Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, June 04, 2014
 
Fast is not the same as challenging

Imagine a very simple game: Your screen shows just two arrows, the left one pointing to the left, the right one pointing to the right. When one of the arrows flashes, you need to press the corresponding arrow key on your keyboard. If you press the right key within the time limit you gain a point towards your high score, if you press the wrong key or are too slow pressing the key, you lose.

Obviously this game only requires the brain power of a trained pigeon to play. It is in no way intellectually challenging or difficult. But if you took a large enough pool of players, you could tune that game, reducing the required reaction time to succeed, until only 10% of your player population are able to beat it. The other 90% would be players who either naturally have a slower reaction time, or are over 24 years old, or simply found the "game" too boring to put much effort into it.

But of course the 10% of players who can beat that game will be extremely proud of this "achievement". They will call themselves the "hardcore" and look down upon the 90% who can't beat the game. And with some clever marketing you might even be able to make these hardcore players pay $15 a month for playing this game. Because, remember, they might not have more brain power than a trained pigeon.

Comments:
Well, I guess it depends on your definition of "challenging". Going fast *is* a challenge in itself.....

BTW whatever a game does there are some realities which will remain the same:
- it will be a lot easier than most IRL professional activities, for the simple reason it's a game
- there will be a group (top XX%) who will claim to have "true skill" and that this is the game which shows true skill, all the rest being garbage.

I mean, there were people on the Card Hunter forums replying to criticism about the game being random by saying that Card Hunter is harder than chess because chess, not being random, is only rote memorization.....
 
Best WoW raiding description ever!
 
I guess.... Tobold is starting to get tired of Wildstar?
 
This is the old reductio ad absurdum argument. It doesn't stand up for a number of reasons, not least Helistar's observation that "Going fast *is* a challenge in itself". You might as well argue that Usain Bolt has no cause to be proud of his achievements because all he does is run faster than other people.

No competitive activity has intrinsic value, only comparative value. Of course, if you start from a premise that no-one has any cause to be proud of their ability to anything faster than anyone else, then you could make a logical case Few would agree with the premise, though, and if you can't agree on a premise you have no argument, only an assertion.
 
Creeping casualization is bad enough without people implicitly demanding casualization of all games as a right, IMO.
 
Creeping casualization is bad enough without people implicitly demanding casualization of all games as a right, IMO.

Nobody said that. But it has to be pointed out that if you exclude 90% of people from playing your game, you need to ask the remaining 10% to pay 10 times as much if you want to end up with the same revenue.

The situation that isn't tenable is luring casual player into a game, excluding them from the main content, and then expecting them to subsidize the 10% who get the full game.
 
Best WoW raiding description ever!

Best description of more or less ANY game, be it computer-based or not.....

 
It would be nice if more MMOs had a difficulty setting, at least for instanced dungeons. The "hardcore" set could receive special badges or gear for completing the content at the tougher levels, while those with fewer twitch skills could still advance the story. Seems like that would make everyone happy, no?
 
Fast is the same as challenging. It would be more apt to say that 'fast is not the only type of challenge'.

I wrote a blog piece back in 2010 titled "Six ways to make your MMO difficult".

The premise is there are more than one way to make your MMO more difficult.

I came up with six distinct categories: Twitch, reactive decision making, planned strategic thinking, time consuming, severe consequences, and organization (i.e. social) structure.
 
But it has to be pointed out that if you exclude 90% of people from playing your game, you need to ask the remaining 10% to pay 10 times as much if you want to end up with the same revenue.

The situation that isn't tenable is luring casual player into a game, excluding them from the main content, and then expecting them to subsidize the 10% who get the full game.


This is exactly why I'm sitting out, marveling at those who are okay with being lured into doing this.

And marveling at Wildstar's nerve for targeting the 40-man hardcore raid crowd. Which, if you go by WoW's prior stats is about 3-5% of the playerbase, and even if we're really generous and assume the targeted marketing drags more in, making it 20-40% of the W* playerbase... that's still not a majority.

It's perfectly okay for a game to willingly choose to exclude certain player types they don't want to cater for, but is it shooting themselves in the foot (or the head) financially?
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
Jermoai, the only MMO to be a huge hit spent it's prime excluding most of the player base.

