Greedy Goblin

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The curse of the no-lifer

When you disagree with someone you see his statements as lies or excuses. Maybe he is wrong. But it doesn't mean that he is not seeing something that is true. Maybe not in the way he think, but it is.

We all agree that Vanilla and TBC were much better model than the current. Blizzard deviated from that path in the name of "accessibility" and "allowing casual playing". We took their statement as "letting morons and slackers have everything".

However the more I think about the "hard working" game concept, the more I see that Blizzard was facing a true problem and something had to be done. Vanilla, or the game rules I listed could not last long. Maybe would last even shorter than their fix: the constant gear resets, welfare gear and faceroll+dance content.

The problem is indeed what they mentioned: the Vanilla concept rewards lot of playing, the infamous "no lifer" attitude. We dismissed it with "every game rewards more playing". Our statement is true: if I play HL Counterstrike 30 hours a week, I will be better than vast majority of those who play just 10 hours a week. We are right, Blizzard is wrong, case closed, the rest are lies for catering morons and slackers.

What we did not notice is the fundamental difference between playing and MMO and an FPS. We are not just playing the game more. We play the same match more. In an FPS there is gear and position reset every 10-30 mins, when the match ends. We carry over our skill and nothing else. In an MMO our gear, gold, consumables, keys, achievements are all carried over from last hours game. So if you play more, you are more powerful than the other guy even if your skill is equal.

This is fundamentally unfair and a game must be fair to persist. In the game only actions done in the game matter. Playing schedule is outside the game. Again: its obvious that playing more allows you to improve skill. However in an FPS or RTS match the skill matters only. Doesn't matter how did you get it, grinded it over 10K matches, watched videos of the best or you just a natural born gamer.

In the MMOs this problem is "fixed" by gear resets or allowing RMT. The first destroys the whole "hard working"-progression concept, the second replaces "IRL time" with "IRL money".

The solution is defining time constraints: you can play on a server for X hours a week and you cannot transfer a char to a server where you are already playing. This way every player would have an even field.

X could be several different numbers for different server types. I'd suggest 10, 20, 30 hours/week. Each server type would have its own ladder, toplist and battlegroup (they can BG, RBG, LFD, LFR only with the same timeframe servers). This way casual players would compete fellow casuals and could win. There wouldn't be direct competition between those who play differently and character strength would only display skill and not play time. Of course one could choose to play on several 10 hours servers to hone his skills and have an edge over the others. However he would only bring skill to his competitively played server and not time.

Bonus tip for Blizzard: since the playerbase wouldn't be bigger, the existing servers should be randomly assigned to 10, 20, 30 every server linked to another two and players allowed to freely transfer to these two realms. The trick is that one of the 3 time frames will be less popular than the others, so servers assigned to this timeframe will be seriously underpopulated. Then Blizzard could merge these servers without any kind of bad press, since people are not leaving the game, just that time-frame, while the favorite time frame of the people will be on full load or even queues on some servers that can be widely publicized.


Alleji said...

This is the worst idea I remember seeing on your blog in a long time. I would uninstall a game like that the second it disconnects me for the first time in the middle of something interesting for overplaying my X hours.

Xaxziminrax II said...

But bear in mind limiting hours would remove some players who felt they shouldn't be paying a $15 sub for limited for 40/80/120 hours of playtime. Would you let these people go as collateral damage?

Azuriel said...

We all agree that Vanilla and TBC were much better model than the current.

The only sense that I would agree with this - and it kinda segues into your time limit hypothesis - is that I never felt that running heroics 7 times a week was necessary, or even beneficial in TBC. In WoW, even though it is not strictly necessary, there is a huge implicit pressure that because you CAN be getting more Valor/Justice Points, that you SHOULD be doing so right now. The whole thing is the Red Queen Hypothesis in practice, which leads to burnout via fatigue, disillusionment, or the end of novel experience.

Hell, they even turned the badges into points so they could make it look like another XP bar, which is the ultimate sort of Skinner lever.

The irony is that there are opposing forces at work. If everyone played WoW less, the content would last longer, and Blizzard would effectively be getting paid more. However, the downside of people playing less is that there are less people online at any given time, which weakens the social glue that gets people subscribed to MMOs for the long-run.

