Greedy Goblin

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gamers hate gamers

The phenomena is well known: those who play differently meet despise and contempt. Those who play more than you are no lifers. Those who play less than you are slackers. Those who play a PvP game are agressive kids. Those who play a PvE game are carebears. And of course no one but you (and maybe others like you) deserve loot.

Tobold gave an explanation for this: "There is a competition over a limited resource, developer time. None of us have $50 million+ of spare change to hire a team of developers to create our personal dream game. But we all do want a maximum number of games that cater directly to our personal preferences. And because we feel unable to move a billion-dollar market with our $15-a-month contribution, we try to influence the market by arguing for what we like, and against what we dislike."

I hesitated for long time how to tag this post. It could be analysis because I can prove that this explanation is wrong. However my explanation is also an idea and cannot be mathematically proven (it's much easier to disprove something than prove). So it became a philosophy post.

Developer time is not the limiting resource of game creation. It would only be true if beginner programmers would make $200000 and still there would be job openings everywhere as there would be much more game company than programmers available.

This is not the case. The limited resource of game creation is money. If I had $100M, I could make the game I want in a year. Since the money comes from the players, the limiting resource is the player. It would make sense for players to advertise their dream game to collect more wannabe-players, so someone invest money for this income.

Since 90% of the costs of a computer program are fixed and do not depend on player number, if a game already made, it won't be shut down as long as it creates more income than its running costs. So denouncing other games to remove its players is hopeless.

On the top of that I have no chance to drive the money of another player to my game. If my whining would somehow ban first person shooter games, the increase of WoW players would be minimal. The FPS players want FPS, not WoW. I cannot get their money (unless I make an FPS). So whining other games to death would not make my favorite game more funded.

To understand why the hate is, we must explain a different "strange phenomena": Blizzard already made the current WoW, it would be extremely easy to make mods to WoW that could fit many players:
  • The simplest modification: give +20% damage and healing to all players and you get "easy WoW". No more "Blizzard makes content only for 5%". M&S happily pays $15
  • give -20% damage and healing and you get hard mode WoW. No more "No challenge in this game", HC raiders happily pay $15
  • FreeRealms-WoW: Raids, and heroics removed there is just questing, fishing and 5 mans. You can buy raid epics via microtransactions
  • HC-raiding WoW: No PvP, characters start at lvl 80 in ilvl 190-200 blues. Time spent in raids is limited to disallow no-life marathons, creating even field. Official raiding topcharts.
  • HC-PvP-WoW: No raids, no flying, every town inkeeper is a raid boss, if you kill him the town is burning for a week, the opposing faction cannot fly, repair, rest there, so the zone is practically yours to farm. You can loot every non-soulbound items from enemy players.
  • Quest-WoW: No raids, XP needed to level increased by 250%, toplist for highest level players, you can play only 1.5 hours/day to create an even field.
  • Business-WoW: nothing is soulbound, daily quests are limited to 5/day. Toplist for highest money.
  • Evolving-PvE-WoW: the monsters of a region start with a strong buff, as the players kill them their faction slowly lose power. No towns, players build them by gathering resources. Alliance and Horde are friendly, can use each other's towns. The point is to capture the lands from monsters. Competition is between servers, player number/server is limited.
These (and countless more) WoW-mods could cover most of the flavors, giving every MMO-player their dream game for very low developer costs, as they all share models, spell mechanics, game engine, map. Why Blizzard misses on these great opportunities?

Because they know why the hate is. It is very well connected to why they pay for cheating? Most players are socials therefore the "social status" or "other people's opinion" matters them very much. If the game was single player with NPC raidmembers to do Ulduar, the number of gamers would fall to its small fragment. No single player game ever was player for 4 years constantly. It's not the content that keeps players playing (and paying) but the social relations. They grind and raid and cheat to look better in the eyes of their peers.

Obviously it can only work if the "proper way of competition" is set. If you have 2200 arena rating, you don't get the respect of those who never PvP-d. This is a serious threat to the self-image of the "I'm the king of PvP", as it implies that "PvP is irrelevant, therefore being king of it is just silly". So the PvP-er devalues the whole non-PvP-er community, considering them lowly, therefore their opinion irrelevant.

