Is There An “Average” Player?

How do you design for a massive game like WoW?

The most obvious approach would be to tailor your content toward the average player.

But who exactly is that?

Today we’ve got two posts looking at just that question. Firstly, Tobold takes on the perennial “hardcore vs casual” debate with some Real World Statistics:

“The Central Limit Theorem says that if you make for example this plot of video game skill of a large enough population, what you will get is a bell curve with a single hump in the middle. That is why this curve is called a “normal distribution”. The nature of this curve is that 68% of people are withing one standard deviation of the average. For example 68% of people have an IQ between 85 and 115, and are thus of average intelligence. Of course people are notoriously bad at estimating their own IQ or other qualities, so that if you rely on self-assessment you end up with the observation that most people are above average, which is a mathematical impossibility.”

Read the rest of Most People Are Average

And in other news – and this one’s particularly fascinating – Balkoth has taken things a stage further, and actually conducted his own statistical experiment to determine if there is an “average” value for willingness to grind, in particular. He set up polls, collected data, visualised it, then analysed the results:

“And then, of course, 13% think you’d be justified in grinding out 5000+ Mogu (at four Mogu a minute, that’s 20+ hours of grinding total).

No wonder we have so many complaints and arguments on the forums (in terms of actual complaints and not trolling) – if Blizzard puts in ring that requires you to kill 500 Mogu, half the population of those that responded to this poll thinks you’d be crazy to get the ring and half the population thinks you’d be equally crazy NOT to get the ring! The first group can’t understand why the latter group feels compelled and forced to grind out the Mogu and the latter group can’t understand why the first group thinks it’s even a valid choice whether to get the ring.”

Read the rest of I Have Discovered the Source of Forum Complaining in Mists!

Read more →

Controversy Watch: “Welcome To WoW”, grinds, randomness

Community! Lost Shores! SWTOR F2P! There are so many fascinating discussions going on in the blogosphere right now that this issue of Controversy Watch is actually slightly thin – because we’ve already been featuring entire articles on each debate.

But nonetheless, there’s more interesting discussion out there, so here’s the latest on three issues that everyone’s been talking about:

Community

  • The Grumpy Elf reports on a new and unwelcome development in WoW’s griefer community – the “Welcome to WoW” comment“When did this happen and why did I not get the memo? I was not aware that these types of actions were now the expected way to play the game. “

Grinds

  • Contrary to the reports of endless grind, Dinaer reports on how he was able to get a freshly-90 alt raid ready in just 3 days in WoW“Personally, I’m tired of dailies. However, I see that in my gaming style they are not mandatory so I simply stopped doing them. “
  • And Bravetank takes a humorous look at how dailies and rep grinds would look in real life“Funny old day. When I arrived at the job depot (it’s all very official this “becoming friends with the Joneses” lark) they told me that I had to become adored- absolutely adored- by their relatives the Smiths first. “

Randomness

  • Rohan weighs in on the “do we need more randomness?” debate, giving us two very solid arguments against more random encounters“Often, a fight with random elements contains one set of elements which is significantly easier or significantly harder than the others. This encourages guilds to reset the encounter until the “easy” combination shows up, or wipe it early if a hard combination appears.”
Read more →

EVE This Week: Grind, Development Strategy, and vs Guild Wars 2

And finally today, we take a brief detour to the cold, hard, pitiless void of space for a look at what’s cooking in EVE this week.

