When the distraction becomes the game

This is a really good comment on grinding:

The problem starts if the game offers some different content mini games like pet battles or raiding. Then people who are only interested in pet battles, or raiding, start to complain that they cannot play their mini game without playing the real game.

I think the problem came with the concept of the “end-game content” in level-based MMOs, most visibly in WoW. This content is available for max level, properly geared players. This content is often competitive and group-based, opposed to the laid-back single player leveling.

This isn’t a problem on its own, the problem is that there are two completely different games under the guise of the same title. The goal was to give a reason for those who completed the leveling content to stay. The result was the rise of a class of endgame players who like the endgame and doesn’t like the leveling game. As a result, these players demanded that leveling becomes faster, especially of alts that they see not as variety of content but as tools for raiding.

The dev now has to cut into the original core game in order to cater to the players who like the distraction that was thrown on the game. This is a vicious cycle. The more you cater to endgame players (no matter what the endgame is), the more such players you get and the less original players stay, making the demands louder.

Blizzard made a mistake adding raids and hard dungeons to WoW. Instead, they should have published a separate title “Champions of Warcraft” which uses WoW mechanics, WoW graphics, but has no levels and players start with basic dungeon gear. They could also release a third title “Warriors of Warcraft” which features battlegrounds, arenas and other PvP content, with everyone equipped with the same gear, fighting for ratings. Those who don’t like the leveling but like raiding or PvP can jump on it instantly. Those who like leveling can do it forever. Please consider how much content WoW has. If someone turns 12 today and dad gives him the game he played when he was a single college guy, he could play all the Vanilla, BC, WotLK, Pandaria, Draenor and Legion content. This is great content, don’t even try to deny that you have fond memories of locations or quests! Except… he cannot because the mobs turn grey after 1/4 of the zone and everything can be oneshotted, making the experience boring. With World of Warcraft a separate title, it could be done on normal speed, making it sure that one can do all the quests + local dungeons with them remaining level-appropriate and the mobs need some skill to defeat and definitely need skill to defeat fast.

The “end-game” was a mistake. Leveling MMOs should have an end with a “freeze your subscription and come back without losing a cent when we have new content”. For those who like the end-game there should be sister-titles that are easy to develop (well, easier than developing everything into one title).

Advertisements

Go figure, feature creep is bad, even outside of video games

Bloomberg ran a less then nice article about electric car maker Tesla. The short version: they have terrible losses every year, they are swimming in debt and their productivity (income per worker) is a joke. Unless they get new investors by the end of the year, they are bankrupt.

I’m sure the analysts will write essays for the reason, but it’s obvious to me: feature creep. All gamers know the situation when a game is added more and more features while the core game is not working properly and unbalanced and the whole thing is a mess. Only noob devs and Star Citizen level scammers do that nowadays. Anyone better than that makes the game working.

Elon Musk is a visionary. Having visions is called delusion. The guy clearly doesn’t belong to where he is any more than Elizabeth Holmes does. He drives Tesla into feature creep that cannot end any other way than the obvious.

Tesla is an electric car. Period. That’s the product. A car that runs on batteries. That’s it. Everything else is not Tesla, it’s ingredient that he should buy on the market. It’s obvious that Tesla doesn’t make toilet paper used in the company bathroom. But it’s equally obvious that Tesla shouldn’t work on self-driving cars or fully automated car factories or touchscreen drive console or any other crazy nonsense Musk introduces.

Not because these are bad ideas, but because they are not the product any more than the toilet paper in the offices. Someone else who specializes in that should make a self-driving system and if it proved itself, Tesla should license it and include it to their cars, just like any other car manufacturer. Self-driving has nothing to do with the power system of the car, it can be added to a petrol car just as well as an electric. Hell, you could add it to the feet-powered cars of the Flintstones. Same for the touchscreen or the manufacturing automation. If they work, they should buy them from the market. If they don’t work, he shouldn’t bother with them, because it’s not his damn job. His job is to make electric cars. Something he fails to do, producing 7%!!! of the cars he planned, due to the “synergy” of unfinished technologies. Making a good electric car is hard enough, no point making it harder by adding an infant self-driving computer and a bunch of robots that haven’t been used even in much simpler petrol cars.

I hope he won’t get investor money (good luck with that with B3 risk class papers), or only gets it on the condition of him stepping down from management. All the feature creep should be thrown out and all focus should be on making electric cars.

