Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Black Hole Sun

When you put it like that...

I don't need to lament the stupidity of the RNG in this Parish. If you wanted a better example of how the game likes to screw with people's desires, then you're unlikely to find a more damning one than this. The fact that our poster (/waves at @alaphnull) uses real life as the most disturbing of contexts just makes the futility of the RNG roll even more obvious. However, this post isn't just about not getting what you want, at least not today. We will be using the RNG as an example of a bigger issue inside gaming specifically and with people in particular, an issue that designers are all too aware of and I think people often forget in the focus for what they believe they are actually playing for.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm here today to discuss the notion of 'fun' in your online MMO experiences.

What, you're removing them all completely? /SARCASM

One of my oldest Guild friends made a telling comment on the 'serious' blog post about raiding yesterday: she added a 'point zero' as follows: 'Have a lot of fun.' I'd not even considered the f-word in the context of that post, because (I'll be honest) I don't tend to view raiding in that manner, and pretty much have stopped doing that since large parts ceased to be be optional content for me. [*] In fact, 'fun' is such a generic word it can be a bit difficult to adequately quantify without more context than you can shake a large wooden implement at. For instance, there are those who would argue that the only way Holiday Events become fun is when Blizzard remove the mandatory PvP from the equation. Of course, that's only one small part of a larger whole, but as our RNG woe demonstrates, it only takes one thing not going your way to change an outlook.

Then it boils down to what players actually define as fun to begin with:

Plenty of words to play with there.

Gaming is supposed to be all about the Noun: amusement, entertainment and often the creation of the shared group experience as a way to help solidify a bond of joint attainment. What it *should* be is satisfying are those bits of your brain that get pleasure from a good book, a great song or a fabulous piece of art. More and more however, people maintain you're getting the same kind of pleasure when gaming as you would from addictive substances, and that's frankly bad. There's going to be a LOT of research on this in the next ten years, and a great deal of debate about what gaming does (or doesn't) do to people's brains. The bigger problem is that actually Gaming SHOULDN'T be about the noun for fun, it should be far more adjectival in what it sets out to achieve, and suddenly we're back in context definition territory.

There is a VERY fine line in most cases between HAVING fun and something BEING fun, and building that in a design context is actually quite complicated. If we take Pet Battles as an example of this, frustration will come into play in some fights where the RNG is used but if you didn't use a random option, everything would end up as being so horribly predictable that every fight could (and would) be laid out with such ease that the only fun you could reasonably derive was laughing at your foes as you crushed them all with 100% certainty. Life proves that, after a while, even this gets boring. You don't want people 'winning' in a game like Warcraft and simply wandering off, that's much of the entire point of being here to begin with. So the RNG is added to ensure you root a player in the need for repetition. However, even the designers have admitted this only works to a point, and giving all gear a use to the majority of players in Warlords is a really sensible idea to counter the 'gestation period of a human and STILL no item' argument that is anything but peculiar to @alaphnull.

For the rest of us, however, fun's a tricky beast. Finding the best way to deliver it, at least for game designers, is a bit of a hit or miss affair.


I don't think anyone will argue that Holiday Events could do with an overhaul. Doing the same thing every year isn't fun, and in the case of 'School of Hard Knocks' forcing players to have to PvP was NEVER going to end well. Making events like this an interesting diversion from normal play is far more preferable, in the same way that the Darkmoon Faire allows a monthly distraction with useful things for players to use (should probably work on some new prizes there as well Blizzard.) Removing the RNG would not be fun either, despite what anyone might tell you. However, having the guarantee of items so you won't feel you're hindering a team makes your experience a lot MORE fun, because it stops being about a gameplay issue serving as restriction. Optimally geared means no need to worry about your teammates having to carry you, it is down to things you can control as a person and not about loot limitations in-game. That matters a very great deal.

Then we can just worry about where you're deriving your fun, and if you're still not enjoying everything it could well be that it isn't the game's fault to begin with. The problem could be somewhere else entirely.

