The CarrotOctober 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.