By the way he collected $1B from future buyers as pre-payment for cars he didn’t built and with the current rate won’t build over a decade. Maybe we should check if he is really a guy and not just Chris Roberts with a good mask.

I won’t post my in-game food

Almost a year ago I wrote that many bloggers post their random adventures in a game, which has the problem that everyone else has similar adventures. I compared it to the repulsive habit of some people of posting their food pictures on social media.

I have this problem now. I’m playing World of Warships. I’m not even bad at it. But nothing exceptional, even in the good games. I mean “I outplayed 3 noobs and sank them all by myself” is not interesting to anyone, even if I assume that the game itself is interesting. What can you gain from this? That bad players just can’t stop chasing a destroyer despite they saw the other idiot exploding by its torpedoes? I doubt if you’re surprised. This is no way unique or otherwise worthy of attention of anyone. I’m playing a video game as intended. That’s the most cliche thing a gamer can do.

All my successful posts were about playing a game as not intended by the devs or at least not as it’s played by the masses. Like raiding in blue gear. Waging war on a 40K nullsec coalition in highsec, then by hunting ratters. Getting super rich in an mobgrinding MMO without killing mobs. Getting into top 100 out of a million FPS players without shooting players. And of course catching rigged games and corrupted devs.

I don’t have anything like that in World of Warships. No “secret winning strategy” that works by not better playing but innovative playing. Nothing I’ve done is worth reading about – short of a quick peek on some funny screenshot.

I like the game and keep playing it. It’s competitive, so I will surely find something. But if I cannot, if I’m limited to “just play the game”, then sooner or later I’ll abandon it for something that has blogging material in it. But for now, let’s hope for the best that some unique strategy will be found. Something that actually works not because of good play, but because of smart play.

Till then, I keep reflecting to other blogs, gaming news and try to cook up good ideas about games in general.

.

PS: Not so funny screenshot of an AFK-er and a bunch of morons who were too much to carry:
morons

Funny screenshot of outplayed morons (click to see):

Finally, lucky screenshot of lootbox (you get them for playing, not buying):
lucky

What is “grinding”?

All games have repeatable play. Counterstrike players play on the same dozen map with the same team sizes again and again. Most League of Legends games take place in the same one map. PUBG has 3 maps, Fortnite BR has one. Players play it again and again. After all, they are called “the same game”, what the hell did you expect?!

On the other hand players tend to constantly whine about “the grind” in MMOs. In MMOs you usually gain rewards by killing mobs and doing quests. This is the game, period, if you don’t like it, don’t play it, similarly as if you don’t like games determined by who can headshot faster (the aimbotter), don’t play Counterstrike. Not like WoW made it a secret that it’s about killing mobs, your first task was a bunch of kobolds in a mine, then wolves, then bandits and so on. If you didn’t quit after an hour, that kind of indicates that you like this gameplay.

Then why do people cry about grinding, instead of just calling it “playing the game”? Because they don’t like playing the game. They play because their real or imaginary friends play it. They want rewards to gain imaginary social status in an imaginary world front of imaginary friends. In short: because they are morons.

They say that “we are forced to do repetitions” which is wrong on two levels: devs can’t add meaningful variety without changing the game. The mobs to kill are mobs. Them having kobold skin and having 10 HP against your 1 HP swing is not meaningfully different from having abyssal demon skin and 10M HP against your 1M HP swing. Ergo, adding more content is a myth. Especially when most people just click off the flavor text of the quests. The lore of WoW is a nonsense already with multiple timelines coexisting.

So what should devs do about players who whine about “the grind”? Ignore them! They don’t like the gameplay and want less of it, while expecting the rewards. Giving them takes away gameplay from everyone else too. If you got the reward, there is no character progression from doing the content, so the content is not done. Not many top level characters kill wolves in Elwyn, not because that content is bad, but because its rewards are not needed. Same for any content. If you give out all the rewards on day 1, no one will play on day 2.

Any attempt to bypass “the grind” is an attempt to cater to players who don’t like the game. It’s objectively worse than nerfing, as that caters to players who just suck in the game, but wish to play it. The “grind-whiners” don’t. They wish to be with their imaginary internet friends, but if there is nothing to do in the game, they won’t be there at the first place.

