Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
 
Playing different games together

Imagine a game which consists of different parts, one part being soccer, the other chess, played on the same field. Presumably the soccer players would complain about the chess players being in the way, while the chess players would complain about not getting the quiet required for their moves. Looks like a bad idea overall. So why do MMORPGs insist of having this mix of totally different games? One of the most frequent complaints in MMORPGs is about other players "not doing it right", which in most cases is due to those other players simply playing a different part of the MMORPG. Talking in Bartle types, for an achiever, an explorer is "not doing it right", and a killer thinks the same about a socializer.

Wouldn't it be much better to separate parts of those games into new games, for example make a game just about raiding? Not only would you not be forced to play hundreds of hours or pay $60 to level up a character in order to raid, you would also presumably find only people actually interested in raiding in that game. Then for the people who like leveling up, we could have a very different game, in which leveling takes much longer, and where reaching the level cap unlocks new classes which you'd have to level up again.

If you look at great computer games, they usually concentrate on doing one thing very well. As soon as a game has several parts, the additional parts are usually not that good, or get in the way of the main game. By trying to be all things to all players, you only end up making nobody happy. We will see that probably next year, when EQ Next comes out. Right now people are very happy about EQN Landmark, which does only one thing and does it well. It isn't all that obvious if the concept is still that fun if it is dropped into a MMORPG in which lots of players have very different ideas about what the actual game is.

As an added advantage, reducing the scope of MMORPGs would also make them cheaper to produce. I think it would be financially more viable to make a focused game, which costs less, and stands out from the crowd of MMORPGs that all have the same bloated list of features.

Comments:
While I agree with you for some type of sub games in MMO : PvP in open world, Open WOrld PVE, raids, Dungeon, Small-scale PvP, etc...

But for bartle type, for me that more look like defender, and attackers in sport games : a football match without goal keeper is not very fun, the same for exemple for Socializer VS achiever : Socializer create the glue between achievers, and te sheep for the Killers. But Killers propose a threat for Achievers to Socialize, etc...

Last point : I did not believe in the partitiion of the player base in those categories. I think we all are part of socializer, Achiever, etc.. and if we can have inclination for some function, all complete each other for my enjoyment of the game. For exemple for me , Killing is more fun with friends, while Achievement drive me to connect more and longer, but reduce the fun created by exploration. I have not a lot of killer instinct, but Human Intelligence create for more interesting puzzle to explore.
 
Imagine your game of chess soccer, but as a computer game. Imagine that if a chess player captures one of his opponent's pieces, the soccer player gets a speed boost. Nothing extreme, just a mild benefit. I would argue this would be a better game than a game just about chess or soccer. There are already plenty of those done well.

The problem, as your analogy proves, is not that there are too many focuses in MMORPGs. The problem is that these different goals do not flow with each other, but instead impede each other. When someone else doing what they want makes it easier to do what I want, then we have a good multifaceted game.
 
I find the assumption that the game would be cheaper if it just focused on one thing to be overly optimistic. In fact, if day the opposite is true. First, a fully focused raiding game would already have all the elements of a PvP game built in - character models, abilities, animations, etc. Sure, time would need to be spent making BGs and on balance, but it'd still be significantly cheaper than starting sobering new from scratch.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, MMOs cater for multiple Battle types because A) someone's Battle type can change throughout the day, and B) it broadens the base. There are tens of thousands of player who just do WoW PvP. Is it somehow less expensive to leave their money on the table than to... what? Create more raid content for the 10% who consume it? With the exception of these dry spells inbetween expansions, I'd almost say that Blizzard couldn't add any more raids/dungeons without running into diminishing returns and burnout.
 
Imagine that if a chess player captures one of his opponent's pieces, the soccer player gets a speed boost. Nothing extreme, just a mild benefit. I would argue this would be a better game than a game just about chess or soccer.

It could also be considered a much worse game, since optimal performance in one part of it pretty much requires participation in another, completely different, activity.
Personally, I'm for as much as possible activity separation: if I log in to raid, I expect to be able to raid, without being forced to do other stuff which is irrelevant to me, and without my performance being dependent on what someone else is doing in a completely unrelated part of the game. Honestly I would not really consider an improvement if the dice rolls while I'm playing Settlers of Catan depended on the celebrity trivia question someone is answering on the next table.

The reason it gets all mixed in MMOs is that in order to get as much audience as possible, they deliberately target completely different types of players. Not that MMOs are an innovation in this, The Sims (probably the most sold computer game) was explicitly designed to cater to different types of players.

(BTW I also agree with 100% Azuriel says)
 
I give you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chess_boxing

Anyway, I don't agree. The whole point of an MMORPG is that it creates a world where you can do lots of different things. There are plenty of specialised games that do the specific things well.
 
What Gerry said. The problem is that we call this software a game when it's actually a space to play games in. Like a park. Where people play chess next to other people playing soccer. As they do.
 
What Gerry said. The problem is that we call this software a game when it's actually a space to play games in. Like a park. Where people play chess next to other people playing soccer. As they do.
 
The design goal of an MMO is more ambitious because it needs to retain it's audience's attention indefinitely.

A one note game that focuses on merely on one type of play is arguably far less likely to maintain that audience's attention.

The analogy would be a restaurant that only served pizza. As much as I like pizza, sometimes I like to eat other things.

That's the problem with the Bartle test. I'm an Achiever, but I'm not ALWAYS an Achiever. I'm frequently a Killer and on some days I'm even a Socializer.
 
