Having fun playing WoW pt. 2

Answering indirectly Raph’s comments and blog.

I suspect we’re reaching a little bit of a language barrier. :)

I don’t know if it’s a language barrier but it’s probably a term that defines two different things. The one I’m talking about is strictly “functional”. Content -> purpose/function. Mudflation doesn’t exist till the function of the content is preserved. And it is always preserved till it’s not deliberately replaced.

This thing I’m describing is also completely independent from the “social” aspect. It can be reproduced even in a single player game.

For example before the expansion the levels 58-60+ were covered by five dungeon instances (Stratholme, Scholomance, Upper and Lower Blackrock Spires and Dire Maul). From there you could get experience and gear upgrades along with the “tier 0” armor set, then move to raid instances. This was the intended progression.

The launch of the exp pack provided everyone an alternative path. Instead of doing those five dungeons multiple times now you can run a few quick quests through the new zones and obtain MUCH BETTER gear. With MUCH LESS effort.

What is the consequence? That suddenly the first path becomes completely irrelevant because devs have provided a much better alternative. “The path of least resistance”: over time content with the same “function” in the game system is progressively selected till there’s ONE path left (and here the players asking more “middle” content are in a wrong position). Content is eroded to the essential.

The content of this expansion doesn’t stack on previous level 60 content. Or we wouldn’t get any mudflation as the old content would retain its function. But the content in the expansion replaces the standard 58-60+ content. It allows you to skip old content entirely. It’s a jump forward.

Faster, soloable, better rewards = FUN

The point is: this not only the goal, but also the “escamotage”.

(2) The point is: by devaluing old content they can valorize the content in the expansion. That sort of “artificial fun” that is the KEY of these kinds of games. Here you manipulate desires. What people want, what people do. In the game you can create a “need” just by devaluing and replacing.

(3) The point is: without the devaluation, there cannot be new value. No baits to throw to the players.

Your Epic Sword of Pwn must become a toothpick so that you can then restore your lost power. You need to lose power (mudflation) so that you can gain it anew (valorization).

Hell, it even happens on movie sequels. The Hero who won both the kingdom and the girl at the end of the first movie must lose everything so that he can demonstrate how badass he is once again.

So the end point is that devaluation and valorization are strictly connected. WoW expansion is practically this: you take away from the players so that you can give them again. In a endless loop.

being able to go back and see something that was once powerful and is now trivial helps that, and both of these feelings are core to the value offered by this style of game

This is often brought up, my opinion is that it’s not really relevant. What matters is what you see ahead. What’s behind, in these kinds of games, is soon forgotten. Games based on this model are successful when they don’t even give you time to look back. They keep pushing you forward endlessly. As an obsession. If you stop, you lose interest.

How many players that are having fun with the new content are going to run old level 60 instances for the “nostalgia”? Some for sure, but this isn’t a core mechanic or motivation. It has a place in the game, but it’s a part that isn’t directly relevant. If players start to go back to past content it’s mainly because they lost interest in the expansion content, or because they already finished it. These cases are not good cases for the game.

restrict players from helping each other (limit trading, twinking, use soulbinding, etc)

Powerleveling happens (in fact the first 70 worldwide was poweleveled to victory), twinking is so limited that it’s not relevant in WoW. But in a game so founded on the solo experience the powerleveling isn’t a main phenomenon. What I mean is that the mudflation doesn’t interest the game as a whole, but just that part of content that is now “sided” by new content in the exp. Not content “stacking” (on top), but content added aside past content. And replacing it as the “new” was designed to be artificially more desirable.

As an hypothetical example let’s say that Guild Wars offers periodic packages, each offering the exact same level 1-20 experience, just in all new environments. If every package is balanced then there would be no reason for the players to buy all of them. So the devs decide that in every new package the 1-20 experience is shortened by a 25% and the gold dropped upped by 25%.

What happens? That new content looks graphically better and it’s even “functionally” better. So the new content completely replaces old content. Their function overlaps, so one is preferred to the other. As if we have two quests with the exact same reward, but one can be completed in half the time. Which one do you think the players will choose?

This becomes also a quality problem. There may be a quest that it is written very well and original. But there’s another quest with the same function that gives a better reward and that you can complete in half the time. “Players see past fiction”. That’s a quote from Raph. Players go for the game’s goal. Not for “quality”. And here we are at “The best route should also be the most fun route.”

The kind of mudflation pertinent to WoW (and that I commented here as a very SPECIFIC case) isn’t of the “social” kind. But is the fact that the lower end content in the expansion OVERLAPS with classic 58+ content. If the very first quest was only possible if you had a character in a complete Tier 3 set (last raid instance in the classic game), then Blizzard could have released a full expansion without an hint of mudflation.

The progession could have been: level 58 -> 5-man dungeons -> Tier 0 set -> Molten Core raid -> Blackwing Lair -> Ahn’Qiraji -> Naxx -> first quest in the exp

Instead the progression is: level 58 -> first quest in the exp

All that we had in the middle is gone. Bypassed. It lost its function in the fabric of the game.

And this mostly because WoW is a GAME. Pure game. Where more social, virtual world-like features like the Auction House are a minor phenomenon. A gimmick with relative relevance. In fact these work within VERY STRONG restrictions exactly to NOT GET IN THE WAY of the GAME.

Which is what Lum explained perfectly in the follow-up to that thread I linked.

Every MMO economy is false. Duh. Trust me, you don’t want a real economy in an MMO. It will, with stunning rapidity, result in a tyranny of a very small minority. Much like, well, real economies.

The problem with the typical MMO economic model is that crafting items compete with dropped items. Literally: crafters are in competition with the items that world builders are crafting to make hunting attractive. The problem is that one “faction” in this equation is always losing; either craftsmen complain (justifiably) that the results of their labors are marginalized because the Shiny New Sword from Deepest Dungeon is better than anything they make, or everyone else complains (justifiably) that the stuff they’re getting from monsters is worthless, because it isn’t as good as the stuff crafters are making.

So points Raph listed, such as:

– New users now have less “buying power” so to speak.

– Social contacts get harder early in the game, because users accelerate out of the shared low level experience quickly.

These are irrelevant in a game where you can (and, mostly, will) play solo and where what is *required* to buy are skills from NPC trainers that have fixed prices.

One interesting point is in fact that since WoW is so solo-friendly (single player game), it will also age much better than similar MMOs. Just because the social aspects and virtual world-like elements are already so weak and bland that the negative effect due to their degrade is next to none. Heh.

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