Tanha, MMO Style

Tanha means thirst, desire, craving, wanting more, longing, or yearning. Tanha leads to unsatisfactoriness which arises when we did not get what we want. This lead to jealousy. Jealousy lead to hatred. Hatred lead to dispute. Inflicting suffering on fellow human being is the out come of tanha.

The Free Buddhist Encyclopedia Project

There seems to be a good deal of angst going around about fairness and accessibility to content.  Or to be more accurate, the rewards yielded by some content.  You know the drill, raiders vs. non-raiders.  Darren, Kendricke, Bildo, and Cameron have all been stirring the pot on this of late.  Of course, not wanting to be left out, I’ll put in my idea on the subject.

My outlook is rather simple.

If you are enjoying the game, why do you care what other people are doing?

Seriously.  Just enjoy the game.  Be happy.  Nobody “wins” these games.  There is no “zero sum” at play here, where somebody doing “better” than you detracts from you in any way. (Forget about PvP for the moment, PvP vs. Carebears is another subject.)

And if you are not enjoying the game, what makes you think a few pieces of gear will change that in any way? 

I can be the biggest goof when it comes to games.  I have been known to absolutely enrage fellow guild members by going off and doing things that are fun rather than concentrating on things that will improve my character.  I just want to enjoy myself.

Darren is certainly correct that everybody pays the same $15 a month for access to these games.  But that $15 is not the only cost of these games.  That is just the ante to get into the game.  The other cost, the major cost, is time.  Time has value, at least my time does.  Time is a scarce commodity.  The value of the time I spend playing MMOs dwarfs the $15 a month fee in my opinion.

Anybody can be a raider and see all the content and get all the goodies, they just have to want to invest the time.  For most of us, that is too expensive.  We make that choice conciously.  I would have to change jobs (and probably wives) in order to invest the kind of time which raiding requires.  I could do that, but I won’t.  That would be too much additional cost for me.

That being said, there are things that I see that aggravate the raider/non-raider rift. 

Blizzard spending two and a half years delivering content for raiders before an expansion came out for non-raiders certainly sticks in the craw.  WoW’s solo and small group paths are smooth and fun, but they are a bit thin compared to other games like EverQuest II.  Very early on the race you choose ends up merging paths with the rest of your Horde/Alliance compatriots.  And not too far after that, everybody ends up on the same ladder to level cap.  Interesting once, fun twice, but some zones do not really warrant that third visit in my opinion.  That got viewed as catering to a smaller, if more dedicated, group of players.

On the flip side, of course, I heard a lot of moaning about Echoes of Faydwer not having enough high end content.  SOE was taken to task by some raiders for wasting time adding new low and mid level content.  A similar set of complaints were made about the EverQuest expansion The Serpent’s Spine.  Why add more lower level content when the current zones in that range are practically empty already?

And so it goes.

No external solution will ever solve everybody’s objections.  No change to the game will satisfy everyone.  It is almost like real life.

So just enjoy the game.  And if you cannot enjoy the game as it is, then perhaps you should take it as a sign that you should find something else.  Why waste your valuable time with something that is not fun?

17 thoughts on “Tanha, MMO Style

  1. potshot

    Hmm. I’m pretty much go play, be happy whether I see raid content or not, but I’m not so sure that they are completely disconnected.

    I’m not sure that you can pretty much ignore and/or be insulated from the effects of such content on your own enjoyment.

    The main place where the raiders and the carebears interact is through the economy, so if fairly careful thought isn’t given to preserving balance in each sphere, there are potential ill effects that the raiders can visit upon the carebears.

    Here’s a simple example. If raiders continually score better and better loot (even if its BoP), they aren’t restricted from using that uber gear only in their uber world. They can take that stuff and go plunder “carebear” content and pump that in to the economy. Their uber gear may make farming carebear content trivial and ultimately devalue items, etc. that would be of interest to other “carebears.”

    For lazy casual folks like me, it makes stuff like earning enough money to buy a mount more difficult perhaps. It may also devalue rare drops (and the crafted items derived from them) too which may be my primary source of coin for the same reason.

    The only time it really becomes a pain is when the devs start “balancing” carebear content with the expectation that it can’t be “too easy” for folks who might be raiders to avoid all these effects. Of course, that’s where yours truly gets thrown under the bus, because “my” content just got dialed up in difficulty…

    More often than not, an MMO to me is more like paying for a ticket to an amusement park where all the rides are free. I might not want to ride the Vomitron or squirt water pistols into pigs mouths, but I generally don’t begrude those that do (and have to carry those giant stuffed animals around all day). I’ll just enjoy my corndog, thanks and get one of those Olde Tyme tintype photos.

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  2. kendricke

    “Darren is certainly correct that everybody pays the same $15 a month for access to these games. But that $15 is not the only cost of these games. That is just the ante to get into the game. The other cost, the major cost, is time. Time has value, at least my time does. Time is a scarce commodity. The value of the time I spend playing MMOs dwarfs the $15 a month fee in my opinion.”

