How Much Committment Should An MMO Demand?

LFR. Dailies. Lucky Charms. Food. If there’s a single thread running through Mists of Pandaria’s reception, it’s “HOW MUCH STUFF ARE WE MEANT TO DO?”

But is that fair? Are raiders – or players in general – actually required to do any of it? And why’s it provoking such a stink?

That’s the question a number of bloggers are addressing today, looking at the design of MMORPGs as a whole, and whether they do, will, should or can demand massive time commitment…

  • Jeromai considers the question from a psychological perspective, delving into Myers-Briggs personality types to find out why some people love grind and others hate it“The Judging preference might be more telling. I’m guessing that Judgers really like a sense of structure to their gaming. They need to be able to make plans, to see the next goal ahead of them, and are probably the most likely to enjoy making lots of to-do lists and checking them off.”
  • The Game Delver argues that MMORPGs as a whole have changed – that not every MMORPG is going to be a “virtual life” to play, and we should stop expecting them to be“Maybe it is time that instead of bloating their games beyond necessary, developers design MMORPGs to be picked up and played like League of Legends or a typical shooter.”
  • Vixsin, a very hardcore raider, argues that even hardcore players shouldn’t be complaining about the things there are to do, but thanking Blizzard for all their choices“This game isn’t a quicktime event, I don’t have to press “X” to continue, and I don’t have to do anything I don’t damn well feel like doing. And I’m going to thank Blizzard for giving me that option.”
  • Healing The Masses muses on the topics of committment, fun, entitlement, group play and more“So forget those self absorbed urges you have, find a group, get committed and be social.. its what we’ve been working towards with this always online world of ours.”
  • And Green Armadillo says that saying dailies, LFR or coin hunting is optional is rather like saying wearing pants is optional“Lecturing the customer on why they are incorrect, not as good at playing the game as people who are beating the content with the minimum gear, and need to find new friends with lower expectations – however accurate all of these statements may be – is not a good business strategy. “

This one’s going to run and run, I suspect, particularly with Blizzard showing no inclination to reduce the amount of Stuff To Do. I must admit, even as a non-hardcore raider, I’d be feeling the pressure of time if I was raiding this expansion – time before the nerfbat hits and raids suddenly get easier…

What do you think? ARE players required to do all this stuff?

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Redeeming Exploration and Defending Casuals

Two great posts caught my eye this weekend, both of them looking to the past of WoW, and both of them with great points to make about the future:

First up, Squelchy of Blame Squelchy has been doing some real-life sandbox exploration – by which I mean going out into the wide open world, not actually sitting in a sandbox. And in doing so, he’s been starting to think about his experiences with WoW when he felt that Azeroth was a wide open world too

“Without a doubt, the most epic moment in WoW for me was not a boss fight or a come-from-behind Arena win. It was walking into Ironforge for the first time.

What made it so special? I wasn’t trying to find it. I didn’t even have a quest to go there. I just saw a hill and started walking. “What’s up here?” my little gnomish avatar was thinking. Up to that point I had thought the tunnel from Coldridge Valley to Dun Morogh was pretty impressive. Then I noticed the music had changed about when I passed a small cart on my right. I hadn’t yet learned how to move my camera farther back for a wider field of vision, but with my FPS background I knew how to mouse-look, so I looked up–and there it was, the door with that gargantuan dwarf statue.”

This is a great post in praise of exploration that I suspect will ring true with a lot of us – I know I remember similar things from my time at the very start of Azeroth, 7 years ago. (Hinterlands statue, anyone?). And the massive rush of “Learn from Skyrim!” posts from last year make me think a lot of people miss the feeling of exploring a world. I’d not thought of Squelchy’s archaology connection, but it’s a great idea.

