Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, January 07, 2015
 
Game individualization

Once upon a time games were played on computers and consoles that weren't connected to anything. Those games got pirated a lot. So with the internet and broadband access becoming more prevalent, games became more connected as well. Game companies told us that this was to enable online multi-player, but in reality this was mostly a move against piracy and the resale of games. If a game is not a product but a service, it is easier to control that only people who paid play it, and it is easier to block reselling.

But this connected gaming had an effect on game design as well. Previously games frequently had lots of options with which to individualize the game, for example difficulty settings. Much of that has been lost. If you are online with several other players in the same virtual world, the world cannot be individualized easily to each player. In a single-player game you can imagine a difficulty setting which alters how much health an orc enemy has, in the multi-player version the orc has the same health for every player.

Of course if you make the virtual world big enough, people can still to some extent individualize their game by choosing to do different activities. One player is raiding in World of Warcraft, another is fishing, and the two activities don't have the same degree of challenge or the same need for time investment.

But overall I think the lack of individualization is a real loss. Just this week there was a discussion on this blog how some people felt that leveling was too fast, others thought it too slow. And there is an eternal discussion whether some specific content like heroics or raiding is too hard or too easy, whether the rewards are handed out too quickly or too slowly, and so on.

So I was wondering whether this lack of individualization in virtual worlds is really necessary. Why does the orc has to have the same amount of health for every player, and give the same amount of xp? Why can't I have a difficulty setting in my online game where I play through the same content as everybody else, but can choose whether I want the monsters have only half their normal health, or up to twice as much? Why can't I choose an option to level at half speed or double speed? Why can't I get soulbound epics faster or slower than normal? It isn't as if one could actually "win" a MMORPG in PvE, so why should I care if another player has an easier or harder time than me in the game, if that is what he prefers?

Comments:
I guess the answer is simple: balancing classes, quests, everything... would be a nightmare.

Plus, the amount of unhappy/complaining players would we unbearable.
 
I'm all for letting players choose to slow down leveling speed to see the content as intended, but a lot of this sounds pretty naive. 99% of players would just set it to maximum gearing speed, and all you have done is let players burn through your content faster.

There are very good reasons to slow things down rather than just hand things to players, regardless of what players think or say they want.
 
We are seeing a move into that direction. Original MMOs had an identical world for everyone. Newer ones have phase changes due to the results (sometimes diverging) of quests to show a player's impact on the world. Dungeons, raids and other instance type things have multiple difficulty levels.
There are even tools available to impact on levelling speed.

We aren't at single player game levels of customisation, but MMOs have been trending that way for a while.
 
99% of players would just set it to maximum gearing speed, and all you have done is let players burn through your content faster.

First of all that wouldn't be a problem: You simply set the fastest available speed to the one that we have today, with the default being slower, and there being an option to be even slower.

Second, where do you get your numbers from? Look for example at sites that track the achievements of WoW players. There are a LOT of players doing a LOT of achievements which are very, very far away from "maximum gearing speed". There are certain forums which are mainly interested in maximum efficiency, but those are hardly representative of the player base as a whole.

I think the trick is to not give the same achievements / titles / other visible rewards to the people who played on easy mode / fastest speed as you give to those on hard mode / slow speed. You could even have extremely hard to achieve titles like "iron man" (reach level cap at hardest difficulty without dying), and there would be players going after that. If players only ever wanted easy, nobody would play Dark Souls.
 
Mm, I'm exactly one of those people who feel that leveling is too fast, that I wish I could go slower and enjoy the game more, add challenge instead of mindless killing, that sort of thing. The problem is that I would never choose to make things harder for me than for other people in the game. Just making it a multiplayer game closes that option for me.

In a single player game, sure, I'll stop and smell the roses and spend tons of time doing fun things. In a multiplayer game, even a total carebear like me, who doesn't care what other people are doing, would very very rarely be willing to accept some handicap.

In solitude I can screw around and have fun; in the public eye I must always be seen to excel. I don't need to be better than others. I'm okay with people saying I'm not as good. But I will not tolerate being known to play badly, to be a poor performer.
 
@Tobold

It is the difference between asking people how much they would like to be paid at their job, and looking at salary breakdowns to declare "I guess these people have decided they don't want more money." Again, 99% of people would take the maximum money they could get for the things they are already doing, and the same is true for gear.
 
If you believe that the motivation for working in a job and for playing in a game is the same, I can only pity you.
 
As a casual player I would really love that. Let me have access more quickly to the goodies the ;-) etc... I do not have the time to do boring grind for the fun of having a new toy.
Yet I find two problem :
1) some player take pleasure of having things that other cannot have and by letting other "cheating" you devoid them their pleasure of being the happy few => solution : operate the servers in two category : easy and hard. And give very bad name for the easy one ( such as carebear server or Noob etc... ) this will allow the real one to be able to belittle the easy mode player
2) I think majority of the player underestimate a littl the pleasure to suffer. They will always choose a bit too easy. I have no solution for this problem
 
Well I don't really get the too fast leveling complaint. If you really want to see all the content, as hard as that is for me to understand, why not freeze your leveling for a bit? It would take less energy than complaining about it.