Alichino said...

I don't agree that Vanilla and TBC were better than later expansions. I actually preferred Wrath raiding because of the soft resets of gear that occurred. The problem with TBC raiding was that if you were behind in content it was very difficult to catch up with the top raiding guilds. As a result, there were a lot of guilds stuck in Karazhan while the main guilds were into SSC or later content. Getting into a leading guild was next to impossible without multiple guild jumps once certain gear levels were reached.

By contrast, in Wrath, it was possible to 'catch up' most of the way to the current content in a short period of time; in one case this let a skilled raider who had taken some time off get back into raids 2 tiers later after a few weeks in game.

The main points to gear resets are 1) to allow new players to get into the latest raids and 2) to level the playing field between maxed-out players and more casual players at each tier (so maxed-out players don't steamroll new content while casual players continually wipe)

In Wrath these gear resets were even more necessary because there was a 1/2 tier difference between 10 and 25 man gear, which would give an advantage to 25 man players going into new raids.

Gevlon said...

@Alleji: if a 30 hours/week time limit is so bad for you that you wouldn't play anymore, you are the first no-lifer I met in my life. You would be better off without the game and the game would be better off without you.

@Xaxziminrax II: there is no 40 and 80 "limit" as anyone can freely choose to go for 120. The 40 and 80 are optional for players who play less anyway and don't want to be pitted against 120 players. Those who are limited by 120 SHOULD go away as they are huge server load.

Azzur said...

Hahaha, what a poor idea. Tobold has the correct implementation in that leveling should be made harder, or that endgame content should reflect what leveling was (i.e. using class abilities).

Gevlon's idea would never work because obviously, all the casuals would choose the highest number of hours. Who in their right mind would pay $15 and then choose the minimum playtime?

Furthermore, Gevlon's post shows a lack of understanding of how people play computer games. The number of hours would be very high when the game is new and then slowly decrease. I won't want to be forced to distribute my playtime evenly because I may want to play 20 hours in week1 but only 5 in week2.

chewy said...

Your whole argument relies on one premise, that the material gains carried over from one session to another is the only advantage. If this is true then an equally valid solution would be to equip every player with the BiS gear from the beginning, thereby eliminating the advantage. But by doing so you have removed the collecting "fun" from the game.

Your solution is to time limit the collectors such that they can't be seen to have an advantage, whilst it might work, it only pacifies a minority who are searching for an excuse as to why they are bad players. Everyone else either knows their own limitations and accepts them, hence it's an unnecessary inconvenience or is forced to face up to their game playing inadequacies and leaves.

Neither outcome is good for business.

Anonymous said...

That is just terrible.

1 : No, vanilla and TBC raiding were not better than raiding is today. It was chaotic, and slackers had it way too easy. Remember 40 people with 10 of them afk during boss fights ?

2 : it's only fair that someone who spends more time in the game is more powerful. In a FPS, you level your skills, in WoW, you level your character. Having the skills to play well is something separate from your equipment.

Anonymous said...

Put in a fourth server as 'unlimited' type, with no time constraints and no leaderboards. The true socials would go to these servers.

Ulv said...

Interesting that you see people who are time-rich as deserving some form of limits as opposed to people who are skills-rich or just rich.

Even in WoW in it's current state skills and intelligent playing are rewarded. A 20 hour pew week skilled player will progress faster than his equally time-rich but less skilled compatriot.

Wyrmrider said...

The obvious problems -- creating a terrible experience if you underestimate your playtime (don't we all?), separating hardcore players from their casual friends, and flying in the face of consumer common-sense, to name a few -- are going to keep this one firmly in the realm of "armchair design." (I kid, I kid.)

Gear resets are one way Blizzard has chosen to keep low-time-commitment players in the game, but there are others as well: daily quests/BGs, weekly valor/conquest points, and weekly raid lockouts. Play enough to cap the relevant currency and you're doing fine; play more and you have serious diminishing returns.

Alleji said...

>@Alleji: if a 30 hours/week time limit is so bad for you that you wouldn't play anymore, you are the first no-lifer I met in my life.