My fun currently? NYI :P

I realised last night that I'm gaining most of my fun from Warcraft in a feature we don't have on Live at all. That makes focussing on what needs to be done in 5.4.7 a bit tricky, but I've done a Podcast this morning as an exercise in helping both you and me shift some emphasis on what matters in the weeks that follow. You'll see that shortly (once I've edited it) and hopefully, I can convince everyone that clearing out your bank and selling things to make money come the Expansion is also a 'fun' task and not an utter chore.

Enjoyment is a horribly subjective topic. What I think we can all agree on however is the understanding that whatever you do, however you do it, if it makes you happy that is really all that matters in the end. There should be far more respect for this position than there already is, and considerably less whining when fun becomes a chore.

The impetus for change, after all, starts with YOU.


[*] Being a GM has done a great deal to completely destroy the notion of 'fun' in a large number of things I do in game. There's a blog post in there too.


alaphnull said...

By the way the baby is our shadow priest's second and she was kind enough to share some photos with the guild. Our newest guildie is adorable....for a human ;)

Alternative Chat said...

My youngest was the reason I started playing Warcraft. Nine years on she doesn't know a world without Warcraft as a part of it.

Proportion's a scary thing :P

marathalbt said...

A GM article I would very much like to read to see if my experiences are similar.

Sorry for massive wall of comment. :)

Got pulled in again last night for our new every other week 25 man run, first boss is a yawn for any group with a high percentage of decently geared folk. 2nd does require some awareness and coordination. Then we come to Nourshen......

/Shakes fist

I will admit for only a second time trying getting down to 10% before enrage is not bad, however many in the group are geared well beyond this fight so its just the mechanics, and I feel a bit of an issue because some are so geared they destroy the portal encounters forcing adds out much faster, don't get me started on dealing with 5 orbs in that fight. But I digress. My wife made a comment after we downed Immerseus.

This isn't fun any more.

Kind of ironic timing. She is part of the 10 man progression team, and they only downed Thok on regular last week, after spending all of this time slowly progressing forward. THey still have 3 to go and a long stretch of learning and figuring what works and what does not. They have their sights set on getting to the end, but my fear is there may be a nerf looming on the horizon as more and more start to take breaks and those experienced and geared enough start taking summer breaks. It all ceased to be fun for me a long time ago. A look at my raiding, and I will include LFR, up to Siege was a full dance card, many LFR runs, and a decent amount of Normal attempts, and even a few going back to the beginning Heroic bosses in MV. I don't think it is even a case of how long we have been in this portion of the expansion. Once I had my 1 Garrosh LFR downing back in November, I honestly had no desire to go back in to do it on Normal. And that is telling in itself. I should be a challenge of course, but it should be compelling enough that you really want to get in there and do it again and again. Somewhere along the road it became less about why we want to get the bad guy, and more about getting specific best in slot pieces of gear. And they have adjusted RNG to compensate for it, forcing if you will, us to come back week after week. I saw yesterday someone Tweet about having 260 wipes. That is just incomprehensible to me. I know for many it is what they enjoy and what drives them to play, but it should be more a feeling of Oh yeah, we got you, yes, /dance, /cheer, ^5's all around, not thank gawd we don't ever have to do that again.

As an example our progression team took 3 weeks to get Thok, but now in guild chat there are comments, "Hey, remember when we killed that Dinosaur?" 3 weeks to work on a fight and get it down, does not seem to bad, until you consider at that rate it is 42 weeks for the tier. 8 months doing the same over and over. My fear is none will have any desire to do Heroic by the end of the expansion.

Personally, this last tier has turned me off raiding. Maybe it is just the overwhelming amount of things to do that if 1 person misses it's a wipe, or it is just too much to keep track of, I don't know. But for me, it is no where near fun to do anymore. So I work on GM stuff, and help outfit and equip those that want to, to have the best chance at success.