Have you ever seen players of single-player or LAN-only games to express such hate? Have you heard Counter-strike gamers write rants about "solitaire sucks and its players are n00bs"? No, they simply ignore each other, as there is no community, so no social effects are involved. They really play for the game content and fun.

The fact is that playing a video game (or football, or owning a Ferrari) does not increase your "value" and will not get you respect from the average people. You can get the respect of other video gamers (football players, car-fans) but that's only a tiny minority. Since social people want respect, they set up nonsense rules that anyone outside their tiny minority is "loser".

Those who play games differently, or play different games are not in your tiny minority. So if you are social, you feel urge to devalue and contempt them. The hate is simply saying "they play the wrong game (or play the game wrong way), so their achievements are stupid, their opinion is irrelevant".

While Blizzard could cover the whole MMO palette with WoW mods, they would lose subscribers because of it in the long run as the countless mods would say "we don't consider your playstyle special, so no matter how good you are in that, we still won't respect you, you are just another guy paying his $15". The playerbase of one mod would also be lower, therefore people could not expect the respect of a large community, as there would be no large community.

So: lot of players play for peer respect, not their own experience. They do mindless grind or even pay to cheat to get ahead of their peers. Those who refuse to compete with them, playing other ways or games are devalued as "losers". Companies must upkeep the illusion that they consider the player's playstyle unique, special and respectable and avoid openly cater different playstyles.


Yaggle said...

I think a lot of the reason Wow has been such a runaway success, so much more than any other MMOs, is that once it started to get popular, people realized it was the only video game out there that could bring you a measurable amount of respect from the real world. Not a lot, but, because it is so well-known, a little bit. It's the only game that you could state your achievements in a room full of people and maybe a few percent would be impressed and maybe 10 or 20 percent would have any idea what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

@Yaggle. You can do this if you were a kid.

Anonymous said...

I think you are both right.

Gevlon is right that there is social interaction going on. Why do Spurs fans hate Lakers fans so much. Red Sox hating Yakees? Why all the hate between seemingly pointless sports and entertainment activities that involve socializing? I don't know personally, but I do know this isn't limited to MMO hate and can be seen in other activities involving intense socialization. Someone is doing something differently from you or associates themselves differently (Guild vs Guild or Sports team vs Sports team ring a bell?) and it causes tensions to rise.

Tobolds is right that there is a limited resource being competed over. To say that money is the limiting resource is partly right for games as a whole. But when I'm trying to make a game I already enjoy better, I'm not going to abandon it to raise funds for my dream game, instead I'm going to vie for developer attention to get my agenda pushed. Veteran of Everquest 1 forums know full well of the competition I speak of (Raiders/raiding vs Groupers/grouping).

Take out the socialization or the on-going development and there isn't much I can complain about. There aren't any "rivals" for me to get mad at. Also, a finished product is finished; I can't get the content changed or the content direction changed. Thus you have a single player games.

Alfay said...

A few observations:

More money does not guarantee a better game. Due to increased complexity you will see diminishing returns. And the bigger a software project is, the greater the chance of a complete failure gets.

Which leads us to your proposed mods. Thats not going to happen in WoW. Even if the the game was was designed from the start with these mods in mind (which it probably was not), you would run into huge version control/consistency issues. So again, a huge increase in complexity (and therefore cost) for a chance to make a bit more money.

IMO, WoW already suffers from trying to do too much at once. There's solo play, 5mans, raids, open pvp and BGs to start with. Then they tried to get into eSports an created arenas, which significantly increased the balancing issues. Then they added the DK and despite their attempts at simplifying things (raid buffs, making shamans/palas available for both horde/alliance etc.) the buff-nerf cycle has grown more pronounced.

The fact that you ignore all this and even say 'it would be easy to do', before you start on your favorite topic again shows how much of a 'single issue blogger' you have become.

DarkKnight said...

