Tobold's Blog
Saturday, January 16, 2016
Hate blogs

You might have noticed that I haven't been blogging much lately, and then mostly about D&D and not about MMORPGs. When considering why that is so, I come to the conclusion that it has much to do with the fact that I am not reading other MMORPG blogs any more. And to push the analysis further, the reason why I don't read MMORPG blogs is that I don't want to deal with the negativity any more.

It is hard to keep up a blog without having strong feelings on the subject of the blog. But those feelings can be positive or negative. I find that until the peak of the MMORPG blogosphere, just before WAR came out, there were a lot of people who blogged out of their love for the game. After the peak not only the numbers went down, but also the survivors turned increasingly sour. And these days I find a lot of sites which I would classify as hate blogs, as they seem to be nearly exclusively driven by hate, with rarely a post about the love for a game.

One large sub-group of the hate blogs is the people who hate change, the Luddites. Most of their blog is dedicated to complaining about anything new, be that new games or new patches of existing games. According to their narrative MMORPGs were great when they personally started playing, and since then game designers conspired to make every game worse by patches and only releasing worse and worse new games. It doesn't occur to them that they simply might have grown bored with the genre, so they think that if games only were designed like the original Everquest, Ultima Online, or vanilla World of Warcraft (or whatever their first game was), they would have fun again.

Another large sub-group of the hate blogs is bloggers that simply hate other players. Their blogs are full of stories that constantly insult and deride "bad players", horror stories of groups or guilds gone wrong, and pseudo-positive stories of how happy they were when they were somehow able to really hurt another player. These blogger frequently demand game design that makes games more exclusive and keeps out the Great Unwashed Masses of casual players. On the other hand they certainly don't want that exclusivity be based on money (where they would end up on the side of the Unwashed), but rather on weird and arbitrary notions of "leetness" that are designed to specifically make them part of the exclusive club, while keeping out most of the others.

While not exactly hate blogs, I also get annoyed by kind of blogs that aren't actually concerned with games, but rather are fueled by strong political feelings. Those can be left-wing or right-wing, and Gamergate has really increased that sort of blogging. Not only are political bloggers frequently complaining, which is why I group them with the other negativity blogs, but for me they are also perverting the original purpose of a game being a place away from the problems of real life.

I find it sad that so few people would like to discuss how we could make games better, how we could improve player behavior by better game design, or discuss other constructive thoughts. I don't enjoy reading hate blogs and hate posts, so given their prevalence I end up not reading MMORPG blogs at all any more.

The Unwashed Masses of casual players ARE a problem when they feel entitled.
From the business perspective, the company does nothing wrong when it caters to that audience as there are by definition more casuals than tryhards and when everyone pays the same, the casuals yield better numbers.
So in order to increase the number of casuals, the business will optimise the game for that group and since a games appeal is the reward for playing, the business will make it easier for the casuals to achieve that.
It is like you getting paid for DM'ing and I could bring you 100 casuals that only want to roll D6, fight and "lol" while not caring about the story. Would your group like that? Would your group like to pay up to go back to exclusivity?
The sad reality is that these are no longer the days of improving yourself to pass the brick wall, but the days of "I paid, so I have the right to pass.".
If you look in detail to my blog posts about my D&D group, you will find that there is a lot of adjustment going on; that is me *wanting* to play at a higher, more involved level of interactive story-telling, and then adjusting to the more casual demands of my players. So apart from the obvious problem that you can't play D&D around a table with 100 people, I'm already there.

The fundamental problem appears to be that you believe that "improving yourself" in a game is not only possible, but desirable, and carries some sort of meaning. That is far from obvious. Both the very definition of what a game is, andthe self-understanding and the economics of the game industry rather stress the entertainment and enjoyment aspect, and not the work aspect. Or to use, like you, an analogy it is as if you went to the cinema to watch the latest Star Wars movies and were told that viewers would have to pedal on exercise bikes during the film to produce electricity for the projector. The refusal to work for your entertainment is by most people considered to be quite reasonable.

On the use of the word "entitlement" I would like to point out that economic theory strongly suggests that the paying customer is in fact entitled to something, while "achieving" something in a game does not in fact entitle you to anything.
@Tobold: Well, don't take this badly, but you've been there as well, at times. Good to see you've moved on (for good, I hope).