But if we consider a MMORPG as a virtual world in which everybody can do as he like, then why do we get so many people complaining about others "doing it wrong"? If an MMO was a sandbox, then there would be no way to do it right, and consequently no way to do it wrong either.

So conceptually you might like the ideal of a space where everybody plays whatever he wants, but in practice you have to admit that this causes a lot of disputes.
 
A restaurant exec who went from TGIF Fridays (huge menu) to a steakhouse talked about the "veto factor" A group is going out to eat and sites without something to appeal to each member don't get chosen.

While DAOC2/CU is not for me, but I admire the creator's focus. It makes a lot of sense to keep the game small and tightly focused. The problem is that tightly focused games have smaller customer bases, which means smaller development scope and budget. The flaw is that I have not seen much acceptance of smaller scope or quality (graphics). If customers insist everything have the broad scope of AAA features, then it must appeal to a broad enough customer base to support that. Which inevitably leads to posts whining about it be too bland, too accessible, not innovative.

Intellectually, I absolutely agree that focused games should be the logical goal, but emotionally I think the market is conditioned to expecting AAA feature lists.

My example is AAA MMOs are cafeterias. I have even made the point that the better the AAA title, the more that I don't want to do. Whereas adding a new PvE tier requires new PvP to avoid unbalanced complaints. Vice versa of course. Alternative Advancement (WoW Pet battles, SWTOR GSF) allows axis of advancement that do not impact others but can fully occupy the customer.

In a few months, I think Wildstar will be a good example for this discussion: it seems to me like two different games:
1) Hardcore: 40-person raids, content should be hard, action combat
2) Innovative: huge amounts of humor/personality, paths for all 4 Bartle archetypes not just warrior, housing, etc.

-----

I love MMOs but am not sure of the future. Having been spoiled by all the AAA titles, I am not sure anything "kickstarter-size" would appeal to me. Yet why would game companies keep spending $200mm on AAA MMO that are probably not going to be very successful? My complete guess is Wildstar will do OK but have retention issues when WoD ships and TESO will do even less. After this year's TESO and WS, we know about EQN and another SOE sandbox, but I think trendy investment capital is trying to catch MOBAs and wise capital is investing in mobile.

 
y do we get so many people complaining about others "doing it wrong"?

Since when do we measure how good an MMO is by it's complaints? This strikes me as the same type of thinking that creates the problems we see when devs take 'feedback' from the loudest complainers on the forums.
 
"But if we consider a MMORPG as a virtual world in which everybody can do as he like, then why do we get so many people complaining about others "doing it wrong"? If an MMO was a sandbox, then there would be no way to do it right, and consequently no way to do it wrong either.

So conceptually you might like the ideal of a space where everybody plays whatever he wants, but in practice you have to admit that this causes a lot of disputes."

We get so many people making complaints like that, because it is human nature to do so. If you went to a sandbox, in real life, you would find children, playing in that sandbox, telling each other they are doing it wrong. Therefore, I do not have to admit that MMO design causes disputes, because I am sticking to my original thesis that human nature is the cause.
 
If you went to a sandbox, in real life, you would find children, playing in that sandbox, telling each other they are doing it wrong.

I should tape record my kids playing Minecraft on the Xbox together. So many tears over the other kids doing it wrong:)
 
Sounds like a good idea in theory, but I think ultimately raiders would find it unsatisfying. At the last count, only 15% of players in WoW ever raid. At all. This means that raiders - no matter their skill - consider themselves 'better' than the 85% of players who are doing it wrong.

If the game consist of ONLY raiders, then all of a sudden those folks who consider themselves 'elite' will have a much smaller pool to look down upon, and will be forced to rely on their actual skill to feed their e-peen.

And if you've ever read any MMO blog comments/news-site comments, it becomes pretty clear that raiders are ALL about the e-peen.
 
@Cam: "And if you've ever read any MMO blog comments/news-site comments, it becomes pretty clear that raiders are ALL about the e-peen."

If you've ever been to the Internet, then it would become pretty clear to you that people on the Internet are ALL about the e-peen. Whether it's espn.com, or a forum about an MMO which doesn't have raiding, such as any EVE forum/site, or WoW blogs/sites, there will be an epeen lurking just around the hyperlink. Looking down on raiders because you think they're looking down on nonraiders is just more looking down on others.
 
I find it ironic you used the Bartle types to ask this question. As I recall, the entire point of that theory was that you needed all 4 of the types, or they would each individually get bored and leave the game.

But I don't believe players fit so neatly into each type. You seem to assume being an achiever can only mean you have zero interest in exploring or socializing. I think that applies to almost no one. You may have players that are mostly one over the others, but I think most have multiple interests.

What's more, so many people play MMORPGs with their friends, who will all have their own interests. They need a game that can accommodate all of them. Otherwise, your explorer friend would have no interest in your achiever's game.

In fact, I would say the bigger problem is that the end game typically lacks variety. You have explorers, achievers and socializers (and probably killers too) all shoved into raiding because it is the only thing offered. You don't see any arguments over the leveling game, where players actually are offered a variety of options.
 
I still like to believe that MMOs are about sociability. The MMO world is mearly a lobby for the players to engage in a variety of activities. Friends might want to hang out with each other, but not neccessarily do the same thing every day. The MMO world provides a background theme for their groupped activities.


 
Do you think it would be better if instead of playing D&D with your friends instead you focused on writing adventures (assuming that's the part of it you like the most), the players that like tactical combat the most played a wargame like Warhammer 40k instead, and the rest that like the role-playing part instead played a storytelling game with no combat or formed an improv theatre group?
 
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