    Great post, but the above section truly highlights a point I’ve been raising for years. It’s basically the amusement park theory of accessibility.

    Basically, you and I both pay the same amount of cash to get in the front door at an amusement park (or cruise, or resort) where all the rides are part of the cost of admittance. This entrance fee is good for an entire weekend.

    My family spends all three days there, while your family is only able to stay for half the time. My family has a great time, hitting all of the rides (and some of the twice). Your family also has a great time, even though they had to pick and choose which rides they could hit.

    At the end of the weekend, both of our families had a great time, and have plenty of memories to talk about for years to come.

    The question: Was my weekend more valuable than your weekend? Was your trip to the park lessened because of my experiences?

    Of course not. At the end of the day, all that matters is that you had a great time and felt as if you got your money’s worth. If you did, then it doesn’t matter that you left before the tickets expired. It certainly doesn’t matter what my family did with our access.

    You and I pay the same fee for monthly access to the virtual parks online, which take the form of MMO’s. What I do with my online family will greatly differ from what you do with your online family. How I spend my time online will differ from how you spend yours.

    Whether or not you get more or better loot than me is irrelevant to me. Either I have a great time or I did not. Either there’s enough for me to do or there is not.

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  3. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    Yeah, Potshot is wiley like that.

    The effect on the economy cuts both ways. It may deflate the price of some items by flooding the market, but it may make those very items more accessible to the casual class of player.

    I whine a bit about things when the market is not going my way, but I actually enjoy watching the market and the patterns that arise from different conditions, like the huge price spike for certain raws and items that could be transmuted when the two new trade skills showed up in Echoes of Faydwer.

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  4. kendricke

    MMO’s are very much capitalist affairs. When we start talking about “rights” and “entitlements” based on “the same” monthly fees, we’re actually discussing socialist or even communist systems, where everyone is made equal – not merely given equal opportunities.

    A great read related to the subject would be Vonnugut’s “Harrison Bergeron”. Basically, it’s a world where the government forces all people to be equal, by applying massive handicaps to those which more natural strengths, beauty, or intelligence.

    In short, equality (in that case) works out to be the least common denominator of the population. There is no weakest link, because everyone is brought down to the level of the weakest link – no one’s special in such a world, because we’re all made “equal”.

    I think Raph Koster put it best once when he said “We play for glory”. It’s true. We want to strive toward goals – grasping at goals that are often beyond our reach. Yet, we strive all the same. Somewhere in there, we have fun.

    Just because I don’t have a swing like Tiger Woods doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy golf on the same courses, and just because I’m not winning the World Series doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the same game with some coworkers that Curt Schilling plays.

    We don’t all have to be the best or have the best in order to enjoy playing a game. That’s the world Vonnugut warns us against in Bergeron. That’s the world I think some players would have us “enjoy”.

    After all, we all pay the same monthly fee, right?

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  5. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    I was thinking of Vonnegut and the “Handicapper General” reference as a possible response to the “equal access for all” theme.

    And to push the Marxist slant even further, you have to be wary of the “labor has value in and of itself” view of the world, where someone may say, “I play as many hours as a raider, even if I play them solo, so why shouldn’t I have the same goodies?”

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  6. kendricke

    Soloers of the world unite! Down with the borgeouis Raider Elite! Equal loot for all! While Raiding exists, there can be no freedom – when freedom exists, there will be no Raiding!

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  7. Kilanna

    Hrmm… I started writing a response which disagreed with some of the points you raised until I suddenly realised it was sounding awfully like an agreement in the end :)

    While I am solo, IMHO my entrance ticket to the amusement park does not cover the same as everyone elses ticket. I do not get to experience all the rides that a grouper or raider does. But in the end that does not matter. We dont all need the same things to have fun at the amusement park.

    What starts to become unfun is when you have to grind and grind the same mob over and over to get anywhere. What gets unfun is when you are attempting a solo quest and keep getting pwnd as you fight your way through bunches of group content to get there.

    The aim of the game is to progress your character in whatever way you want to. What becomes unfun is when the quests you have are too tough for you solo, and quests you can complete are grey and provide rewards that are almost pointless. Having said that, I have done bunches and bunches of quest that are grey to me for the fun of it – what can I say I am a sucker for house items.

    Right now I am in the middle of a wild and crazy ride in game. I have joined my new guild, made some new friends, am all drunk and giddy with the excitement of experiencing all this lovely crunchy content that I could not dream of doing solo. BUT I would like to continue to advocate that SOE develop adequate quality and quantity of content for those of us who wish to wander about in game doing their own thing in their own time.

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  8. Bildo

    It’s not about giving the raiders shinier things really for me… it’s the idea that developer focus should be on the raiding side. And it’s here than Ken and I agree from one of his earlier statements in his entitlement article.

    There needs to be plenty to keep everyone busy. But the problem is, often times the raiding guilds are your more hardcore people (not always, but often) and therefore they tend to run out of content faster and developers are then led to make content for them over the smaller group and solo players, and the circle goes on.

