Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Neverending content

On MMO-Champion I stumbled upon an interview with ex-WoW developer Ghostcrawler who says: "Neverending content leads to making things so difficult you can't progress or asking you to run the same content 100 times.". I feel that is very true. Nevertheless I don't think that is an unsolvable problem, because you can design content in a way that running it a 100 times isn't boring.

For example look at games like Tetris or Candy Crush Saga (which will now come preinstalled with Windows 10). These are clearly games in which players run the same content far more than 100 times. But because there are minor variations, some randomness, and a slowly increasing difficulty level, players don't mind doing that same content hundreds of times.

That maybe true with tetris being a single player game but what about raids? Getting 9 or 24 other players to feel the same and do the same only to make constant mistakes can lead to frustration. Not to mention quests and raids don't vary once you done them. Sure you can do a raid on a harder difficulty but once you have it on farm, it's exactly the same process as before.
Well, I think there's a genre mix here.

Slot Machines are basically the same every time you play them, but people are willing to play them hundreds of times no problem.

The experience becomes a "Skinner Box", where you get addicted to the reward aspect. One of the aspects of Skinner Boxes is the reward has to happen very soon after the lever is pulled or your brain won't fully associate the two.

Tetris and Candy Crush? Covered! Raiding? Not so much.
Well, then the lesson obviously has to be to make raiding a more repeatable and enjoyable experience. Right now the experience is "I'm getting punished for the mistakes of the guy next to me", which is a catastrophe both in terms of gameplay and social cohesion.
No argument there.

Unfortunately, the result of that is the "LFR" raid.

There needs to be a fix here, not sure what it is. My gut says "Drop more kinds of loot per boss" so if your raid group is stuck, they get the gear to proceed eventually.
Tetris and Candy Crush is not "content", it's a ruleset! Chess hadn't got any new content literally in ages, but it survives because it has pretty robust rules.
Even with random generation, content is limited by definition, so the question we should ask is "can we make a ruleset which is interesting to play more than once?"
He also forgets PvP content. Soccer (Football) had no content added in the last century and more people play and spectate it than all the video games combined.
Computer, create an adversary with the ability to keep players stimulated indefinitely.

The predictable/random scale is a tricky one to balance.
Randomly caused failures are bad when they punish large group of players at the end of a long encounter for no fault of their own. At the same time, without the random things get predictable and boring.
NC are looking AI to create less predictable, more fun environments ( butt he focus seems to be more on mobile gaming controls as opposed to creating a stimulating opponent.
This is where Dr Bartle and his famous four archetypes come in. It's easy to make infinitely repeatable content for Achievers: you just increment 1 each time the content is completed. It's even easier to make infinitely repeatable content for Killers: just add infinite respawn. Gear/level/skill ladders and arenas/battlegrounds do the job for those two in MMOs.

Socializers used to be extremely well-catered for too. Content that required team-building, networking and co-operation and which incorporated regular downtime for discussion and debriefing was compelling for that archetype. That hasn't been the case for a long time as all of the requirements and benefits of forming social bonds in MMOs have been automated and their functions handled by algorithms.

Worst off by far, though, are Explorers. Repeatable content never made a lot of sense to them to begin with. Now, with the achievers in control and efficiency the watchword, explorers can barely get to explore anything other than solo content even once at the pace they would wish.

I believe it is possible to accommodate all these groups in the same space - i.e. in a virtual world - but it clearly is never going to be possible to accommodate them all in the same content within that world.
Soccer, football or even slot machines are all different. The content isn't the main motive. The motive is to win and collect the winnings. Plus in Soccer and PvP the players, characters picked, and teams are different, therefore the process and outcome is very different. It's not a valid comparison in regards to pve or raids. Which is like I said if you done them once you're going to repeat the same process over and over again. And the funny thing is, you don't always collect any winnings or rewards.
Well the problem, from an MMO perspective, with fun games, is that people get tired of even the funnest game and move on.

The goal of an MMO is to hook people as long as possible. Addiction, instead of fun, is the go to for content. And even the best game gets tiresome after 2400 hours of play time. That's a lot of Tetris.
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