I totally don't agree with you.
I would think that making servers/realms for a single 'mod' would significantly lower the balance/complexity for Blizzard. Simply because you would only have to tune it for one aspect of the game.
You yourself already stated that WoW currently is (too) complex for Blizzard
So I don't understand how you can conclude that making different mods for WoW and totally separating all aspects of the game would make it too complex.
I would definitely say that complexity would go down.

ps. Personally I would love to see arenas and maybe even battlegrounds removed separated from pve content, just to make it easier on Blizzard to balance everything. But I guess that will probably never happen :).

DarkKnight said...

Argghh: That "removed" in my ps should be... removed. :).

Alfay said...

Yes, a divide between PvE/PvE would be nice.

The different mods would still share the same core game. That's the main problem from the technical side.

Balancing classes etc. would be easier on each mod, but you would have more mods to balance.

And you still have only limited resources to do all this. This is where Gevlon has a point - every mod would have fans who are jealous of all the attention the other mods get from the developers, creating lots of opportunities for bad PR.

On the technical side, I expect lots of improvement during the next years. One day there will be generic MMO engines that can be customized to fit various content. Developing each MMO from scratch is just too expensive.

But in the current situation these technical issues are still an important factor and ignoring them distorts the discussion.

Terumi said...

I don`t think this is the right approach. There is nothing to do whit social studies, player base.
Its all about engineering. It`s that simple.

Blizzard did not make WoW easy, by remaking Naxx, and make Malygos the end boss in those patches just because they wanted players to experience Naxx, in the same method it was needed to be played years and years ago .

The technology permitted to sustain all those servers online, and all those players online.

Blizzard did not make WoW hard mode back in the days just because it wanted to be just for the hardcore, experience people.

It did that just because the hardware, the internet connections of player base, the level of knownlage of the game was limited then.

But people like drama. They need something to fill their spare time. And make petions to upgrade hardware, so they wont need to take turns to kill Malygos...etc.

Another example is: all players that think about themselves as stars, brains, pro-wowgamers. QQ about noobs whit epics. They QQ because epics are easier to get now. Blaming Blizzard that is trowing epics at players. And in the same time they state that a mount, a title means nothing to them, because they are just pixels. Then say that they don`t get emotional, they have a cool head, and only skill matter.

If tomorrow, all players get ingame mail whit a Spectral Tiger, I won`t QQ. I don`t mind if every player in the game has a Zulian Tiger.

The direction the majority draws is a wrong one, there should not be discussion about player base, difficulty level, but discussion about ideas to make the game more fun, ideas about new instances etc..

I linked at my last comment one episode from South Park, maybe that was the inspiration for the Somalian Pirates. Now if anyone is interested check the next link, about insights on poverty from TED talk:

Yzy said...

Going from a few rant posts to saying a significant amount of ppl play wow to "earn" and keep their "peers" respect is a big leap IMO. Any population sampling made from forums alone is highly skewed IMO, it's like going to an oil platform and asking about global warming...

ZachPruckowski said...

I think that a partial solution is to re-center things toward guild achievements. In the imaginary "Zach's perfect MMO" I'm designing in my mind, your guild/clan would be getting some "credit" for your raid adventures, your buddy's PvP exploits, your goblin's "greed", and even the M&S's questing in some way. If everyone can contribute to the guild regardless of what they enjoy doing (or are good at), then everyone can feel a sense of contribution and pride. As a "casual PvEer" (quests & 5-mans mostly), I needn't feel "in competition" with the "hardcore raiders", because we're both actually working towards the same goal (our guild's advancement*) in different ways. Similarly, as a PvPer, I would be discouraged from hating on PvE, because it indirectly helps me and our joint guild*.

* - still haven't figured out what form this takes.

Narkondas said...

Guild achievements FTW!

That said: Gevlon's point is valid - most people compare themselves to their "flock" - the people they associate with. Where there are social contact - blame will be placed. (And praise as well)

As a social animal we naturally share our heroes and villains with our "group".

