Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 20, 2014
 
The difference between games and toys

Syl is writing about an admin mode in EQN Landmark: "It is also safe to say that without a creative mode (meaning flying and unlimited resources without gathering), many of these wonderful servers simply wouldn’t exist. It’s not realistic for an individual player or just a small group to manage the sheer volume of growing, harvesting and gathering required. And that’s not considering the time spent on planning and coordination. More importantly, it would be considerably less fun and less motivating an endeavor for the more productively inclined." I find that discussion interesting, because for me the difference between admin mode and not admin mode is the difference between a toy and a game.

Lego is a toy. Given enough Lego bricks, you can build whatever you want within the limits of the physics of blocks and your imagination. Make those blocks virtual, and the limits change, but the result remains a toy: There is no real goal, no gameplay. It is a great expression of creativity, just like you can express your creativity with writing, painting, or composing. But it doesn't have the structured play which is the definition of a game.

But if you add gathering, suddenly a game emerges. Playing now has a structure, of planning what you want to build, gathering the necessary materials, and executing the building. Where Syl complains about the "sheer volume of growing, harvesting and gathering required" and the "planning and coordination", I see a great cooperative multi-player game in the making. To me it makes total sense if a single player could build a house, but it would require a guild to build a city or large castle. And we could have materials that are safe to gather, while others would be dangerous to gather, at the bottom of monster-infested mines. Then you get emergent gameplay between the gatherers/crafters and the adventurers protecting them and receiving gear for that.

In admin mode, Landmark would not only be not a game, there would also be no reason to run it in multi-player. Lego doesn't make for good multi-player, the different creative visions tend to come into conflict. But if there is a big gathering effort required for making a castle, not only does it make sense for the gathering to be done by multiple players. You also get a strong social interaction, as the group will have to work out how to make compromises with the artistic vision of each participant. Again we can add more gameplay features to that: Minecraft and related games usually have monster attacks at night, so your castle does not only have an aesthetic function but also a practical one.

SOE could always sell "Landmark - The single-player toy" as a separate product, with admin mode as standard, for people who just want to build without limits. But I think for Everquest Next with Landmark, as massively multi-player online games, gathering is absolutely required.

Comments:
Fine post. I totally agree.
.. maybe I'll experience more than one great MMO in my life after all. Who knows? :)
 
Lego is a toy.

Lego is an excellent example of a sandbox. A sandbox provides you with the tools to create anything you want (= the sand).
If you change that you have to grind all the sand before you can use it, this does not turn a sandbox into a game, it just makes it a bad sandbox.

Playing now has a structure, of planning what you want to build, gathering the necessary materials, and executing the building.

This already happens with a sandbox: just because you can imagine something, it doesn't mean you'll be actually able to build it with Lego: it will require planning, taking physics into account, executing. The only difference is the lack of "resource grind" and I don't see why adding it improves anything.
 
Alas, I have a reflexive reaction to "game" with MMO discussions. I don't think MMOs are games and I think most efforts to make MMOs more like games make them less effective as MMOs.

Games and eSports and MOBAs are about fairness and equality. People in a game expect equal chances whether you have done zero or 200 dailies; whether you have BiS tier or fresh max-level; whether you spent zero or a hundred hours getting gold for gems and enchantments.

I don't understand why "game" issues are that relevant in MMOs. I also suspect that it is used like "immersion" - things one doesn't like are "immersion breaking" and "make worse game."

My example is that after someone talks about some MMO game issue, if I were to ask "so my noob character should have the same power gear as a realm first raider?" would they also support fair gameplay.

IMO, MMOs are not about "having a goal"; perhaps a good MMO should have goals as diverse as the customers. If you are going for a large diverse customer base, i.e. big enough to support a AAA MMO, would need many diverse goals.

P.S. I would be shocked if Nils ever finds a MMO he likes.

 
To me it makes total sense if a single player could build a house, but it would require a guild to build a city or large castle. And we could have materials that are safe to gather, while others would be dangerous to gather, at the bottom of monster-infested mines. Then you get emergent gameplay between the gatherers/crafters and the adventurers protecting them and receiving gear for that.

But if there is a big gathering effort required for making a castle, not only does it make sense for the gathering to be done by multiple players. You also get a strong social interaction, as the group will have to work out how to make compromises with the artistic vision of each participant.


Mark Jacobs at least seems to be trying to create just this kind of gameplay between crafters/adventurers (and also guilds) in "Camelot Unchained."

Of course, in MJ's game, instead of a mine full of monsters, you'll get players from the other factions, so the challenge of gathering dangerous materials changes from "fight thru these monsters" to "accept the risk of getting attacked, and fighting off enemy players".

Here's the relevant article if you're interested:
http://camelotunchained.com/en/foundational-principle-7/
 
I largely agree.

I think the problem you have is that many people want to identify as 'gamers' and will reject the toy designation simply because it might split them from the their gamer tribe.
 
I put together a gravity powered rollercoaster in minecraft once for a bogus contest. The rules were that it had to be "legit" meaning it was built without the use of mods and that you had actually gathered all the resources. When I posted the video a number of people challenged it being legit because of the amount of iron involved. I had included a copy of my save file though and anyone could verify that I had a ridiculously large mine going and in fact I only used a part of my iron.

To some people grinding out the resources for something will always look like a grind and to others as a challenge.
 
I think we all agree that these are just two different types of games entirely. it's completely legit to want to add gathering and social mechanics to landmark to make an 'mmo' but likewise, it's understandable that some players would just love to build with this 'toy'. I don't really care how it's called, I see reasons to like both. :)
 
Nice post. I would be fine with gathering components as long as it doesn't involve too ridiculous grind to keep you subbed.

I also hope there is a way to purchase them using in-game currency and that there is a way to earn said currency on a AH as that is one thing I love doing in MMOs.

But getting organised and aligned is what MMOs are about, so the devs really need to encourage that.
 
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