The Carrot

October 21, 2008

(First of all, how unexpectedly nice it is for Mythic to fix — at least in part — the borked mail system before any major patches? Assuming it was the result of a lot of hard work on the devs’ behalf, I’d say it was well worth it.)

NecroRogIcon posted an excellent short article called “Convenience Trumps All” that listed six major motivational factors for MMO gamers to keep on playing. I’ve been thinking a lot about the “carrot” that drives players in these games, and what, exactly, Mythic is dangling in front of our faces. To use his list but insert how Warhammer Online’s offered these items, here’s the carrots I’ve identified so far:

1. Progression – Career Ranking (1-40), Renown Ranking (1-80), Crafting (1-?, think it’s 200)

2. Rewards – Titles, Gear, Trophies, Items

3. Fun Factors – Highly subjective, but from reports PQs and Scenarios seem to be high up on the “fun factor” chart right now for most

4. Competition – Tons between guilds (for “best of” realm), between players (PQ rankings), and between factions (Order vs. Destruction)

5. Social Interaction – Guilds, Open Grouping, RP Servers

6. Convenience – Scenarios and PQs are most convenient to do, Quests in the middle, Open RvR the least (or at least most time consuming to organize and run)

It’s kinda funny, but you can use this list for almost every game that’s ever existed, including Space Invaders for the Atari 2600 (carrots include: high score, fun to play, competition between two players, easy to jump into, progression in levels). It’s just that MMORPGs have to offer many more carrots than any single-player game because they get paid by the hour, and they aren’t doing their job if they’re not pleasing the customer.

So what carrots motivate me in WAR? Oddly enough, gear — which is a primary motivating factor for me in many MMOs — is way downgraded here. I suspect that that’s a bit on purpose, as Mythic wasn’t trying to make a game where gear trumped skill in PvP, and yet we still need to be excited about getting new shiny stuff. Is it possible that there’s a sweet spot where the two intersect? I’m not sure. What I do know is that itemization is a bit wonky, models — good-looking that most of them are — are being reused all over the place, and the stats associated with the gear don’t feel “solid” to me. +39 elemental resistance. Um, yay? I guess? Hey, I’m just trying to stack as much +ballistics and +toughness as I can, and even those don’t always gel in my mind or make enough of a difference that is noticeable as I play. I need gear that excites me to attain, even if it’s just a radically different-looking model.

Another major carrot for me in other games and less so here is leveling up. There’s obviously less and less to look forward to the higher you get, and once you start down a mastery path there are few choices to be made with your points. It’s odd that renown points let you customize your character more than a mastery path, in a way. But I feel disconnected from the renown points thing because I’m not often in the vicinity of a keep, so I only dump my points into stats every week or so when I happen to be swinging by a keep we own.

I’m responding more to carrots such as dyes (which are always welcome drops), Tome unlocks that net rewards (like titles or Tome tactics), the ease of jumping into a scenario to join guildies no matter where they are in the world, trophies, the real fun of a PQ where you’re in a group and everything’s clicking, exploring the world, and attaining new abilities. City of Heroes instilled in me a long time ago the love of a new ability far over the love of new gear. New gear doesn’t let you DO anything other than survive longer or do what you do marginally better; new abilities/skills/powers are all about fun. If at rank 40, I knew that I could work toward new abilities, that’d probably keep me going far longer than renown points ever would. There’s also a certain joy in having a maxed-level character where you do have every option available to you, and you aren’t constrained by your level, gear or lack of abilities.

Mythic is betting the house that, come T4, the primary motivating carrot for most of us will be the thrill of keep/fortress/city sieging. And for that to work, the mechanic needs to be down pat, we need to have human competition, there needs to be clear and attainable rewards, and we have to feel like we’re part of a battle instead of being lost inside of a sparkly, shiny rave. Many ex-DAOC players have said that this is where the “real” game begins, that everything up to this point is like a prologue to the main book. That remains to be seen, but I’ll definitely be giving it a big heaping of benefit of the doubt.



  1. Mythic is using the same formula that made Diablo such a hit, and so many games since then. It’s all about the reward. Do a bit of work, get a reward. Even if it was just gold, it was still something.

    With Warhammer Online, the reward system has been bumped up to the extreme (or should I say XTREME!!!). Not only are there lots of items and gold, but there’s experience for just about everything you do, there’s renown experience, there’s influence, which then leads to rewards, there’s rewards in PQ’s for finishing them, there’s titles and a ton of tome unlocks. Basically even killing a single wolf adds another kill to your tome total, thus, moving you towards another reward of a tome unlock.

    Mythic has done one thing right in giving lots of options on different ways to receive rewards, and seeing something for your hard work is key. It’s why I’m so addicted to the Tome and why achievements are so popular on the Xbox and being added to many games, including WoW and Fallout 3.

  2. Guilds management is key. There’s so much to do just within the guild system : guild xp, banner, uniform (via dyes), building alliances, … In my guild, we are discussing just about the color of the uniform for now 2 weeks, with in-game “defilees” and other social events. It gives a real impression of building something together as a team. WOW and many other games failed here and so many guilds just broke because their only subject was to provide a convenient chat system.

  3. They broke the PvP in City of Heroes and so as of last night, there was a sudden rush from my old SuperGroup and Villian Group that still play to go out and buy Warhammer Online and join my guild on the Ulthuan Server Destruction side.

  4. I can vouch that end game RvR in DAoC was (when it was available) 10 times more fun than any RvR I have experienced in Warhammer. Don’t get me wrong, I love the scenarios, but there is NOTHING like running through a much larger expanse of land with a group, always ready for another group to throw down on. Im curious to see how the open RvR areas work for this aspect. I think when we have a larger number of people running in them, we will see what Mythic has intended for us. It will not be the same thing as DAoC. The “frontier/lake” areas are more crowded, theres more obstacles, more choke points, and simply smaller than the frontiers of DAoC. I think this will work advantagiously (spelling?) for quicker fights, more run-ins with opponents etc.

    I think there are many short-sighted people who are more interested in the pick-up-and-play-pvp from WoW. I can understand all the instances where you don’t have the time to go out into a lake, and you just want a quick pvp session. But, I hope that people don’t get to comfy playing the scenarios to not go out and experience the end game content that is open RvR.

  5. Guild rank 14 changes PVP for many guilds as that is when your guild can claim a keep. For those lower than 14, Open RvR is just Ok and sometimes very rewarding, but when you can claim a keep, or be alerted that it’s being attacked and you rush to defend your home, now that is fun!

  6. How about getting some people in the game actually. Last night I timed the time it takes for me to run into an actual player, in one Tier 2/Tier 3 area on my server while running on my mount. It took 5 MINUTES of travelling in the entire zone before i saw ONE player. I picked a full server when the game actually launched, so it’s not like the server population was low or something. What RVR??? the only time i saw RVR was when a BW attacked me ages ago and that was it. it’s only been one month since launch, so either everyone is lvl 40 or close to that lvl or there are absolutely no new players joining the game which is disappointing. Unfortunately this game failed for me big time and I am done playing a game that feels like i am on a private server.

  7. Derka-der, Rob Shnider is a CARROT! In 24 Carrot Comedy!

  8. […] the end, no single carrot is likely to convert a non-believer, except perhaps keep sieges. And yet, word of mouth is tons […]

  9. […] organizations that receive generous donations of time with only goodwill in return; players need a carrot — XP, money, items — to prompt them to do the job. Without quests, your character is […]

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