Monday, August 29, 2011

Azuriel's Comment

Azuriel commented some posts ago.

My stance changes in MMOs though, because I understand the game is designed to consume as much time as possible, which can only be done by stacking it with meaningless, boring tasks. That is why I would absolutely be first in line for the tap in the house, and why I have been a vocal supporter for teleports since the Blizz devs stupidly thought they did anyone favors by removing them. "It makes the world bigger!" Bollocks.

Time sinks never make the world bigger, they make the world more boring. You make worlds bigger by adding more things to it. If things like tap water and teleports skipped you past content you actually wanted to see, you would not use them even if they existed - using them to skip things you weren't interested in is Working As Intended. Maybe there is an issue of people skipping interesting things they did not know existed, but using time sinks to force players to see them is simply bad design on the part of the devs.

The problem is that you are not even wrong. Of course, MMORPGs are designed to consume as much time as possible. But you should be thankful for that, because that is in your interest.
Those meaningless and boring tasks are only so, because you either (1) consider the goals not worthwhile, or (2) think you shouldn't have to do the specific journey to reach the goal.

My guess is (2). Look, if you put an 8-year old, who never before played a MMORPG or watched somebody play it, in front of classic WoW (or even original Everquest or Meridian 59), he will gladly run around and have fun. Just like we all once did. He runs, and runs, and runs. Meaningless and boring? not to him.

When you made the first 20 steps with your very first MMORPG character, did you consider them boring? You know, they were boring, weren't they? At least they should have been. Just holding 'W' pressed and moving forward. What could be more boring? Was there any challenge? No.

But fun is not an inherent property of movement. It depends on much more - especially you and your expectations. Games change and your expectations inevitably change with them. Thus, you nowadays consider walking for more than 15 seconds meaningless. (Why not walking for 5 seconds ?). Just like other players consider returning to the town to sell stuff meaningless and boring. And even others think that killing quest mobs is boring and meaningless.

The problem is that we, humans, evolved to solve problems, to overcome challenges. To achieve worthwhile goals. That's what we consider 'fun'. In real life there's always a next goal. We will rest only once we rule the entire universe and every part of matter (and energy) does what we want, instantly. Then we will look back and ask ourselves: "Was it worth it?"

And the answer is "Yes, because it was fun while it lasted.". Well, computer games start at this point. In a computer game every bit (literally) can do your bidding. You already are the master of the universe and it's not fun. That's why game design is all about finding 'good' rules that push you back to a time while it still lasted. Rules restrict you from reaching all your goals with a single keystroke.

But if you think a world without teleports is not fun, then that's the way it is. There's really no arguing about it. If you feel that moving from A to B is something you shouldn't have to do then that's the way it is. Fun is subjective (obviously). But you should acknowledge that this is an infinite rabbit hole when it comes to computer games.

Chances are good you never cared much about the time it took in WoW to mount your horse. Same for me. Then I played a druid with instant flight form. Suddenly I thought that I shouldn't have to wait so long to get on my mage's mount. Of course, Blizzard has already reduced the time from 3s to 1.5s. But why not instant? Well, don't worry, it will be instant eventually.

When you enter a dungeon with a group of friends we both know that you will succeed. There's no doubt about that. Would WoW be a better game if Blizzard teared the rule apart that you have to run through anyway? WoW could check whether you wiped during the last three runs and if you did not, you can enter a 'comfort modus'? In comfort modus you automatically get your 'rewards' for the dungeon run. You just need to wait for the average time of your past dungeon runs. Would that make WoW a better game?

Your skill at PvP is a direct consequence of your genes, your past experiences and your time invested to master it. Since genes and past experiences are fixed, it's just a matter of time invested. Does that make PvP boring?

Would WoW be a better game if it could predict your success at an arena game with 100% certainty and thus, conveniently, save you the time to actually fight?

The way is the goal. The fun is experienced while on the journey. That's why you like to zap on your TV's control from channel to channel. Deciding what to watch is much more fun that actually watching most channels.


  1. I come down on both sides:

    I think flying in Azeroth was neat at first but it made the game worse. As I flew over the roads in TH, it struck me that nobody will ever ride on those roads. All those interesting little places I found on the ground are essentially going away.


    I dislike plain time sinks but I really, really, really dislike time sinks that expect me to be at the keyboard. ( Partly because I think games should be snack and small kidney friendly. )


    Can't a good game allow long and interesting exploration without making the mundane tasks take that long the 20th time I do it? I don't have to pay taxes, get hair cuts or use the bathroom in a game, so how much immersion do I sacrifice if I don't have to spend ten minutes to get to my next grindfest.

  2. It's perfectly ok to want the cake and eat it too. Everybody tries to do that.

    Problem is that if you want a landscape that is traveled by players, you need to have players traveling that landscape. And traveling is, well, traveling. It's not full of action and if it were, it weren't traveling.

    But it's not even so much about immersion. I actually try to not use this word while on this topic.

    It about accepting that you need to travel if you want to get from A to B. Once you stopped accepting that, and Blizzard helped you a lot with this, traveling becomes frustrating.

    I gave enough examples in recent days, I think. But here's another one. This morning I carried the garbage outside. It's really not a problem.

    On the other hand, if I had a robot that did it for me and that robot had just broken down and needed repair, then I would hate to bring out the garbage. I shouldn't have to do that.

    But since I know that I really have to do it, and everybody else has to do it, too, it's really not an issue. - Just like riding from A to B was no problem in classic WoW.

  3. "You make worlds bigger by adding more things to it"

    Timesinks are "things" too? or what things are we talking about? items? 'good content' vs. 'bad content'? ;)

    If you so pleased, you could consider the entire journey to treasure a "time-sink"; but if we removed the journey, nobody would play MMOs. none of us wants to play a game where all he does is buy one item/achi/title after the other, with an already earned currency (ebay?) from the very start. we want to 'experience' adventures and stories on the way, and we want a balance between those and potential rewards and heroic feats we consider to have 'earned'.

    so, what you consider a time-sink or not, is completely subjective. what's a meaningful way to spend time vs. not meaningful? I can answer it for myself, but not for everyone.
    this entire argument is based on the assumption that the author knows exactly what's fun/boring or meaningful or a time-sink for everyone out there. as for making judgements like 'sad' etc.: how is what you personally enjoy better or "more correct" than what someone else enjoys? you can discuss aspects, pros and cons, but you should avoid judging players or player motivations.

    Subjectivity, such a hard thing to lose.