Greedy Goblin

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blizzard's secret

I rarely have such "enlightenment" moments like the one I had just a minute ago reading Tobold: "If anything, social interaction is one of the weak points of World of Warcraft. No other game has so much soloing, so much guild hopping, so little loyalty between "friends" and guild mates. Guilds draw together when there is new content to beat, but quickly fall apart once the content is beaten. Blizzard completely failed to introduce any purpose to guilds beyond raids. And as new raid content is being added at a relatively slow pace, there are large stretches of time in which WoW is vulnerable to large numbers of people being bored and leaving WoW to check out a new game. If that new game would be any good, and had better social cohesion, the social "pull" would be more likely to draw players out of WoW than back in."

I strongly believe that this "weakness" is the very secret that made WoW the No1 MMO. Am I crazy, claiming that "social interaction weakness" is the strongpoint of a social game? I think not.

To understand this point, one has to see what the social people want: understanding, acceptance, respect, to like and to be liked. Theoretically it's not hard to get. It doesn't cost me to "be nice" with others. It doesn't hurt even me, the antisocial goblin to greet a stranger with "Good evening Sir, could you be so kind to tell me where X street is?". Believe or not, I never call my co-workers in other departments anything than "dear X" or "Sir/Madam", or "Hi mate". Why would I? Do I need drama? Does being nice hurts me somehow? These people may feel that I like them, I respect them, and it's only the circumstances that doesn't let us get any closer than a give each other a smile and some nice words.

On the other hand the co-workers of my own department are pretty different. Some of them I really like and cooperate happily. Others... well... there was a guy I refused to even talk to and when the boss asked what's going on, I told him "he is a moron and if I'd open my mouth I'd say something that could bring an emotional harassment lawsuit to the company". Why? Because I thought he was a moron who is just wasting our resources and I have to work more than my fair share because he is unable to. Was I right? I believe so, but an objective third party may disagree.

Was he a devilkin, worse than anyone in the company? Even I don't think so. Then why was my connection with him terrible (and quite uneasy with some others), while I'm fine with the guys in other departments? Because the latter have no effect on my life, neither positive, nor negative. They never had a chance to cause me any trouble.

The members of my department are my close co-workers. Our projects are common, if the other guy don't do his part, the project will fail, no matter how good my part was. If he does his part, if he bring good ideas, if he gives constructive critism to mine, he is a great help, and I'm greatful for his effort. If he does not, I will dislike him, meaning I'm trying to make him quit or be fired and replaced with a better one.

So I'm nice with every strangers and friendly/unfriendly with close people depending on their effort. You can set up pinkish lies about "friendship" and "love" but the bottom line is always effort. Ask yourself: if your significant other would stop making good effort in the bedroom (and on the kitchen table, in the car, in the hotel elevator...), how long would your "pure and selfless" love hold?

In WoW the "weak interaction" with soloing, easy guild hopping, "no purpose beyond raiding" guild means that we no way depend on the other. He cannot really hurt our gaming experience, unless he is directly harassing us.
  • He doesn't show up at raid inv? No problems dude, bring the player not the class, anyone else can takes his place.
  • He does 1000DPS? No problems dude, I can make 4K, so I can carry 3 such players.
  • He wants the same epic? No problems dude, this, or some other will drop next week. It's not like anyone will be less than full ilvl226 a month after 3.1
  • He sucks at PvP? Chill dude, it's just a game, we still get loads of honor points even if we lose all the matches and we can arena without him.
  • He does not share gold? So what, does anyone needs any?
  • He quit the guild at 2 AM? Wait a minute dude, what was his name? X? Was he in our guild at all?

Imagine a game where we depend on each other. Imagine that after wiping on Thaddeus you would lose a level and would have to quest in Icecrown a day to be able to wear your epics again. The guy who messed up polarity would still be a dude?

Imagine a non-consensual PvP game like Darkfall where you arranged to go to X location in group of 4 to do something and he doesn't bother to show up, and you wait for an hour than the 3 of you move out just to be ganked by 4 guys, who /laugh at you while loot your gear. You could have won or at least retreat if you were 4. Would he still be a dude?

Imagine a business-PvP game like EVE, where a corporate (guild) leader hops guild with half of the guildmembers wealth. Would it be just "chill dude it's just a game"?

Imagine an evolving PvE game where Sartharion's eggs hatch and he assaults and burns Dalaran, giving everyone a "Game Over" screen if the server population fail to raid him N times within 4 weeks after expansion? The guy who levels his alts instead of gearing his main to get ready to raid would still be a dude?

WoW is a 0 stress environment (unless you make stress yourself by setting a goal that needs other people's participation). The other people can not cause you any loss of items, gold, achievement points or any kind of "fun" (unless harassing). WoW is like a "happy hours" in a beerhouse. Everyone is a dude. Everyone is nice to you and no one give you a hard time. No one causes you any loss. While the guys are changing all the time, there is always a dude sitting next to you with a happy face and a full glass of beer.


Yaggle said...

It really does come down to "effort" even more so than "results". I am not even sure why this is but when there is no effort I feel disrespected, I feel my instincts tell me to stay away from that person. I feel slighted. Even when a person gives results, I am not sure deep down what that person's motives are. But when somebody gives effort, I know that person has decent motives.

