Friday, August 29, 2014

Big Gun

But that's where we come back to what's at stake: rotational mechanics, the ineffable, partly conscious element of the game summarized as "fun." World of Warcraft is going on a decade, and sometimes milestones like that have effects beyond the immediate. People are hitting 30, or 40, and they look back and reassess why they play; and it isn't limited to what's tangible or rational. 
Players who are not well-versed in game design, or haven't followed every detail and discussion of the beta, may not understand exactly why the game doesn't feel like it used to, or how it did when they were having the most fun and feeling capable. They may not be able to explain why playing on their character, or any of their alts, isn't really . . . "fun" anymore. 
I don't think that this beta's design fixated on simplism is on the level of early Cataclysm. I do think it's more insidious, though, and will be harder to identify. Ultimately, though, I see it as a forced error, and a shortcoming for an expansion that otherwise has the most promise in more than 5 five years. 

It isn't that often I'm compelled by a post on the Warcraft forums to make a post, but this has been an extraordinary week for this part of the Internet 'World'. I've read several serious commentators pronouncing that we're at a crossroads, a tipping point, that 'gaming' should never be a place where people should feel threatened or scared to exist within. There's a week's worth of arguments to pour through, if you feel the urge. For many people, playing games has stopped being fun.

That's why the above struck me so strongly this week, because if you can't even agree on a simple definition, you're already in a ton of trouble.

The OP has decided, as the central point of his post on what Blizzard is doing to the game's mechanics, is a particular concept of 'fun': of course, this is also part of Blizzard's argument. If you are going to play this game, it needs to be less like wading through treacle and more intuitive, sensible and with less choice and more result. Just for the record at this juncture, I feel I need to wheel the dictionary definition of 'fun' in here just as a point of order, both in noun and adjectival form:

So, in this case I am sensing the crux of this argument is simple: the OP believes that by dumbing down the system, the game becomes less enjoyable for them. I understand this, and I also grasp the need to constantly refining a gaming experience as the abilities and tastes of your audience change. More interesting to me however is one particular line in the OP's post: 'People are hitting 30, or 40, and they look back and reassess why they play; and it isn't limited to what's tangible or rational. ' This isn't general fun we're talking about, rather the 'fun' of a very specific age group, those who have 'grown up' with the game since its inception... except this isn't the whole audience. It's not even close. My son is a great example of someone who's grown up with the game. He's almost 14, and had his first character to play alongside Dad and me when he was five. That Hunter's now doing Progression content, and one of the overriding factors I've seen in my son's development is that 'fun' has absolutely NOTHING to do with the buttons he's pressing, and EVERYTHING to do with the people he's playing with. If those people decide to bring prejudices and narrow minded outlooks to the table, then we're all doomed.

Also Fun. From New York City.

'Fun' is now a smoking gun for the gaming industry: anything (or indeed anyone) seen to be 'upsetting' the enjoyment of others is going to be held up for ridicule, perhaps even abuse, and often for a slew of completely unacceptable and unrealistic reasons. The old will blame youth, youth will blame the old, sex will become the ultimate weapon to degrade and reinforce particular decision and individuals on both sides. In all of this, the *actual* fun in gaming is being symptomatically destroyed, and the content that is being produced is becoming increasingly tainted by the arguments that surround them. The people who play the games are destroying the fun by over-analysing, by arguing and accusing, when it is exactly them who are responsible for making the environment we exist within both entertaining and compelling by existing in the player base. The key factor many simply fail to grasp is simple: fun is utterly subjective. As you grow old, things alter, and it isn't just that your game has changed. You do too.

Local fun. DOUGHNUTS.

The argument about 'dumbing down' Warcraft we started this post with? Have to say, I utterly agree with the point, but totally disagree this makes thing less fun as a result. You see, fun for me is the grinding and the achievements and the Battle Pets and the Professions and that already puts me in the minority to begin with. That's what it says on the Twitter description, right next to the word 'WOMAN' because I get pretty annoyed so many people seem to think I'm a man. I'm here for the Minority Interests in Warcraft and as little flack as I can kop, which might make some people wonder why I'd actually care if people don't grasp my gender from the word go. There's a particular Tweet in the Polygon post I'd like to highlight at this point, if I may, just to prove this point: since the post was published the account holder has protected their tweets, but the gist is basically this: No women gave a f**k about gaming pre 2005.

/looks at almost forty years of gaming experience and shakes her head.

Certain sectors of this community are not doing ANYONE any favours, including themselves.

I'd like to hope that with the Expansion that follows in (checks countdown timer) 75 days, people can stop fixating on what constitutes their own very specific form of fun and maybe, just maybe, extend their range a bit. Maybe we can get the people who say nothing because it isn't their problem to actually start taking some notice as well. If we could just take away the smoking guns, people would all be so much happier and gaming could be fun in a more general sense for EVERYONE, regardless of how they live their lives when they're not playing. It is up to those of us who refuse to be beaten down and silenced to hold our heads high and press for gaming to be just that, games we enjoy. 