Finally we must address what’s the point in killing 100K power appropriate, graphically various mobs? Well, what’s the point in headshotting noobs in counterstrike? What’s the point in getting into the circle in PUBG? What’s the point in running all four bases in baseball? What’s the point running the Marathon?

These are games. Forms of entertainment and competition. Running faster than the other Marathon runner is the same as killing mobs faster. A game, a test of certain skillset. They are fine forms of spending free time. Those who don’t like them are free to do so. But their opinion should be ignored and developers should focus on those who actually pay to play.

Numbers, carriers, destroyers

As I mentioned several times, I played World of Warships with carriers, because I liked the strategic view instead of the aim and shoot play of battleships. But after the manual aim feature arrived at Tier 6, I started to dislike the gameplay, it was way too APM-based instead of thinking based. Especially the Japanese carriers. They have twice as many small squads instead of the few large squads of the USA carriers. Many squads means many clicks, something I neither can do well, nor like. But hey, the results matter, not fun. Well, the results didn’t come either:

carriers

In every tier, my Japanese carriers had lower winrate and got less XP per battle (which is the game telling how useful I was). If we look at the World data, we see two strange things. At first, I had higher XP with all my carriers than the average player even when my winrate was way below average. This can be either

  • matchmaker messing: I got rated high as a player, so my worse carriers got matched too high, so they lost even when they were above average
  • rewarding problem: the game rewards activities with XP and credits that doesn’t really contribute to wins, like blowing up deplaned carriers. This is a heated problem because in ranked games being the top XP player of the lost team means no rating loss and such players are usually not the ones who did the most for winning

It’s more interesting that my results are directly opposite of the results of the average player: I always did better with USA and they always did better with Japan. Probably because the average player is better on the APM front than on the thinking front. This gives the following probable projects: a USA carrier guide and poking around the matchmaker.

But for myself, what’s not working should not be pushed. I’m selling my Japanese carriers and retrain my captains for destroyers. Unfortunately I’ve already bought the T8 Japanese carrier, I’ll keep it until its captain is needed and play daily with her, despite her 30% winrate (stock + low APM + horrible luck). The plan is to have the T7, 8, 9, 10 of the mainline Japanese destroyers (there is a side-line up to T8 with lower speed and higher DPS). I’ll also have the T7-10 USA carriers. For now, that 8 ships will be more than enough.

The destroyer play clicked instantly. It’s also strategic, much more focused on thinking than quick aim (torpedoes have long travel time) and focus on hiding and running. For example on the game below the enemy killed 2x more ships than us, leaving only two tiny destroyers alive… in their cap zone:

outplay

What subscriptions rewards?

MMO Bro wrote that he wants subscriptions gone and listed reasons, mostly that subscription games purposefully elongate gameplay to prevent you from completing the content fast and force you to keep being subscribed. They also discourage you from playing another game. Every time you don’t play a game you subscribed for, you are wasting money.

He is right and I’ve never thought of it. Just as he points out, not only F2P influences game design, but also subscriptions. I just didn’t see it, because I simply accepted it as the norm. The fish doesn’t know that water exists.

However, these are exactly the things that make me prefer the subscription model. I want a game that prevents me from playing another game by sucking up my game time. I want it to suck up my game time forever. I want the game I can play forever. First I thought it’s WoW, but – after lots of patches – I had to realized that I’m very far from their new core audience. Then I thought it’s EVE, but the community manager told me in no uncertain terms that I’m not welcomed there. Since then I’m seeking and trying and finding nothing. Sad, but I won’t stop trying. I’ll find it

I don’t want to jump between games. I don’t want “fun”, I want a meaningful simulation, similarly as football is meaningful in the sense of people make a living of it and others fill stadiums to watch it.

To that, subscription is a good start. Those games expect me to stay around instead of getting my money and run like buy-to-play games or “go whale or go bust” F2P games.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t like grind. Grinding is the worst way to keep people playing, but even that is better than nothing. It means they want me to stay and want to develop content for that. Sometimes they fail and all they come up with grinds. But sometimes they create something good. Either way, I’m part of “the” game, instead of jumping from flower to flower without learning anything or even connecting with people (socials love that). The devs know that grinding sucks and try to improve it all the time. Today’s WoW quests are worlds apart from the 10 wolves of Elwyn. Sooner or later the procedural content generation will be good enough for infinite content and then staying in one game will not only be “good” but also “fun”.