Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
WoW the single-player game?

In the discussion of cross-realm zones being introduced to World of Warcraft, I was struck by remarks like this one from The Godmother listing as one of her reasons against CRZ the fact that "I liked it when it was quiet.". The discussion is full of similar remarks from people who would prefer to have zones for themselves. But if you want a computer role-playing game for yourself, why would you want to play a MMORPG, with it's monthly fees and always-online DRM? Wouldn't you be much better off with a single-player version of World of Warcraft, running offline?

A large part of the game of World of Warcraft could easily be done in an offline single-player version. Other parts could work with the other players being replaced by bots: I could easily imagine an auction house with bots buying and selling goods that would look just like the real thing to a single player. The most difficult would probably be running dungeons with a group of bots; but that isn't because it would be hard to program a bot that plays better than a real player, but more because a bot would easily end up being too perfect compared to a random stranger in a pickup group.

So why do people who "like it quiet" play a massively multiplayer online game? Wouldn't let's say Knights of the Old Republic be a much better game for them than Star Wars: The Old Republic?

your logical is incorrect. Because I don't want to fight mob respawns and gathering resources, being ganked extremely often now by 90s, does not mean that I prefer single player over a MMO. Because what I like most is doing dungeons and raids with friends and guilds and that is not single player...if for you MMO is stealing mob kills and resources then this is your opinion..I cannot count how many times I fought mobs to use the quest item behind them or take the mine/herb and someone else got there and took it...Doing circles in Hellfire peninsula for 2 hours to hit 3 nodes isn't fun also! Some people have chosen to go to a low populated server for exact that reason.

In a game like GW2 where the competition among people in the PVE is zero and you can only benefit from others, I don't think that you see people asking they want things quit right? So instead of blaming the players maybe you have to look at the game design and how this could be better.

At the end, most of the MMORPG are much more better to play as single player if that's what you seek than original single player RPGs.
" I don't think that you see people asking they want things quit right?"

I mean *quiet* (I wish Icould edit my post)
This ties back into the storytelling style in MMOs. Because the writers can only assume that there is a player witnessing the story, they write with that in mind. At best, you get a raid NPC thanking the nonspecific heroes. So most zone stories are written for the single player. Especially if the previously-quiet zones were supposedly untamed wildernesses, having players running and jumping around can detract from the atmosphere.

There's also the practical matters like finding your quest mobs half-slaughtered already and having to compete to tag respawns before others do. Or getting respawns right on top of you because the respawn algorithm futilely tries to compensate for the extra players. Let's face it, an average quest doesn't scale well.

GW2 handles this by making all quests and events shared automatically, but even that could break down if there's enough players around to make the task even more trivial than it already is.
I think this is one of those "the customer is always right" situations.

She does like playing mostly solo in a MMO. She is right. Stop saying she is wrong, and start figuring out why she (and a great many others) like that playstyle and what could be done to enhance it.

For me I have elements of that. I play one game quite intensely where I am an officer in a guild and do a lot of fairly intense group play. My other game is solo, where I don't really want to play with other people but I enjoy it that the world is full, that I can talk to other players, that I can occasionally see evidence of people achieving things in a completely different way to the way I play. What's more which game is solo can change. I used to play solo in Eve, now I'm an officer in a corp. I am also playing EQ2 where I may one day raid but am currently not interested in any attachments to other people - I go there to be alone.
Isn't this more like highlighting an inherent problem with traditional quest design? You need to kill 10 rats, there are only 10 rats nicely spread out in a specific area. Suddenly 5 players all want to kill those 10 rats, what happens?

GW2 might have elevated this by giving everyone who touched the mob in question credit (whether they were grouped or not), but i haven't been on WoW recently to know whether they've done this yet (last it wasn't the case).

Then there's the crafting, again, that node is shared, the more players doing their "tour-de-harvest" , the less chance of you getting any. There's no way avenue to fight over this, like in EvE, so you can only moan about wanting a quiet zone.

Again GW2 figured this out by giving everyone their own personal node. See that mining node? It is yours only, everyone else also have the same node, but them taking it first does not affect you.

