Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ring My Bell

Every Tweet's a POTENTIAL BLOG BOST...

We do still love Mr G. Street.

Even though it has been many months since his departure from Blizzard, his Twitter feed is still a source of interesting comment and reflection for those of us who like to consider the wider issues behind Gaming with a Capital G. Take this Tweet from Monday, for instance, referencing a Penny Arcade strip I saw several people allude to simply as notable for its namecheck for Wildstar. Most missed the subtlety, but not our favourite ex-Crab. The message in the 3-Panel was simple: Gabe spent time playing Wildstar but effectively did nothing, though as Tycho points out that means a great deal of nothing quantifiable by 'conventional' gaming standards: so effectively his time was wasted... even though he enjoyed himself in the process. Mr Street's comment on the back of this is really rather relevant, especially as we're about to get an Expansion where many people think we'll have to waste our time getting 10 levels to max again when we should really just be playing dungeons or PvP. The problem comes with what people define not simply as an effective use of the time available, but what they get out of that experience to show for their effort.

Truly we have now entered the age of Time Management Gaming.

This is an Eisenhower Box. Although former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower never played Warcraft, this is how I'd use his principle for evaluating the importance of tasks to decide what part of my gaming experience is more significant. The stuff in the 'Important/Urgent' box is the priority, the stuff in the Important/Not Urgent box I'll get to eventually. Not Important/Urgent tasks I often try and do with someone else and the Not Important/Not Urgent tasks... well, you get the point. I'm sure you as a player would rearrange these elements in lots of different ways, and the key is understanding how players become obsessed with the need for things to be 'worthwhile.' With every new game, after all, there are often masses of new systems to learn or elements to grasp. Having been 'trained' in Warcraft, I don't even need to hear a bell ringing to understand that I have a particular set of priorites to consider when a game is presented to me, new and fresh and ripe for playing. Blizzard have become, more or less, the Ivan Pavlov of the Gaming World (see below). Their methods in training me in reflex system responses have been second to none.

It is entirely possible that as a result of such conditioning, inefficiency has now become as much of a problem for players as it is for designers.

Ding Dong Ding, Ding Dong Ding

When I first entered Wildstar I was not a Gabe from Penny Arcade. I consciously stopped myself from wandering into the World and just enjoying myself because, at the back of my mind, I knew that everything was part of someone else's plan. In any given zone, there'd be stuff to discover, achievements to be had, raw materials to be exploited and other players to be dealt with. I was actually a bit scared of simply wandering off and not having a plan, if truth be told, because I wasn't sure I'd be penalised on my first trip round for NOT picking up stuff straight away. That's the problem with  knowing perhaps a bit too much about what an MMO is asking of its playerbase: finding your initial level can become quite perilous. This isn't anybody else's fault other than mine, of course. I could simply ignore everything and just run around Gabe style. The problem with that, however, is the understanding that if your environment changes with the decisions you make, making certain choices may end up separating you from things you want, but you don't yet know you can get. Then this whole thing stops being about responses, and becomes more about the amount of information you were given to begin with.

There's only one spec of Death Knight. Blizzard say so ^^

Choice, after a while, becomes an issue. Making systems more complicated can lead to a basic inability to be able to grasp them outside the people who designed the system to begin with. When you are attempting to educate someone (as Blizzard are with the Class Guide 'Crash Courses' they released yesterday) giving them everything at once isn't helpful. Instead, you need to pick a starting point. When every class has three specs and some have more, that's not an easy choice to make for the designers either. It is clearly understandable therefore that it would have been impossible to dedicate time and effort to make a video for every spec, because this would mean the people producing these Guides are then not actually producing the Game, which is more important in the long term. That means, completely unintentionally,there is now the possibility of giving credence to the chosen specs, of them holding greater significance because they were selected to have guides made about them to begin with. If we see a sharp increase in people playing Frost spec DK's, seriously, don't be surprised. People like cookie cutter guides because they're easy and require no skill for a considerable return. People want to just know the best pet for dps. There is a very good reason for this.

The Culture of Productive is Subjective. TRUFACT.

What matters for *most* people when playing a game is a very distinct and undoubtedly personal set of priorities. Trying to offer specific solutions to problems is never easy, but I certainly applaud Blizzard for making an effort to try. The biggest single issue currently for anyone making or doing ANYTHING (and this isn't just games, this covers most forms of entertainment) is grasping the particular mentality of your audience, and how to respond to what can often appear to be 101 different complaints about the same issue. As time goes on, it becomes increasingly difficult to ring everyone's bell simultaneously. So you pick your battles, and you hope you occasionally hit the target. Ironically, the customisable relics that Blizzard have in development that feature in yesterday's Artcraft are prime examples of the kind of thing that could do just that. You don't need to worry about skill for those, after all, and they give you the all-important ability to stand out from everyone else. When al is said and done, individuality matters too.

All we need now is someone to explain to players how to be good at what they do without worrying they're going to miss something on the way.


dobablo said...

Although former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower never played Warcraft...
Citation needed

I suffer from efficiency paralysis. If I do not know which of two paths is the most optimal I take neither and wait until I can Google the correct answer.

marathalbt said...

I picked up on the irony that many of us use to say ding when we leveled our first character.

The problem with that, however, is the understanding that if your environment changes with the decisions you make, making certain choices may end up separating you from things you want, but you don't yet know you can get

And hence a potential issue with Garrisons. How we interact with them and additionally the side quests in zones will change how we play out a story to some extent. How many of us may find out later that if we had chosen to do quest Y instead of X that we may have seen a really cool story unfold. It wont be wrong to choose X quest line, it may be even more efficient to get to the next zone. It is going to be a very interesting expansion.

kunukia said...

Beastmaster. Never anything else since vanilla on my many hunters, whichever spec was 'best'. It is all about the pets.

Grimmtooth said...

Beastmaster is the only spec. Death Knights, too.

What ho, legible captchas? OMG, the site's been haxx0red!

Raymond Hafner II said...

In the name of efficiency you now see people asking for 560+ ilevel for heroic scenarios. I know people have the right to play with whoever they want and to play how they want, but that mindset of everything must be as easy possible and as quick as possible will kill not just WoW but mmo's in general.