Who says it would be the 30 hour server? Maybe I'd sign up for the 10 hour server, then after a month my schedule changes. Maybe one week I just have a lot of free time and hit the limit? In the time I've been playing WoW, my play time per week probably varied between 4 and 24 hours. Find a server for me in your timed game, please.

Also, you using the "no-lifer" insult yourself was quite funny.

Anonymous said...

FF XIV tried exactly that. Every player had a certain ammount of activity units after which the exp would drop of.

Granted you could still switch to another job or craft, so your character could still progress, and because of that the actual limit was reached mainly by poeple wanting to grind a single class.

Still, not many people liked being limited by the game on top and beyond the "task X requires X minutes to accomplish" timeframe.

Anonymous said...

I also don't really agree that vanilla and TBC were much better models than the current. The 'dance' really isn't very hard - it's just don't stand in the fire v2.0.

But even if I did agree, this model would be a really bad solution. A lot of people (or at least me), play a variable amount a week. Some weeks I have a lot of free time and can easily play five hours a day, and even more on weekends. Other weeks I have work to do and don't log on at all. In any case I'd really hate for Blizzard to decide my playtime for me, and I doubt they want to as well - why would a company force their customers not to use their product and still expect to turn a profit?

Essentially you'd turn the game into an efficiency contest, and no matter how people like to use this excuse when shouting no-lifers, that's only something they say when they are upset. The genius of WoW is that people can say "maybe if I run this one dungeon I'll get this one great gear piece and be great" and queue up for LFD even after being kicked from a raid for doing less than the tank. In a system in which they only have a set amount of time per week they would be more likely to say "well, now I wasted an hour of my thirty and got nothing - clearly this week isn't going anywhere either", get demotivated and just quit. This is not one of your better ideas, and a huge overresponse to 'no-lifing'.

In the game this is already solved pretty well by diminishing returns. If we are level 1, and you play one hour while I play ten, you'll be level 5, while I'll be close to 20. My character will be at least ten times better than yours. If we are level 40 and you play one hour while I play ten, you won't even be 41, while I might well be level 45. But now this isn't that significant - I'm not guaranteed to win a duel, even with my superior stats. A far more important factor will be use of abilities and tactics. Bump it up to 85, in which one hour won't really get you much except some heroic gear, and my 10 might get me , if I choose to go a raid and get lucky, a BiS item. What's really the difference between that? We like to make it out to be something huge, but it's really very little when you come down to it, relatively speaking. As you proved with undergeared, it's not the determining factor of whether your raids succeed. And with the current less gear-focused raids, it's even less important. Why is this a problem?

Inquisitor said...

I... don't play the same way every week. Nor do I particularly want to.

Also, I don't particularly like the idea that I can't play battlegrounds and raid on the same character without being penalised in both.

Heck, what about the fact that it's *possible* to get all the practice and consumable grinding in on one character, and then do just the 'bits that count' on another?

Sorry, lousy idea. There is a reward for time spent, but measuring time logged in to a particular character (or account) isn't a sane way to compensate for that.

Why not look at the arena tournament format (fixed gear, etc) and propose some sort of competitive raiding competition along the same lines? Stuff goes up a week before the main release of the raid, preformed groups get handed full normal-mode gear, and are given (say) 15 hours of zoned-in time plus as much prep time as they like to get as far through hardmodes as they can.

It's a bit less unfair, and additionally doesn't embrace PR disaster of a scale beyond reckoning.

dobablo said...

If you limit time then people get punished for not spending that time on the optimal activity. People would be lose out if they spend time exploring, socialising, RP, queing, fishing, doing PvP (if they are a raider), doing PvE (if they are a PvPer), pet/mount collecting, achievement gathering, ect.

Anonymous said...

I think the issue is that fairness is not a requirement for a successful long term MMO. For better or worse, people assume that the MMO is going to be unfair. Whether than is RL$ in F2P/RMT games, effort in game (grinding in WoW and especially asian games), time subscribed (EVE-online).

The idea of being like chess where everyone is equal except for their human skill is certainly fairer but has no place in any MMO I have heard of.