Of course the GW2 system creates a "single player" experience, now it really feels like you are playing on your own, whether the zone is full of players or not. The other players have ZERO influence over your gameplay......
People making the suggestion that those who like to solo in MMOs are "missing the point" of MMOs are missing the point of MMOs.

Playing and offline game is like sitting in your house on your own reading a novel. It's okay but it's not optimal. Optimal is sitting in a cafe or a pub reading a novel.

If that analogy doesn't chime for you then, yes, playing an offline game *would* make more sense.
I have been levelling a monk lately and have skinning/mining as professions. I usually didnt have any problems with mining before, but when I arrived in Outland CRZ seem to have made the competion for Fel Iron Ore pretty awful (almost no spawns found). In addition you get tag the target competition worse than ever. With CRZ its a lot better to level in dungeons than ever before (always been good I found, but CRZ made questing a lot more painful).
You are missing the point that most of us who solo do social things from time to time. Just standing around a major city watching the other players can be interesting and something that isn't going to happen in an offline game. Like to occasionally run group content? Doesn't exist in an offline game. You can also argue that no offline game has the update frequency or variety of an MMO.

This is not a binary choice but a spectrum of interest. If you are fully on one side or the other, ok, but you are the corner case.
The point of a virtual world is that you can vary your own experience. When you feel like it, you can go to town and mingle, trade, chat, etc. When you just want to relax and not be bothered to "help us tank bla bla or get xyz get a drop" or whatever, you can go fishing or exploring. It's ok to have other people nearby just not in your face. It's ok to kill stuff but without critics saying your dps sux.

Why do some people who play MMOs automatically expect ALL activity must be team based? Real life has many parallels of situations where you are around people but not dependent on their cooperation to do things.

The idea of MMOs started out as a wide open virtual world experience yet has narrowed into "must play this way" vertical progression. No wonder people are bored with it.

Why do some people who play MMOs automatically expect ALL activity must be team based?

I don't think that. But I do think that ALL activity in a MMORPG must still be enjoyable with other players being logged in. If you can solo while ignoring the other players around you, that is fine with me. If the very fact that there are other players around makes you angry, I need to question whether you are in the right game.
Perhaps ask why those players make you angry? I personally like CRZ for the people. I dislike it for the fact that the underlying systems don't account for it.

Like mining nodes. In a true shared server, there is a dynamic respawn timer that loads more resources based on the people in the zone. CRZ doesn't trigger that function. The list of functions CRZ breaks is rather long.

Rare hunts are another one. Other than the first month of crowding, past that point you could run around looking. Think of that for a second. 1 month out of 18-24 had crowded zones. Now every zone is full all the time. This is simply a different mechanic than the past 8 years have given.

Tldr; people are good. Systems aren't designed to handle CRZ.
I'm not convinced it's easy to make bots that would perform well in a dungeon. Have you ever heard of a gold bot that did anything but farm easy outdoor mobs?

Mind-controlled characters in raids tend to have their DPS massively increased, to compensate for their stupidity (there are exceptions, such as Leotheras's Inner Demons, but those were designed to be killed in 20 seconds by a single player of any class).
The Noisy Gamer posted the numbers for the last weekend. I want quote some comments the blogger does, because I think that is interesting read them (I am adding some comments of mine to that):

"The games gaining the most playtime in percentage terms were Star Wars: The Old Republic (123.9%), Maple Story (74.5%), Rift (52.7%) and Guild Wars 2 (32.5%)."

(World of Warcraft lost 9% and Lord of the Rings Online lost 6.3%, I am adding these numbers for make the discussion bellow eacier to understand)

(the perecentage gains can be misleading, mostly if a game have a lower player base - the absolute numbers of hours played are: World of Warcraft 34,645; Guild Wars 2 26,550; Star Wars: The Old Republic 11,925; Maple Story 1,319; Rift 1,318 - the 32,5% gain that GW2 had and the 9% loss that WoW had represent a lot more more hours played than the 123,9% gain that SWTOR had)

"Apart from Maple Story the games with the biggest gains all released new content. On 14 November Trion released Rift's first expansion, Storm Legion. The next day Bioware released patch 1.5 for SW:TOR, turning the game free-to-play. And on Friday Guild Wars 2 saw the launch of a major live event and a new dungeon, The Lost Shores. I expect to see GW2 resume a slide downwards but how will SW:TOR and Rift do in the coming weeks?"

