Sunday, May 30, 2010

Player Mentality

[This is part of a series that was introduced with this post]

When developers give interviews prior to release they try to get people to buy the game. Sounds reasonable, does it? Well, it is a serious mistake!

The trick with an MMO is not to get as many people as possible to buy it at day 1. In fact, new MMOs release so rarely, that you are guaranteed to get several hundred thousand players with any AAA piece of software and some advertisement.

However, overloaded servers will get you a lot of bad press that will frighten off future players. You run into the danger of servers that drop below a critical community size. You risk to invest money into new servers and customer support that you won't need a month later.

Fact is: If you don't want to cheat players, you have no reason at all to jump start with 700k players, like Age of Conan did. It may bring in a lot of money when you need it most, but it will drastically reduce your future subscriber numbers. You don't want a flash in the pan! You want sustained, exponential growth!

Most importantly, however, if you concentrate on a straw fire you miss the chance to influence player mentality in such a way that they can enjoy your game! Instead, you allow the players to determine your advertisement and any discrepancy between the expectations of players and the actual game will come back at you in a backlash. Seriously, there is a reason that I put this at #1 in this list. It is hard to get right, AoC and WAR both miserably failed at it, and generally the industry just doesn't get it. Player attitude when starting a game for the first time is critically important.

Fallout 3 is a terrible first person shooter. Should I start the game with the expectation to play a FPS, I'd hate it! Fallout 3 also is a terrible theme park SP-RPG! The main story is not far from abysmal. The only way to enjoy Fallout 3 is to get out and explore. Since many players know this from past Elder Scrolls games, Fallout 3 was a grand success. I started to love it the moment I stopped to powerplay my character.

Some years ago I played ADOM. ADOM has perma death. At first I played ADOM like any other RPG. It was terrible! My attitude made the game one of the worst experiences ever! I tried ADOM three times before I finally 'got it'; before I finally explored carefully, enjoying the thrill only perma-death can create.

Age of Conan told you that you are the single hero. But you were quite obviously not! Your story somehow stopped after level 20. It is as if Counter Strike would first have a hero-story and RPG elements, but after the first 10 hours of playtime you would suddenly and without warning be dropped into the actual game. The after-Tortage shock is legendary.

Funcom announced bar fights, quality end game raiding and end game PvP. There was none of it. If Funcum had told players to enjoy the leveling game, because there is no end game yet (there was none at release), players had enjoyed it a bit more! They had been enthralled at the perspectives of end-game PvP and raiding, but concentrated on leveling their characters for the time being. This hadn't saved AoC, because the only good part of the game was Tortage, but it had helped. I know I hadn't powerleveled to level cap had I known that there is no end game.

WAR told you that there will be meaningful and balanced RvR. There wasn't. Games can be played in different ways. If you only queue for scenarios in WAR, because it is the most efficient way to level, you won't have fun! So the developer needs to make sure that you don't try to maximize leveling speed. That isn't easy, because WoW pushed players into this mentality.

AoC as well as WAR were reasonably good games. But expectations could not be met and the games failed to focus on the strengths they had! Slow leveling and exploration in WAR was actually a lot of fun with a scenario, a dungeon and some open world PvP every now and then. Endgame wasn't.

EVE Online is about corporations and player communities. Now, look at this beautiful trailer. The developers try to explain the benefits of a sandbox game, so far so good. But they fail miserably, starting with the 'lone wolf'.
The most important thing in EVE to enjoy the game - especially as a newbie - is a nice community, a corporation. This trailer makes you want to play a lone wolf instead. You won't have fun playing the game this way.

Don't tell the players what they want to hear unless you can really back it up (highly unlikely)! Rather, influence them! Tell them what they should expect from a game. Tell them that this game is about exploration, so that they explore, or that it is about achievement so that they powerplay their characters. Tell them that it is about freedom, if your game allows players to shape the world. Tell them to socialize or become rich if that is the strength of your game! Tell them the actually good parts of the game, not what you expect they would like to hear most, although you cannot deliver.


