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5-05-2010 @ 7:29PM
WoW (and other MMOs) is basically a very fun Skinner box. Hit the lever, maybe you get a food pellet. Our brains are designed to like this activity, because, well, that's basically describing the hunter/gatherer survival model. It's why gambling is fun and work is bad: your ancestors' form of survival (hunting and gathering, knowing that you'll probably get a little sustenance and maybe get really lucky and find a dead/dying deer) was more like gambling than the thing that will actually be more likely to earn you a living in modern society, working at a job. Steady state is boring for humans, compared to feast or famine, as long as basic needs are being met.The designers of WoW know this. It's a dirty little open secret in the gaming industry that WoW uses slot machine jackpot payouts as part of its design. When you're leveling, you always get a little bit of reward when you kill a mob (silver and XP) and occasionally you get a big reward (green, or maybe even a blue or epic BoE! Ooo!) When you get to 80, the design shift slightly, but it's basically "run heroics and raids for emblems, maybe you'll be an epic." Dailies add the idea of opportunity decay to the mix, because you can't just go back and do the last week's worth of dailies if you miss them. Farmville's crop withering is similar in this regard.The difference between Farmville and WoW is that there is fundamentally a game in there with WoW. I have no doubt that the designers try to make the best game they can, within the constraints of keeping us around as subscribers. However, when it comes down to it, the game aspects of WoW (not the narrative ones, i.e., all the quest stuff) could be shortened to maybe a 60-80 hour boxed single player/classic multiplayer (non-massive) game, with paid DLC expansions when patches came out, etc. But that's not going to pay the bills for keeping an MMO running, and it's not going to generate $150 million in revenue from subscriptions alone each month. So the Skinner box design it is.(And for those of you that say, "hur hur, I'm smarter than that, I only play because I like the game," well, that may be true. Unfortunately, people react more weakly or strongly to the Skinner model than others, so you may be lucky because of a quirk of genetics or upbringing in that you are less susceptible to this type of thing; alternately, you could be deluding yourself. Easy test: Stop playing for two weeks, and try not to think about the game at all)
5-05-2010 @ 7:48PM
Some people are addicted to telling people about themselves and feeling very clever.
5-05-2010 @ 8:06PM
Your little "easy test" at the end is more than you think it is. By committing to not play for two weeks, you trigger ironic processing and thus begin thinking a lot more about it than you would if you weren't avoiding play. Speaking of ironic process, the game.That's a pretty standard psychological phenomena, much more standard than the Skinner box. Which should technically be "conditioning chamber", as Skinner didn't like eponyms.The rest of your post is filled with a bunch of other false conjecture, specifically: "the game aspects of WoW (not the narrative ones, i.e., all the quest stuff) could be shortened to maybe a 60-80 hour boxed single player/classic multiplayer (non-massive) game..." That is most certainly wrong. For many, myself included, the social aspect is what keeps me playing WoW. I've run out of stuff to do, really. I've got most of the achievements I care to get. I've reached the peak of my raiding career in this expansion. The only reason I keep coming back is the people I play with. So, no, that essence can't be distilled into a "boxed" game (hint: WoW came in a box) that isn't massively multiplayer.
5-05-2010 @ 8:33PM
Hope this is truly a reply. I have pulled away from WoW several times, for real life. To care for my mother, to practice my Buddhism intensively, to visit family on trips. Yes when I logged in to get my email, I checked WoW.com, and my guild forums. No, I did not suffer. I love WoW, I play a lot. I am disabled, and I have a lot of time to fill. It is cheap. I do not even get cable. This is it, that and reading politics and other news...
5-05-2010 @ 8:51PM
Sure, and I play it for similar reasons: it's cheaper than most hobbies, it allows me to scratch an itch (consumption without spending actual money), and it's a social game, and I've got a really nice guild with people I enjoy. I play the game for enjoyment, but I have no illusions that the game is designed to get me to pay, rather than specifically to be fun to play, and there is a difference. Let's be honest, how many times can you do the same content over and over and keep it fresh? There's a reason most games, even large ones like GTA, Mass Effect or Assassin's Creed are finished in weeks, perhaps months: that's all you really need, and that's about as long as they're fun for. You can stretch it out with multiplayer, but even then, there's only so much of it that's fun, and you can wring that much out when you want to.
5-06-2010 @ 11:42AM
I think you're trying to act like designing a game to be fun is mutually exclusive from designing a game to get people to pay. They are, in fact, the same thing. WoW Designers aren't sitting in an office thinking "How do we get people to pay 15 dollars a month continually?" They are thinking "How do we make this game interesting for both new players and those who have been with us from the start?" Sure, part of the reason they are even doing that is in order to continually make money- that is their job. But you can't come at game design thinking "What's going to make me money?" because that's not why people pay for games in the first place. They pay for games that are fun. You design games that are fun. Fun is what is going to make you money.And honestly? I don't think your average game designer spends much time thinking about making money. I think if they're any good, they are thinking about how to make a good game.
5-06-2010 @ 12:09PM
Sure, they definitely design the game to be fun. And they go into it trying to make a fun game, too. I'm not arguing that the game is or isn't fun. But if the choice is between "making the game fun" and "making the game maintain its subscriber base," they're going to err on the side of the latter. And it's true that a lot of the time that the two dovetail together.However, they do also use things like psychological studies on randomized rewards, slot machine payout schemes, and the like to make the game "fun" in a way that's similar to the way that pulling on the one-armed bandit is to a gambler. I used to work in the gaming industry, and I still have friends who work there, including on MMOs, and they'll readily admit this. They try to make the "game" portion of the game fun, too, because they're gamers at heart; that's why WoW is WoW and not Farmville, where there's not really much of a game. However, they acknowledge that that's not really enough to keep a subscriber base. So, back to loading up food pellets and oiling the lever.As I said before, I play the game. I enjoy it. I'll almost certainly be playing Cataclysm. It's a good game. But it's also designed to make you keep paying up, and not simply because it's fun.
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