« Automated community policing? | Main | Virtuality and Methods of Understanding »

Jan 18, 2011



Let's hope not. With my disappointment with cataclysm I've been asking myself a lot lately- can an mmo actually be fun?

I like maximizing numbers. I like calculating how much dps the raid needs to done the boss in a certain amount of time, and approximating how much spirit I should have to heal through that. I get a sense of enjoyment from watching my tol barad commendations slowly climb until I have 140, the amount needed to buy a ghost wolf mount.

But do I actually enjoy doing the quests that give me the commendations. No I don't. Some days I don't think I can get through them. Do I actually like badgering people to log on so we can wipe over and over again trying to successfully pull off the right numbers to down a boss?

When the novelty of a new patch or expansion wears off, what's really left to enjoy? For me the sense of fun from world of warcraft is akin to checking off items on a to-do list.


Thats where good persistant PvP usually comes in to make an MMO that much more enjoyable. Who cares about farming that 100th piece of ore or 140th token when an enemy is trying to take some important landmark that helps your realm out substantially in some PvE bonusy kind of way.


I couldn't agree more. In fact my undergrad dissertations was an attempt to explain the rise of this power gaming number crunching style of play. It has been suggest by many, including Nick Yee that games can have a disciplinary effect on players. When you think about it, dps meters not only provide a means of auto and lateral surveillance, they also provide ranks of performance,and aid in the generation of a normative performance. Taylor herself suggested that a shift in emphasis towards performance based play would probably result from the widespread adoption of such addons when contemplating WoW in 2006.


Blizzard loves the fact that Warcraft is a game of numbers. It's a dial they can turn to keep people sucked in. The "hotfixes" and patches always correlate to the class census numbers. Too many Paladins? Dial them down. Not enough druids? Dial them up. Rather than get fed up with it, the player base just creates a new character and the cycle continues. Bravo!


Hey, look! Interesting post today on ihobo about grinding: http://blog.ihobo.com/2011/01/the-grind-mystery-escalating-reward-schedules.html


there are alot of WOW gamers @ http://www.yetiworks.com/


There are a lot of wow gamers at http://www.yetiworks.com/ who play the World of Warcraft number strats!


Yes, WoW is all about numbers. And vistas. It's a very pretty min-max game. Why is that enjoyable? It seems to spur certain cognitive functions in us, little conditions spurts of mini-fiero, much like baseball (a game that, at least according to its adherents, is all numbers).

This "it's all numbers" (and the very funny Zero Punctuation review) make me realize just how close the much-derided Facebook games are to WoW. And that both are, for millions upon millions of people, actually kind of fun. At least until you press the bar (complete the quest/grow the crop) in your own personal Skinner box enough times to wonder what you've been doing with your time.

I think our pushing back against this is born of a desire for intrinsic motivations. Not only to see them in games, but, for those of us who think deep beardy thoughts on such subjects, to have our firm belief that intrinsic motivations are fundamentally more motivating than extrinsic ones validated.

I love the idea of a game that doesn't lead you by the nose, where your motivations and goals are derived by you based on your own intrinsic motivations -- not as a numbers game of increasing numbers to bash others with your better numbers (as baldly extrinsic as you can get)... but my guess is that if we ever have an equivalent of art-house movies in games, those will be it.

A few of us will be lovingly playing our my-goals-are-my-goals games (if someone ever manages to get one funded), while a significant portion of the earth's population waits with bated breath for the the megaChrome Sword of NightClub DJ Madness (now with +32, not just +30 Dance Magic). Because we're human, and that's what we do.


Stop caring. Start having fun. Forget about the instanced content and focus on the WORLD.

It's possible to have fun and stay outside the instanced content.

A. Do enough BGs for full honor set. Then just do world pvp and nothing else until the next patch, then repeat the process. Add in some rated BGs for gear if you feel the need.

B. Twink and world pvp.


Organize RP events.


Seems like a pretty good reason to hate WoW, but then I'll be called a hater. :(

Seriously, though, gamers need to wake up out of that colorful nightmare of a game. It is a monster. I don't think Yahtzee was kidding at all when he said that WoW is "evil." :) No game has ruined the gamer culture more than World of Warcraft.


Mike said: "I love the idea of a game that doesn't lead you by the nose, where your motivations and goals are derived by you based on your own intrinsic motivations -- not as a numbers game of increasing numbers to bash others with your better numbers"

At that point is *it* even a "game?"

Sounds like to me you're describing Second Life.


“every day since it's release”



Ok, forewarning. I'm just brain-dumping my thoughts on the comments thus far:

It seems pretty clear that we have a range of viewpoints on this, which I guess is testament to the fact that player preferences come in all shapes and forms.

Wasselin likes the numbers game but doesn't like the repetitive grind involved to get the right numbers for particular activities.

Dean drew from Nick and TL, noting that yes, there is a narrowing of play and that dps meters provide both a rating system *and* a surveillance system.