@Camo: as a matter of fact, your post is quite a good example of the kind of "hate" which is getting old fast. Believe this or not, but when you pay for a game you are very much entitled to have fun, since that's the whole point. Complaining about this would be the same as complaining about a car buyer as "entitled" because he expects his car to rev up on when he turns the key..... The negative consequences you talk about is because many games (and many gamers) have given up on the "fun during the process" and now focus exclusively on the result, as you clearly do: "since a games appeal is the reward for playing". It is not. The question you should ask yourself after one evening of gaming is: "did I have fun with my friends?" If the answer is not yes, move on. The loot is irrelevant.

You'll find die-hard fans in any genre who think everything went downhill from the time they discovered it. It's always justifiable to a certain extent, in that they developed an aesthetic which is no longer catered for. The question is, whether it has more justification - and that can vary with genre.

I can accept that my penchant for grid-based CRPGs is mainly a prejudice formed in the days of Dungeon Master and Might and Magic 3, and probably has limited worth in terms of deciding what will be enjoyed by the masses. I'm happy that niche developers cater for folks like me with games like Grimrock and MMX Legacy.

I'm not so sure my preference for MMORPGs that are not based on providing delocated facerolls for silent groups of randos is such a prejudice.

Of course I can't make them change - I can only hope that the market fragments so that niche games are available to the stick-in-the-muds, or the cognoscenti, whichever we are...

As someone who reads a lot of MMO blogs, I feel confident in saying that while blogs like the ones you describe do exist, they are a pretty small minority. If you want to read about people enjoying their MMOs, you just have to expand your horizon beyond Keen and Syncaine. ;)
Oh sure you are compromising and that isn't the problem in a small group, but when you then add economics to that and drop the emotional part on your side: how far would you compromise?

I view games more like books where you have to put in the effort of reading and understanding, than like movies where you are passively consuming the content.
Merely buying the book does neither entitle you to knowing the story without reading nor that you understand the topic even after reading - but it does entitle you to put in the effort.

The part of "improving yourself" is not part of a game itself, but should be the goal of every person as it is what being interested and dedicating ones time to an activity is about - unless your only goal is to kill time.
Casuals in the modern meaning are no longer players that lack the time to play at a high level, but those who don't care to play at a high level, but just want to kill time. They lack the interest and dedication, regardless of the amount of time they spent on that game.

It is the downward spiral of feeling entitled solely by purchase (to everything), lack of interest and dedication coupled with customer aquisition that annoys the tryhards. Not because they lose exclusivity, but more because they lose the chance to improve.

If a cinema would offer bicycling as subsidy for part of the full payment, there could be people who would do that rather than paying full price.
The problem here is that bicycling has not been part of watching movies, so people would refuse this addition unless you shift the perception of going to the cinema (and paying) for the activity of bicycling and then being rewarded with the movie.
At that point you are back at the split between casuals and tryhards and being able to get more casuals by lowering the amount of effort you need to bring (worse if you consider powering the generator as a group activity and one person slacking means more required effort for the rest).
The difference here is that powering the generator takes a fixed amount of effort and low performance nets diminshed movie reward, which in turn could balance casual numbers as they don't get the full reward.

In games that approach could work in non competitive games, I guess. Playing at a harder difficulty for a lower price or paying more for easy mode.
You can turn every joyful activity into work, but who could possibly gain from that? If you do better at a game, nobody in the world is better off because of that. Wouldn't all that energy be better employed at work or in doing something for a charity than on "working to improve my high score"?

And because nobody benefits from you working hard on a video game, it is very hard to make a moral point that somehow that is how people "should" play.
@Helistar: you've been there as well, at times Yes, and reading negative blogs all day certainly contributed to my negative attitude there. Which is why I don't want to do that any more.
Helistar: "[...] Believe this or not, but when you pay for a game you are very much entitled to have fun, since that's the whole point. Complaining about this would be the same as complaining about a car buyer as "entitled" because he expects his car to rev up on when he turns the key..... The negative consequences you talk about is because many games (and many gamers) have given up on the "fun during the process" and now focus exclusively on the result, as you clearly do: "since a games appeal is the reward for playing". It is not. The question you should ask yourself after one evening of gaming is: "did I have fun with my friends?" If the answer is not yes, move on. The loot is irrelevant."

You are absolutely entitled to have fun while playing the game - but you are not entitled to not put in the effort for that fun.

The car buyer is entitled for his tool to work as that is what he is paying for. If he wants to show off and that comes at an additional price that he is not willing to pay, then he is not entitled to get that with his normal car.

