Death of Detail and Changing Convenience

With the state of the industry at the moment it seems a lot of people are talking more about the notions of complexity and depth. The how’s and whys of our games march towards simplistic mechanics and accessibility and the focus towards gaining more players for the genre but less that stick around.

I tend to agree with many that for some games, the removal of needless bloat is almost a necessity. Such things that are mere disguised complexity are needed but in a way I don’t wish to see their complete removal. Sometimes it is these little choices are what make a difference in the minds of players even if there is some predetermined optimal path. It is this input and choice that can make the experience more meaningful and a stronger connection to the character.

Scree voiced his own opinions lately about the correlation between levelling speed and how long people stick around but I think there’s more to it than just that. Part of it is this illusion of choice and having input in your character and progression. I think a lot of the population are now very bored with the standard levelling process and these illusions of choice are what keep people attached throughout. Being along for the ride longer is obviously important, you create more relationships that keep you logging in but there is definitely something more to it than just that, more to the equation than just added time.

Optimal Options

Personally I think it is these choices that create the experiences you remember more. The bits and pieces that make up your character and then the content you complete along the way are what make up the experiences you keep with you. Having the same experiences as everyone is boring, and create little importance or connection and yet this is the way development of mmo’s seems to be going. Streamlining the whole process, taking away choice all for the name of convenience.

Removing a lot of the choice and needed decision-making does seem to make these game more accessible but at what cost. Weapon choices are lessening, stat choices are minimal and restricted or even completely auto correcting based on the role and class. Questing seems to only involve following from one marker to the next. The amount of skills gets restricted, talent choices predetermined and any sort of input in character growth is minimal at most.

And then there are acts of maintenance that have been outright removed. We are no longer required, or even asked to spend that much time on our characters in any aspect. No need to worry about crafting if you really don’t want to, or even worry about the economy; just complete quests and kill stuff and you are provided for. Things like ammunition or sharpening have been removed to take away choice and any sort of requirement in battle. Taking away the physical needs of food and drink and replacing it with more enticements. The lack of contention over resources, places, enemies and well everything that could create any sort of conflict… conflict that often creates conversation. Just a singular focus on the quest tracker and the next treadmill.

Taking Time

And then there is the weird confusion developers seem to be placing on aspects of time to the point where I don’t think they know what they want. A whole range of processes that take time from the player to complete have been removed or shortened. Character maintenance has mostly disappeared from play except for an infrequent repair. There is no need to personally craft or gather in order to play effectively, Creating connections in-game is mostly unneeded with the prevalence of lfg tools and just how easy it is to progress by themselves

One thing I Miss in these games is just down time. Everything seems designed to continually push the player onto their next objective, to constantly be active and moving forwards. Crafting seems easier and quicker than ever in order to keep players moving. A constant wealth of quests to complete and events happening all around the player and little down time between mob pulls and kills as resources constantly regenerate, and extremely quickly out of combat. I can remember in a few games wherein this down time created far more conversation between players, sitting around the campfire and talking over strategies for the next attack. or just time in between action where you could take about yourself and your team mates. It was a time to create those connections the games so obviously need. Without this we have the constant active states of play where there is little time for people or patience for anything that interrupts the march of progress.

Yet, at the same time they add in all these inconsequential daily requirements on play that do nothing but create artificial time sinks and obligations. Small grinds to attain meaningless things or to improve a character in small ways that are attached to these long, soul shattering grinds. Often time it is just rote and completely pointless activities that is mostly spent alone.

All these other elements of time and maintenance seem to be more about creating connections with others either through interdependence or down times than elements of convenience. In tandem with a longer levelling process I think this is what would create more of a connection that in turn means greater long-term retention. A polished, responsive thempark experience is just not enough and I believe these elements are the key.

#ArmchairDeveloper #Community #MMO


12 thoughts on “Death of Detail and Changing Convenience

  1. That sounds a lot like system interdependence, something I also blogged about a ways back. It’s actually my real life career path too.

    In order to simplify things, games today have built a set of independent mini games. Leveling, crafting. raiding, pet battles, achievements. They have next to nothing to do with each other. This is mainly done for one single reason, lack of skilled designers. The second reason is player understanding. BC had a dozen linked systems – they were mostly all broken up by the time of Cata.