Also I think the word "skill" needs to be differentiated. Someone repeating any game, be it chess or Ragnaros, will improve. But asymptotically. And the slope and peak is different depending on how the human's skills match up with the game.
And then there is gear and levels/XP/Skill points. Someone who does a troll instance every day for two months may get significantly or trivially more skilled playing their class. Regardless, they will have 8000+ VP and over twice that in JP.

MMOs are not fair.

Ninahagen said...

I like the first part.

The idea, in the second part, is fresh but very weird.

One fundamental flaw, pointed out by Azuriel, in that this model divide away the players (makes exclusives categories). This divides the pool of available game partners. This also is hard to consider when one's time availability is changing.
But there is room for improvement, it's interesting.

I don't like the idea, but it's intelectually challenging.

Weirdness exists in functionnal systems, and I shall disgress a little bit, and talk about economy (I'm not expert in this, but this should be of interest).

World of Warcraft, originally, was a game where everybody would pay the same thing (not couting collector series). Whatever you play more or less, whatever you suck at the game or not.

In F2P, depending on the nature of transaction between the game maker and the players, you can pay to become unique (cosmetics advantage), or you can pay to become stronger than the others ("unfair" advantage).
In that model, players who want to be unique or strong pay more. Often, those are the players who play the most : player who play the most pay the most.

In the "new" (to me) micro-transaction thing that is being put in place by Blizzard, be it in Diablo3 or even World of Warcraft (the BOE minipet, which lets room for players to sell others BOE, for the skin maybe), players who play the most "create" things that are bought by players who play less (in average). And those transactions are done with real money.
In Diablo3, you will buy "unfair advantage" from other players who play more. In WoW, in don't see that coming, but I think we will se the "buy cosmetics advantage" from others players.
So, in this weird model (but maybe functionnal), players who play less pay more than players that play the most.
How strange isn't it ?

Ninahagen said...

Oh and I would add, fairness in unheard of in many MMO, but what about one ? Wouldn't it be better than the others ?

Do YOU play an MMO to become better than more skilled players than you, just because you spent more time in it collecting better stats ?

I would hate beating better players just because of gear, as much as I hate being beated by worse players just because they grinded.

Grind games have more success in Asia. I don't know why yet.

But anyway, when you play much in World of Warcraft, you become more skilled, and you don't need more equipment when you wanna beat a newbie.

Anonymous said...

I think accessability was a good idea but poorly implemented. Players want to work to do better but don't want to work really hard just to catch up.

The idea of capping the hours will hurt the hardcore's mostly or that guy who is on vacation and decides to play wow for quite a bit during. What needs to be implemented is a better gearing structure. The current one seems to screw over anyone who got all their justice points gear every time a new raid comes out. The worst part about it is that as Blizzard adds new raids they just throw away the old ones because of the gearing structure.

Anonymous said...

"So if you play more, you are more powerful than the other guy even if your skill is equal"

So by your logic, people that have played since wow beta, should not be able to be beating by anyone that started after beta... Cause they will have alot more play time than you.

Good logic

Ninahagen said...

"So if you play more, you are more powerful than the other guy even if your skill is equal"

So by your logic, people that have played since wow beta, should not be able to be beating by anyone that started after beta... Cause they will have alot more play time than you.

Good logic

13 October, 2011 15:49

Maybe it's me not understanding what you want to express (and that can be since I'm not good in english), but ... seriously what are you saying ?

The quote you are making is a description of the game as it is functionning right now.
It is not a "oh the game should be like this or like that".

Secondly, saying
"two people as skilled should be equal, whatevs that skill was gained through time or through natural genius"
is not implying that
"an experimented player must lose vs a newbie".

Is logic different in my country, or do you jump too hastily to conclusions and despise other's logic on illogical basis ?

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that it is unfair that people that invest more time in the game gets an advantage? I assume you also don't believe in working overtime, since that gives a person an economical advantage, regardless of his skill level compared to his co-workers unless the wages are substantially lopsided.

Samus said...

This is fundamentally no different than raid lockouts.

