Daily Archives: May 6, 2011

On Making Better Players

MMOs need to strive to help create better players, not engineer the game to cater to the worst players

Quoted in SynCaine’s post “Back to Azeroth

SynCaine’s post was about Rift shifting closer to the World of Warcraft level of challenge (which I am sure Syn would say was almost no challenge at all) via plans by Trion to introduce a Dunger Finder-like grouping mechanism for instances and reduce the difficulty of expert dungeons, which I gather are the Rift equivalent of heroics in WoW.

The quote came from one of the threads on the forums discussing these changes.  I did not see the thread myself, so I do not know if there was more to it.  But the quote itself is simple and seductive, seeming almost self-evidently correct when read.

And like many such sentiments, it is easy to make the general case, but tough to work out in detail.

How do you design an MMO to create better players?

In the comment thread on the post I asked that question.

SynCaine’s response borrowed, somewhat amusingly I thought, an idea from real life theme parks.  He suggested putting barriers in the game the would stop people from progressing until they had demonstrated a certain degree of proficiency.

Or, in my mind, “You must be this tall to ride on Space Mountain.”

Unfortunately, there isn’t much at Disneyland that will increase your height if you are not already tall enough for the ride.

Similarly, in WoW and games like it, there isn’t much that will help you increase your skills to advance to the next aspect of the game as things stand right now.

You start off in the world, an experience that has gone from being soloable to being pretty much a single player experience and which pretty much pushes you into a DPS role.  (It is no mystery to me why there are so many DPS players in WoW.) There is nothing there to teach you how to be a healer or a tank, or even how to avoid pulling aggro as DPS.

But the next aspect of the game is instances, which means being in a group and knowing how to play one of the three defined roles, tank, healer, or DPS.  But the game has really shown you how to play those roles.

And, lest you think that this is just a WoW problem, let us look at EVE Online for a moment.

When you start off in the tutorial and you run missions.  The initial missions teach you some basic functionality of the game.  But if you progress down the mission path you find that what running missions really teaches you is… how to run missions.

You end up with skills and a ship optimized to defeating NPCs.  So I have in my hanger a shield tanked Drake, a speed tanked Cerebus, and my AFK sushi boat, the armor tanked Dominix that can just sit there and absorb damage while its drones go out and pick off NPC ships one by one.

But none of those ships would really stand a chance against somebody with a similar ship fitted for PvP.  And a ship fitted for PvP would be inefficient to take on missions.

So the move to PvP means starting fresh.

Now, somebody will say that of course you have to go do off-line research.  And for refining a PvP fit I would agree.

But why doesn’t EVE teach you thing one about PvP?  To this day a great deal of the fittings in EVE are a mystery to me.  Granted, the game isn’t very good at explaining even simple concepts, like how many missiles your launcher holds, but at least it explains how to fit it, load it, aim it, and shoot it.

So, while I love the idea behind the quote at the top of this post, I haven’t really seen an MMO that fits the bill.

Am I missing a game?  Is there an MMO out there that does have the mechanics to create better players?  And by that I do not mean a system that walls off, impedes, or frustrates the less skilled players so they cancel their accounts and go away.

And how would you go about making a game that created better players.  How would you set things up in-game to train somebody to be a tank in WoW or a 0.0 pilot in EVE or any other example you choose?

There are these different paths in MMOs.  And the starting path doesn’t appear to lead to the next path, and that path never gets close to the following one.  How do you make things so that the paths connect, or at least branch, so you end up with a more skilled player base?

Because the alternatives seem to be to either cater to the less skilled and end up with a game with less challenge or to ignore the less skilled and be content with a much smaller player base and revenue stream.

The Thermometer Says 96, But It “Feels” Like We’re Going to be Roasted Alive!

Weather Underground, a weather service based on data from amateur weather stations.

It is like open source for weather reporting. It is proof that people aren’t just talking about the weather, they are trying to do something about it.

And it is the weather reporting service of choice for Google.  Or at least it is one of the default apps on iGoogle.

Good enough for Google, good enough for all of us.

So imagine my surprise when I checked the outside temp this past afternoon.

I wonder what it would feel like without those clouds.  We sure could use a breeze… or would that turn the whole place into a convection oven?  Either way, I would recommend staying inside if you are in the vicinity of Campbell Ave. and Foote St.

Meanwhile, a couple of miles down the road nobody is in danger of feeling as though they were being baked alive in a giant oven.

It is still partly cloudy, but only 78 degrees, which is what it is supposed to feel like around here on a spring afternoon.

That is quite a gap.

So I decided to check with the National Weather service, which is apparently too snooty to take weather data from just anybody’s back yard, sitting in direct sunlight, get’s hit by the sprinklers every other afternoon, weather station, and instead feels content to tell me about the temperature based on how things are going at the airport.

Normally I would point out that not only do I not live at the airport, but that the place always feels hotter than the rest of the valley because it is made up of a couple of square miles of black asphalt surface which seems to collect and radiate heat.  Out on the tarmac at SJC is the only place I have been since that bus ride in Madera County that felt like it was 165 degrees.

But the National Weather Service apparently knows something about weather stations.

They said it was 85 degrees and that it felt like 85 degrees.  Since this matched up with the readout from the cooling system in our office, I guess I have to give them their due.  Or dew.  Or something.

You might ask why I didn’t check the weather read out in the building first.

Well, that is nearly 4 cubes walk away, while Google is right here on my desk…