Greedy Goblin

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What players REALLY want and reject

This is the Holy Grail of game development without doubt. Create features that players want and don't create what they reject. You do this one thing and you're a billionaire.

Of course it's practically impossible to know what people want and reject. The forums and blogs are always a voice of a small minority. Even large scale opinion surveys have limited usage as people use to answer something that hits their expressed persona and not their true self. For example they say they want challenge because they don't want to look like a weak loser. But they won't enjoy challenging content. Seeing what content is used and which is avoided is also terribly misleading: make an NPC that gives a random top level epic for 100 clicks, and you'll see that people will click him like crazy. Yet the feature won't increase the longevity of the game for sure.

I believe I found a method to figure out if players really want or reject a feature: How do they judge people who bypass/trivialize/cheat it? By demanding others to follow them, by accepting/ignoring them, or by rejecting them as cheaters? This answer will be their true answer about the feature itself.

Leveling needs time. Many people claim it's boring. Yet those who bypass the leveling by using bots or power leveling services are considered cheaters and widely rejected. If you ask anyone "would you like bots and power levelers disappear?", they say yes. Botters/leveling buyers hide what they are and loudly shun the botters too. The fact that the community reject botters mean that they consider leveling necessary and the feature should stay.

How about vanity, like pets and mounts? Many people claim that they are no-skill, no-brain features. Others say they are great fun. But I saw no one who wanted to ban or gkick players with no pets, nor I saw anyone who demanded players to have no pets. The amount of pets others have is largely ignored and neither lot, nor few pets draw rejection from the majority. So it is optional content, the community doesn't want it, nor they reject it.

How about boss dance? You can bypass it to some extent by reading up, watching videos and using boss mod addons. Using these things is considered absolutely necessary and anyone not using them is considered a lazy idiot who has no place in a raiding guild. This means that the community (whatever they say) reject the dance. While those who can do it might claim it is "fun" or "great challenge" to boost their own ego, but the fact that they cheated it as much as they could show that they actually hate it.

Let's compare this with the FPS community: there are similar mods in FPS games like the WoW boss mods, they help you recognize what the enemy does, giving more obvious visual or audio clues. There are mods that highlight enemy players with big arrows just like DBM places a skull on the guy you must run away from. Using such mods in FPS games is considered cheating and the FPS community goes great extent to weed it out: if the punkbuster screenshot finds someone using such mod, he will be kicked from the server, banned and blacklisted. The FPS community truly enjoys dexterity based challenge and reject those who cheat it.

To not only list things where I'm right, let's see the "ninja" concept. While I think that anyone participating has equal right for the loot, the community clearly consider taking loot for selling as a violation and kicks such ninjas from raid, showing that they really want loot going to those who use it as an upgrade, preferably in their main spec. Also, while most people claim that "ipwnu" names are stupid, they accept such named players to their guilds, showing that they consider it an optional thing that depends on personal taste, like pets.

The point is that someone who make demands or rejections vote with his money. I mean if I say "I won't play with people who has stupid  names", I lose the chance of playing with good players who have a stupid name. I make a sacrifice, so I surely want (as opposed to wish) stupid names banned.

21 comments:

Espoire said...

That's actually very insightful.

I always liked complex boss mechanics... when I got to actually go in without having to read up beforehand. Working out what a boss does and how to counter it was fun for me, but based on how rarely I get to do so, it seems very few other people enjoy it.

Azuriel said...

That... is a fairly ridiculous tautological argument. "The Holy Grail of game design is making the player happy." Obviously. But is it better to attract a small, stable hardcore group of players or to cast a wider net over a more fickle group? Do you trade 1 sub for 2 subs, or gamble on a third way to try and capture all 3 (with the risk of losing all of them in the compromise)?

There are very few singular reasons why a person would quit, and what is tolerated today can fester tomorrow. There was tons of QQ on the forums when the Ulduar meta drakes were still able to be "earned." Did any raider serious enough to achieve them when it was relevant content really quit the game solely because of that? No. So by your definition, it was unimportant. But when you start adding all those small things up, like the frog in the cooking pot, you are suddenly surprised how you've been boiled alive and never even noticed.

By the way, your examples are ridiculous:

1) Bot leveling. People call botters cheats because they themselves cannot use it, at least without risking their entire account being banned. If you could pay Blizzard $25 on the cash shop for a max-level character, enormous amounts of people would use it. Some people may quit because of it, but if you enjoy raiding and/or have a lot of friends in WoW, would you really quit the game out of principle? Not likely.