(the answer is obvious and we can see at the WoW and LOTRO numbers: they too will loose hours played. However, GW2 will have other "one time event" at december. Each time GW2 make that "one time events" and add new content, the numbers goes up and that help to retain the players, while the other MMO stay at a continuous bleed. I mantain that at the next 3 months - now are 2 month and half? - GW2 will have more hours played than WoW - and take note that MoP will not impede WoW from show at q4 2012 number they lose 1 million players and that 2013 will be a long bleed for WoW player base)
My initial thesis on the XFire numbers was that they show hype, not long-term popularity. Seeing how much the numbers depend on one-time events (including the one-time event of SWTOR going Free2Play) only confirms that theory. WoW numbers will go up the weekend after patch 5.1. GW2 numbers will drop over 20 percent next weekend.

WoW numbers will be "lost one million subscrpters at q4 2012".
My belief is that people wouldn't mind others in the lowbie zones if a subset of those other people weren't set about to ruin others' fun.

The people who kill quest NPCs, kill the quest objects just to annoy people, and gank opposite faction toons ARE having fun, but the people on the receiving end sure aren't. Likewise, the toon who keeps following you around, trying to duel (or start up ERP) you even when you say "No" multiple times, doesn't exactly help.

If these people behaved anti-socially like this in real life they'd be seeing the business end of a restraining order, but because it's an MMO they're supposed to shrug it off.

Of course, even with the CRZ in place I rarely see other toons out in the wild, so I have to wonder whether the CRZ is actually working as intended.

Two thoughts.

First of all, I consider it a sign of failure if seeing another player more often than not means that I'm going to have less enjoyable gameplay. This can range all the way from games like EVE where other players are generally hostile and want to kill your character and specifically to upset you in real life, to games like WoW where people tag mobs right out from under you and steal nodes while you're clearing guards. It wasn't until I played gw2 that I realized how benevolent online games can be, and _should_ be.

Secondly, playing solo in an online world is fine. I'm around people all day, then I game and sometimes want to just enjoy playing by myself, or just playing a game with a good chatroom overlaying it. I enjoy playing in groups and raiding and all that too, but games that don't let me just play without having to be social are no good.

Why do I not just play KoTOR instead? Maybe it's just me, but playing in an online world just seems to make everything seem more real. My actions more meaningful, my efforts yielding greater permanence than I can find in single player games.

There are also issues of scale and enjoyment per time. A game like Skyrim might last you 100-120 hours of fun times, if you seek out every little thing. KoTOR is more like 20-25 hours. I remember when I hit 25 DAYS of WoW time, way back in vanilla, years ago. I'm almost reluctant to look and check how many thousands of hours I've spent playing by now.

Some online games can provide a lasting, satisfying experience, even when played solo, that cannot be found in single player games.
Well, in defense of those people, they are probably using the lowbie zones as sort of a chill out, meditative type activity, and having people around to gank or be ganked, or ninja your mobs, or whatever, detracts from that.

Of course the idea of single player WoW is laughable. Single player WoW would be the WORST single player RPG in history.
I'm an asocial MMOer most of the time, but not because I don't want to play with fact I quite enjoy playing with people, just not having to socialize with them all the time (ergo why I love Rift and GW2, which both support group dynamics that don't require talking on Vent or Mumble). And its not that I don't even like talking to people....but I still play games for the immersion, and for me nothing kills immersion faster than actually talking to my fellow players.

Anyway, a single player experience like Skyrim is amazing because it can dedicate serious resources toward making the world a fascinating place to explore, with minute and specific rules and physics designed for the player experience. An MMO is a different beast entirely, but it achieves interest by offering a smorgasbord of options instead--of which playing with your fellow humans is an option. But equally important is the choice to not play with them; I don't have that choice with Skyrim, it's not even an option; but being able to choose--or not--in an MMO is much better than it tended to be in the old days where it was "group or be damned."
@Tobold: "If the very fact that there are other players around makes you angry, I need to question whether you are in the right game."

