Professor Hugh is still on a break, so Johnnie the substitute teacher is taking the class. Please don’t throw things from the back row.
After yesterday’s discussions of great indie games taking on the big hitters, Rampant Coyote sounds a note of warning today, bemoaning games that rely too heavily on old non-innovative gameplay ideas.
“Guys & gals… indies… I love ya. I am thrilled to see new life injected into an old genre. But I want to see “new life” there, not just a budget “best of” rehash. As a guy who has played a lot of the games that you have drawn inspiration from – and a retro-gamer who still plays some of these games, often for the first time in all their retro glory: as far as I am concerned, you are absolutely competing against the past.”
Screaming Monkey praises the alt-game darling, The Secret World:
“… despite loving puzzles and giving them a lot of thought, I have cheated on at least one step of each investigation mission I have done save one. … But yesterday, I finally managed to complete an entire investigation quest from start to finish without looking at any guide or cheating in any way and it felt incredible. I really need to do this more often because it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in an MMO, on par with server first kills and the like”
Finally, two posts which I felt complemented each other very well. First of all, Vidyala at Manalicious provides a very thoughtful post (itself a reaction to a WoW Insider article) wondering whether it’s right to use PUGs as a ‘baptism of fire’ training ground for new raiders.
“The comments on that article are interesting because some of them say, “We tell our new healers to go practice in pugs.” Other people reply, “How can you DO THAT to your friends? I would hate to be in your guild,” etc. I’m actually 100% behind the first guy. You all know I’m not a stranger to pugging. Pugging is one of the best environments to learn to heal. You have an element of chaos and unpredictability that you’ll seldom find in a “safe” guild or friend run. Yes, it can be taxing and frustrating. Yes, you may leave some groups. But you will leave those groups a better healer than you went in”
This is a nice read alongside Apple Cider‘s contribution to Sheep The Diamond‘s Collectivism Project. Apple gives a very throughful and detailed discussion of to what extent the game motivates us to help our fellow players, and to what extent that motivation comes through friendship and community. It’s a long post, and well worth a read.
” A lot of player achievement can be attained through personal goals and thinking of oneself only; the bastion of group resources has been and will always be a guild. Ever since Blizzard introduced guild perks and rep, this has become much, much more apparent as well. Many of the structures that the game has introduced to make guilds important emphasizes collective thought. However, much like my feelings on hate language and respectful guild culture, I believe that collectivising your guild (and my guild) takes some work.”
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Shintar over at Priest With A Cause is taking a look at the malaise surrounding PUG groups and asking a straight-up question: How do you talk to people in PUGs? She’s got a theory that it’s much easier for it all to go wrong if you – and they – don’t put in a bit extra effort to be clearer in communcating.
It all boils down a simple idea: not being able to rely on extra communication signals like body language really hurts the chances of understanding words as they’re meant. Shintar says she doesn’t have any proof for this and it just sounds sensible. She backs it up well with some great examples of how communcation in PUGs can go unintentionally wrong and get you off on the wrong foot with other folks.
However, I quickly realised that these words could also be interpreted in a completely different way, for example: “It’s not my fault, I had to split my healing because you weren’t soaking up all the damage like a good tank should be doing.” It’s not what I meant at all, but it soon became clear that this or something similar was what the tank had actually read.
Shintar’s right – there’s something to be said for being clear and making sure you’ve said what you mean in a group of strangers, and it might put them at their ease. But how crucial do you think that is – and do you think there’s such a thing as too much communcation in a PUG when you’re never going to see the people talking at you again?
_Quote taken directly from Shintar’s post
You can find Shintar’s Priest With A Cause homepage here_
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I’ve discovered the best method yet for reducing the impact of morons on my MMO group play.
The problem, of course, is not that everyone who joins a PUG is a asshole, whether through the LFD tool in WoW, recruitment in DDO, or presumably some kind of spreadsheet-based market arbitrage in EVE. Clearly, the vast majority of players in WoW are varying degrees of OK. Maybe more competent, maybe less, but basically OK.
Let’s assume that none of us are tragic cases of social maladjustment, and we don’t believe we’re the few shining lights in a sea of idiocy.
However, it’s equally undeniable that we’re going to epically fail to get on with some of the WoW-playing world. Whether it’s the PvP player who starts shouting abuse because we use the “big letters and dots” when talking, or the elitist asshole who starts the run with “tank haz 4.3k gs lol ur gear sux”, they’ve got the ability to ruin a run. And sometimes it seems like they fill the WoW world.
(The “big letters and dots” thing is a true story – one PUGger apparently found the use of capital letters and full stops deeply offensive.).