My fun comes from facing and overcoming the challenge that a game presents - and thus casuals do diminish that challenge when they cause the business to lower the challenge (lowering the required improval on my side) or when casuals make overcoming the challenge impossible (due to them not wanting to improve).
Camo, I believe you are onto something here: You *are* entitled to something. You are entitled to a game that provides you a reasonable challenge level. But the solution is not that the game provides only one challenge level and that is tuned to you, because you aren't any more entitled to that level of individualization than anybody else is. However there should be some better game design with variable challenge levels which allows everybody to play at the level that he personally prefers, without messing up the game of others.
Tobold: "If you do better at a game, nobody in the world is better off because of that. Wouldn't all that energy be better employed at work or in doing something for a charity than on "working to improve my high score"?"

Unless I care about someone else, why should I waste my energy on doing something for them or making their world better?
That is clearly not fun AND I get nothing in return (well, most likely. The chance for them to improve my world are quite slim.).

It's probably no coincidence that the first two names that popped into my head was Syncaine and Keen, heh. It is true though, reading all the time about how this and that sucks is a major reason I've stopped reading blogs for the most part.

As you said, it may be a small minority, but the negativity can come with such force that it drowns out everything else.
My personal list of hate blogs is longer than that, but I don't want to point fingers. Where you are certainly right though is that it is more frequently blogs that have been around for longer, rather than new blogs. On the other hand many of the new blogs are very specialized on a single game or even single class in a game. Anybody know of a predominantly positive blog that discusses more general MMORPG design in a constructive way?
Syp from Bio Break is a prime example of someone who plays lots of MMOs and loves the genre. You should be able to find more interesting MMO blogs of all kinds through his blogroll. The vast majority of Bhagpuss' posts are very positive as well (though he is somewhat focused on GW2 these days), even if I believe that you two haven't necessarily seen eye to eye in the past.
Hang on. I don't get Camo's 'but you are not entitled to not put in the effort for that fun.
"Why not?

These are businesses. If I can get the same enjoyment from Game B that takes half as much effort as Game A, all other things being equal, I will buy from B.

To return to a frequent point, I don't think of MMOs as games. E.g. victory conditions: how can something where the broke PvPer and the never-in-combat, rich industrialist thinks they won and the other is an idiot. Also persistence: why should someone who put 200 hour of effort gearing their toon have better chance of killing than a new player - that is certainly not a game.

So in the continuum of a movie (zero skill/effort) to a "Telltale"-like game with great story/entertainment but little skill/effort to a grindfest MMO with little entertainment but much effort, I see no reason why the grindfest is morally superior.

I wasn't reading blogs when the WAR-fueled blogsplosion occurred so I can't make a comparison, let alone comment on who among that generation of bloggers has turned sour. What I would say is that my blogroll and Feedly feed (which vary a little) are almost always filled with bloggers who are largely positive and supportive of the games they play.

There are critical voices but thoughtful criticism is, in my opinion, a positive approach to discussion. Negativity for negativity's sake is something I see in only a very small handful of blogs.

What is true is that, like you, many of the more veteran MMO bloggers no longer write primarily about MMOs. That's fine. I read their blogs because I like the way they write so I'm happy to read them writing about Fallout4 or Minecraft or The Sims even though I'm unlikely to play any of those games.

I like to read about MMOs though so I simply keep my eye open for newer (or at least new to me) bloggers for whom MMOs are still a primary interest. Scanning down my blogroll as it looks as I write this I can see around 40 blogs that have posted something in 2016; even if I try to exclude ones that I could imagine you (not me) finding "negative" I'd still be left with 30. That's three out of four "positive" bloggers even at the harshest of assessments.

Perhaps, like the players you describe, who don't realize they have simply grown bored of MMOs, you haven't noticed you've simply gotten bored of reading blogs. It happens.
It is hard to be positive about MMORPGs given the sad state of the genre, unless you are into hardcore open-PvP games. But frankly, the players and bloggers who are into those kinds of games are a lot more prone to being negative and hateful.

It makes me sad to think about the MMORPG genre and the unrealized potential there. Think about how rich and full the world of WoW was when it released 10 years go in comparison to other games. Now look at what single player games have managed with worlds like Skyrim, the Witcher 3, or GTA5. Where is the online world that eclipses those worlds the same way WoW did to everything 10 years ago? We should have some awesome game worlds to play in, and instead WoW is still on top.
@ Tobold

I read blogs that offer unique insights and perspectives about the MMO genre, and other game-types as well. Your blog fills a unique niche in that regard, as it tends to focus on things that matter to gamers - such as payment methods, design paradigms and enjoyment levels. You sometimes let the blog-o-sphere dictate where you center your focus because something is a "hot topic", such as gamergate. Where you sometimes fall short is when you limit the choices that "other" gamers have in regards to having an opinion. You simply cannot do that without knowing there will be negative feedback. I don't like the F2P model, for example, but I respect that developers need to make money and don't begrudge anyone who chooses to play them. I just feel that I have a right not to play them, and even if I do, I also have a right not to give them any of my money if the free to play part is not entertaining or enjoyable.