And the main news seems to be Guild Wars 2, oddly, with two bloggers comparing the fantasy juggernaut with the famously unforgiving EVE. Plus, Freebooted looks at the road ahead…

  • Mat at Freebooted takes a hard and often critical look at the history of EVE’s “vision”, and where the game is going today – toward ESports, in his opinion” I completely appreciate CCP’s current position and why they have chosen the direction they have. Their hand was forced by market forces and they clearly needed to reform their development strategy. They have retreated to the core traditions of EVE and are pushing effectively in a single direction rather than ineffectively in multiple ones. Sadly, this will come at a cost. “
  • The Nosy Gamer looks at grinding, and asks why he’s happy to grind for goals in EVE, but not at all in Guild Wars 2“The big difference is that a lot of the goals I set in my first six months of playing are still useful today. That ammunition I made for my Rupture is still useful when I fly a Hurricane. The ammunition I made for my Rifter is still usable when I fly my Jaguar. “
  • And Jester also compares EVE and GW2, as he argues that EVE’s implementation of soulbindless items was nothing short of genius“This is another genius of EVE, copied straight from the real world: we’re all using the same gear. It’s just that some characters are better at it than others. GW2 really really really should have gone with this sort of model.”

Enjoyed today’s posts? Please let your fellow players know about them!

Read more →

Pandaren Grind Update: Now With Numbers

As everyone probably knows by now, the raiding game of Mists of Pandaria seems to leave serious raiders grinding like they just got two hours’ access to a warehouse full of freshly-roasted Yirgacheffe. Several bloggers have written that the discussion – and irritation – seems to be winding down, but looking at this weekend’s blog posts, I don’t see this topic dying any time soon.

Today, in particular, several writers have started getting into the nitty-gritty details, looking at the numbers and just how much work is required from each raider each day. And, as you’ll see, those numbers are pretty startling:

  • Anafielle is back with another post looking at the situation for hardcore raiders – this time, she’s running the numbers on the Valor Point cap, and coming out with some pretty scary stats“Let’s consider this in terms of hours. I’m already tossing 12 hours at MSV, and 2 or 3 hours at LFR with terrible pugs… and yeah, it can take 3 hours to do all 6 bosses depending on how many people fall through the floor on LFR Elegon. Having done all of this, I need to do 134 dailies or daily-equivalent activites to cap. Huh. That is… a lot.”
  • Big Bear Butt has come out with some numbers too, for consumables and flasks, and they’re looking, frankly, pretty butt-ugly“So, best case, say I spent 7 days a week planting 16 Songbells, harvesting them specifically for Golden Lotus and no other reason. I could get 1.6 Spirit a day, eleven Spirit of Harmony a week plus two motes left over. That comes close to what I’d need, 33 Golden Lotus. Close, but still no 40 Lotus Cigar.”
  • And BBB also writes a supplemental post that I had to feature, looking at the future of the heroes of Azeroth – alts all – as farm workers and manure shovellers“I can see one of those level 90s, in farming hat and coveralls, leaning on their shovel, gazing off towards the Golden Falls, saying to Farmer Yoon, “You know, I killed the Lich King. I was there, the day that Deathwing died. I have fought an elder god, and I have faced the celestial titans themselves to save our world from destruction.””
  • Matticus looks – unfavourably – at several aspects of the daily grind, including the decision to tie VP to reputation gains” 3 weeks later, all my item slots are filled with heroic dungeon or higher. I don’t even queue for it anymore unless a guildie needs a quick healer queue for a specific instance. But give us a tabard, and I’ll gladly brave heroics and carry a group if need be.”
  • Stubborn asks what Blizzard could do to fulfil our content needs without grinds, and challenges us to come up with some solutions“All of this relies on a tolerance for repetition, though. Blizzard does well as long as that’s true. The question of “if not dailies, what?” peels away that simple solution and asks for something more for those of us who want new experiences.”
  • The Grumpy Elf makes the excellent point that the daily grind can also get better or worse depending on a variety of semi-random factors“I have a friend of mine that does his dailies when he gets home from work which is roughly three hours before me. He says there is very little competition and the quests go fast and easy while when I do them there seems to always be at least 10 people camping spawn spots for mobs to kill because nothing is alive. “
  • And Rohan wonders if a lot of the problems with the grind come from a disconnect between how Blizzard and raiders think of Valor Point gear“But instance drops are random, and raiders tend to discount randomness. Or they expect the worst possible outcome of that randomness. But Valor gear is entirely under their control. “

If there’s one thing the WoW community’s good at, it’s optimising and figuring out solutions for the most intimidating of problems. I’ll be interested to see what solutions emerge from the dailies mess.

