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The Quinquennial (or sometimes more often)

Various thoughts on online gaming, often pulled from articles I've written for other sources.

Author: Quizzical

Is that worth it?

Posted by Quizzical Saturday January 17 2009 at 11:54PM
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Far too often, I’ve seen people ask whether a quest or dungeon or whatever is "worth it". Well, worth what? Worth half a sack of rice and two Argentine pesos? It is sometimes enough to make one want to grab the poser of the question firmly by the shoulders, shake him vigorously, and ask, what is wrong with you? Why are you playing this game if you don't like doing the content?

What they mean, of course, is to ask whether the reward given at the end of the quest is enough to make doing the quest worthwhile. That is, there is an implicit assumption that they won’t to do the quest if it gives no in-game rewards, but if doing the quest is the way to earn something they want, they will.

That is completely preposterous. You "earn" things by doing something you don't want to do, in order to get something you want. If you aren't fortunate enough to have a job you love, then your job may still be worth doing in order to get enough money to buy an online game subscription--and not starve. For things that need to be done, such exchanges to make doing work worthwhile are quite useful.

That should not be so in online game that is played only for entertainment. If there are people starving in the world, it's not because you took too long to reach the level cap and get a bunch of epics. The content along the way, and in particular, the means by which levels and gear are obtained, ought to be fun in itself. To make yourself miserable in order to get epics in a game that you fundamentally hate cannot be "worth it" in any sane sense.

All too often, players try to compound this problem. They’ll pick up on something stupid that takes a long time to do, and then say that it should give big rewards because it takes so long. This is completely absurd. If you got a thousand characters to level 5, would you expect epics for that? Emphasizing time spent over skill leads to mind-numbingly repetitive content, which is exactly what should be avoided.

Indeed, many players are aware that what they’re asking for big rewards for is a complete nuisance. They implicitly admit it when they claim that if there aren’t big rewards for going on some raid, then players won’t do it. That is, they’re admitting that it’s not fun in itself. And that is precisely why it should not give such big rewards.

The most important reward for having accomplished something is that you have done it. If anything more than this is required in order for the accomplishment to be “worth it”, then the answer is, no, it’s not worth it.

Kordesh writes:

 Hooray! Someone else who can't help the urge to slap people across the face when they make that idiotic statement. Unfortunately, this "reward centric" view has only gotten worse and worse as time has gone on in MMOs. I could name names as to major contributors, but  then there would be outcry, fanboying, and various other things I think best left avoided. Bottom line, content should not be avoided because "oh it's not worth it." 

Sun Jan 18 2009 1:16AM Report
ghstwolf writes:

Unfortunately, gear and lvls are the only accomplishment under most designs.  Face it, in most games nothing you do is of any signifigence (ie static world), meaning the only lasting change is the gear that drops for you or the XP you recieve.

Time spent always trumps player skill for any game with a monthly sub.  Those games are designed to waste excessive time for the story being told.  Players want the story/achievement as fast as possible, so you get to the question is it worth it?  Does that mind numbing quest further the goal of getting to more story quickly, or is it a boring timesink built to slow me down?  I'm not saying it's right, but that is (IMHO) how it is.

Sun Jan 18 2009 1:17AM Report
Quizzical writes:

Just because something doesn't get explicitly rewarded by a game doesn't mean that it isn't an accomplishment.  Indeed, the best and most impressive accomplishments usually don't bring any in-game reward.  I found my ATITD essay about that, but so much of that is game-specific that it will take pretty big revisions to put it here.  Going off about opticons and Zhadu will only confuse people here.

Sun Jan 18 2009 1:35AM Report
tbiaslorin writes:

Other than the growth of a character, what else is there?  Sure, I like watching the scenery and exploring the game...but typically If I am trying to determine if something is 'worth it', I'm equating time vs. growth.  This is especially true because my time is very limited, as is everyone else's, and I want to 'spend it' as best I can.

If I have a choice of 'enjoying a quest and getting a sense of accomplishment and a +5 shiny at the end' or 'enjoying a quest and getting a sense of accomplishment', guess which one I, and 90% of game players are going to go for?

Why was Diablo such incredible fun for so many people?  Because we loved the content and it came with tons of shiny stuff and fast character growth.

The 'sense of accomplishment' not only comes with beating Diablo, but beating Diablo and getting an awesome piece of gear.  Without the gear, there is no game.

From D&D to WoW, while narrative is important, character growth is just as important.  Neither would be a good game without both aspects, and I think folks are downplaying people's desire for character growth (whether gear or skills) when it is at least half of the reason many of us play RPG's.  Gear IS one of the fun parts, so why shouldn't I care about it?

