Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Annoyance and Anticipation of Fun

In a MMORPG, you cannot give rewards "just like that". You need to add something the players need to do before they get the reward.

What you put in front of the reward will most often not be inherently fun. Beating bosses that are obviously easy to beat, wiping in front of bosses that are obviously not easy to beat, searching for other players, running through the landscape, reading EJ, being killed by another player ...

Fun is not an inherent property of an isolated activity.

- Just running around in ICC and pressing buttons without any consequences (like rewards) is not fun.

- Just receiving rewards for doing nothing is not fun, either. If it were, I'd be a millionaire with my super-cheap, super-successful games :).

But the combination of running around, pressing buttons and eventually receiving rewards is fun.

I wrote about it before here and here.

At some point an activity, like running towards a dungeon, an activity that once was full of pleasant anticipation, can become annoying. That is deeply connected with 'expectations of entitlement'.

It is comparable to singing in front of the Christmas tree before you go for the presents. It can add a lot to the atmosphere. However, given specific expectations of entitlement, it can turn into an annoyance.

Another example would be cooking. Many people enjoy making their own meals. Not only because the meals taste better. (Often they do not :).
It is the pleasant anticipation that makes it fun. If you strip that anticipation away, you can access the reward faster, but you also lost something: The fun of anticipating future fun.

What also plays a role here is a feeling of natural order. If you feel that it is completely natural that you need to a walk to a dungeon before you are there, you enjoy the pleasant anticipation: The anticipation of future rewards that is fun in itself.

But once you got to know teleportation to dungeons, that feeling of natural order is gone. You have been spoiled. And there is little you can do about it. From now on, you consider the walk to the dungeon an unnecessary annoyance. Therefore, the implementation of the teleporting dungeon finder in WoW was probably only a matter of time. It is the logical consequence of summoning other players to "meeting stones" that disrupted the feeling of natural order and made walking an annoyance.

Finally, the activities prior to the rewards not only offer the anticipation of future fun, that is fun in itself. They also give meaning to the rewards. If there were no mobs to beat, the rewards in form of items that make beating mobs easier, had no meaning. In fact, they stopped being rewards to achievement-oriented players. They have become 'fluff'.


  1. "that feeling of natural order is gone"-

    that's very true, I tried to refer to this in my article by saying that you cannot turn back the wheel of time. it's a very tricky factor, in WoW for example the only one that could change the min/maxing mindset of the playerbase is probably blizzard themselves, via very radical changes. but obviously that isnt realistic.

    also in reference to your endeavor to sum up activities that make the reward at the end 'fun': I think the element of overcoming hardships is kinda crucial there. linked to that is the big question of how you constitute hardship and where the fine line is between true challenge vs. the "virtue of suffering" in games.

  2. I agree. I do not think that Blizzard thought about the long term consequences on the mindset of players before they implemented some of the bigger changes during the last few years.

    Since we now know that a MMORPG consists of rewards and activities that lead to the rewards, the big question would be what kind of properties these activities must have to be fun ?

    For we all agree that some activities that lead to rewards, are not fun, even though there is reason enough to anticipate the reward.

    Out of the top of my head:

    - The rewards need to be meaningful (whatever that means :)

    - The rewards need to be feasible. i.e. there needs to be a credible chance to size the reward.

    - The activity should feel like a natural given. Here is a connection to immersion/consistency/credibility.

    - The psychological concept of flow plays a role.

    - The role of good gameplay, e.g. skill rotations?

    - The role of 'challenge' ?

    - How to avoid an activity to feel 'annoying'.

    - The role of "concentrated coolness"?

    - ...

    Perhaps that is going to be another blog entry. ;)