Personally, since most people have multiple alts, having enough content to support two unique leveling experiences seems like a really nice thing. But never being happy with anything is the way it goes.

As to why hit points etc. are all the same, it's the same reason why everybody playing a game of poker or football abides by the same rules.
 
it's the same reason why everybody playing a game of poker or football abides by the same rules

If I'm playing football after work with friends, I am NOT playing the same game with the same challenge and rules as a NFL match.
 
There is no individualization because existing individualization options weren't used. You CAN just do quests and explore in Redridge Mountains as lvl 100. Yet people don't do it. People want REWARDS.

"If you believe that the motivation for working in a job and for playing in a game is the same, I can only pity you."
If your motivation for working isn't the same as for playing (fulfillment, flow), than I can only pity you.

Yes, sometimes my work doesn't give me fulfillment and flow. These moments I pity myself.
 
I'm not making a value judgement, I am simply talking about patterns in player behavior. And they ARE the same. As you yourself have agreed with in the past, players will go for the quickest, easiest reward, regardless of how fun or not fun it is. And you think they will turn down gear?

You could implement this right now if you wanted. Simply remove some of your gear, it will effectively down-level you. I have never seen anyone do this though. Are you going to?
 
As you yourself have agreed with in the past, players will go for the quickest, easiest reward, regardless of how fun or not fun it is.

There is a huge difference between saying that people will go for the path of least resistance and saying that "99%" (a completely made-up number with absolutely no data to back it up) will refuse any game individualization that does not lead to maximum gearing speed. There are tons of examples of people doing activities in World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs that have nothing to do with maximum gearing speed. And they are doing them for FUN, and not because they can't do otherwise (as might happen in a job situation).

What you do is a typical mistake which I call extrapolation from a sample of one: YOU personally wouldn't want an option for slower leveling speed, thus you conclude that nobody else wants that. That conclusion is absolutely wrong. Anecdotal evidence that some people think like you does not constitute data which would justify a "99%" statement.

You simply can't win a MMORPG, however hard you try. Some people clearly realized that and play for fun instead of playing to win. Playing for the win is something that people grow out of".
 
You don't need to change the mobs - all Orcs could be 10,000 health and players could customize whether they want, e.g., 50% or 200% of "normal" damage.

IMO, this comes back to the "game versus world" tension.

If MMOs are games, which I don't think they are, then everything needs to be fair and balanced. If it is a world, fun > fair. In a world, then you could be able to get something with pve or pve, using skill or grinding, Or crafting. Or pet battles/jumping puzzles or ca$h $hop, or ... But if your self worth and epeen are measured by gear/skill then players only want things they are good at/enjoy to reward the goodies.
 
Actually, I think normal leveling should be slower, and veterans should have the option to speed it back up more for alts.

But what you are talking about is the difference between taking a lower playing job because that is what you prefer doing (something perfectly rational that many people do), and turning down more pay for the SAME job you already do. I don't have any data on that either, but I still feel comfortable saying 99% of people would not turn down free money.

And I feel just as comfortable estimating that 99% of players would not turn down free gear. You could actually turn down gear now, but I have never seen anyone do that. Even YOU complain about the ease of leveling while wearing the crafted epics you also complain are overpowered.
 
turning down more pay for the SAME job you already do

This is exactly the point you fail to understand. There is no such thing as "pay" in a MMORPG. Unless you are a Chinese gold farmer, of course. The person who is happy doing nothing but fishing is getting more utility out of WoW than the raider with lots of epics who is whining about the performance of other players.

There is no pay, and I am not suggesting to work for less pay. I suggest that seeing a game as work is a mistake, and that game design should be tuned to better allow players to seek personal satisfaction in other ways than just chasing epics. How long does somebody have to play before he notices that those cherished epics are completely worthless and replaced by greens every two year?

Making leveling slower actually makes the game bigger. Playing at the level cap restricts you to a tiny percentage of the game and endlessly repetitive activities. There is no way to win that endgame, but I see lots of people endlessly losing their fun, their dignity, and sometimes even their humanity by trying.
 
There is no pay, and I am not suggesting to work for less pay. I suggest that seeing a game as work is a mistake, and that game design should be tuned to better allow players to seek personal satisfaction in other ways than just chasing epics.

The message you send here is mixed. I've seen you say many times on this blog that "time is money" when defending, or even championing pay models other than subscriptions. You now seem to indicate that the "time is money" issue could be fixed with simple "game design" remedies that would allow players greater flexibility over their game-play experience.

Is the core issue here one where you feel like you are spending unnecessary time the game, and that the ability to micro-manage the game mechanics would somehow fix this?
 
You are just full of interesting ideas to think about on a Sunday, thanks!
 
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