How would you fix the Dailies Problem?

Read more →

The Dailies Time-Bomb Explodes

In amidst all the joy about Mists of Pandaria – and there’s a lot of joy – one issue has been quietly festering away. And judging from today’s blog posts, it may have just exploded.

That issue? Dailies, and daily chores for raiders. Mists of Pandaria has the heaviest burden ever in terms of non-raiding chores for serious raiders, and the discontent over that fact has been growing since Day 1 of the expansion.

With 3 posts focusing on the Daily Grind today and another three MoP summaries significantly featuring it, it seems the rage over make-work might have boiled over:

  • Flosch looks at the way too many required tasks can turn an entire game from a series of fun choices to a strict list of either “compulsory” or “forbidden” activities“When it is hard or impossible to complete all the compulsory tasks, everything not compulsory becomes in effect prohibited, because it takes up valuable time that should be used otherwise. Voilà, your internalized totalitarian game mini-regime: the game tells you what to do, and you do exactly that and only that.”
  • Stubborn looks at the necessary evil of dailies, and asks how we’ll be feeling about them in a year’s time” How many of us go back and do BC or Wrath dailies? If they were such a good invention, then a majority of players would continue to do them regardless of reward simply because they were entertaining. I’ve been recently to the Argent Tourney grounds to buy a pet with some old badges I had. The only sound was crickets.”
  • Rohan looks at the raiding folks in a short post from the perspective of a non-raider“And yet, have they succeeded? I don’t think so. Judging by the blogs in my reader, the higher-end raiders can’t pace themselves, and look to be burning out.”
  • Stormy sums up his experience of MoP so far, looking at the zones, sexism, and, yes, the Daily Grind“Most of the problem with dailies comes from a disconnect between the way Blizzard intended the dailies to be run, and the unbreakable mentality among the raiding set that all the faction reps and all the raids MUST BE DONE RIGHT NAO NAO NAO. “
  • Vidyala also sums up her MoP experience, praising many good things, but focusing on dailies as chief amongst the bad problems” Yesterday I was talking to Voss about this and I exclaimed suddenly, “I’ve made food in REAL LIFE that took less work than this!” I’m not even kidding. With the 300 stat food requiring x amount of vegetables, one fish, one meat, and one Ironpaw token, it’s a little ludicrous.”
  • And Beruthiel is getting steadily more frustrated with the daily grind amongst other things, saying she’d actually prefer the grind of Vanilla WoW raiding“The other thing that completely chaps my hide is that if I want to cap my valor points each week, I am required to spend more time outside of raids than I do in raids to do so.”

I’m not raiding this tier, and I must admit I’m rather glad of that fact. The grind does seem to have gotten out of control. I wonder if Blizzard will decide to alter it, or if they’re going to risk raiders burning out to preserve the game’s longevity?

How are you finding the WoW Dailies Experience?

Read more →

Controversy Watch: Too Many Dailies, Friendly GW and 25-man vs 10-man

From the good – Guild Wars 2’s success with creating a positive, friendly atmosphere – to the bad – Mists of Pandaria’s dailies, which many people are decrying as Just Too Much – to the perplexing – the eternal question of whether 10-mans or 25-mans are harder – here’s the latest from this week’s MMO debates!

Guild Wars 2 Is Friendly

Not so much a controversy as a ray of light in the MMORPG world, but still, the discussion of just how Guild Wars 2 has ended up So Damn Nice continues:

  • Ravious waxes lyrical over the non-verbal cooperation of Guild Wars 2’s game design“I want this, more than any other thing in Guild Wars 2, to be the yardstick for future MMOs. Can you, developers, have this moment in your game? Or does every hidden rule in the system prevent this? “

10-man or 25-man as the hardest raid in WoW?