I think you are attacking a strawman. No one has stated that the presence of other players makes them angry. Rather they complain that the other players have a detrimental impact on their game experience.

In fact it has such a detrimental impact on the experience that many including myself are choosing to level in dungeons - I.e. deliberately choosing a far more "multiplayer experience" than questing in WoW has ever been. Hardly the act of players that want to avoid others.

You should be questioning the game design and not the players. If a multiplayer PVE cooperative game gets WORSE in the presence of others then that is a major issue with the game itself.

I thought we made this clear when we discussed the pro's of GW2 some months back.

One of my favourite sets of daily quests are the Temple of the White Tiger dailies for the August Celestials. All the mobs involved cannot be tagged and I deliberately hang around and wait until I see other players starting the quests and team up with them. It is always a friendly social experience.

Go figure.
Maybe there is a market opportunity for subscription based multi-player RPGs ... similar to FPS, where you can rent servers? Then people could raid with their friends without getting hassled by others, and if you charge for the client (+updates) it might finance the continuous development.
We have debated this same old incredibly stupid argument before, and it saddens me that you have apparently disregarded everything I and several others have tried to tell you in the past.

Perhaps I can re-frame this argument so you will understand how stupid it sounds.

"If you like PvP, why would you play a game which requires so much PvE?"

"If you like doing instances, why would you play a game which has PvP?"

"If you like soloing, why would you play a game which also has multiplayer?"

"If you like raiding, why would you play a game which also has crafting?"

All of these arguments are equally stupid, the soloing question no less so than the others. Each represents a different thing to do. Just because you like doing one thing doesn't mean you would be somehow better off if the other features didn't exist.

So try to imagine Blizzard suddenly converted all servers into PvP servers because some idiot decided PvE server players are "playing it wrong." Surely you would not be so confused and befuddled as to why many players would be upset? Would you tell THOSE players they should play a solo RPG if they don't want to PvP?

Many of those players, obviously, DO PvP, they just don't want it turned on all the time. Just like many soloers DO group, they just don't want to be forced to all the time.
Because they want to be able to go to the mailbox and sit on their purchased "cool" mount, or pull out their rare pet and stand in a popular spot. Take away the "brag" factor and put them in a single game and they won't play because there is no real person to show off too
Your argument is incredibly stupid for not even understanding what the issue is here. There is a huge difference between "not wanting to group" and "starting to complain if there is another player in my zone".

Some games do actually simulate an MMO -- the X space simulator series is often called 'EVE Offline' because it shares many conceptual overlaps, and AI ships (along with a not-always-smart behind-the-scenes market manipulator) take the part of creating auctions on stations, ferrying resources for you, and otherwise filling the universe. There's even a "Dead Is Dead" mode that uses a Steam connection to make sure players don't save scum, making it more MMO-like. Of course, EVE Online has a particularly harsh community not comparable to most other MMOs.

Some of the limitations from X are illustrative. Bots and manipulation of the setting can only go as far as the programmer creating them understands, and even X3: Albion Prelude, the most recently released game in the series, shows a number of errors as the length of a game instance increases. At 30+ hours, for example, it's not uncommon for a couple weapons facility types to simply stop existing because lower-level behavior prevents them from being rebuilt. AI battles tend to get drastically lopsided if you don't follow the expected development path, either facing M3+ (heavy fighter craft) or M2 (light cruisers) in a M5 or light M4 (scout and interceptor craft, respectively, that can barely ding the paint on a heavier ship) if you do too many missions too early. Good design can beat this, but we don't really have good design: there are few people competing with EVE.

More seriously, there's a difference between quiet and silence. ELIZA isn't a terribly good replacement for small group chat, and a lot of folk enjoy these games for things like chat channels. 15 USD a month is a nontrivial price for a 3D chat room, but it provides a barrier to entry and comes with a game attached. I may not want to group or deal with lots of people all the time, but it can be a fun occasional thing.
Nice collection of computer games
@Samus: "So try to imagine Blizzard suddenly converted all servers into PvP servers because some idiot decided PvE server players are "playing it wrong."