The only minor differences are that you are including non-progression time in your limit ("hanging out" in Stormwind is a waste of time, but has no negative effects on progression), and you are also limiting leveling (which means it is much more difficult to "catch up").

The current lockout system is better. You should be thinking about how to change or expand on that.

Anonymous said...

Your idea is just an example of boosting a specific group of players. By separating the players who only play 5-10 hours a week from those that devote more time to the game, you're assuring the more casual players a higher place in their realm/battlegroup ladder. Have they earned this assistance in any way? A casual player, by definition, shouldn't care very much about rankign or status.

Wilson said...

"Maybe he is wrong. But it doesn't mean that he is not seeing something that is true. Maybe not in the way he think, but it is."

Sometimes. But more often, he didn't know what he was talking about, and his entire thesis was worthless.

"We all agree that Vanilla and TBC were much better model than the current."

No, you believe that. Most of us are well aware of the many shortcomings in Vanilla and TBC which have been improved upon. Simply switching to first person plural is not the same as presenting a compelling argument.

Dillion said...

Perhaps I can go you one further here. While I wouldn't like to be limited in WoW playtime I can see your point. But perhaps what you need to do is make it more appealing to the player to choose their appropriate level/hours of play.

Take myself for instance. Maybe 3 to 4 hours about 5-6 nights a week totalling 24 hours of play on the high end. Let's say that I take a server that is a 30 base on hours. I'm capable of completing all the things I want to in a week with this time currently.

The kicker would be bonus' that 10/20 servers would give over the 30 hour server. Leveling/XP increases, easier bosses and being able to see more content in the time allotted. Those that like to do lots of things on the same character would be forced onto a 40/50/60 hour server. To enforce this I'd say transfers would have to go out the window unless from same rank server or if the fee was proportional to the jump. Possibly, eliminate to ability to bring gear/gold/goods with you in the move or tax the ilvls of the gear provide a percentage of the gold and goods.

Essentially you could allow the people the casuals to lol their way through stuff but they'd be on their own servers and there would then be a new standard for players. What level server are you on?

Would it fly? Not likely. It's too radical from the Burger King (Have it your way.) WoW we have now. People would buck it because they'd see it as imposing a limit on a player versus allowing you to get more done in the time you have.

I would also say that you could in essence limit the time on 1 character to this. So you could play 40 hours on one 10 hour server but it would be with 4 toons. Granted you'd be improving your skill but if you can do that over 4 servers anyways I'd say it's permissible to consolidate.

I think the biggest issue you run into is making a game in which the lack of challenge causes players to leave. I could see Blizzard making some coin off of levelers that would start on a 10 hour server say if hardcore leveling from 1-85 could be done in 10 hours or less. Then the player transfers to a 30-50 hour server. Instant 50 bucks for Blizz.

Dillion said...

@Anon: You say casuals haven't earned the leg up but lets look at RTS and sports. In SC2 I can be top of my league at Silver. If all I can do is devote 10 hours a week I'm likely not going to get out of the silver league. So if you pit me versus only 10 hour players I'm the best of them but hard core players know, I'm only the best of players that play for 10 hours. It'll show in my performance.

In sports you have leagues. B, A, AA, AAA denoting the time and skill of the players and funding placed behind their training.

Essentially all he's doing is promoting a league/tiered MMO experience. But as I said in my last post. I don't think that experience itself, either social or competitive, will entice players to do this.

Ninahagen said...

Are you saying that it is unfair that people that invest more time in the game gets an advantage? I assume you also don't believe in working overtime, since that gives a person an economical advantage, regardless of his skill level compared to his co-workers unless the wages are substantially lopsided.

I'm not talking about fairness or not.
Though I could.

WoW is a game, not a job, but I will use your way to see thing (seriously, that is very odd, if you ever worked and did extra hours for money, it wouldn't come into your mind comparing a game and work -_-).

What if, in your job, only the ones doing the most hours are paid ?
You do 3h extra work ? Doesn't matter, the best does 7h.

Isn't that the Vanilla model ? Only the nolifer gets to R14, and eat all the normal "workers" ?
Only the nolifer sees Naxx, 'cause all the time it takes to farm potions and Felwood.