Why? Well, it’s pretty simple. Say we’ve got 15%, approximately 1 in 7, of the WoW playing world who are really going to get on our nerves. And when we run an LFD, we’re grouped with 4 other random people. That makes it almost 50⁄50 (47.5%, if you want exact figures) that we’re going to end up with a tool in the group. Sometimes we’ll end up with more than one.
And thanks to a couple of well-documented flaws in human memory retention, not helped by the lack of reward or permanent record for meeting good players, that’s going to mean we end up feeling like all our groups are filled with idiots.
The number of people we’d need to eliminate from the system is actually pretty small. If we can take out 2⁄3 of the morons somehow, or stop them from affecting our play, we’re suddenly looking at better than 4 in 5 chances that our groups will basically be OK. And cognitively, that’s a much nicer place to be.
As soon as you decide anyone in your group is saying things which annoy you, say in party or raid chat “I’m putting PLAYERNAME on ignore, for REASON. Please let me know if he/she says anything I need to know about”.
Then, stick ’em on ignore.
I guarantee 70% increased peace of mind on runs, or your money back.
So the question is – why does it work? It’s a bit of a psychological trick, combining the best bits of votekicking and /ignore without comment.
Votekicking is the ultimate sanction, of course, short of using a RealID exploit to find the other guy’s name and going round to his house with a bat. But it’s got a few problems. For starters, it needs concensus, and that’s scary – if you try to votekick someone and it doesn’t work, it feels, conciously or subconciously, like the group’s just sided with them rather than you. And it’s a pretty major step, too – you’re removing the guy’s chance of completing the dungeon, having a pretty significant effect on his day, and if you’ve got any kind of empathy, that means you’ll not do it unless something feels really serious.
And the problem is that humans are also infamously bad at estimating actual effects of stimuli on their happiness. Small things, particularly interpersonal conflict, have a huge effect (see also Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance on the importance of fixing dripping taps). So we grit our teeth and put up with the guy who keeps making gay jokes, when we’d be much happier just to rub him out of our minds.
Finally, of course, you’ve got the problem that if you votekick a moron, there’s no guarantee the next guy won’t be worse. Hence we put up with the guy who’s only sort of pissing us off, because the next one might be a total nightmare. Another well-documented cognitive fail there, and the reason why it’s possible to make money on the stock market to boot.
Ignoring, meanwhile, doesn’t get used all that much, again for fairly understandable psychological reasons. Firstly, it introduces a wierd and unnatural social situation into the group. You can’t hear someone, but no-one else knows that, and it’s possible to conjure up all sorts of negative consequences from that. Silent ostracism, not fully participating in the group, is fairly seriously taboo in most societies, and so we find it hard to do.
At the same time, ignoring someone doesn’t allow us an important component of what our psyche needs after we’ve been upset or offended by something. We don’t get to express our anger. It’s silent, inoffensive, doesn’t have an impact on the person who’s upset us. If we’ve just been stung by something, our brains are crying out to say something. So we don’t use /ignore because on some deep level, it doesn’t satisfy our needs.
We could argue back, of course, start slinging insults ourselves. Let’s face it, we all know that doesn’t work very well. As any good self-defence instructor will tell you, argument mostly just leads to escalation, and that’s how we end up with the DPS who runs into the next four groups and wipes the dungeon, or the shouting match that leaves us feeling bad for the rest of the day. Plus, everyone else has to listen to or engage with the argument, which sucks the fun for the entire group.
Hence, annouce and ignore – The System. It prevents most of the problems of arguing – it allows us to express our anger, but avoids the possibility of engaging with a response, thus effectively de-escalating the situation. It brings the situation to the attention of the group, removing the silent ostracism stigma. And it removes the idiot from our conciousness; it’s hard to explain the effect that has, but I’ve tried it a couple of times with a friend also in the group who wasn’t using The System, and the difference between our moods at the end of the run was pretty startling.
Of course, sometimes other solutions are still needed. It seems to be pretty well accepted by now that if a DPS runs ahead and pulls, he or she deserves a swift votekick. Overaggroing DPS can, 90% of the time, be solved by letting them get on with the tanking – either they’ll stop overaggroing, they’ll deal with it themselves, or they’ll leave.
But the dripping tap of WoW is party chat. Unless it’s really egregious, insulting, abusive or just annoying conversation is a major drain on fun, and I’m really happy to have found a way to sort it out.
Concluding, though, something occurs to me here. Blizzard have put a hell of a lot of time into giving us tools to deal with assholes – ignores, votekicks, the new escalating cooldown on votekicking. But how much effort has been put into allowing us to celebrate, reward, and stay in touch with good players? No tools there at all.
I wonder why not?
And do you have any even better ways to reduce the impact of idiots or otherwise improve your playtime?
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