I don't feel entitled to anything in a game other than what is promised. That, and a certain level of a bug-free experience. Gaming, in my life, is something that I do for enjoyment and entertainment, and as such I retain the right to how I spend that time. I sometimes don't game at all, and will read blogs such as yours for an hour or two and walk away either enlightened or torn between the issues as presented. My time is "MY" time, and no one has a right to dictate how I spend it. Nor does anyone have a right to place a label on me based on what they perceive as "casual" or "hardcore" tendencies. That's the problem with the gamespace where blogging is concerned, in that everyone and their brother likes to create nice little labels or groups in which to "sanitize" their own existence. Gamergate is a prime example of this, and it was very sad to see how much jockeying and positioning was employed by almost everyone involved in that fiasco.

Tobold, your solution is quite simple really. Go back and re-populate your blog-roll. Focus on what you enjoy about games and the rest will fall into place.
@Tobold Bio Break and Inventory full are optimistic blogs that generally write about their likes in the genre, but they are light on what you'd consider MMO game design.And for SWtOR fans Hawtpants of the Old Republic is also brilliant, but again light on serious MMO talk.

Not surprising, all of the above blogs are written by somewhat older people (sorry Njessi) that have seemingly learned to ignore things they dislike about their chosen hobby, and focus on the good.
Bio Break is certainly in the nostalgic whiner category to me. They're just too dumb to have anything interesting to say about design.

Thing is there's not a lot of positives. I haven't exactly kept my finger on the pulse of the genre, but it seems like game companies have figured out they aren't going to replicate WoW, and are basically have six months to make their money back.

Trying real hard not to bust out on all those rants I'm sure nobody wants to hear again, but the genre is just a serious niche product. The hangover from the dreams of world domination has cast a pall of gloom on the diehards as the genre slinks back to irrelevance.
I feel that.

A new year goal for me has been to start reviewing my Steam games.

I'm doing it for a few reasons... better critical thinking on my part (it can be very difficult to articulate in a meaningful and universal way why some mechanics 'feel' good or bad, and I'd like to tackle that), increasing the exposure for the indie titles I've bought which deserve it, and providing some dev feedback. I know for a fact that at least some of them read every reviews - even the ones which only have one or two 'helpful' ratings - because I've been contacted by multiple, asking if they could use my reviews for promotion.

I think if you take more breaks from blogging, you might actually enjoy reviewing the things you're playing in a place that's convenient and might have some useful impact.
Wretched hateblogger here!

A significant group of players (who are also customers) are enjoying the flow experience coming from having to put all their senses and thoughts to the task at hand. Why are they not entitled to have that and why do they have to play together with ArthasDKlol whose idea about a complicated puzzle is "yolo let's zerg it lol"?

I do NOT say that ArthasDKlol can't have his fun. I just say that he should have it somewhere else from me.
Why are they not entitled to have that and why do they have to play together with ArthasDKlol whose idea about a complicated puzzle is "yolo let's zerg it lol"?

Honestly I do not know ANY game that forces you to group with ArthasDKlol. Generally games give you the choice whether you want to organize a group yourself, which takes a lot of time and gives you the freedom to play with people you enjoy playing with, or to push some LFG button that works very quickly and groups you with random players, which might well include ArthasDKlol.

Games like World of Warcraft even offer the same content, a raid dungeon, in different variations so that with LFR in a group with ArthasDKlol you still have a reasonable chance to "win". While for a better reward and better experience you can choose to organize your own raid group. The only place where you are still exposed to ArthasDKlol is in chat (which you can filter), and seeing him dancing naked on the mailbox (which you can easily ignore).

Pressing the LFG / LFR button is you accepting voluntarily the risk of getting grouped with ArthasDKlol. If you don't do that, I don't see how ArthasDKlol has any actual impact on your personal game experience.
In your latest post you criticize the model where you can theoretically play for free, but it's very grindy and slow.