Reg. "mods of wow" - I don't think any of us really want it that way - at least all of the people I know do several of the things mentioned - and hence would have to have seperate chars on seperate realm-types - effectively seperating us from our group. (Our guilds would fragment)

Some to come back full circle - I think ZacharyPruckowski has a very good point - if guilds were motivated to play a part in all aspects of the game - each member could do what they preferred to do - and everyone could benefit.
I'm still wondering why /I/ have to prove myself to every single faction out there (rep grind) - when "my group" has already done so.

Obviously having rep-rewards be available to everyone in a guild once the guild have reached a certain rep-level would lead to a new kind of boosting - "Join our rep-maxed guild for 10 hours so you can buy your epics - only 100G"... But there are ways to make this work as well (give a reputation hit for every player that joins, and have players that leave tak a bit of the rep gained with them. The leaving player could then take this rep to their next guild, lessining or even inverting the "new player joined" hit)
Would there still be a business of letting people join your guild to buy epics, and then leave? Probably - but there would be work involved in maintaining your rep if you did so.

I remember EQ2 having something along these lines (guild based reputation) - and it tightened the guild relationships, giving purpose to guilds - besides raiding achievements.

Unknown said...

One of the key drivers for WoW's success is socialisation

It has been said that WoW is a chat client with a 3D game world front end. That's not far from the truth

In a social milleu we can expect rivalries, friendships, and everything in between.

Introducing an opposing faction that you cannot interact with (except in a limited way) reinforces same faction player interaction.

Hostile NPCs and quests also bring people together with shared goals and after completion shared experiences.

In addition these things provide something to talk about after doing them. Something to do when not talking.

I think if they continue to get the balance right between providing a fantasy social milieu and things to do within it, it will continue to be successful.

Like earlier generations played bridge perhaps but with dungeons and dragons.

Pike said...

@ The First Anonymous -

I dunno, pretty much everyone at the last two jobs I have worked at play WoW. At my current job, two of my managers do and they have frequently stopped me to chat to me about how to improve their WoW game. On the clock. =P

Now granted that's not the reason WHY I play WoW, but "It's the only game that you could state your achievements in a room full of people and maybe a few percent would be impressed" as was stated by Yaggle is a correct fact in my experience. =P

Russ said...

"If I had $100M, I could make the game I want in a year."

As someone in the industry, making games myself, i have to say that you'd be very hard pushed to make that come true. _Good_ games take a little time to "brew", with regular re-iteration and thought exploration.

"the perfect game" for someone may turn into a massive, sprawling idea, fluffy at the edges, especially if they're not a game designer themselves.

What i mean is, well, short timespans mean more people working on an idea, which leads to "too many cooks spoiling the broth". Squishing a massive idea into a short timespan requires very, very strong concepts that work from the start. You'd be amazed how many games get massive changes a few months before completion.

Just look at PVP balance in WOW - a constant cycle of "idea, change, implement, feedback" that never seems to be perfect. That's just what happens in game design.

So, well, just wanted to say, its not as easy as it sounds ;)

ZachPruckowski said...

The real problem with a "mods" solution is that most people fall into multiple categories. I enjoy questing and doing 5-mans, but that doesn't stop me from hitting up Arathi Basin from time to time. I know plenty of raiders who enjoy the "diversion" of Wintergrasp - getting a quick taste of PvP in but still don't like the whole PvP buffet. You (Gevlon) are first and foremost a business-goblin, but you still enjoy raiding. I'd jump to "evolving PvE" in a second, but I'd still miss my 5-mans.

Then there's the friend issue. Suppose I'm a PvEer, but my friends are PvP-fiends. Under the "mod" system, I can't even play on the same server as them. As it is now, we at least have guild-chat or a server-wide channel. We can run dailies together or fill in for each other (in their pre-made or my 5-man) in a pinch.

And the game-play modes are also interconnected. Good luck on a goblin server where no-one is running about gathering while questing or grinding elementals. Raiding Ulduar is greatly enhanced by its tie-ins to the questing (you do some quests for various Watchers and their buddies) and 5-mans (Loken plays a role in the Algalon story and Old Kingdom ties into Yogg-Saron well). Many of the quests lead into dungeon or raid storylines. Two of the best questlines in vanilla WoW involved the Onyxia raid (getting the key for it, and then exposing Prestor). The Hand of Gul'dan questline leads into the "Trial of the Naaru" questline, which leads into Tempest Keep.