Meanwhile, Reliq of Azeroth Observer has a different bee in his bonnet. In the age of people complaining that LFR is for apes, he’s getting increasingly sick of the backlash against the casual player

“By the time Cataclysm was out, I’d raided, loved running end-game 5-mans, and considered myself a pretty grounded player who knew the basics. I was by no means a higher-tier player – or even medium-tier – but I didn’t mind things being difficult and wouldn’t consider myself a noob.

However, I do consider myself casual, and so the commentary – becoming increasingly poisonous over the following 12 months – of those early months of Cata bothered me. The continuous talk of Blizzard “catering to the casuals”.”

I’m always up for a good rant, and Reliq’s going strong here with a post that’s definitely going to annoy some people. But it’s timely. Whilst the “casual vs hardcore” debate has run since the first guild walked into Molten Core, LFR in particular has heated it up to boiling point right now. And I suspect that a lot of “harder-core” players (like me, arguably) can do with a reminder every so often that actually, the casual gamers have a point too.

Would you like to see more exploration in WoW? And where do you stand on the hardcore-vs-casual debate at the moment?

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The Middle

Elfi of Elfi’s World is stirring the cauldron today. Or perhaps she’s trying to start a movement. Either way, she doesn’t feel she’s represented at all in the conversation between “Hardcore” and “Casual” right now, and she’s feeling the pain of being in the middle

I do not raid weekly. I do not have the best gear in every slot. I do not have an abundance of Valor Points. … I do utilize tools such as Mr. Robot to ensure I am wearing everything correctly. I do read patch notes before the patch hits. I do love the game.

I am not hardcore, but I also don’t believe I’m casual. Neither of those words can define me. I am in the middle. And I believe there are a hell of a lot of us here. Should we be called hardcore casuals? No, I don’t think so.

Like it or not, we’re all on a Kinsey Scale of game-seriousness. And there’s a lot more of the middle-ground – perhaps we should call them “hardcore-curious” – gamers out there than the dialogue between “lol FL is being nerfed for casuals” and “if you raid HC mode you have no life” often suggests.

I agreed with about half of her lists of dos and don’ts – which I thought almost formed a Kinsey Scale or questionaire in and of themselves. I do use every analysis tool available, which she feels is hardcore, but I don’t bother with Achievements most of the time. I do have multiple high-level characters, but I often don’t bother to get top-end enchants as soon as a new piece of gear drops. And so on.

Have a look – whether you’re part of her “middle”, faaar on the harcore end, or uber-casual, it’s an interesting study of what’s often portrayed as two camps, but is actually a complex, mutli-dimensional continuum.

Are you hardcore? Casual? Hardcore-curious? And do you think the “middle” needs more representation?

Quote taken directly from Elfindale’s post .

Find Elfi’s World at http://worldofelfi.wordpress.com/ .

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Valor Point Capping Makes The World Explode

Wow. Or indeed WoW. The argument about Valor Point capping has really kicked off in the blogosphere – and rightly so, because it’s an interesting topic.

Here’s a round-up of some of the key posts that have hit the blogs:

  • Killed In A Smiling Accident is getting his allegories on: “If each guild represents its own “nation,” then we’re discussing the virtues of having a state mandated religion. Namely, forcing a particular playstyle, a certain subscription, upon your guild members. “ (Also, +1 for the point about spending time on learning and tactics)
  • Looking 4 More is firmly on the side of less tightly-structured play: “I wonder, people who schedule their WoW time and run heroics for VP on a tight schedule, do you get annoyed with me when I have to afk for two minutes to change the toddler’s diaper?”
  • Stories of O feels people who say they don’t have time to Valor Cap are usually just inefficient: “I’m not really sure what runs people are doing that are so time consuming, but I work 50 hours a week, raid two days a week, maintain a social life, an active sex life, a family life, a blog, a podcast, and I still find time to be Valor Point capped each week.”
  • The honourable gentlemurloc (seriously, I love that tagline) from Murloc Parliament is pacing herself for a marathon, not a sprint: “No huge gaming sessions right after a patch release, but no totally slacking off a few weeks in, since I will still be needing stuff. “
  • Priest With A Cause warns of the dangers of Point Madness: “You don’t want to go crazy grinding them because you’ll burn yourself out, you’re putting yourself at an exceptionally high risk of getting grouped with rude and stupid puggers right now, and also… have you thought about 4.3 yet? There have been no news about that patch yet, but I reckon that it’s going to be at least another six months away.”