And worse, a "new" nolifer will have to grind MC, BWL, AQ40 before being able to play with his fellow nolifer friends in Naxx. In other words, BC will be released before, and whatever nolifer he is, he won't see naxx : the gap is too wide.

Masterlooter said...

I agree that the more time you spend in something, the better you get in it. But, you have to remember, it has diminishing returns. Someone new to the game, needs to spend (probably) dozens of hours learning how the game works. They must play a lot, but are still considered beginners.

When a change happens to the rules of the game (patches) a beginner must spend more time to adjust and learn them, than a veteran would need. A veteran only needs to glance at the patch notes, and spend maybe 10 mins on the training dummy to be exactly at the same level of expertise he was at before.

After you hit a certain level of diminishing returns, the only reason to play more is because you like the game.

I completely disagree about "fixed gear resets". They are really fixed skill resets, as gear stays the same relative to the mobs you are fighting. If you assume that each raid will get harder as you progress, you also assume that a certain percentage of raiders will not advance to the next tier when it's available.

If you assume 1 million raiders in Molten Core, and only 70% of them are good enough to make it to the next raid tier, then you would only have ~13800 raiders in Firelands currently (about 550 25-man raiding guilds). Imagine how hard that would be for recruiting.

That's why there is a skill reset every so often (gear stays the same). So the raider ranks can be replenished, and the top most and bottom most skillsets aren't so widely distributed.

protectorate said...

The biggest problem with this is that the game is an mmo. This works in things like gang wars or other pay for playtime games that are single player. The emphasis on group content -rated bgs, raids, dungeons - is incredibly high in wow. What happens the first time someone has a weird Ark in a raid or even worse in an lfg dungeon? Now you're not just wasting my time, you're literally wasting my money (it would be possible to determine cost per hour of play in this case). Most people's playtime in wow is partly dependent on other peoples actions.

Anonymous said...

Ah, you want to use /played to meassure something completely useless. OK. So if I spend time on my main on AH making gold, arena, rated BG, archeology I get penalized and kicked during Ragnaros HC screwing over my guild (in my case: 9 other people). Then on Ventrilo I say "sorry guys, I did not use my bank alt enough this week". No thank you, bad idea.

It is simple: the amount of time you spend of the game can increase your skill and your progress (both in PvE and PvP). We take this into account when we meassure our progress. For example, some guilds which only raid 3 times a week have killed Ragnaros HC. These guilds compete with each other. These guilds do not compete with hardcore raiding guilds which were in FL at 11 AM after first week of FL (when HC modes were available). Similarly, it was difficult to get Grand Marshal only because of the amount of time you spend to get HK but those who did not get Grand Marshal did not even attempt to achieve it and knew that those who did go for this title spend a lot of time and effort on it. It is a different league, simple as that.

And the argument is flawed in sports, too. Nobody gives a rat ass how much time you spend on training if you are aiming for Olympics swimming. Nobody cares about how much time you spend on football, or if you had a difficult time and were able to train less because your mother diseased. In high-end we only care about your performance outcome.

Yaggle said...

I just think they should charge by the hour. Reward players for getting things done quickly and make money from the no-lifers who play 40 hours per week. Botters and gold farmers get hit the hardest.

Ninahagen said...

Similarly, it was difficult to get Grand Marshal only because of the amount of time you spend to get HK but those who did not get Grand Marshal did not even attempt to achieve it and knew that those who did go for this title spend a lot of time and effort on it. It is a different league, simple as that.

Yes, with the exception being leagues were mixed in PvP and BG. So that was not really different leagues.
The grind was for different leagues, not the confrontation.

Michael said...

> if you play more, you are more powerful than the other guy even if your skill is equal. This is fundamentally unfair [...]

I don't see why this is unfair. Isn't that the point of a hard working game, that putting more effort into your play will yield more performance than simple twitch or theorycrafting skills?

Wouldn't it be unfair the other way, where people could 'skip the grind' merely through some fancy button pushing that most people aren't capable of?

Also, wouldn't that mean that the most skilled players have the least amount of content to experience, since they wouldn't need to go through the grind? That seems to be punishing excellent play, which is a bad design decision in terms of fun.