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Oct 25, 2006

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1.

Having just got into PvP I was excited that I'd reached Rank 2. I'm depressed now.

2.

The issue with the current system is that in order to climb the ladder you must compete with your own faction, not in pvp skill, but in time committed. The system was broken from the start (from a pvper's point of view), but its purpose wasn't to provide a meaningful pvp ladder based on skill, it was to extend the grind and hold customers longer.

Blizzard had already implemented a solid ladder system in Warcraft 3 (both solo and team), so it wasn't a question of having to think up something new, just an intentional choice to make the system meaningless in terms of skill.

3.

I think there's clearly a place for gameplay that remains engaging even for those with many hours to put into a game. For an MMO, you really don't want to lose the dedicated players because they've become bored. But I think there must be ways to do this other than soaking up their attention with increasingly impossible time demands to gain a certain level of reward.

Which is why, even after over a decade of involvement in MMOs and being fully aware of typical play patterns, I have to say that I'm shocked by the data represented by the chart on PlayOn. People are spending an average amount of time equal to a part-time, full-time, or even two full-time jobs to attain higher ranks in WoW. Given the sample size used (128,477 characters) clearly this is not an isolated phenomenon. A related graph shows that a very small percentage of characters -- guessing at maybe 5% or about 5000-7000 people from this sample -- attain ranks 10+ (the "full time job" level or higher). Extrapolating, this still represents over 270,000 people across WoW.

I'm just stunned by this. There have always been a few players who stayed on games for 60-80+ hours per week, but this adds a new dimension to the phenomenon -- and (at least until the PvP system changes) new in-game rewards for doing so. The PlayOn data adds quantitative heft to the qualitative rapier thrust of the now-famous "View from the top" post that so many were quick to dismiss as a statistical outlier with no real significance.

Can this amount of time spent in-game possibly be anything other than grossly unhealthy? What I would dearly love to see is the correlation between people at rank 10+ and those who have lost a job or are in danger of failing out of school. I'm sure for every individual who's seen the same empty "view from the top," proponents of this amount of play can bring out someone who somehow manages to hang on to their work, health, family, etc., and play 60-80 hours per week, every week, but I'm not buying it. Unless you are literally a shut-in, someone unable to move about or work (and I've seen several such people in MMOs over the years, each intensely grateful for the otherwise unattainable social experience), I can't think of a possible justification for playing this many hours, week over week, nor any way that you could maintain a healthy independent lifestyle by doing so.

For the academics here, who among you could recommend to your students that they spend 40-80 hours in game every week? How many of us here, dedicated gamer-types, have missed professional deadlines, let family responsibilities slide, or dropped some other valuable aspect of our life for reasons that can be directly traced back to one too many (or a dozen too many) late nights spent whacking away at things in WoW?

What possible defense -- especially from a game design POV -- can there be for this level of gameplay affordance or designs that put the carrot out there for some poor captured souls to pursue rather than actually living their life?

4.

Blizzard is totally removing this Honor System and replacing it in Burning Crusade.

5.

In fairness, the 80h/w is a bit misleading in that once they've attained their target rank, most drop back down to more reasonable levels of play. It's kind of like a levelling blitz. In fact, a good deal of people I've talked to use vacations, time in between contract work, etc. to brute force their way up the ladder.

6.

Thanks for providing links Mike. Online games are more addictive than some other escapist-activities, but it is also telling that you'll find people wasting their lives (in their own words) on TV, net news, IRC and so on. Maybe human beings simply cannot handle the continuous availability. We didn't have such 24h escapist activities in our natural habitat. Heck, in this country we didn't have them until the late 1980s... So many hungry people eating all the media they can get and still feeling hungry when going to bed.

(Norway has trailed behind the US with 10-20 years or so when it comes to tech/media, but with the Internet we are on the same track...)

7.

Few comments:

1. Good stuff as usual from the PARC people.

@Mike
2. "What I would dearly love to see is the correlation between people at rank 10+ and those who have lost a job or are in danger of failing out of school"

Mike feel free to send me any correlation data questions you'd like to see (not necessarily game title specific) for instance:
time played weekly vs effect on interpersonal relationships

Seriously even if its just a laundry list done in notepad. Actually this offer goes out to any TN readers/academics, as it helps build an overall data set, and if I dont have it its fairly easy to include.

There is little data about gaming but even less about sociological/psych impacts/issues/concerns. Ive covered quite a bit of areas but I'll be the first to admit this isnt my area of expertise, and that I havent thought of all possible data points.

