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Level 0 Perspective

She cuts me into a thousand beautiful pieces.

Author: DopSillypant

Guild Wars 2 Design Issue

Posted by DopSillypant Tuesday July 24 2012 at 5:29PM
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I am looking gleefully forward to the imminent release of Guild Wars 2 next month. The game simply does so many things “right”, the removal of a subscription fee, the art aesthetic that strikes a balance between excessive surrealism and believability, the open-ended content and new approach to skill usage.
I could spend this entire blog entry praising GW2, but that would be highly redundant since there are already plenty of websites and blogs that do just that. Instead, let me share one of the issues that I noticed (and have not seen any real discussion of)
The Problem
Swarm/Zerg mentality, AKA “Just throw more people at the problem”
Any open-world event system or open-world PvP system runs into this problem. When any obstacle presents itself, the instinctive response for any normal person is to throw more people at the problem. This occurs in real life problems pertaining to sports, academia, and business, and just like real-life, this is not a fun or efficient solution (sometimes not a solution at all)
Why Is That a Problem At All?
Below, I will define exactly why this open-ended design is bad for intelligent and fulfilling gameplay through two different perspectives.
For Players that Derive Enjoyment out of Contribution towards a Goal
The more people used to reach a goal or overcome an obstacle, the less significance any single person had on the overall probability of success. The less significant you are to the process; subconsciously you recognize that you have lesser reason to be part of the process at all. This deters goal-oriented players such as me that derive entertainment from maximizing my contribution towards the goal.
For a more tangible explanation, consider the case of a Guild Wars 2 event where 100 people were involved and each contributed 1% towards the goal. If you were to leave the event, that means 99 people now have to accumulate 100%, each person now has to do 1.0101%, that increase is completely irrelevant to the 99 that remains. Your presence, your contribution, was meaningless; you did NOT change the overall outcome.
For players that derive enjoyment out of actively contributing towards an overall goal, telling them that their presence was inconsequential deters them from participating at all.
For Players that Derive Enjoyment out of the Process towards a Goal
I must recognize that many players simply enjoy the experience of being part of a large group, their individual contributions aside; the joy of identifying with a group of single purpose is evident in everything from political parties, sporting events to fan clubs.
The swarm design does indeed cater to this type of player, since the more people involved in the event, the more grand and epic the experience feels. This however does not lend itself to “intelligent play” and in my view is a backwards step in game design.
Any designed obstacle that can be easier overcome by the addition of more people has one inherent attribute in common - the goal is reached by a straight-line function accumulation of effort. The straight-line function of the goal means that any addition of people can never be detrimental to the success of the event, useless additions may not hasten the process but they will never hinder it.
This inherent attribute to swarm design is in opposition of “intelligent play” design. Games that evoke intelligent play cannot accommodate erroneous moves or bad play, wrong moves are punished, and bad play halts progression. Apply this theory to a sports metaphor: a missed basketball shot does not gain the team half a point, mistakes are punished therefore piling terrible players onto the court does not improve your chances at winning. In open-world game events where participation is unlimited, the addition of terrible players DOES improve your chances at winning.

Rockstar Vancouver

Posted by DopSillypant Thursday July 12 2012 at 1:40PM
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The recent shut down of Rockstar's Vancouver studio hits me a little bit harder than other studio closures over the years.

For one thing, I thoroughly enjoyed Rockstar's most recent entry into the Max Payne universe. Max Payne 3 had its share of technical issues and literary inconsistencies, but Rockstar managed to stayed true to the grim atmosphere and emotional dread that carried itself through the previous two Max titles so well. The emotional dread that I like to describe as "half a mind in the grave of despair and insanity, while the other half floated away on alcohol and painkillers" Cheesy, but it works for me, I don't see Max as a realistic, rounded character but rather a psychopath with a righteous streak.

The studio closure also hits me harder than usual because it hits close to home, in a very literal sense. I live in Vancouver and have been delighted to see the technology & gaming scene grow over the years. This feels like a major step backwards for Vancouver's gaming scene and I hope it does not become a trend.

Toxic MMO players and how to deal with them

Posted by DopSillypant Monday July 2 2012 at 4:39PM
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Tera has been my game of choice lately, and it takes less than a few minutes of reading the in-game general chat to get the overwhelming urge to turn it off.  Online communities are not known for their civility, gaming or otherwise, and there has been a severe lack of creativity in purging this toxin.
In a channel of hundreds of players, it only takes less than a handful of attention-starved loudmouths to ruin any chance of real conversation.  Annoyed players such as me have the option of
  • Turning off the channel completely, eliminating ALL possibility of public conversation
  • Manually place the offenders on my personal ignore list
The first choice reeks of undesirability.  No one should have to cut themselves off from hundreds of otherwise friendly players due to a select toxic few.  A MMO is “massive” after all and the online chatter is a significant contributor to that atmosphere.
The second choice of ignore listing yields preferred results but is extremely inefficient in scaling.  Let us imagine a channel of 1000 players, 1 toxic player joins, 1000 players add him to their personal ignore lists, 1000 actions performed for the sake of one.  For every new toxic player that joins, 1000 more actions have to be performed, if 1% of 1000 players are toxic that’s close to 10,000 aggregate actions to ignore those 10.
I propose the following method
  • “Silence Lists”, bound to the offender’s account, not the offended.  In essence this is a list of people who wish the offender be silenced, a negative petition that exists on each and every player’s account.
  • The offender’s chat messages in any public channel are randomly censored, every 1 person on the offender’s silence list causes 1 word to be replaced by a random animal name, or indeed, any other bag of vocabulary.
For example, with this toxic message:
“This game is a piece of crap; I don’t understand why you would pay for this garbage”
5 people on the offender’s list would cause his message to become completely comical and non-toxic:
“Mouse game is a cow of crap; I tiger bunny why you would pay for this snake”
10 people on his list, well… see for yourself:
“Mouse game horse chicken cow of crap; I tiger bunny why goat monkey pay dog this snake”
This method turns a toxic player that was previously ruining the community, into a public jester that amuses and unable to offend (unless you’re an avid animal-hater I suppose)

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