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.