And all that is before we get to the content issue - the 800lb gorilla in the room. One of the things that makes 4-6 months between patches bearable is the fact that there's always something else to do. When I'm farming Algalon, I can go play the market or do achievements or hit up BGs. When I have my top Arena standing in the bag for this season, I can go max out my Argent Tourney rep. If all there is to do on the "80 HC Raid" realms is run Ulduar, people will either play less per week, or take more vacations. Once you hit the gold cap on the "goblin businessman" realms, what're you going to do?

Note: I sometimes use "I" in the hypothetical "in this guy's shoes" sense. This and other posts might seem contradictory if you don't recognize this. For instance, I'll likely never see Algalon or get above 1200 in arenas.

Russ said...

However, if you're talking about something simpler, like programming a database system or whatever, you'd easily churn out a perfect project just by segmenting it and giving more people chunks.

Where games are different is in the intangible - differing opinions and ideas, and just making things fun!

Anonymous said...

Gevlon Said, "The fact is that playing a video game (or football, or owning a Ferrari) does not increase your "value" and will not get you respect from the average people. You can get the respect of other video gamers (football players, car-fans) but that's only a tiny minority. Since social people want respect, they set up nonsense rules that anyone outside their tiny minority is "loser"."

You mean sorta like who everyone who doesn't play the AH like you and make money like you is a moron or slacker? Like how you set up nonsense rules that anyone outside your tiny gold obsessed minority is a M+S?

Your post is most likely completely correct and spot on... you just neglect to say how it applies to you as well as to everyone else. Whether or not you want to admit it, Gevlon, you are a social creature too. The fact that you have a blog to show off your gold making skills and to try to convince others of you way of thinking proves this.

ZachPruckowski said...

Russ is right - making games is a lot more complex than "throw money at it". That's not to say that building an MMO doesn't cost tens of millions (it does), but that money isn't the only factor. All creative endeavors have bottlenecks in communication (getting everyone on the same page) and creativity (you can neither rush nor parallelize creativity).

Narkondas - I don't think a "guild rep replaces personal rep" mechanic works. My basic idea would be that you have a "knock-on" effect on your guild (so if I get 250 Hodir rep, my guild gets 25), and your rep is enhanced by your guild rep (if my guild is exalted, I start out at honored instead of neutral). If I quit the guild, the guild loses the benefit of some of the rep I gained them (so if I'm exalted, it may ding them 500 rep points*), but I also lose the buffer the guild gave me. In this way, I still have to grind Kirin Tor or Wrymrest a bit, but I cut a lot out of it.

Another idea on these lines might involve decaying rep. Maybe your rep gains have a half-life, or maybe there's a x%/week decay. Maybe this rep-decay only occurs after X weeks of not gaining rep with them. A "what have you done for me lately" effect. Ignore the Kirin Tor for a month or two, and you lose your Exalted status (dropping to 20k/21k Revered). The idea being that all your lowbies and alts running Kirin Tor still help you by arresting or counter-acting your rep loss.

I need my own blog...

* - I'd extend the "exalted buffer" from 1000 rep over exalted to something higher, so that incidental rep keeps building to prevent "rep capping" being an issue.

Unknown said...

I can only agree with half of this post. It isn't the socials who hate other games/gamers, but the 'hardcores'. The average social player, who logs in to play with friends, does not care about other playstyles because he dabbles in them all. Most players raid (but haven't cleared Ulduar/done any hard modes), do battlegrounds (but only a few a week), do dailies (but usually only a few, not the full 25/day allowed), level alts (but aren't trying to have an 80 of every class), and even boost their friends through instances (but only every now and then).

Only the hardcore raiders and pvpers, harbor any sort of animosity towards the other side. As for why that animosity exists, I think you hit the nail on the head: status and an attempt to delude themselves into thinking that their accomplishments are something admirable that everyone should respect.