I get pressing less buttons isn't fun. But in the general scheme of things, it isn't just one definition we have to worry about any more.


Erinys said...

I read that thread ..... and the opening poster clearly has a short memory. I remember topping the damage meters in the Black Temple on Lyli's hunter simply by spamming a macro. It wasn't hard and it wasn't particularly fun either. The game has been a in worse position than it currently is for most specs/classes.

If every character is capable of similar damage than there will still be other ways for certain groups to feel elitist, movement for example, reaction times etc aren't things the game alone can overcome unless all fights involve standing still.

I don't particularly like the fact that they've removed stuff from my Priest even though it's only things I used every blue moon but healing is fine without them. It's just the "zomg Change" reaction.

As for people changing their definition of fun, I don't see it happening. Too many people like the charming gentleman who thinks women didn't game prior to 2005 are blinkered and fixated on what they want (and what the rest of us should want if only we understood).

Bob Flintston said...

If pressing less buttons is not fun, does that mean pressing more buttons is fun???

If so try playing some of those mobile games that are touchscreen nightmares. Even better perhaps we should go back to Daley Thompson's Decathlon a 1984 classic that involved key mashing to an extent that as never been seen since. Children's fingers use to bleed playing that game.

Elbne said...

I play FFXIV because I genuinely enjoy playing my character. I love his little animations and just the way he's always kind of happy. I also find the game "fun" in a way that I hadn't realized WoW no longer was. I liked the people I was playing with, but actually playing the game was a chore.

I can't quantify what makes FFXIV fun. When people ask me I tend to go with "it takes everything that everyone else has, and does it better", but I know people that have tried it and walked away calling it dull, so it's not for everyone.

I think part of it is that I enjoy complex rotations and I enjoy threat being meaningful, and FFXIV gives me both. I'm not a twitch gamer (never have been, even when I was young enough to be good at it). My favorite times in WoW were my rogue in Wrath when I had to juggle Hunger for Blood stacks. I like feeling like I could really excel at my class and be rewarded for it.

For instance, when I tank on my warrior in FFXIV I hit "1" to start my combo options. At that point I can go with "2" then "3" if threat generation is critical, or I can go with "4" for a personal buff. If I go with "4" then I have to decide between "5" or "6" depending on which debuff I want on the target. And I have time to make those decisions (2.5s gcd).

And I love that. That's fun for me. I used to love my affliction warlock back in TBC when I had to monitor 5 different DoTs at a time. Now it's 3 and I find it a bit dull. And from what I've seen from the beta, in WoD my lock is going to be really boringly easy. Which I think is necessary considering how complex raiding has become.

So yeah. For some of us, more buttons is fun. It represents a way to "do more" and provide extra value above an beyond the norm. I love that my rogue has a "solution" for almost anything.

Elbne said...

Sorry about that wall of text. This is kind of a sore spot for me because of Tricks of the Trade.

See when TotT was announced I knew it was game changing immediately. Not only could my rogue top the meters, but I could control the threat meter by actively deciding during a fight who target. Sure it cost me some energy (and therfore some dps) but it was incredibly potent.

Then Blizz said "we need to balance it so we're going to nerf it somewhat so it's not as good because not everyone has it".

Then Blizz buffed tank threat through the roof. and suddenly it was less a decision than a "macro it to this person and hit it every 30 secs" button.

And then Blizz said "This is boring and adds complexity wihtout depth, we're going to take the damage boost off it so you can go back to using it when you need it."

And soon Blizz will say "no one uses it because it does nothing, so we're going to cut it".

See: Paladin auras, hunter aspects etc

And it sucks because what was cool and unique is now dead and gone.

And that's kind of how I see the button bloat issue.

Well, that and "tinfoil hat time" I look at what Blizz is saying and compare it to what they said during the D3 beta and it sure looks similar.

For those that didn't pay attention to D3, the game lost a ton of buttons/abilities/toys during the beta. People complained that it was so D3 could be an easier console port and Blizz responded by saying that they were doing it for fun/balance/the good of the game and not for a console port.

Then, months later, they announced the console port.

Now to be fair, Blizz did not (at that point) outright say "we aren't doing this for a console port for D3" the way they have with WoW, but it's hard not to think that someone has pointed out that culling abilities would make it easier in the future.

marathalbt said...

was going to reply, but went over the limit, so ended up doing a blog posting.

Drea B said...

So meany people seem to miss the concept that what is fun for them personally isn't the only way to enjoy a game, and aften along side that is the notion that if they don't personally enjoy it, no one does and it should go.
I personally don't enjoy pvp realms, but I'm totally cool with other people enjoying them. For a long time I didn't play BGs at all, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be in the game. Other people enjoy it, and it takes nothing from me.
I can understand how class changes impact on fun, because I personally hate what they did with affliction warlocks in MoP. I hate channelled fillers with a passion. I accept that other people enjoy it. I accept that over time both me and the game changes and that's not inherently bad, it is just a thing that happens.
I don't expect everyone to get my type of fun. But I do expect people to accept it is as valid as theirs.