3. WOW's PVP system is meaningless and not very robust to hardcore PVP'ers. Time sink systems are not attractive, especially where PVP has no world impact.

4. Ranking up in WOW's PVP system is fairly daunting, True Story: a guildmate used all his vacation time making rank 14 this last summer, and during the day while on his day job his 14 year old daughter and 14 year old son on summer vacation played his account, thier schedule was almost a 24 hour operation. They were organized in a group of other players ranking up, most of whom preferred to PVP with his 14 year old because she had more skills as a rogue....seriously, (moral: do not underestimate 14 year old girls PVP skills, they have to survive Jr High School!)

5. The ranking system in WOW requires much less commitment than grinding a Jedi in early SWG did, that was literally a 4-6 month process 20-40 hours a week.

8.

Actually, you can definitely do books for escapism 24/7. I have. I have also recently discovered that ice cream blended with wandering the bookstore is a very feel-good experience.

And out of curiosity, Ola, what IS our natural habitat?

9.

Oh Michael, we are by nature cavemen that one day got so full of ourselves that we no longer cared about collecting food, moved into the cities and joined the Internet. Then we all died. George Bush is the ubertwink and pressed the red button, because he played too much WoW. Yes?

Books are evil, but audiobooks are worse. See..? The devil is in the electronics.

10.

You also must know that many of the highest-ranked PVP toons are played not by one, but by mutiple people in the hopes of reaching the highest PVP ranks. Many guilds will rotate PVP duty for particular toons, in hopes of accessing those PVP items to further enhance the power of the guild. 80 hours per week sounds like a lot, but it's not so bad when 6 people are contributing to that.

11.

Books are evil, but audiobooks are worse. See..?

No, because if they were, I'd hear. =P And who needs food? Sheesh. Kids these days. And I hate audiobooks; the ability to flip back and forth pages is teh awesome. It really sucks to try to do that with an audio track.

Electronics that.

12.

Nicolas Ducheneaut>I simply cannot compete with this level of commitment.

As Anonymous says, you don't have to. You merely have to find someone else who plays at different times of the day to you, whom you trust enough to give your password.

Richard

13.

@Bartle and @anon: Let's not forget that in many games uberguilds expect you to demonstrate your effort and skills by spending 40+hours weeks anyway. They wouldn't trust you otherwise... Being hardcore seldom comes for free.(or maybe WoW is too easy?)

14.

I feel a sense of irony here...

MMOs have moved us away from a sense that skill could define our measure, and towards a sense that we're entitled to everything eventually if we grind for long enough.

Now, I have no idea how WoW PVP ranking system works, but if we assume that there was another system like this that actually required you to be better than everyone else, would you also feel that you should be entitled to the top rank eventually?

...or is it that MMOs engender a sense of entitlement to items if you're used to grinding for them?

15.

Is this time in the game, or time inside battlegrounds?

I would like to see the spread inside each rank, as I know I have reached rank 8 playing a lot less than what this statistic suggest.

Would also be interesting to see how played time change from week to week, as most players have a "goal"-rank. For instance, they might rank up to 10 and then completely stop playing PvP.


16.

The new PvP system will change the mechanics, instead of earning honor that decays over time, players will be rewarded with points that will accumulate like gold and they will be able to spend those points on equipment.

But this system will introduce another problem... How to retain players??? Will Blizzard put items that will cost the equivalent of months of full-time play... Will see!

17.

You should be able to make rank 10 in 6-7 weeks playing less than 20 hours / week on almost any server. The key is to find 9 other people who will queue with you. Almost everyone who achieves rank 10 or higher is spending the majority of their time playing with other players, or they are spending way too much time for the rewards they receive.

If you queue by yourself, you will get placed into a lot of games that have already begun. If there is an open spot in an ongoing game, it probably opened up because a member of your faction figured your faction was going to lose that game. This means you will play against a disproportionately large amount of organized groups, get less wins, and much less honor per hour. Maybe 8k/hr if you are lucky.

If you queue with 9 other people, you will always get a fresh game. Even if they are 9 other people who are not well geared, the majority of the other faction will leave before the game begins. Individual players queue up for Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch, and if they find themselves facing 10 players from the same server, they will hop over to the other battleground when that queue pops. You will basically never have to fight 10 people at once, as there will constantly be newcomers joining and then sitting around, waiting for their other queue to pop so they can leave. You will find that other 6-8 man teams will leave before the game begins, just because playing against another organized team results in less honor per hour than finding some scrubs to beat quickly. You should make at least 20k/hr.

