Fighting, Boredom And Frustration – How To Solve Human/MMO clashes?

Game design is HARD. But if you’re designing an MMO, it’s even harder – because you don’t just have to deal with computers and a single player, but people, plural – and all the things they do.

Today, we’ve got three posts looking at various very human issues in MMOs – from the ex-Blizzard designer looking at increasingly bored players, to the eternal guildmaster attempting to figure out how not to end up running his raids…

  • Doone looks at MMOs where people work together, MMOs where people fight like starving rats, and what makes an MMO one or the other“Games that want players to work together and to be interdependent must design virtual worlds that not only make it possible, but make it pleasant. Even the losers should still have fun and the rush of competition can’t be the ends. As games like WoW show us, this kind of competition just creates antagonism amongst players. “
  • Alexander Brazie looks at the issue of boredom for the longtime MMO – is it inevitable that players will get bored with your game, and what can you do about it?“The problem isn’t with the game – it’s with you. Hold on now, don’t throw that keyboard at me, hear me out. The longer you’ve been playing this game, the more you’ve lived through numerous reputation grinds and thousands of random battlegrounds. “
  • And Stubborn looks at the problem of being a consumate organiser in games that frequently aren’t organised – and wonders how to stop himself from jumping in to solve problems with other players“When good, intelligent, responsible people see an organization tilting dangerously to one side, we feel that if no one else is going to right the ship, someone has to, so we must. And without fail, it begins to sap the life and enjoyment out of the things we do.”

Whilst I found Alexander’s post interesting, I do think that there’s a danger of ascribing all player burnout, frustration, and dislike of new game elements to ennui. It’s important to remember that game designs change, too – the recent rash of interest in Vanilla WoW and similarly-styled games shows that some people do actually prefer the older, less convenient, harder-edged style of game. It’s also worth remembering that it’s not impossible to design a game which many people will play their entire lives – look at Poker or Chess, for example.

What do you think? Do players just leave because it got too familiar? How do you avoid taking on too much responsibility? And can you design a “nice” or “nasty” MMO?