    • And Raging Monkeys believes that outcome is what counts: “Please, do me a favour: go see for yourself. Whatever someone else is telling you, take it with a pinch of salt. Do your best, but don’t let yourself be fooled or intimidated by talk and so-called guidelines.”
    Phew.

It’s an interesting debate, and highlights a common theme in the blogosphere – if you really want to get a lot of people arguing, suggest that they have to do something specific in their game time. (Tobold provoked a similar debate a while ago by suggesting that all tank-capable classes have a duty to tank in PUGs).

What do you think about the entire kerfuffle? Are you on the “screw that, this is a game” side or the “if you didn’t cap you’re letting your guild down” side? And have we missed any great posts?

All quotes taken directly from the relevant blog post

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Is raiding a closed club?

It looks like there’s a new discussion bubbling up in the blogosphere – the question of whether or not raiding has become a closed club, only accessible to people who are already raiders.

Looks like a great discussion is brewing here – particularly if you read the great comment threads following these posts. I’m interested to see how it progresses!

How do you feel about the responsibilities of raiding? Do you feel it’s a closed club, and are you outside or inside? And where would you prefer to be?

All quotes taken directly from the articles linked.

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Day In The Life Of A Top Gamer

Have you ever wondered what life’s like as a hardcore gamer? Or not even wondered, just looked at them as a kind of alien race, unsure whether you should come in peace or degrade and shoot them down for their lifestyle choices? This is exactly what Gordon’s asking over at WeFlySpitfires.

He cites Larisa’s recent post, who in turn is citing a “day in the life” post by a top WoW player, Kruf. Gordon’s trying to work out how he feels about hardcore gamers and their lifestyles, which looking at Kruf’s, involve splitting time between work and WoW and not much else. Admirably, Gordon’s not judging the guy though both he and most of his commenters are in agreement that it’s not a healthy lifestyle. But Gordon’s wondering whether it’s right to pity or applaud folks like Kruf.

The result for gamers is that this activity creates a real split persona. In the virtual realm, you have avatars that ooze power and strength and have accomplished things that some players can only dream of. In real life though, the player is often not a powerful or wealthy or influence person merely just a normal man or woman who has sacrificed a heck of a lot to be able to invest so much time online. The prize always has to be paid and it’s a real dichotomy.

It’s a topic we tend to skirt around as gamers, just in case we’re referring to ourselves too. But it’s fascinating, and worthy of more talk – Gordon’s already got a great debate going in the post’s comments. So now it’s your turn – pitch in here or over at Gordon’s blog. What are your thoughts on hardcore gamers and their lifestyles?

_Quote taken from Gordon’s post

You can find Gordon’s We Fly Spitfires homepage here_

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What Do You Think Of ‘Casual’?

‘Cobblers’. That word is the crux of Gazimoff’s opinion post on the word ‘casual’, which gets tossed around in gaming circles like a grenade by people in an enclosed space. Except unlike the grenade which will explode and take everyone’s heads messily off no matter who’s holding it, the word ‘casual’ shouldn’t even scratch us. But people use it as a derogatory term, and that’s why Gazimoff deploys the cobblers.

Gazimoff’s post is very readable. He says he’s played WoW to varying degrees of urgency and has gone from what most folks would call a hardcore raider to playing less often but still achieving the same things. Only difference is he’s not getting there quite as quickly. When Gazimoff plays more than I do and ‘casuals’ like me and mine took the Lich King down 9 months ago, he’s right: being casual isn’t bad and wrong.

Have I somehow become something less of a gamer for making this choice? Did the magic skill fairy visit me in the night and render me a crap button fumbling idiot? I don’t think so.