  1. First of all, since fun is entirely subjective, any 'requirements' are also subjective.

    I do, however, agree that players go into a game with expectations, and you canned a few good scenarios where the developers got us into an inappropriate mindset to play their game.

    Regarding maximizing leveling efficiency:
    >WoW pushed players into this mentality.

    That's entirely nonsense; the players did it to themselves. Players in other games also attempt to maximize leveling speed, stats, and money earned. Why do players go grind the same mob for hours on end? To max money-per-time. That's not a WoW thing, it's an MMO thing. I did this in UO, I do this in LotRO.

    Players who actually enjoy questing and enjoy low level instances don't try to zoom through levels. It's only once a player has burned out on "kill ten rats" or "clear the cave" that they start trying to burn through it without experiencing any of the content. It's like skipping your least favorite chapter in a book you're re-reading for the nth time.

    WoW has one of the better questing leveling experiences compared to similar MMOs. I think, when players start another MMO, even though they've never killed 10 rats in this game, it FEELS like they have. And then that feeling of "I'm playing an alt" takes over, instead of "I'm playing a new game."

    That's now WoW's fault.

    And on another note:
    >The most important thing in EVE to enjoy the game - especially as a newbie - is a nice community, a corporation.

    In this regard, EVE is just like WoW. You can play the game solo and experience all solo content. Since mining one asteroid is just like mining another asteroid, you can experience mining in hisec. Group mining operations, using canisters and what-not, are also easily experience-able alone. From my understanding it involves a big ship flying to and from the field, picking up ore from the canister and taking it back to base. Flying to and fro is nothing new, so you've already experienced it, which means you only have to play the other half, which also has already been done before... hit laser, wait, move item from one inventory to the other.

    This is just like WoW, where a healer can sit in town and heal themselves til they're OOM ten times over, or they can go to an instance to heal. It's the same thing, except there's a sense of urgency in one. In this case, heroics are much like group mining; a task which is not necessarily hard, so is better to bring along friends. Yes, there is the occasional emergency - pulling an extra pat or two; or hostile ships incoming - and that scenario is also the same between teh games: WoW - skilled players will likely live, mindless chatters will wipe; EVE - skilled players will have come with necessary tools for fight or flight, mindless chatters will curse on voice chat as their ships explode.

  2. "That's now WoW's fault."

    That's NOT WoW's fault... think we need to remove now from the dictionary, so spell check will pick it up.

  3. Players in other games also attempt to maximize leveling speed, stats, and money earned. Why do players go grind the same mob for hours on end? To max money-per-time. That's not a WoW thing, it's an MMO thing. I did this in UO, I do this in LotRO.

    It is tempting. I agree. Perhaps I should have writen 'WoW supports this mentality'. I don't think it is the only way to play an MMO. Actually I know players who resist and I myself had a lot of fun with characters that I not powerplayed in all MMOs I played.

    If you don't want players to powerplay, you need to remove the typical EXP bar, you need to make level take enough time so that don't constantly see the carrot in front of them, that they are 'supposed' to catch.

  4. In this regard, EVE is just like WoW. You can play the game solo and experience all solo content.
    This is just like WoW, where a healer can sit in town and heal themselves til they're OOM ten times over, or they can go to an instance to heal.

    Sure, you can mine alone in EVE and you can stand around in a town in WOW and heal yourself. But while EVE runs the danger that players actually do it, there is no danger that players heal only themselves in town and then complain about the game being unfun.

    Are you sure your comment reflects what I wrote about EVE?

    I wrote that this particular trailer makes you want to play a lone wolf. So you start EVE, try to play a lone wolf and stop one week later, because the game is terrible. EVE is terrible if you try to play it alone with a new charcter and no social contacts.

    No WoW trailer makes this mistake, although they don't try to push you to the fun parts either.

