Rambling About Motivation and What Makes a Good Story November 2, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, Guild Wars 2, MUDs, Rift, World of Warcraft.
Tags: No Real Point, Rambling Friday
Anybody can use public transport, darling!
-Edina Monsoon, Absolutely Fabulous
Warning: this post does not actually lead anywhere and may not actually make sense.
Freedom seems to be a theme since the launch of Guild Wars 2.
Freedom from ever having to find a group.
Freedom from ever having to find a mailbox.
Freedom from ever having to stand still while casting a spell.
Freedom from much of the baggage of past MMOs, like subscriptions and the holy trinity and levels that get more difficult as you progress.
Not that this freedom drive is anything new.
At one point World of Warcraft, which now represents the status quo from which we are being freed, was once the harbinger of freedom.
It offered freedom from corpse runs and experience loss, freedom from having to find a group to advance your character at all past level 10 or so, freedom from fighting over who gets to run dungeon or raid content on a busy Saturday night, and freedom from simply grinding mobs for most of your leveling experience.
Not to mention freedom from relatively onerous system requirements.
Cutting this wall of text. You’ll see it all in RSS anyway.
Unless, of course, you wisely stopped at the cut.
And of course, EverQuest itself offered up its own vision of freedom in its day, freeing us from the text of its DikuMUD ancestors. Rather than descriptions and colorful text we had a 3D world full of monster and sound and music. West Karana wasn’t just a room with exits (-E -W), or a set of boxes on a crude map.
West Karana was a huge expanse where you could range at will, with hills and valleys and buildings and monsters wandering hither and yon.
How far we have come in the last 21 years. (DikuMUD launch in 1991 to GW2 launch in 2012.)
Even DikuMUD offered some freedoms. Unlike similar code bases, it came with content ready to run out of the box. And, of course, it did not cost any money to play unlike games on GEnie of CompuServe, the popular online services of the time.
And yet here we are in 2012 and I am mildly disappointed in Rift which appears to have gotten noticeably easier with patch 1.11, I am uninterested in World of Warcraft in the post-Cataclysm era, and I feel absolutely no desire to play Guild Wars 2. I must hate freedom.
My peak MMORPG enjoyment over the last month seems to be mostly from a 2006 version of WoW on a private (or, if you prefer, pirate) server, which serves up content from back when WoW was easy only relative to EQ.
Tesh and Rowan wrote about the motivation of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Tesh said he favored intrinsic rewards and pointed to how he likes Minecraft because it just lets him go do stuff. Which, oddly enough, is the exact reason I do not like Minecraft. Aside from survival mode, the game bores me. And survival mode became a chore once I figured out how to survive.
I am clearly extrinsically motivated when it comes to games. I like to have a goal in a game, to work towards that goal, and to eventually accomplish that goal… or fail gloriously.
I kid myself that I am an explorer, that I like to see what is over the next hill. I certainly always go and look. But I am clearly further into the achiever quadrant. I go look over that hill because I want to know I have seen that bit of the map.
And I like achievements. I love achievements. WoW introduced achievements just before the launch of Wrath of the Lich King, and I have managed to capture in a screen shot almost every achievement I have earned since then. But even before that, I was already creating my own achievements. You will see in every pre-achievement instance group post on the blog, a screen shot of the group standing by the corpse of the final boss in an instance. So it was perhaps fitting that my last act in WoW was to get an achievement.
So achievements are a big draw. But are they a motivator?
I certainly won’t go out and run after achievements that I do not think are fun. I am pretty self-regulating when it comes to fun. I will do things that I say aloud are not fun, and I simply cannot bring myself to log on and do things that I tell myself are fun when they are not. It is like I cannot be trusted to say what is fun and what is not at a conscious level. But my behavior doesn’t lie. If I won’t log on to do it, it isn’t fun at some level within me. But if I do log on to do something, it must fun, even if it is at some deeper level my conscious mind cannot really grasp.
You can trot out the cognitive dissonance argument like Jester, but I don’t think things are that simple all the time. I am notoriously lazy, so it is generally easy to spot the things I am kidding myself about by observing my own behavior. I talked up Star Trek Online, for example, but couldn’t bring myself to log into the game long before I could admit I wasn’t having fun.
Likewise in LOTRO, I seem to consistently run out of steam in the game somewhere between the Forsaken Inn and Rivendell. Yet at a conscious level I want to play the game.
About a year ago I wrote up a bit of history around our regular group and LOTRO. It pretty much comes to an end around level 30 time and again. I have actually made it to Moria with one character, but stopped playing at level 52. Draw your own conclusions.
Then there is what makes for a good story. That is, quite frankly, one of my requirements for an MMORPG, though it is hard to quantify what makes that happen. And the good stories are often the ones that involve not having anything that can be remotely defended as fun.
For example, I went on several structure shoots in EVE Online last month. Structure shoots are, objectively, not fun. I stopped writing about them in general unless they represent significant milestones in a war. Unless, of course, something fun happens, like we decide to moon the bad guys in their home system, get caught with our pants down, and have to run for our home as fast as we can. That, too, is objectively not fun. But it is funny and makes the story worth telling to my mind.
Likewise, overcoming the petty trials that used to face us in WoW… basically being able to relive the past… seems more interesting to write about than, say, 99% of my battles in World of Tanks. I think I have mentioned two battles in posts total. And it is certainly more interesting (to me) than my solo quests or instant adventures in Rift.
As this blog will attest, I have a lot of stories that focus on the past and times when things were more difficult. There is a series posts about TorilMUD, the direct predecessor to EQ. I will go on ad nauseum about EverQuest of old and the Fippy Darkpaw server and trying to relive the past, while telling tales from the old days.
Basically, it seems to me that when we face constraints, when we face difficulties, when things go wrong, when we face failure and hardship, those are the times that also generate the memories and the stories, those are the bonding experiences that become the touch points, the guide posts that create the continuity of the story of a given game.
An oyster that is not irritated does not produce a pearl.
As we sat in our fleet the other night, with TiDi at 10% so everything was slowed to a crawl and the UI started bugging up as the client balked at being told to slow down at one end and speed up at the other, in what was objectively a low ebb for fun, where we were just waiting on the game, that was where the stories start to come up about how bad things have been in the past. The jokes start to get told. The witty observations become sustenance rather than a distraction on coms.
Watch this video I made of a fleet stuck in TiDi trying to get to a battle. That, in my experience of such situations, is pretty standard. It becomes a shared experience. A bonding experience rather than something that pushes us away from the game. I haven’t heard anybody rage quitting over TiDi, though I haven’t been out searching for such people either.
Which makes me wonder what all this new found freedom really buys us.
Of course, I’m not ready to go back to MUDs. And perhaps not everybody is as interested in their gaming experience generating stories and memories.
Some people just want to have fun.
How about you? Where does your motivation lie?