Tobold's Blog
Sunday, October 26, 2014
The next goal

I've been playing Destiny quite casually in the last few weeks. Log on, take a bounty to do some patrol missions, do the patrols, log off again. That was the kind of relaxed gameplay I liked, and I had a specific goal in mind: Reach Vanguard rank 2. I just reached that goal today, and now I can buy epic gear for Vanguard marks. It turned out that for most of my slots that meant replacing some Light +15 item by a Light +18 item, which isn't really worth it. But fortunately I still had some crappy Light +6 gloves, and upgrading those to +18 got me to ding level 24.

The problem with reaching a goal in any persistent online game is that then you have to look for your next goal. And right now in Destiny the goals that are left aren't a good fit to my play preferences. Basically I reached the point where soloing doesn't make sense any more. It isn't impossible, Destiny has a tiny, tiny chance of epic drops from any mob you kill, so theoretically if I soloed thousands of mobs I could still sometimes get an upgrade. But practically if I want to level beyond 24 I would need to play strikes, which are pickup group dungeons. Not the casual content I am looking for.

Of course I could just play an alt. But gameplay in Destiny is 90% independent of your class, so playing a different class (especially solo up to level 20) isn't really much different from the first play through. So somehow I have run out of goals that I'd like to achieve in Destiny, and I think that means game over for me.

There is nothing wrong with playing in groups. There are a lot of games where I enjoy cooperative multiplayer more than I enjoy solo play, especially if playing in a group has tactical options that don't exist in solo play. But I have to question the wisdom of game design where your level of advancement in the game determines whether you should play solo or play group. Wouldn't it be best if at any given level you could choose between solo and group play and still advance? Rate of advancement might need to be a bit faster in groups, to make up for the possibility of landing in a bad group and not advancing much at all. But I do think that is just a matter of balancing incentives. Why do we get so many games where soloing is far superior to grouping up to a certain point, and then the situation reverses? To me that looks like a recipe to get people to quit when their next goal doesn't align with their play style any more.

Mixing playstyles in that way - one superior, then sudden reversal - is bad, however any multiplayer game should rather focus on group play instead of being a single player game with other players running around you but no interaction.
"Why do we get so many games where soloing is far superior to grouping up to a certain point, and then the situation reverses? To me that looks like a recipe to get people to quit when their next goal doesn't align with their play style any more."

If one makes the same thing always optimal in a game, then people will naturally keep doing the same thing. After a bit, they will get bored, quit, and explain quitting by "I got bored of always doing the same thing." If you change up the optimal thing, they will complain about it, but keep playing.

Obviously, this isn't true for you: but let's be honest here--you aren't the core audience for any game looking for long term subscribers. You are a game hopper. If a game is looking for long term subs, you quitting is a good sign. This is not intended to be insulting in any way, this is just my interpretation of your recent gaming history as presented in your blog. If you feel that you are a prime candidate to find an MMO and play it continuously for the next 5 years--ok, cool, I bet you will find that when you play an MMO at hardcore time investment levels for the next 5 years continuously, that it is an MMO that makes an effort to incentivize different playstyles to add variety to the game. Let me know how my prediction turns out.
Your proposition - "The problem with reaching a goal in any persistent online game is that then you have to look for your next goal" is true as far as it goes and Mike's response to it is interesting. I suspect it may reflect how some developers see their customers. However, what constitutes a "goal" varies enormously from player to player. I strongly suspect that for many MMO players the real goal is to pass a few hours doing something comfortable and familiar. In that respect MMOs resemble pastimes and hobbies such as knitting and fishing more than they resemble most other "games".

It's quite common for knitters to get to the end of the current garment they've been working on only to unravel it and start again. Similarly many anglers spend the whole day by the riverside only to release their catch back into the water at the end of the day and go home with no material evidence of their "progress" whatsoever.

I actually agree that having a specific, attainable goal can enhance one's enjoyment of n MMO but I'm not sure that the absence of one means it's anywhere near time to stop logging in. Often the process is its own reward.
Absolutely agree. As one of those hardcore soloers (I hate even being forced to do Crucible missions...they're fun, but I also find group stuff stressful) I hate knowing an inevitable term date looms before the game's actual potential content ends.
I agree but a couple of points:

1) I go back to my theory that the problem is too many 1337 gamers and not enough suits developing games. I.e. the relative performance of EQ vs WoW and 65% of MMO players soloing means that they realize that their game can't start solo unfriendly. They, but not their customers, "know" that players "should" group together and work on endgame things that force this. See also end-game raiding.

2) Remember this is a B2P game. The important things are you enjoyed yourself enough and felt you got enough value to come back for the DLC. If you are an executive, and could spend $20M on making the solo endgame better (which I support as well) or spend the $20M on making the DLC better/sooner, the appeal to focus on the next thing is considerable.
I don't mind strikes. As someone who mostly solos everything, I was hesitant, but it's basically like doing a LFG dungeon with fewer people and no-one is allowed to talk and group roles don't matter. It's about as 'light' as grouping can get. The normal versions are hardly challenging, so I think probably the worst case scenarios are either someone will kill everything ahead of you leaving you nothing to shoot, or everyone will die, leaving you with a moderate challenge of part-time soloing the instance. The benefit to having multiple folks around is if you do die, you get a respawn timer instead of a checkpoint restart. So if multiple people die, the remaining person's only obligation is to stay alive long enough for the others to respawn. Can make the game a lot more forgiving.
Try doing the daily heroic on level 24?
Why do we get so many games where soloing is far superior to grouping up to a certain point, and then the situation reverses?

The rather simple answer is that soloing is so far beyond superior innately, that it takes external factors (wanting to socialize) or game-changing incentives (e.g. raid gear) in order to compete. It's not just about the chance of group failure, it's all of the related social overhead - getting groups together, gaming by appointment, having to match a stranger's pace, losing flexibility to drop in/out with no penalty, etc, etc, etc.

There is no solution for what you seek because soloing having anywhere close to parity with grouping at endgame basically means there is no grouping.
I think grouping is a method to slow you down, therefore keeping you play the same content longer.

If they provide a solo content, you
- complete it after a day or two
- give up
Either way the content is done.

In group play you can try over and over again, hoping that others improve. Or spend time finding better "friends".

I think Gevlon's interpretation is a bit harsh. Grouping has a value of it's own. I enjoyed raiding with a group, even when others made mistakes (not saying I never made mistakes!).

If you don't care to play with or against other people, why not play Skyrim? We play MMOs *because* there are other people playing. (I would *never* consider playing an MMO that had no text chat.)
You know you could farm planet materials which can be traded in for Marks. Usually I can complete most the daily bounties for rep, and if I get lucky a couple of Public Events for some more Marks, and some Ascendant Materials.

Between that, and buying an exotic chest or helmet from Xur on the weekend I got all the way to level 29 without doing many Strikes.
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