPCs/events that were spread throughout the world; some in fixed locations, some random. Almost all "out of the way" - you rarely encounter them in the main traffic areas. I would find that interesting exploration and it would be in no way diminished if I also had a button that taxied me directly to the quest objective. If there is an arrow-able destination show me the arrow.

In particular, if you have levels, leveling and quests to achieve them (not at all clear whether that is a good thing; can EQN show WoW a new way?) , then if everyone must quest but not everyone enjoys exploration then it seems logical to minimize the exploration required for the "mandatory" leveling. Give explorers reasons to explorer outside questing.


Outside events have also gotten to the 20 minute boat ride. Twitter, RSS feeds, FB (not for me!), available from alt tab, second screen, iPhone and iPad mean that if I can't craft, I am not socializing in game if there are artificial delays. Even crafting 30*1.5 seconds can be multitasking time.

I think there are bigger reasons why MMO duration is less now.

My list now is probably SWTOR > LOTRO >= RIFT > WOW > TSW > GW2 but my lesser liked MMOs are perfectly good games.

Perhaps too far afield but people stay in their hometown, their job, and their marriage far shorter than the antediluvian days of my youth. The lifetime employment of IBM has become Silicon Valley engineers where the average time at the current employer is 18 months. How unreasonable is it that MMO companies would see more peripatetic customers in a world of many more options, many of which don't have the sub lock in.

I believe that Achievers dominate the genre, and most development is targeted towards Achievers, for one simple reason:

It was the rise of the Achiever than demonstrated to game developers that a game didn't actually have to be fun and it could still successfully appeal to Achiever-type personalities if it gave them enough goals to achieve.
I think in some loose sense, "achievement" is inherent in the game being a game rather than something else.

You could socialize in Second Life or just in forums or chatrooms with no game attached at all. You could have a world you explore for the heck of it, and that well might be fun for some people but it wouldn't be a game.

Now you might well care more about having fun with your friends than how many points you rack up while doing it, but it's the something-to-achieve aspect that that makes it a game-playing experience rather than a hanging-out experience.

The topic is complicated by us all having different semantic interpretations of the types.

"Killer" in classic Bartle theory doesn't mean pvper - it means a player who wants to actively disrupt other players. I remember a WoW griefer being interviewed and saying he plays on PvE servers because if you kill someone on a pvp server they expect it, but if you kill someone through some loophole or unintended mechanic on a pve server they may ragequit. He measured his success by people who never logged in again after he had griefed them.

Obviously a game is limited on the number of those players it can support and faces the wolves and sheep problem. Eve is probably the only game openly supporting this player type (ok there's also tiny niche games like Darkfall).

Explorer used to imply wondering round the huge game worlds finding new stuff that people hadn't seen. The problem here is economic. It's very hard to put in unexplored stuff when the internet means that if one person finds a mystery, all of us find it. It's simply too expensive to create vast mysterious new areas by hand and doing them procedurally hasn't caught on. You could argue that player made dungeons fill this void with Neverwinter being an excellent example.

Socialising has changed but because our attitude to technology has changed. MMOs have lost the wonder. It's no longer amazing being in a dungeon with a player from the other side of the world. And no one wants to wait half an hour for a shuttle on the off chance that the guy next to you might strike up an interesting conversation. When MMOs were new we were like kids on the first day at a new school, all lost and looking to make friends. Now we've grown up and tend to take our friends with us where we go.
The issue with most of your listed areas that have suffered is that they were forced on all players with whether or not they had the time or inclination to participate.

I still wait 20 minutes for the boat. It is called queueing for LFR, where I am doing mutliple time-filler things, one of which includes reading over the chat channels. It is a social opportunity that I can participate or ignore.

The boat wait wasn't a social enabler. People remember the "golden days" of socialisation but that never really happened. Sure there were the occational times but mostly that waiting time was spent /afk (since half the time these were safe-zones) or reading a book.
"Killer" in classic Bartle theory doesn't mean pvper - it means a player who wants to actively disrupt other players. I remember a WoW griefer being interviewed and saying he plays on PvE servers because if you kill someone on a pvp server they expect it, but if you kill someone through some loophole or unintended mechanic on a pve server they may ragequit. He measured his success by people who never logged in again after he had griefed them.

Exactly... catering to the "killer" archetype doesn't sit right with me because by definition it requires PVP without consent. If I play Team Fortress or Starcraft 2 or League of Legends, I expect people to try to beat me. I enjoy the competition. But non-consensual PVP affects the experience of people who signed up for a different experience. It turns the whole thing into a zero-sum game -- or perhaps more realistically, a negative sum game, because I think the level of enjoyment that a killer gets out of ruining someone's experience isn't enough to make up for the misery they cause in others.

For the players on the receiving end of a killer, it's turning a game they want to play into a sabotaged experience. It's not much better than logging in to Diablo 3 and finding that the servers are down and you can't play at all. It's not something game designers should plan to assist; it's a breakdown in the other players' experience.

If killers can't enjoy an equally matched fight, a la battlegrounds of a Starcraft match, I say tough shit. They shouldn't get to dictate the experience of others.
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