2) Vanity pets/mounts. Who cares? Do you really know people running around berating total strangers for liking vanity pets?

3) Boss dance. By that same argument, you could say "reading up about your class" or practicing rotations and being gemmed/enchanted is completely necessary and anyone not doing so is a lazy idiot. Ergo, the community rejects not being gemmed/enchanted, knowing their class, etc.

The bottom line is that players will endure quite a bit if the underlying game or social aspects are fun enough; very few things are total dealbreakers to people. However, each little grievance will add up until there is some other change in the pipeline that tip the scales the other way and someone quits over what would normally be shrugged off.

Gevlon said...

@Azuriel: you are offtopic. I never said I know how to make a game perfect. I don't question that you can enough little annoyances to make people "burn out".

I said I know how to find features that people want and features they want to go away.

Andru said...

Your argument is very shakey.

Even admitting it as valid, it has very little practical use, since it tests positive only what people do not want, as opposed to what they do want.

Why is it inefficient? Just look at our lovable moron-sphere, Wheatley, trying to hack a system.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfheJKZn-80

(For those who can't view youtube, the point is that it's easier to find elements that don't belong in a MMO than to build a MMO that is desireable, simply because there are an infinite number of elements that don't belong in a MMO.)

Gevlon said...

@Andru: not true. For example while some cry for easier or faster leveling, the harsh rejection of botting means people want longer and/or harder leveling. The equilibrium point (when the leveling is just long/hard enough) would be when botting would be optional (people would say "I don't bot, but can understand why others bot").

Anonymous said...

Rejecting botting isn't related to the actual content (levelling).
It's related to what people see as "legal" and how much they care about people infringing "laws".
Players could hate botters for various reasons:
- they don't like anyone infringing laws.
- they would infringe the law themselves, but fear the consequences so they don't want others to do what they are afraid to do.
- the majority says that botting is bad, so they adopt that idea.

The reasons are more or like the same for which "honest" citizens dislike tax evading ones.

Steel said...

@Azuriel 3)[...]“reading up about your class" or practicing rotations and being gemmed/enchanted”. Defining the game dimensions. Tricky. An athlete training and practicing is considered essential and part of the game. Taking steroids or bribing the referee isn’t. It can be also less clear. Formula 1 – are driver aids part of the 'game' or not? How much driver aids should be allowed? Gevlon’s method requires that you first have a clear set of anchored dimensions for your game. Which brings us to the second point:

“The bottom line is that players will endure quite a bit if the underlying game or social aspects are fun enough”. Pick a clear niche/market, cater to it. If other people don’t like your main focus area, but are willing to “endure” it because there are other aspects they do like, that is “nice to have”. You can try to accommodate to a certain degree, and indeed a clever system will make these different groups complement each other, instead of pitting them against each other(http://syncaine.com/2011/09/23/30-minutes-to-cap/), but you must keep your main focus clear. If you try to “focus” on multiple targets with conflicting demands, you end up with a giant mess. All this back and forth and finger pointing, and “vocal minority” calling, and QQ storms everywhere are due to the fact that Blizz does not know what they want the game to be, and are trying to shove cats, dogs, mice and dragons in the same bucket.

Grim said...

@Gevlon
Way to dodge all the actually relevant points that Azuriel made...

Especially the part about boss dance. If acceptance of boss addons mean that people hate the dance, then what does acceptance of rotation addons mean? Power auras? Auctioneer?

Does everyone want the game to just give you loot and gold at the press of a button? Or is it just natural to use everything at one's disposal to advance?

There are leveling addons and guides too you know...

Gevlon said...

@Grim: You are right that Elitist Jerks, rotation addons and such are considered must and you can't get into any decent guild without using them.

What this means? The community doesn't want a "thinking" game, therefore demand you to bypass thinking for yourself. The community wants a pure "hard working" game. The fact that most of the blog readers prefer a thinking game is irrelevant. They are just as right to say "go play chess" as we are right to say to dance-lovers to "go play FPS".

Grim said...

@Gevlon, addons and reading are not required because people don't want to think. Take a look at how WoW got to where it is.

As WoW grew in popularity, the available tools and information aiding success in WoW became more and more available and everyone who wanted to be good at WoW used them, just to get an edge.

To maintain challenge, Blizzard had to make the game harder, by taking into account that everyone will read and use addons.