    Solo/small groupers complain, they get some content in a forthcoming patch, and then the raiders complain that the others get their way… and no one is ever happy.

    As I’ve said before, the 1st company to figure out how to please both consistently will become gods among men. :)

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  9. kendricke

    I think this is a case where perception becomes reality – regardless of the facts.

    Echoes launched in November. Since then, Everquest 2 developers have launched Unrest (challenging group zone), a new starting city, a new starting race, a level 1-20 adventuring zone, and several other in-game fixes and features.

    In the next month, we’ll finally see the first new raid zone since November of 2006…and it comes with a price tag which completely alters how hate and damage is dealt with on raids.

    I’m also curious how real casual gamers, not the guys with subscriptions to 3+ MMO’s, hundreds of forum posts, and/or their own blogs on the subject – how real casual gamers care about “end game” loot. Do you think they care? Or are they probably more likely to log in, play, and log out without giving the game too much more of a thought?

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  10. Tipa

    It’s possible helpful to think of raiders as people who are kindly staying in a game in which they have done everything in order to help pay for future development for those not yet raiding. The time and cost effective way to play an MMO is to play to max level, unsubscribe, wait for new content, re-subscribe, experience new content, unsubscribe, etc.

    How to keep people playing a game which no longer has any tangible benefit to them?

    Raiding – defined as activity in an MMO which requires a great deal of time for very little, if any, tangible reward (and I am speaking as a raider in EQ, WoW and EQ2) – is one answer. It’s not the only one.

    Community is another, maybe even a better one. EQ1 made leveling punishing – horrid death penalties, “hell” levels, waiting lists – so bad was leveling that people used to make graphical .sigs with their level on it, it changed so rarely. Some people just stopped bothering with leveling entirely and just played the game to socialize.

    Then EQ added the “raid game”. Suddenly, MMOs changed from being a largely social endeavor to one where you had to rush to the end. WoW, never one to leave an idea in EQ unstolen or unsimplified, made leveling almost a non-issue, completely missing the (previous) point of an MMO, and by its popularity defining how forthcoming MMOs would design their leveling curves.

    WoW put the emphasis on the ‘G’ in ‘MMORPG’. Not leveling and getting to the raid game in WoW would be as alien as just deciding you’re satisfied with Baltic and Connecticut in your game of Monopoly. Instead, you want it all – Ventor and Oriental and Meditteranean, and Pacific Ave as well. And you’re looking covetously at the hardcore raider who just got Park Place.

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  11. kendricke

    I think Tipa brings the point back full round when she mentions “looking covetously at the hardcore raider”. This is very much what I think Willhelm is referring to with Tanha.

    So long as players continue to eye each other’s accomplishments with envy; so long as players hold developers in contempt for spending time on “niche” content; so long as players hold their own enjoyment of a game to the standards of other players…then those players will not truly enjoy the game they have, for they’ll always worry about others rather than being content with what they themselves have.

    MMO’s aren’t about experiencing everything. MMO’s are playgrounds and parks, where we ride the rides we enjoy, but skip over the ones we do not, and at the end of the day, we’ve all had a good time.

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  12. kendricke

    It’s that very human tendancy to covet which is why I feel raiding has a place in games, even when it’s an admittedly niche playstyle.

    Without something to strive for, why strive at all, right?

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  13. Bhagpuss

    Comparisons with theme parks and playgrounds are very appropriate, and certainly fit the model that MMOs have followed over the last two or three years. I wonder, however, if that’s really where the genre is headed?

    Since I discovered EQ in 1999, I’ve played MMOs between 25 – 50 hours a week. It sounds a lot, but in fact the huge majority of that time is the time I used to spend watching tv. I have literally not watched more than a day’s tv a year for the last 8 years (my girlfriend, who has also, fortunately, been my MMO partner for those 8 years, insists we watch tv on Christmas Day). Therefore, I have always compared playing MMOs to watching tv, and I think that the market is increasingly moving towards catering for a commitment from the playerbase closer to that expected from a traditional tv audience than a gaming one.

    Generally, once you have bought your tv and paid for whatever cable/satellite package you might want, you expect to be able to watch anything that’s shown. Time is a factor, yes, becasue no matter how we might wish otherwise, there are still only 24 hours in a day and we have to sleep through at least a few of them, but although you may not be able to watch everything, you can watch your choice from amongst everything within your subscription plan.

    In an MMO, you buy a subscription plan, which you can use for as many hours a day as you care to, but unlike tv, you then have to pass another series of barriers before you can use the content you have paid for. Whether that access model is ever going to be attractive to a truly mass audience, namely tens of millions in a single country, hundreds of millions worldwide, I somewhat doubt.

    Although it’s not a business model that appeals to me much personally, I think that the microtransaction system, where you can have immediate access to pretty much any content for a price is a lot more likely to take the genre to a true mass market. Although whether it will then still be the same genre is questionable.

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