After Theck’s thesis on the subject of 10-man vs 25-man difficulty yesterday, I’m expecting a renewed discussion on this subject:

  • The Grumpy Elf is first in line, considering a range of other options for why the results are currently shaking out as they are“Paragon did not finish first because 10 mans are easier, they finished first because they had more tools available to them to do so. That is my assumption and if my assumption is true that throws all the data out of the window because you can not compare a 10 man to another 10 man when one 10 man has basically almost a 25 man raid teams worth of exceptional players at their disposal and the other doesn’t.”

No More Dailies!

A number of bloggers, most recently Anafielle of Sacred Duty, have spoken up on the matter of MoP’s apparently pretty punishing requirements for hardcore raiders – and the debate’s just heating up:

  • The Godmother argues in defence of the new proliferation of dailies” I’d say the refinements that have been made are not only positive but should be rolled out across more of the game, so that not only does it take longer for you to complete them, but the value of what you make and what you grind for is more significant over time.”
  • And Kurn takes the opposite viewpoint, saying she’s glad not to be raiding any more because of the cooking grind in particular” In their effort to give more, diverse things for people to do, Blizzard has only succeeded in making a lot of the things “mandatory” for many of the raiders in their game. When, then, do raiders have the time to do Challenge dungeons? Scenarios? Hunt down those rares? Level alts?”

So what do you think? Too many dailies? 10-mans clearly easier? Guild Wars 2 less friendly than it seems?

Read more →

Nostalgia, Commitment and Blame

Is anyone else out there pining for a TBC WoW server? I mean, I’m excited by Mists, but if I could reroll on a Classic server, I’d definitely give it a whirl.

Today The Ancient Gaming Noob examines why Everquest seems to have a lock on the nostalgia market – plus, praise for EVE’s marketing, and more on the “just a game” and “Are MMOs Doomed?” discussions.

  • CCP and EVE Online have sailed some rough waters, PR-wise, in recent months – but Jester believes that this last year has been a roaring success for them“conditions this summer are nearly identical to the conditions last summer. CCP is just handling it about twenty times better than they did last year. Their communications and marketing strategies are working wonderfully.”
  • The Ancient Gaming Noob looks at the phenomenon of Everquest nostalgia servers, and asks whether any other gaming company could follow in their footsteps“Yes, some games note the passing of anniversaries. And there is a always a “come back and play” promotion going on for one MMO or another at any given moment of time. But that seems to pale in comparison to the lengths to which the EverQuest Live team goes.”
  • Tobold argues that Edward Castronova has badly misunderstood both MMOs and their players when he calls them nothing more than a grind“Fortunately I think that the average player isn’t quite that stupid to keep waiting for the major payoff for years. I think Edward Castronova generalized a very narrow and comparatively rare player type here. There are a lot of players who are perfectly aware that there is nothing at the end, but they happen to enjoy “living” in a virtual world. Others are more competitive, but even they know perfectly well how ephemeral their epics are.”
  • And Lewis at Stnylan’s Musings looks at the preparations players make for EVE tournaments and asks just how different they are from “proper” sports’ preparations – *”2) Logistical preparation for training facilities and the like 3) Studying tape of opponent’s past performances 4) Studying tape of his own team’s past performances

Enjoyed today’s posts? Please consider sharing them!

Read more →

Warning: LoTRO’s Slayer Deeds may cause drowsiness or extreme tedium.

Ah, the grind. No matter what the MMO or how hard you try to avoid it, sooner or later you’ll reach a point where the only thing between you and your desired objective is…

About 20,000 dead boars.