As for animosity directed at players of other games, I just don't see it in WoW. The social players of WoW do not hate the players of other games. If I make a passing reference to Eve Online (~300k players) in trade chat, no one will say anything about it. If I make a passing reference to WoW in one of the general chat channels of Eve Online, the channel will explode with WoW-hate. I don't think this has anything at all to do with status and respect. Instead, it is just the "Us vs Them" tribal mentality we inherited from our 'ape-horde' ancestors combined with the ego-boosting appeal of belonging to an elite minority. Also, there might be some nerd-rage pent up as a result of their preferred (and, in their eyes, superior) game having far fewer subscribers. After all, if their game is better, why isn't everyone playing it? Ask a Linux enthusiast how he feels about Microsoft and you'll see the same phenomenon with an even more volatile reaction

Wiggin said...

I enjoyed your opening to this latest entry, reminded me perfectly of George Carlin's thoughts on driving:

"Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?"

I think you were on the right track with your discussion of the "socials." These players need recognition from fellow players, by definition. However some more than others.

Yet another contributing factor must also be considered: validation. This potentially goes beyond the "socials" and encompass a wider range of players. People need validation to show that their time spent was not wasted. Inherently, these players are also self-conscious, reacting positively or negatively depending on how others perceive their actions.

To be told one wasted their time achieving anything - be it the latest tier or armor, achievement, rank, etc, they will be put onto the defensive. Because of this, they respond just as you said, by returning the favor and attacker the attacker's achievements or preference of game play experience.

This reaction is ultimately hinged on the fact these players are too insecure to not care what others think about their accomplishments.

People want to attack others much like the bully attacks the kid in the school-yard, to gain a false sense of confidence in ones self. This layer of confidence is however weak for most players, which is why so many seem to be in conflict with so many, so often. It is a constant sway of balance between self assurance and self doubt, or whether my time was spent on a worthy cause, particularly because there is no physical benefit of the action, only pixels.

Wiggin said...

@anonymous #3 - great point, while I respect Gevlon for his many accomplishments and his efforts to be public figure for the wow community, I do wish he could be a bit more introspective.

Dink said...

There has been many calls in the WoW forums for a return to Vanilla WoW or make a vanilla WoW mod available.

All the blue responses from developers and community managers have been in the sense of only moving forward and not separating out any different WoW flavors. I think Ghostcrawler, one of the current lead designers of WoW says it would be VERY difficult and costly to seperate out any mod like a pvp vs pve one or a level 60 only server. QA issues alone make it a "for sure not happening."

Blizzard will publish WoW2 or Blizzard MMO #2 before any WoW mod appears.

Zanathos said...

@ Dink

A good point to bring up. Presumably the easiest type of alternative server to offer would be a classic server. All the work has been done for them already, all they'd need to do is freeze the server at a certain patch and keep it in stasis. But even this is not considered a profitable undertaking by blizzard. The issues according to blizzard are largely technical. Even with classic servers not getting development patches, maintaining two separate versions is considered too big of a drawback. Mind you, this is a server type that's constantly requested in the general forums, and was "seriously considered" in the words of one community moderator. If there's not enough demand to justify the expense and headache of running classic servers alongside contemporary ones, the list of proposed WoW versions in this post has no chance.

Another one that comes up a lot is Free-For-All realms, which are turned down every time because of the large amount of extra work modifying the ruleset would entail.

Calling these proposed alternatives rulesets "mods" is a bit misleading. Mods are all relatively simple programs that don't actually change gameplay, they largely change how existing information is processed by the user. Having "mods" that radically change gameplay would be a much larger affair that one that displays all your bags as one big bag.

Finally, the idea that you can just keep adding programmers to a project to speed it up doesn't seem to be borne out too often in the real world. This is one of those "nine women can't make a baby in one month" situations.

Unknown said...

The idea that no single player game has lasted 4 years is simply ludicrous. I can name a bunch off the top of my head, just ones that i know personally are still played. X-com, fallout, Master of orion2, Half-life (single player). The sims. There are tons.