It works because MMOs are based on false achievement and false status. The exclusivity of raiding, the loots, the purples, are all critical to create a social hierarchy that gets people to buy into the game as a proxy for real life. Even if they don't raid themselves. Same way that I think Porsches are cool even though I've never driven one and most likely never will.
 
challenge: a call to take part in a contest or competition, especially a duel.

contest: an event in which people compete for supremacy in a sport, activity, or particular quality.

Any activity in which you are able to be better than someone else is by definition "challenging". Just because the particular challenge of "doing something faster than someone else" doesn't appeal to you doesn't make it "not challenging".
 
I take it no one watches american football? Sure, one guy mentions track and field where the OBJECT of the event is to run as fast as you can.. What if, just saying, what if being fast was only ONE facet of overall skill in an event? Like a wide receiver in the NFL. He can be the fastest running athlete in the history of man however if he doesn't have a bit of all the other tangibles that are needed to be a good skillful WR, then he will not cut it..

Fast is pure skill ONLY in games and events where it is the ONLY defining factor. Since MMO's these days are becoming increasingly simple anyway, it is nearly as described in Tobolds blog. Just like people who use leveling "speed" as a factor of skill. Because what else can they use to judge themselves "better" than anyone else? MMO's aren't complicated enough to judge skill by anything other than speed.. And that is by design..
 
It's perfectly okay for a game to willingly choose to exclude certain player types they don't want to cater for, but is it shooting themselves in the foot (or the head) financially?

You might have been asking that question rhetorically, but it's a great question.

Conventional wisdom is that, as a business, you don't want to exclude potential customers.

However, Triple A MMO after Triple A MMO has repeatedly shot themselves in the foot financially chasing a broad audience.

Even when WoW caught fire, the end-game wasn't 'casual friendly'.

In my mind, a game marketed to a very broad audience is destined to fail because the "challenge" is skewed towards the least common denominator.

So why are we surprised when a game fails that's trying to appeal to both a hyperactive spastic teenage and his stressed-out stay at home mother?
 
Even when WoW caught fire, the end-game wasn't 'casual friendly'.


But isn't WoW about 100 times more casual friendly than Wildstar? Depending on expansion the heroic dungeons and raids were more or less accessible in WoW. But there *always* were normal mode dungeons, and these days there are "normal mode raids" in the form of LFR as well.

I don't think casuals mind if they can't do the hardest form of some content, but they do mind if they aren't even allowed to enter the most basic version.
 
@Sid Wow caught fire not because it was difficult or challenging but because all players had something good to do for them. The game back then was more RP and designed around the huge and seamless virtual world. I never raided in Vanilla but I had so much fun playing in the world and exploring/leveling.
 
Try One Finger Death Punch. It's pretty much that, with some shiny graphics... and is actually rather fun. (I'm 31).
 
@Tobold IMO, if Wildstar is intended for the hardcore raider, the first mistake they made is the fluffy space bunny mascot. I'm sure the IP is fine and clever but it's definitely a casual friendly vibe and gives a more "Hello Kitty" than Hardcore Raider first impression.

The point I'm making is that I don't think raising the difficulty bar is a huge sin. The sin is that everything about Wildstar from a marketing point of view screams casual.
 
Another vote for "One Finger Death Punch". You can find a review here

http://scientificgamer.com/thoughts-one-finger-death-punch/
 
@sid67: Completely agreed. I tried out the beta with a friend; his install finished first so he started playing a little bit before me. He uninstalled by the time my install finished, swearing off the overly bouncy look and feel of the game. My reaction was no different.

It's as if Disney made an MMO. Which would be fine if little kids were the target market, but it sounds like it's not.
 
Yesterday I tweeted, as a final thought on the Wildstar attunement matter:

"Is it a challenge because it is, or because you know 95% of everyone else can't do/have it?" A question for the philosophers."

Today I find you wrote this topic way beforehand, why am I not surprised :)

I guess Bhag has a point though that all competition is about comparative, not absolute skill. maybe that's why I don't like it much, not the trivial kinds anyway.
 
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