Neither of these scenarios is particularly 'fun'. You either join games by yourself and lose a lot, or join games with a group of people and almost always win. However, you'll get your coveted rank 10 just in time for the expansion to render your efforts worthless, as the current honor system is going away near the end of December.

Right now, with Rank14 items set to become much less powerful in a couple of months, I imagine it would be possible to make rank 14 on some servers playing less than 30hrs/week, assuming you can play with a full team 100% of the time and pull down 20-30k/hr.

18.

A very interesting site, I think. The Idea of Technometry was new for me but worth to be read and thought abot it (although I'm not a native english-speaker and have some difficulties whith this language)

19.

@LEKO: You are right about how the item purchase will work, which is nice for the "casual" gamer who wants the higher-end sets and has the time to do it over a long-period of time, instead of fighting with everyone for a few select spots.

The actual "rank" though with the new system will be based on the ELO-rating system derived from chess. Individuals and teams will compete for rating points, against (hopefully) equally matched teams with gear and rank.

For additonal information about the PvP system, new arena system, check out this http://www.joystiq.com/2006/08/11/exclusive-joystiq-interviews-wows-jeff-kaplan/>interview with Jeff Kaplan.

20.

DO not forget that in many cases a lot of this time spent will be waiting in queue to join a battleground. On PVE servers especially the faction population balance is heavily in favour of Alliance, which means that they can queue for several hours just to get into a particular battleground, even with cross realm competition.

21.

I also got stuck on Legionnaire, but only because raiding just didn't leave any time for it. I think leet counterstrike ownage figured highly into my love for it too. =P

Queing with other people is generally way more reliable, but organized groups have pretty complicated dynamics. Getting a group generally requires either gear or, if you're ranking up an alt/ungeared char, connections.

It was my experience that class changed gameplay slightly, do you guys have a breakdown of PvP skilling in regard to class differences? To a lesser degree race differences?

My data on addiction suggested that PvP advancement was significantly related to addiction when controlled for - B = .118 p > .05 - but also to more healthy play - B = .180 p > .01, this using a very rigorous cutoff for addiction.

If my numbers are right, then that means that a lot of people play it for fun, but others do take it to an extreme.

The raid guild is major structure to watch. There was little relationship with healthy play, and a lot of relationship with addictive play (drastic, harmful addiction)

The opposite was true with social guilds.

That said, don't take my numbers as anything more than a direction to look. I was very unhappy with the sample.

Also, a view from the top should probably be read alongside its rebuttal, Warcraft: another point of view, the article written by the person who suggested "view from the top" quit the game.

22.

I was able to get to the legionnare rank myself but I just dont have the time every week to keep up with the honor points. The worst part is t hat Blizzard has one extra rank a player needs to get past in order to get the last 2 pieces of the first pvp set.

I think the battlegrounds have had a lot of potential but they have simply fallen by the way-side because it is not Blizzard's focus. In the past year they have only introducted one single new battleground compared to the 3 new end game dungeons and 1 world event. They did make alterac valley a hell of a lot easier so it is possible to become exalted with the frostwolf clan or stormpike in under 2 weeks as long as you are winning each game or every other game. The other reputation rewards are decent so if you cannot grind the honor you can at least grind the reputation. A player can mix and match a set between the warsong gulch and arathi basin epic rewards. Although it is not a real complete set like the epic pvp set it is a good substitute.

23.

Lots of fantastic insight on this topic and as a relatively recent PvPer I'm certainly appreciative. It all certainly gels with the experience a good friend of mine had who was working his way up the ladder when Blizz nerfed shamans.

One thing no one seems to have touched on is the inherent hypocrisy of a reward system that favors multiple users playing a character while this behavior is officially discouraged.

As to the rogue playing skills of 14 year old girls, it just stands to reason.

24.

A really interesting post. I second Juan Incognito's point, though -- especially before the recent battleground patch, it was entirely possible to queue up for battlegrounds (Alliance side) and do a seriously productive amount of "real" work while AFK. The queues are shorter now but I know a couple of students who pick the longer queues and do this, still. Me? Insomnia's got me rank 11 so far; insomnia, a premade group, and an unhealthy liking for carrying an item between two predetermined points multiple times a day.

25.

Mike, I had actually never read the "View from the Top" post... must have slipped through my fingers somehow...