Here you claim that it's OK that one has the option for a very slow and unfun forming of handpicked groups and play "ArthasDKlol-free" while the fast and feasible method forces you to play with him.

Don't you see a conflict?
You talk about LFG as if it was a design decision to include ArthasDKlol. I would say that "include everybody" is the only viable option in a LFG system.

Imagine having a "rated LFG" system that would only ever put you in a group with players of equal previous success in dungeons. That system would A) have very long waiting queues, because it draws from a much smaller pool, and B) still sometimes put you into a group with somebody playing badly, because it can't foresee somebody having a bad day, somebody letting his little brother play on his account, or many other such variables.

What possible solution do you have for a system which is both fast and also guarantees you to always make you happy? I think if you had an idea, Blizzard would be very interested to hear about that.
@Tobold: They could to it with 5-men arenas (which are actually 10-man due to 2 teams), so I don't think they can't do it with 5-men dungeons. The LFG was explicitly made to include ArthasDKlol because nobody wants to play with him, not even ArthasDKlől. Everyone wants the "fast run".

Remember that when I figured out that you can kick players from the automatic Wintergrasp raid and by doing so turned the winrate of a Horde dominated server from 10% alliance win to 90%, Blizzard hotfixed it before everyone would start kicking ArthasDKlol.

The problem what Blizzard don't see is that the hardcore has the time and the dedication to find all-hardcore guilds so they never have to suffer ArthasDKlol. It's the low time, but intelligent players who are on ArthasDKlol-sitting duty which sucks out their fun. What Blizzard and you have to see is that playing with the "unwashed masses" is a bad SOCIAL experience, even if you ignore the in-game failure they cause. Sub-healer DPS is the least bad with a run with ArthasDKlol. Constant "gogogogog", pulling for the tank, breaking CC, AFK-ing, immature chat are worse. Generally I believe that someone who can behave respectfully and maturely is also capable of competent play.
I can see your hate clearly, but I don't see you proposing a solution. How could Blizzard possibly implement a solution that would only ever group you with competent players, and fast at that?

Remember you are talking about WoW, the game that has a population literally 20+ times larger than any other MMORPG. And even THEY had problems until they merged battlegroups and pushed everyone into doing random dungeons, rather than being able to choose.

What are you really going to do in one of the other games with a population closer to 200k? How would you really design a new game before release? Even if you assume WoW could be "picky" in forming groups without massive queue times (which is highly debatable), you can't treat any other game like WoW. All the rest have to form a group if they can or queue times will take hours.
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@Tobold: Let's give a choice to players! They can choose to be queued fast with the first randoms (which definitely means 2-3 out of 5 horribles) or they can choose to be matched with equals, at the cost of matchmaking being longer, sometimes very long.

Also, I managed to form cross-realm raids to kill heroic bosses when they were new, got Ahead of the Curve in PUGs, so it's already possible, even without polished tools.

Isn't this already what WoW has with the custom group finder? You can form your own group to do basically anything in the game, and be a picky as you want with who you invite. Or, you can grab a quick random group.

What are you suggesting should be different?
Hi Tobold!
I realize I am awfully late to this thread and you may never actually see this response, but anyway.

I am sad that you think all MMORPG blogs have become hate blogs. I agree with you that there's too much negativity out there and every new title that comes out, no matter what it does, gets torn apart at first by a certain group of players. There are those bloggers too who do a lot more negative focus and analysis than actual celebration of their 'hobby'. That is wearing me down too and has again lately, as I'm enjoying my time in BDO and FFXIV still. Everyone likes to agree the genre isnt doing well and isn't financially interesting to developers anymore, yet at the same time people cry foul at pricing models nonstop, feel they're being fooled by "greedy" developers while paying precious little for MMOs to begin with if we ever compared them to other entertainment media - or last night's burgers with fries. It's pretty ridiculous what kind of standard and expectation the MMO player base has nowadays.

Anyway, I guess I meant to say too that I'm a little disappointed you think there are no positive bloggers left at all. I dont consider myself a hate blogger, far from it. And there are other bloggers, in fact plenty of them (bhagpuss, syp, belghast - to name just a few) who write about their unending MMO adventures. I have followed your blog for many years and despite not always agreeing, enjoyed your analyzis of things, your anti-elitist attitudes and spotlighting other blogs. Pity you dont think any of us are left worth your time. alas, take care.
I never said there are no positive bloggers left. What I said, and I quote, is: "And these days I find a lot of sites which I would classify as hate blogs". A lot of isn't the same as everyone.
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