At this point, you might not consider WoW a very hard game (people tend to think that Vanilla grind was somehow harder), but try turning off all the addons and going into a new raid instance without reading up any strats... the things that are required are required because the content is tuned for people who use them.

Anonymous said...

DBM, video guides & company are considered OK (if not even mandatory) because WoW's boss fights are all about execution. Everyone half-serious about PvE knows what to do, the problem is actually doing it flawlessly enough so that the boss goes down.

Execution is challeged either with very hard output requirements and/or with dexterity mechanics. Nowadays output requirements matter only in hard modes, so the only remaining challenge they are able to offer is dexterity.

Nicholas said...

I think the culture of raiding guilds encourages bypassing encounters with DBM and instructional videos as much as it does because of the social pressure to not waste your teammates' time. I far prefer figuring out the encounters from scratch, based on trial and error and reading buffs/debuffs, but very few guilds have the patience to play that way when trivializing content is the expected behaviour. (On top of that, Blizzard now designs encounters with the expectation that people will DBM their way through.)

Since raiding encounters are motivated by loot, there will always be people who play for the gear incentive, which is why I don't see raids "rejecting" DBM timers or copy-pasted strategies anytime soon, for the same reason people are expected to copy talent trees from EJ.

I don't like this either, and I think the way forward for raid design is for bosses to be more reactive and AI-driven. They shouldn't be scripted dances and they shouldn't all be Patchwerk fights either. Instead, they should react to player behaviour, making every attempt unique in response to your execution and testing your ability to improvise with your class abilities. Think Faction Champions, but with only one target with a wide range of abilities that it selects based on what you are doing, not based on a timer.

Sure, people will still attempt to copy the strategies of the top guilds and cry about RNG, but by making encounters more about a whole range of class abilities (not just a damage rotation), there will be more continuity with the levelling game as well as more flexibility for groups to adjust what they're doing based on their own composition and skill. Though at this point, as you pointed out, the more serious problem is that the kind of people who have stuck around to raid (I haven't) have already endorsed and rejected particular styles of play. And it's unfortunate the community norms reject thinking in favour of the shortest path to gear. That's a failure of the community, but it doesn't help that the designers continue to encourage it.

Ninahagen said...

It's not because people reject people who infringes laws that they like (or not) the law.

Some people feel that you must obey the law, not matter what, and won't like it when you don't respect the Law.

It's been said already in the comments, but well, you jump too fast to conclusions and shiny truths it's weird.

Samus said...

"I surely want (as opposed to wish) stupid names banned."

I assume you mean banned from your guild, not from the game itself? On its own, the name is just a bunch of letters that can't hurt you. What matters is that the name indicates a likely idiot.

If these names were banned from the game, Arthasdklol would still play, and he would have a normal name, and you might have invited him into your guild.

Anonymous said...

While your main line of thought sounds pretty plausible, you make it vulnerable by including reading/watching game related "theory" (class guides, boss guides, watching boss videos) as cheating.

If reading class guides for example is considered cheating (because it's a shortcut to figuring it all out yourself), what is reading chess theory books then? And if reading chess theory (which is widely accepted, even adviced to do) is cheating that would, by your logic, mean that thinking is unwanted when playing chess. That's obviously nonsense.

Another point: you seem to insist that dexterity based raiding is bad. But things like EJ, boss guides and boss videos existed long before raiding turned into "dancing". So by your own argument, "hard working raiding" is unwanted as well because "cheating" it is accepted behaviour.

Anonymous said...

The botting example actually shows an oppossite correlation then what is presented. Players do not enjoy a harder + longer leveling system. If they did then they would accept botters, because other people speed leveling does not effect their ability to have a challenging leveling experience. They are still able to enjoy the game style they prefer, while the other players enjoys their style. The reason people despise botters is because they are able to skip a part of then content that other players wish they could. Players are frustrated that they have to suffer through the content while a minority cheats there way through.

I will give you a real life example (a pretty bad one but it hopefully gets the point across). If we take a kid skipping school on the day of a lecture, other kids will be mad that they had to go to school and listen to a boring topic while this student had fun at home. If the class went on a field trip to an amusement park though then no one would care that the other student skipped because they were having fun. What this shows is that people reject others who bypass something monotonous and could care less if they bypass content that they enjoy.

Kurt said...

"While your main line of thought sounds pretty plausible, you make it vulnerable by including reading/watching game related "theory" (class guides, boss guides, watching boss videos) as cheating."