"Sobering" is the weakest word I'm willing to use to describe it, but it is compounded exponentially by all of the testimonials that follow.

Does that situation bring up a moral question for us? I think it does. We scorn drug dealers, and yet they don't addict anyone, they just provide the addictive thing... right?

More to the point: even academics on the subject are willing to pour time into a PvP system that ultimately is just extending the endgame. Thank God for designeritis.

26.

Great research from PARC, again.

What I found fascinating about the WoW pvp experience was how much the designers were able to twist people's behavior toward the "un-fun." People found the quickest way to earn honor was not to actually pvp, but to queue up and win matches by hoping the other side quits early, or if you're going to lose, lose quickly and move on to the next match.

If you read the description of one of the posters above, that talks about queueing up for games repeatedly, you'll notice that he doesn't mention actually playing the pvp game. It's absolutely true, most people in the pvp grind are not pvping at all. In a typical AV match, both sides will run PAST each other to finish the game quickly, completely avoiding actual pvp.

The result is that a vast majority of the pvp that's going on is just people standing in lines waiting for their rewards to fall out of a slot.

27.

"WOW's PVP system is meaningless and not very robust to hardcore PVP'ers. Time sink systems are not attractive, especially where PVP has no world impact."

On something of a tangent, I think people over-estimate the value of PVP systems that have a persistent effect on the world. I've played WOW for 10 months now, and before that, DAOC for 4 years. DAOC is the king of the persistent PVP effect. Keeps and relics could change hands between the three factions. Spend 6 hours defending your realm, then wake up tomorrow and find out all your work was undone by the night-crew in an opposing realm.

When I played a WOW BG the first time, I got obliterated...then it ended. The BG was over. I was amazed I could just log on, instantly find a group (okay, maybe not instantly prior to the x-realm BGs), and then, win or lose, I was done in 45 minutes.

No lasting effect, but after 4 years of slogging through 5-6 hour realm defenses, the idea of playing a complete game in a digestable amount of time was incredibly appealing, even if I do it for the same total duration.

28.

Mike said, 'People are spending an average amount of time equal to a part-time, full-time, or even two full-time jobs to attain higher ranks in WoW.'

Ahh...the lost generation.

29.

One interesting sidenote is that this problem has dramitaclly increased since Blizzard introduced the realmpools.

On most severs there used to be PvP peak times on the one hand and times totally void of PvP on the other hand. Between 2am and 1pm it almost no battlegrounds opened. Now there are realmpools and that basically means there are battlegrounds open arouns the clock which menas that people playing 24/7 can amass much more points then before. While people with who have other important things in life like work or a family were not able to increase the time spent on PvP.

On the two servers I have played on I have seen characters basically triple the honor points they got before the change. with more points being split between the members of a faction and players with even higher scores on top gaining a rank for "normal" players has become increasingly harder.

One example:
Player 1 got 20h and got 150.000 points each week
Player 2 got 60h and got 700.000 points each week

Now:
Player 1 still got 20h and got 150.000 points each week
Player 2 has BGs around the clock now and can increase the hours 112h and got 1.000.000 points each week

Another thing I witnessed is that players that reached their high target rank basically stopped playing that particular character or WoW altogether. the pressure especially in the last weks to months after reaching rank 10 is immense and seems to totally drain the players.

Before the realmpools opened I ranked a character to rank 11. it was a new and lightly populated server so it was quick in comparison but with 20h+ a week it took me about three months. After that I basically couldn't bring myself to play the character or enter a battleground anymore.

Álso the realmpools took away a lot of the atmosphere. The battlegrounds feel very impersonal now. You rarely meet comrades or opponents you know. the atmosphere is now almost like playing against bots and the challenge and competition in the battlegrounds has made room to pure honor and reputation farming.

There is a lot wrong in the WoW PvP-system and to be honest I believe it is beyond repair. The battlegounds are old and stale, the system in the only real battleground (Alterac) has been meddled with so often and all it is now is a pure rush without any atmosphere. The advantage of having more open battlegrounds has been bought by making the affair totally impersonal. Equiment is more important then skills and this means uneven settings throughout. Outdoor PvP is frankly a joke that is not even worth discussing.

Unfortunately the whole PvP system appears to be more of an afterthought by Blizzard then an essential gameplay element.

30.

Actually, you can definitely do books for escapism 24/7. I have. I have also recently discovered that ice cream blended with wandering the bookstore is a very feel-good experience.
Valentine Roses

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