Today, it’s LoTRO’s turn to pour the beans and start turning the handle, as Merric from A Casual Stroll To Mordor explains why the apparently-innocent-fun Slayer deeds in the free-to-play MMO have turned his casual stroll into more of an endless trudge

“I started looking at some of the deeds on the list and scratched off items such as Moria’s Arms of the Watcher and Angmar’s Champions of Urugarth (final) due to their (theoretical) time and (possible) group requirements. So, with a plan in mind and my club in hand, I decided first to take on Bree-land’s Sickle-fly Slayer Deed and start on my journey of ranking up my Discipline to 12! I could see my end goal in sight!

And an hour later I was bored to tears and I still hadn’t completed the deed. A half an hour after that my Deed was completed and I was a little frustrated at how long the endeavor took. More than a bit concerned how long it was going to take to actually get to rank 12 of Discipline, let alone 5 other virtues. I then promptly moved my character to the Lone-lands and logged off. Later that weekend I logged in and after running a couple of dungeons with some kinmates I decided to dive into killing Bog-lurkers in the Lone-lands it and utterly hated all one-and-a-half hours of it.”

Merric loves LoTRO, that much is clear, and he does an extremely good job of both laying out the problems and presenting the mitigating factors in this post – a flaming rant it isn’t. But nonetheless, he makes his case extremely well – it would appear that for the end-game LoTRO player looking to experience the top raid content, there’s one hell of a lot of boar-killing in your future.

This is the kind of post that influences the direction of a game’s development – I hope we see change soon.

Have you ground endlessly in LoTRO? Or isn’t it as bad as all that?

If you love Stroll to Mordor – or any other MMO blog – nominate them for a Piggie Award .

Read more →

We’re All Sissyphus

Ever felt like you’re rolling a boulder uphill while playing MMOs but never make any progress? Maybe you keep feeling like that? Yeah. Tadhg over at What Games Are says games are full of that kind of activity – he calls it ‘busy work’.

Players want to take meaningful action. They want to craft their farm, lay out their city, defeat an enemy, beat a high score, solve a puzzle in short to cause significant change and feel the difference of action versus no action. What game developers who create busywork are actually doing is confusing wins with meaningful actions. The busywork design essentially says this: If you hang around long enough, I will let you take a meaningful action every once in a while.

While the early part of Tadhg’s article lacks examples of ‘busywork’ he goes on to devote an entire section to defining it, and includes things from grinding to vacuuming (not what you think it is!) to … We’re socialising.

Those are some big claims and I have a feeling that it’s not going to go down well with everyone – a lot of people like these activities, whereas others let out a sigh of relief when developers make getting from A to Be a matter of a portal rather than a 20 minute run, for example.

So, I’d like to know what you think – is ‘busy work’ not fun, or is it part of why you love playing MMOs at all?

_Quote taken directly from Tadhg’s post

You can find Tadhg’s What Games Are homepage here_

Read more →

We’re All Sissyphus

Ever felt like you’re rolling a boulder uphill while playing MMOs but never make any progress? Maybe you keep feeling like that? Yeah. Tadhg over at What Games Are says games are full of that kind of activity – he calls it ‘busy work’.

Players want to take meaningful action. They want to craft their farm, lay out their city, defeat an enemy, beat a high score, solve a puzzle in short to cause significant change and feel the difference of action versus no action. What game developers who create busywork are actually doing is confusing wins with meaningful actions. The busywork design essentially says this: If you hang around long enough, I will let you take a meaningful action every once in a while.

While the early part of Tadhg’s article lacks examples of ‘busywork’ he goes on to devote an entire section to defining it, and includes things from grinding to vacuuming (not what you think it is!) to … We’re socialising.

Those are some big claims and I have a feeling that it’s not going to go down well with everyone – a lot of people like these activities, whereas others let out a sigh of relief when developers make getting from A to Be a matter of a portal rather than a 20 minute run, for example.

So, I’d like to know what you think – is ‘busy work’ not fun, or is it part of why you love playing MMOs at all?

_Quote taken directly from Tadhg’s post

You can find Tadhg’s What Games Are homepage here_

Read more →