    In EVE you need to socialize as a newbie. This is actually the strength of EVE. Consequently, EVE should make new players want to play this way.

    Trailers and advertisement not only attarcts players, but also influence them. The developer needs to push the player into the fun parts of the game. Trailer, interviews, ads and the game itself are his tool.

  5. >Are you sure your comment reflects what I wrote about EVE?

    >The most important thing in EVE . . . is a nice community, a corporation.

    I was responding to this bullet and the point is you can do anything in a group or solo (in a game or in the real world, doesn't matter), but its always more fun to do grouped, unless you're not in a people mood. That is not an EVE-exclusive strength, they simply choose to push it.

    This is enforced first not by game mechanics but by human nature. Players who suffer the urge for company find people to play with, those who are tired of people stay away from others.

    And when community IS enforced via game mechanics, you can tell just who is tired of people because they flood the forums with "FORCED GROUPING I WANT A REFUND!"

    The EVE trailer does nothing wrong. It does not set players up to be disappointed when they wander into null and get instagibbed. It does not proclaim one ship to be as powerful as an entire fleet. It does not say the outcome of a fight depends on one single ship. All it puts forward is that every ship has its place in a fight, and that you can (gasp) make friends by helping them.

    I see the eve trailer as the LEAST offensive trailer for two points:
    - Humans having the natural tendency to group up anyways, there is only marginal risk that a player would actually subscribe to a PvP based MMO to be a lonewolf; they would at least pick up friends along the way, which leads to the second point:
    - The trailer goes on to have the lone-wolf join the corporation, and then describe scenarios with events of large battles not dependent upon mr wolf being there. (But surely his team is thankful.) That is, the ONLY part which shows him being a hero is driving the pirates off. After that, it looks as accurate as the WoW trailer in your next post.

  6. We have different opinions about the importance of community in EVE it seems.

    In my opinion soloing in EVE and WoW is possible. So far we agree.

    In my opinion soloing in WoW is a hell of a lot more fun than in EVE.
    In my opinion grouping in EVE (depending on the corp/alliance) is a hell of a lot more fun than in WoW.

    There is probably not much we can do about having different opinions on this.

    Exept for ignoreing it with a if-then statement:

    If EVE is not fun solo, the trailer should rather start with: "You a your friends patrol your corporation's space, when you discover a miner in trouble."

    Could you agree with the If-then statement?

  7. Is rushing to max level a Player Mentality or Flawed Game Design. My friends and I are gamers who are in the military. This means our free time for gaming varies, one week I might play 4-6 hours a night every night while the next week I might only get 2 hours in. If I'm trying to play with a core group of people our levels might vary as much as 15-20, depending on how our free time cycle goes. However, if we're all maxed out then it doesn't have as big an impact because we can still hangout in the same instances without anyone feeling they aren't contributing.

    On the other hand, and this may be slightly off-topic, I'm all for skill based instead of level based advancement. This would allow people new to game to play with folks who had been playing since launch and, ideally, contribute to the fight/activity. Granted they shouldn't be on par with those who had been around for months, but they shouldn't be deadweight because of it either.

    This feature, or any other that allows a new player to group with friends who have been playing awhile is what I believe to be the key to an MMO's continued growth after the initial rush of players has passed.

  8. I agree that a good MMO should allow friends to play together even though they spend different times online.

    On the question of sprinting to top lvl: It is both: Player mentality and game design.

    The game design of e.g. WoW encourages this mentality, though.
    It might be hard to understand for current MMO players, but it is possible to make a game that allows players to achieve character power (character progression) and still doesn't encourage you to do it in a major way.

    EVE is en obvious example, although I dislike the mechanism a lot.

    I'd use drastically diminishing returns, which is a generalisation of gated content.
    Speaking mathematically: 'Gated' means step funtion. It is a specific case of diminishing returns; a bad one in my opinion.