That is nonsense. If his main line of argument makes sense, then it is not rendered "vulnerable" by you picking at semantics with one word choice he made. The only thing that accomplishes is for people to dismiss you as a pedant.




"If reading class guides for example is considered cheating (because it's a shortcut to figuring it all out yourself), what is reading chess theory books then? And if reading chess theory (which is widely accepted, even adviced to do) is cheating that would, by your logic, mean that thinking is unwanted when playing chess. That's obviously nonsense."

It's not nonsense, even less obviously nonsense. You can easily find quotes from grandmasters saying that they dislike the need to study reams of opening theory, saying it detracts from the true chess that they grew up loving. As to the specifics of your argument-- "And if reading chess theory ... is cheating that would, by your logic, mean that thinking is unwanted when playing chess." No, it wouldn't, because playing high-level chess is not like doing a raid boss encounter in WoW with addons/mods/websites telling you every single thing to do. The fact that you would make such an analogy is laughable.

"Another point: you seem to insist that dexterity based raiding is bad. But things like EJ, boss guides and boss videos existed long before raiding turned into "dancing". So by your own argument, "hard working raiding" is unwanted as well because "cheating" it is accepted behaviour.""

But, they weren't widely used until AQ40, which is when dancing began to be seriously introduced into the raiding game, and even then only for the last 3 bosses. AQ40 and Naxx were used by such a small percentage of the raiding teams back then, also, that even though mods and sites began to be widely used then among those raiders, it's still not really when they began to be widely used by everyone. Going by when things first existed, instead of when they were widely used, isn't really relevant to this kind of debate, which is based upon the actions of the masses.

Kurt said...

@grim

"As WoW grew in popularity, the available tools and information aiding success in WoW became more and more available and everyone who wanted to be good at WoW used them, just to get an edge."

That is to say, people would rather get an edge, than play a game that required them to become excellent at both calculating rotations and performing the dexterity based fights. If you take a look at what you're saying Grim you actually agree 100% with what Gevlon is saying, you're just trapped in the mindset of the shortcut using raiders and not able to see that your ideas and Gevlons ideas are the exact same situation viewed from two different viewpoints.

That was the point of the fps example, to show that in the fps community using those mods is discouraged, and to give the ability to look at the situation from an outsider's perspective.

"the things that are required are required because the content is tuned for people who use them."

And how is that working out for Blizzard?

Kristine Ask said...

Mia Consalvos book "Cheating. Gaining advantage in videogames" does a wonderful analysis of how cheating is a fluid concept that depends on the context.

F.ex. in WoW it is not considered cheating to read strategyguides

Your idea of looking what what players think of as cheating/acceptable behaviour is interesting. But just know that what you would find would only tell you about what players think is the right way to play. Not necessarely the way they wish to play themselves, nor what they want or would pay for.

F.ex you can think that goldsellers are a good thing and advocate for a more fluid boudary between virtual and RL economy without actually buying gold yourself and vice versa.

Azuriel said...

@Andru: not true. For example while some cry for easier or faster leveling, the harsh rejection of botting means people want longer and/or harder leveling. The equilibrium point (when the leveling is just long/hard enough) would be when botting would be optional (people would say "I don't bot, but can understand why others bot").

No, you cannot claim that at all. Botting gets you banned. If there were some legal way to AFK your way to the level cap or a cash shop option, then you could argue that it demonstrates something. Having already done the leveling game myself 6-7 times already, I view the entire exercise as a complete waste of time. But I would not ever consider botting because what would be the point in bypassing the leveling game if I suddenly lose those characters several months later in a ban wave?

What this means? The community doesn't want a "thinking" game, therefore demand you to bypass thinking for yourself. The community wants a pure "hard working" game.

Not really. I think the community is fine with a "thinking" game, they just do not enjoy doing their raid job 100% perfect and yet still wiping because someone else wants to learn it via trial-and-error. Maybe that is what you are arguing here, but it's amusing nonetheless since extending that argument means no one likes ANY part of raiding. Even if raiding came down to simply "hard working," you would still wipe if the people around you didn't work hard. Ergo, there should be no raiding whatsoever - less than 1/5th of every subscription does it anyway, so clearly that development time is going to waste.

Anonymous said...

You are comparing allowed interface alterations in WoW to unallowed ones in FPS games, while it would be much fairer to compare wallhacking etc to botting and GCD-exploits.

Boss mods are to be compared to crosshair alterations and HUD scaling if you want a good and consistent analogy, which based on your stance, I doubt.