There’s nothing wrong with being a casual player. We all have different pulls on our life and only so much time we can give to Warcraft. Like Vidyala said over at Manalicious, there’s nothing wrong with not being first.

He goes on to talk about playstyles that get mistaken for ‘casual’ and which are, let’s say, less desireable. He talks about ‘entitled’ players, and how important it is to make a distinction between casual and entitled players: those who do and don’t make an effort to play and contribute to the team.

The whole casual/hardcore debate is nothing new but Gazimoff’s post felt like a fresh charge and a platform for crisp debate. Given all of that and that Gazimoff’s New Year blog resolution is to write more opinion pieces from the heart, I’m looking forward to seeing what else he comes up with. I’m hoping others will adopt his resolution too!

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What do you think – what player types do we lump into the terms ‘hardcore’ and ‘casual’ that we shouldn’t?**

_Quote taken directly from Gazimoff’s post

You can find Mana Obscura’s homepage here_

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LifeInGroup5: How Is Life Inside A Hardcore Guild?

Vixsin’s given us a hard look into life as a top end WoW raider today. Her post at LifeinGroup5 is meant for hardcore raider-potentials so they know what they’re getting themselves into but it’s a good read for the rest of us too. It’s a rare looksee into a mysterious and slightly stigmatised playstyle which few players see firsthand.

She looks at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly points, literally, of being in a top end raid environment and makes no bones about any of them: Vixsin’s blunt but always fair. The picture she left me with makes top end raiding seem like a completely ‘other’ lifestyle, even culture – but it’s a wonderful if weird sight.


So now that I’ve completely turned everyone off on hardcore raiding, let me finish by saying that, without a doubt, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Yes it’s a time sink, yes it’s full of clashing personalities, and yes-yes-yes it’s stressful. I may not be climbing Everest, I may not be backpacking across the Outback, but the challenge of performing in an environment where seconds matter makes me that odd sort of player for whom hardcore, progression raiding is just as thrilling as any other adventure.

Some of her points ring true to me, even as a vaguely casual raider. But then I think there’s a buried imp inside most of us, mumbling “challenge? Achieve hard things? Get recognised? And wear  pretty, shiny armour? Uh, where do I apply?”

What do you think?

_Quote taken directly from linked post. LifeInGroup5’s homepage is here._

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Pathak On Hardcore vs Casual

Pathak’s gone and done it with one of his latest posts: he’s making me break open the bottle of wine. You know, the one that’s matured in nutmeg oak and aged for[pullquote]I think the base terms of hardcore and casual are grossly misrepresented.[/pullquote] … at least five minutes. He’s talking about Hardcore vs Casual and we should celebrate. He’s plainly said what needed to be said about the neat little line between hardcore and casual: that it’s all codswallop.

The best thing about Pathak’s article is that while it’s short, it’s to the point. He politely gives examples of every type of player and finally lumps everyone back into one camp, as we all should be. Pathak’s sanctioning players being able to define their own playstyle; without feeling like we’re shoved into one of two dilapidated camps seperated by a ten foot wall equipped with spotlights and mastiffs.

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** Pathak’s definitions of hardcore and casual are simply right in my book. These are principles I’ve been cultivating myself since I started raid leading a “casual” group but I’ve never thought to write them down. Now to read someone bluntly responding to the**** ever present hardcore vs casual vs lolwhoelseizleft dirge with more than a modicum of sense is uplifting. [pullquote]…like to describe colour in terms of black and white[/pullquote]So’s the fact that he notes out-of-game groups like bloggers are just as relevant to these categories. ****The only tiny shame is that we don’t know whether Pathak got any further input from the person he was talking to – I wonder how his idea went down. Still, three cheers Pathak!

What about you – what do you think of the casual/hardcore/? definintions tirade, and will it ever get too old?

_Quotes straight from linked post. Pathak’s homepage can be found here._

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