Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Final Countdown (Day 16) :: Games People Play


Yesterday, I finished my Raptor Grind. As I did, I found myself thinking about the 'mini-game' this effectively became: okay, so I didn't have 350 levels of sweet sensation to navigate, but there was a start, and and end. It became a challenge to negotiate with additional rewards along the way. It's also very much an 'optional' part of the game, and I suspect this will be something Blizzard is looking at rather carefully for inclusion into the next Expansion, because this is a gaming element that the player controls, and the Devs don't need to fiddle with at all.

It is, in essence, the perfect way to keep people occupied.

Of course, there were those who'd ground this mount within a week of 5.2 dropping, as indeed was the case with the mount on Lootistics Island... but this just proves the 'model' works. It's terribly simple:

  • Set a point to reach with a specific goal (mix and match from X items, Y currency, Z rep level.)
  • Place a very desirable item at the end (sexy mount.)
  • Wait.

Heck, this was what people did for the Winterspring Mount, back in the day, and that grind (albeit excruciatingly toe curling) did not stop the people who REALLY wanted the item from completing the task. This is content that doesn't need constant tweaking and tuning either, especially if the drop required is 100% (and a variable within that) so all Blizzard need to do is set up the terms of engagement and OFF YOU GO. There's also a secondary bonus: owning the mount has kudos, REGARDLESS OF WHEN YOU GOT IT. It shows people that you committed to a portion of time management that is considerable, and thus worthy of congratulation. Not sleeping for a week to win it or grinding consistently for months meld into one once you're six months past the item going live in game. The fact remains, you made the effort to get it. In a game where everything is only as current as the most recent patch number, that continues to mean something, and its why people still chase those hard to find drops in obscure places.

In the end, it doesn't matter if yours dropped first time or after six years, it becomes a thing you want to complete because it eludes you, and that is immersion time you cannot create from anything except people's individual expectations. For Blizzard, that's priceless, and I'd expect it to be used far more frequently come the Expansion.

Self-referencing the last hard mount you ground? Priceless!

'Seeding' drops in this way has a great number of advantages. It would allow Blizzard to utilise the entire World map without much effort, for instance. Simply insert into the zone selected a number of appropriately-levelled yellow mobs so that they don't aggro unless provoked, give them a drop/drops you need to collect, tie them in with a quest-giver and AWAY YOU GO. A part of me thinks this could work for mounts really rather well: as the Winterspring Frostsaber is a nod to the region's indigenous cat population, why not get us to grind for a Hyppogryph in Ferelas, or a Mechanical Golem in Searing Gorge? The possibilities are indeed endless.

There is also the approach that handing in X of a dropped item would allow you to exchange said pile for a token, which would allow you access to a vendor. Over time, as you ground out rep, you could choose to save your token to buy item A at Honored, or maybe wait until you could afford B at Revered, or simply plough all your time and effort into C at Exalted which also gave you a reward that showed the World you'd made a specific game choice. What you offered with this... well, that could be anything, but what about tying this kind of reward to Professions? As you gathered, depending on the zone, you'd pick up an item that went to a Quartermaster (as is the case now with Timeless Coins?) Digging up an Archaeology find also contributed to the total? HELL YEAH. Oh, and don't forget fishing... and even making a bandage could give you a chance to create the same currency. All these mechanics exist currently in-game. They just need some clever soul in Blizzard to tie them together.


Ask most people why they think Warcraft's still going strong after nearly a decade, and they'll put it down to the ability to play the game you want. This kind of 'optional' gameplay is such a reason: whether you agree with the methodology or not, it does the job, because people like me are still aspiring to the rewards. As a result, I'd expect this is not the end of the 'ridiculous' grind, because when you stop and think you realise that it is anything but.

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