    Interdepency is extremely complex. Pulling a string on one side could affect 3 on the other. On a big system, like an MMO, you need a lot of very bright people. People that typically exist in other lines of work for triple the salary. With 500k to 5m players, even the tiniest flaw can be exploited or bring down months of work.

    As an aside, I think ESO took a bold approach to this. Repair costs are insane and you can’t self repair, so I craft. When an item hits 50% durability, I just make a new one. I’ve saved about 10,000g with this method. (I die a lot I guess)

    • I do remember that article because I actually wrote about it =p interdependancy is a huge part but it’s also about asking more from the players. creating more options to choose from as well as more systems to use in the process that take time in game and connect with others.

  2. The design you propose require a lot of player time. A lot of new MMOs are target to the time-poor player.And I think it is a great thing ! Previously all games were targeted to time-rich player, people that can play at least 1 to 2 hours a day.Now for exemple in GW2, you can play 3h/week and still enjoy yourself !

    But you are right on one point : I hope that the heavy time investiment games will still exist, in order for you and all those who want this sort of gameplay to be able to enjoy themselves !

    • The thing is I think this added time would basically equal up to wait is currently required to complete daily login tasks… probably less as at least these time factors aren’t a daily thing. It just seems more designed to work with the mmo aspects though in a way that supports more community growth

  3. Well said, well said. Artificial time sinks indeed.

    Was playing recently and started an enjoyable chat with a fellow group member…but the action was suddenly so much it was necessary to stop playing to talk which defeated the whole point of teaming up …objective to be reached was left unattained. I like to wander to the places I like to wander as I like it there even though it may not be the best place to level.

    These choices are needed and if they are all removed and we are all to be shepherded to the destination I would rather be throwing sticks into a river!

    • see, that story you have there is what i want more of in mmo’s. Taking the time to just talk with players but we constantly feel rushed to complete some sort of objective

      • but would be nice to have been able to do both…lol.

        The solo-i-sation of MMO’s where it is all me me me is a bit strange…I always loved being helped out by passing players or lending a helping hand to a struggling stranger. Even the mad buffers who left your character shining but the player with a what the hell happened there…who did that to me…oh look it helps…cool whoever you were.

        I also stop what I am doing to chat to kin members I pass … its rude to ignore right!

      • haha, yeh i guess. I always loved that stuff too although, I was more the helpful cleric that would sling out heals while running past

  4. Great post and one with which I 100% agree. It’s all very well to say that modern MMOs cater for time-poor players but there’s a point at which “change of focus” becomes “change of direction”. I think you could sum it up quite simply: the classic form was MMORPG; the modern form is MMO. They are not the same thing but the two have become conflated and confused.

    All the features you describe are part and parcel of an MMORPG and no MMORPG can prosper without at least a good percentage of them. MMORPGs, however, are only a sub-genre of MMOs and lots of MMO variants work very well without any of those features.

    We all tend to get lazy and use the terms interchangeably but when I really think about it I am a fan of MMORPGs, not MMOs fan. I’m also not a great fan of video games in their own right, I just like a few sub-genres. There was a very brief period when, as far as online gaming was concerned, MMORPGs appeared to be the mainstream but really it’s a small, specialist niche and I would expect that from now on, to get the kind of experience you describe and we both want, we will increasingly have to look outside of the mainstream to get it.

    • exactly.. chage of focus and yet completely change the core of the experience. What I said in the post though is that they seem to replace these more important time sinks with other more inconsequential ones. Both seem to have the same end result; character growth or buffing but the modern approach seems to ignore the communal aspects in favour of more self-sufficiency.

      That is an interesting distinction as well and I get that. MMO is a huge genre now that encompasses many different game types and these social mechanics wouldn’t suit a lot of them. They are for the mmorpg which is what I’ve been searching for since I started in the genre.

  5. I’m with you. People want to break down these individual elements and consider them separately, but that can’t be done fairly. Repairs or ammunition or food & drink are never going to be fun when looked at as a single entity, but they can contribute so much to the overall package.

    • They aren’t attractive features of a game and when you do try to make them attractive like the current situation with food buffs you lose out on a lot

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