I can't help but feel that something similar has happened.

PVE players were quite happily playing away in low population low level zones.

Some hated questing and were levelling toons for end game (GROUP!) purposes and were glad that it was faster without having to run around in circles trying to find untagged mobs.

Others just wanted to have a relaxed questing experience and often had "secret alts" that they logged when they wanted to play in peace without the added irritation and stress of being forced to up the pace and compete with other players in the mob-tagging game - effectively an "indirect PVP" experience.

I genuinely do not believe that anyone on a PVE server (the bulk of subscribers) ever asked for CRZ. They are the true victims who had a popular activity stolen from them or severely degraded.

I even believe that most PVP'ers were opposed to this change and it was only a miniscule but vocal minority in favour. A minority that I suspect avoid Arena's and RBG's and are only interested in "I cannot lose" combat against low level players where the motivation is not the challenge or pride of winning but rather "troll pleasure" - the thrill derived from causing outrage and preventing someone else from enjoying the game.

Or maybe Blizzard were unduly spooked into the change by a falsely perceived threat from GW2's world PVP?

It may even hurt Blizzard financially. I have levelled toons on other servers and paid for realm transfers because I wanted a quiet time whilst levelling and then a vibrant multiplayer experience at end game.
For the same reason that when I go to a football match or a club I like a big crowd, but when I go hiking in the mountains crowds suck.

I want it the way I want it when I want it.
You live in the middle of the city and You go for a walk in the park and find it just full of poeple. People everywhere, rubbish anywhere, your favourite bench has a family sleeping on it.

But you like live in the city, you like the busyness, why do you want to be on your own, why do you want to be quite and peaceful? Some people felt it cost too much too change cities and did not like their city so now all parks are shared. Umm wat?

Just because I do lfr, and raids and pvp and dungeons and they are all have a large groups of people does not means I don't feel like hanging out in the middle of nowhere sometimes. Especially given both servers I play on a very high pop/full anyway. 2 Hour queue then trying to get stuff done in crz zones that are full of players from other servers because somehow our server was not busy enough. Right...

A friend of mine spent 3 weeks of played time over the last 3 months before CRZ was added hunting loq. He never got it and the zone never had less then a dozen players trying for the exact same thing. That was before CRZ, now? hopeless.
So why do people who "like it quiet" play a massively multiplayer online game?

WoW was my first MMORPG. For me it was about how I experienced those first few moments while wrapped up in the initial security blanket of expectations. There were no websites full of stats, drop rates, quest solutions and other contemptible information just a few mouse clicks away. I was forced to rely on my own intellect in order to progress. I also relied on the help of others who had gone this way before; reinforcing a positive interaction that "I" alone had the power to modulate - in terms of the frequency in which I would rely on external help. The hardcore were the ones writing add-on's that downloaded and parsed combat text for week long study until the next lockout expired. A person would get recognized for their positive demeanor, class knowledge and willingness to learn. This led to guilds forming in which your reputation garnered invitations from like minded and similarly skilled players. I fondly remember reading articles whereby Guild leaders and Raid leaders were lauded for their management skills and given kudos for their accomplishments.

Rose colored glasses or not, I remember a time when zones such as Un'Goro crater held a mystique in players minds, and the esoteric sense of a calling was essential in developing a reverence for the content. Alone, I could feel that I was having an impact on the world around me, at my own pace, and not be forsaken by randomized grouping with complete strangers who held self serving agendas.

Quietly and alone I could experience the world at my OWN pace as I relaxed after a hard day of work. It was my solitary escape in a world that was constructed to allow me to do just that. At my discretion I could also engage in group activities such as Raids, Scavenger Hunts or other Meta-games with people who populated my Guild roster or friends list. The shiny's, purples and whatnot were second in importance to the actual achievement of downing a difficult boss.

Sure, most of these things can still be done today, but somewhere along the line the game developed a "disjointed" feeling as one change caused yet another change, often for the worse, further down the line - where social interactivity was ill affected. People who "like it quiet", in this case me, would probably be better served by simply stating that the "simplicity" of the game was the most fun and unique aspect of the game, and that this "simplicity" disappeared over time, and at a differing rate for everyone who played.