That is the reason why people think that things that take a long time should give good rewards.  If I can do 10 quests, each taking an hour, and all are equally enjoyable, but 5 give great loot, and 5 pat you on the back, I'll take the 5 that give me loot any day, and so will the majority of MMO players.  Because that's why I play these games in the first place. 

Why do you think games like Battlefield 2 and Call of Duty added character ranks, weapon upgrades and the like to their games?  They are tapping into the desire people have for RPG-like character development, and it works.  CoD wouldn't be half as much fun if i didn't know I was getting a new weapon or skill choice in 3 or 4 battles.

Sun Jan 18 2009 1:53AM Report
Quizzical writes:

The problem isn't merely that you can level and get gear.  The problem is that to keep up, you have to.  And more to the point, you often have to do some stupid and obnoxious stuff in order to level up.  Having to put up with a bunch of grinding in order to play the parts of a game that are fun can make the entire game, on net, not fun to play.  That's really bad for a game that intrinsically has no purpose apart from being fun to play.

Sun Jan 18 2009 2:11AM Report
Quizzical writes:

Games usually don't present you with, here are ten quests and you can only do five of them.  In a game based around doing quests, if you don't like doing quests, the logical thing to do is to quit the game and do none of them.  If you do like doing quests, then do all ten.

It's one thing to skip particular quests in a mostly quest-based game because a few particular quests are bugged, unduly difficult, or just a general nuisance.  It's entirely another to play a quest-based game by trying to skip as many quests as possible.

Sun Jan 18 2009 2:25AM Report
ghstwolf writes:

I agree it shouldn't require an explicit reward.  The problem is the actual game play itself is unrewarding.  90% of quests are kill, collect, deliver.  Sure the story can make it a bit meaningful, but after a couple hundred hours of that it still gets stale.

Fixes to this are difficult.  To me anyways groups help break up the monotony (it seems like more of an achievement), but too much grouping leads to bad sub numbers (too many solo minded people).  A more interactive combat system, is either "gimmicky" or too complex/difficult, subs again suffer.  Dynamic servers are perhaps the best hope, but that leads to the "dreaded" forced PvP in most cases.  So really something has to change or we'll be stuck in this rut for a long time.

Sun Jan 18 2009 2:48AM Report
JKnight1 writes:

I entirely agree with you. Quests should be a part of the journey. Who said a quest had to have an sort of reward beyond the reactions of those you help, as an accomplishment. Quests have a story (Mostly), and I read all the quest text when I do them, no matter the reward.

But unfortunately most MMO's are reward driven endeavors.

Sun Jan 18 2009 8:56AM Report
tbiaslorin writes:

Well, it depends, I've seen a few games with a plethora of content you can skip.  In a game like WAR, of the 9 or so public quests across all 3 zones per chapter, I might do 2 of them, or 5, or none, depending on the influence reward.  If the influence reward is something not needed for my character, I am better off spending my time doing something else.  Also, many quest lines ended with a good piece of loot, and skipping the lines without something that was going to be helpful for people is OK.

The same with Atlantica, that I am currently playing.  The major quests in the game revolve around recruiting new types of mercenaries.  However, most of the mercs are also available on the market for sale.  I spent almost one week PvPing at one point, and just bought one of the new mercs instead of trying to figure out how to fit the 8 hours of quests I would need to get the mercenary the regular way.

Eve didn't have much in the way of quests per se, but you could pick and choose which faction missions you did depending on what items you were hoping to get at some point in the future; also, certain bad guys dropped certain loot, so picking a faction that would likely give killing that enemy as a mission was a good way to get the item you were looking for.

'But unfortunately most MMO's are reward driven endeavors.'

I guess I just disagree with this.  Rewards have always been part and parcel of RPG's and MMO's, and is the reason many people play them.  There are plenty of 'adventure' type games on the market (from the original Zork through Monkey Island to Myst and whatever is out today) where the story is more important than anything you might find in the story; if you are looking for narrative, those types of games are better suited to telling them.  Part of the social aspect of an MMO is competition, gear comparison, looking 'cool' and continually improving your character.

I believe if folks were more concerned about NPC reactions and intangibles, then that's what developers would give us.  However, almost all MMO's are reward-driven endeavors precisely because that is what the market wants.  It's just one of the trademarks of an RPG, and isn't any less important than a good storyline.  I can't really think of one RPG I ever played where gearing up wasn't part of the fun, from Tunnels of Doom on the TI-99 4A back in 1980, to Fallout, Baldur's Gate, Knights of the Old Republic, Diablo or any other I've ever played.

Quasi-adventure-RPG games like King's Quest had more emphasis on story and less on gear, but I think games like Neverwinter Nights and Baldur's Gate do a better job of telling just as good a story, along with all the cool gear.=)

Sun Jan 18 2009 7:45PM Report writes:
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