Unknown said...

I mostly agree with Yaggle, though with the current ezmode raiding, I'm not certain it's easy to distinguish between effort and results.

Case in point: my guild is still incapable of Sarth + 1. Why? People keep getting hit by lava waves. Two or three people, each wave.

I don't care if you're in tears on vent insisting you're giving your best effort, I'm not necessarily able to accept that such a claim is genuine in this sort of situation.

(So I guess what I'm rambling towards is wondering whether there is an intelligent way to delineate between effort and results.)

Unrelated: "if your significant other would stop making good effort in the bedroom (and on the kitchen table, in the car, in the hotel elevator...)" is probably the best line I've seen in any blog in quite some time. Well played, sir.

DarkKnight said...

I have to admit that the whole soloing part is mainly why I stuck to WoW a long time ago (read: over 4 years ago), as back then I just played it for some fun and relaxing and as solo as can be. Which changed over time thanks to meeting some very nice and fun people, although I am now more and more going back to soloing, simply because of sheer boredom with current content.
Although I get the feeling that more and more soloistic (hmm, not a word according to FF Spellcheck, but you get the idea) ppl are 'invading' WoW now. Which are basically after the purples and then leave again to a better place.
And that is all fine in WoW, as said in blog there is no penalty at all, so it is all just doing like you want. If you however respect the members of your guild then you can not possibly join a guild for a week, get some purples and move on again. And that's the only purpose a guild has atm: stability, one way or another.

To get back on Yaggles point: There you see the effort/results coming back, because at the moment, a minimum of effort is required to get the wanted results. Question is whether guilds will keep existing if it stays like this and they become basically superfluous. Why bother being in a guild when you can just PuG everything whenever you want and however you want? The only reason imo would be to get the 'harder' things done (think Sarth 3D e.g.) or in case you actually have multiple friends in a guild, but even then it is not really needed.

So the main question is: how will the balance effort vs results be. If any effort will bring results, than soloing might be the easiest way and as such back to why WoW became so big in the first place. But then even solo'ing can get you into raids, in stead of being 'limited' to questing, battlegrounds, arena, instancing. In other words: atm everything is possible by soloing, so there is definitely less and less social requirements in WoW. Whether that's good or bad I'll refrain from commenting on :).

Stabs said...

Wonderful post, Gevlon

Anonymous said...

yaaaaa gevlon is back on track!

good post.

Hinenuitepo said...

all your social stuff is really getting boring.
I'd prefer to read about your economic and gold-making strategies.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Tobold really went out on a limb there saying WoW will someday be replaced by something better. Um, jeez, ya think?

What up and coming game company will likely pull this off? Probably Blizzard. :)

Let's face it, NO ONE, not a single game company ever, has topped Blizzard in a genre they decide to pursue. It could happen, but it won't be based on better social mechanics or opportunity, that is for sure.

Hatch said...

It's pretty cool that the ability to have fun in this particular game is less reliant than it could be on the whims of random people I met over the internet.

I like having a low-stress environment to unwind in after a day at my real life job.

If I want hardcore challenges, then I'll reach for them in real life, where success gives me real life rewards.

Unknown said...

Gevlon, you remind me of Steve Albini:

That's a compliment.

Kiryn said...

I play WoW precisely because it is weak in social areas. I'm not a social person. I was a big fan of single-player console RPGs when I was growing up, but I found myself constantly bored of them after 40-50 hours. I could spend more time leveling up my characters, perfecting their stats and whatnot, but there wasn't any point to it. There wasn't a reason to grind my characters up past the minimum level needed to defeat the final boss. There simply wasn't anything to do.

In WoW, I'm given a single-player game that will never run out of things for me to do, even when I reach the level cap. Leveling each class is different in interesting ways. Each little achievement or quest or day at the auction house gives me a separate little minigame with different rewards. But the rewards for each one are all tied to my persistent characters.

The multiplayer aspect of the game is tolerated, because it makes it easy to play alongside one or two of my best friends in real life when we have the time. But I'd rather not associate with my raiding group outside of raids. It's so much more peaceful being in a guild with my alts and nobody else.

Yaggle said...

@Hatch - I know what you mean. Sometimes after a hard night at work, World of Warcraft is the only thing that saves me from insanity. It's a place I can go to get things done without somebody breathing down my neck or standing in my way talking. It's better than getting drunk at least.
And yes RL gold is better LOL.

Aboo said...

Any MMO's social interaction is only as strong as it's players desire to socially interact. I have played many of them over the years, and seen this many times.

If you feel that WoW lacks social interaction, look in the mirror. You have no one to blame but yourself.

The game should not have to force yout to socially interact. Some of you talk like Your Reason for something is the Only Reason and that's bull-spit. A Guilds only purpose is to Raid? WTF? Who died and made you head software designer/architect/content creation specialist?

The fact is that people take from the game what they put into it. The same as in life.

Ink said...

I know that I'm not motivated to go out of my way to help strangers over the internet, so I generally avoid all videogames that are designed such that my success depends on a stranger going out of their way to help me. I wouldn't be hooked on WoW if it were a game like that.

Spot on, Goblin.