I have many fun and fond memories of WoW, but instead of pining away for a moment in time that will never return, I simply stopped playing. I hope and pray that this will ultimately be seen by psychologists of the future, as a behavior befit of a sane and rational gamer. =)
I used to like quiet in WoW, because I would have things to do that required my attention. Grinding for mats, grinding for rep, doing dailies, doing the AH. If play time is limited, it's hard to get those things done if you're being pulled away to help with some elite, or other people are tagging the mobs you want to grind.

I don't have that problem so much in GW2, because tagging mobs and nodes isn't a thing. But you still might want to get on with heart quests, or have different exploration goals. It's a different sort of quiet in GW2.
First off, the most enjoyable part of MMOs for me is crafting and the AH. With the current state of computer AI, this requires other human players. If MMO designers lack the AI to do much with NPC greetings, we are still a long way from simulating a sever thousand person economy. However, the AH means I can interact/compete/cooperate with others without any two players ever being logged in at the same time. (A podcast mentioned Greed Monger and it is my first kickstarter contribution.)

The economy is another reason against CRZ. The traditional solution to this is server mergers. Which merges the economies. While low-pop servers look more vibrant with CRZ, it does noting to benefit the economy: scarce materials and especially ones dropped from or used in raids are helped with server mergers but not CRZ.

I love Bhagpuss's "People making the suggestion that those who like to solo in MMOs are "missing the point" of MMOs are missing the point of MMOs."
(Basically Giannis's point)
I think the most overlooked point in the CRZ debate is that they are much worse in 2012 than 2008. By that I mean in a world of D3 & GW2 and individual loot, CRZ focus on the 2006 mining/herb nodes design of WoW. If I am attacked while mining a node and while I am killing the mob, someone mines the node, I am upset and it makes me dislike CRZ. But the root problem is not CRZ, but the resource mechanics of WoW. Scrambling for nodes was accepted in 2006 and makes sense in EvE or PvP games. But not in a mass market, mostly PvE game.
For better or worse, mining, herbing and skinning were designed to be completely solo activities. It seems perfectly logical for people to not want extra people around degrading their solo activity. Not to say that everything or even the majority of the things the resource gatherer does is solo so they benefit from being in an MMO. But I see no good arguments about why adding people to a designed-to-be-solo gathering activity would be welcomed by the player being harmed very slightly by this change.

My response to the "oh customers never like change" is "pro tip: then don't change it"
The most shallow/trivial complaint against CRZ is that other players can still bother my mage for a portal but are not allowed to tip me. :-)
There is a huge difference between "not wanting to group" and "starting to complain if there is another player in my zone".

As others have said, it is about increased resource competition with no discernible gain. In GW2, more people have zero effect on your questing/gathering/etc experience; the same is not true in WoW. Also, given the fact that many people rolled on Low-pop servers on purpose, they have an even more legitimate complaint over heavy-handed CRZ that gives them all the negatives with high-pop servers with none of the positives (vibrant AH, many guilds, etc).

Finally, to answer the rhetorical question in the original post: no, someone is not necessarily better off with a single-player WoW running offline. Are people still playing Skyrim 4+ hours a day 5 months later? Most RPGs are much better for the solo player than MMOs, but MMOs can fill the gulf between RPG releases amazingly well.
I enjoy the social aspects of Warcraft, but there are times I wish there wasn't the competition there is for certain spawns. I'm also intelligent enough to understand the rationale behind why CRZ was introduced.

Thanks for the mention, without which I would never have tracked back through my traffic and as a result would never have found your Blog :D
That is such a damn tease.

Why don't they? Because they can't.
Would... but can't.

You don't like SWTOR as a MMO? Go play KOTOR then! Except that SWTOR has a story in it that isn't in KOTOR, and a different control system, with better graphics and voice-overs and all the rest. But if you were to CONVERT SWTOR into a Single-Player (or better, drop-in co-op) game, would they?

You bet your ass I would.

WOULD. BUT CAN'T. So you work with what you have.
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