Calamus pointed out that numbers lets Blizzard dial down and up in a very fine grain. I think this was tongue-in-cheek, but it's true. Blizz has a pretty strong rep for continuously tweaking and balancing factions/classes/whatever.

Mike ties this thread into intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. I see his argument as the role-play vs. roll-play argument (story-based vs. combat-based RPGs) and not really sure if the numbers play in WoW really can be described as extrinsic, since it seems such an integral part of the game.. not a tacked on motivator but the actual reason and meat of the activity...

Pär suggests an alternative play activity, but I'm not sure replacing one form of play with another is where we want to go... Shouldn't we be desiring a space that not only allows but also fosters and supports multiple ways of play? Or is that too lofty a goal? Should we instead break apart and divide ourselves into different games for different purposes? This goes back to the idea that players can be typed. I just don't want to be typed and shunted into a particular game. Is that too much to ask? So I'm left with playing a variety of games, but that isn't really the ideal solution for me either since there are people and friends I enjoy playing games with. If each person has a differentiated set of games, it seems like it'd be hard to stay within a semi-stable group of players...

And J-Han compells me to defend WoW. There's a lot of good in it, I have to admit. Social stuff aside (I've forged some pretty strong friendships through that game, but that could happen with any game.), there have definitely been some really memorable experiences with the game world. It's mostly just the repetition that's a problem, I think. Is what we really need a series of strong group experiences that focus on the experience and don't deliberately prolong play with the numbers-escalation, randomized reward schedule model? In other words, is the ideal actually a series of games that aren't on a subscription model?

thoreau questions whether Mike's vision of a game that supports a player's particular motivations for play is in fact a game. So, I tend to describe a (good) game as a system of constraints a player has to recognize and navigate to achieve some sort of goal, usually most compelling if bound in some sort of narrative. To me, the goals in place do not have to come from the game designers, so I believe Mike's vision counts.

And thanks Keith for the error correction. :)


"Is what we really need a series of strong group experiences that focus on the experience and don't deliberately prolong play with the numbers-escalation, randomized reward schedule model?"

Yes, yes, double yes.

"In other words, is the ideal actually a series of games that aren't on a subscription model?"

No, the subscription model is fine. What I think MMORPGs can do to keep their games around without resorting to dangerous psychological manipulation is to take a lesson from Spore: let the players generate most of the game world.

And let players write the story too, as in "Sleep is Death."


And I forgot to mention that that's what Minecraft is doing, which explains its amazing success.

Newly announced MMO "Salem" also appears to be hitting up that market as well.


Numbers... patterns...


It seems pretty clear that we have a range of viewpoints on this, which I guess is g testament to the fact that player preferences come in all shapes and forms.


I think Blizzard phoned this expansion in. From re-using a lot of textures to re-using voice talent doesn't add up to a "fresh" experience. And I think the over-reliance on one or two mechanics is always an indicator that a game has jumped the shark (though many veteran players of wow would argue that happened long ago). There are, however, a few things I DO like about the expansion. Namely, that the dungeons now require you to CC, interrupt and make careful use of your resources and talents versus button mashing our way through. I now see the difference in pugs between the players who do so and those who know their game. Any change that requires greater knowledge or skill on the players part (rather than simply upping your gearscore or - as you say - number crunching, is a good change. But they could have done more.

I have other criticisms of the expansion but they're unrelated to the topic above so ...

On a side note: I hate numbers. And I engage WoW's number centric play begrudgingly. But as a person who struggled with math in school (to the point of panic attacks and failing math several times over) the game actually motivated me to improve that skill (or be excluded from play).


Problem with numbers is that we're not computers: we're humans. We may like theorycraft but we also need social interactions and new stuff to explore, discuss or just dream about.

I perfectly understand why WoW (and probably every others mmorpg) is focused on numbers though; It's easy. Just take the same monster, paint it red instead of blue, add +10% stats, give the players 5 more levels and 359 helmet with +110 intellect instead of the old 264 helmet with only +60 intellect... rinse and repeat once or twice a year... The recipe is simple and addictive but fundamentally, it's boring. I play wow for nearly 2 years now just because all the others try to do the same boring things instead of been innovative.

Obvious solution would be for example to insert openness in the game. Instead of Blizzard doing all the creative jobs, let the users do it ! Imagine if 12 millions of gamers were able to create (and share) quests, dungeons, unique items, monsters, to shape new land and city and choose how all of this could evolve ! It wouldn't be about numbers anymore, but about a real living world !
Of course limitations would be needed to avoid total chaos but you get the idea: give me the perfect sandbox and let me enjoy the game the way i want.

I heard that World of Darkness Online will be focused on social interaction and politic instead of fight. Blizzard already tell that there's next big secret game (codenamed Titan) will use social networking tools or sort of.

Futur looks promising ^^



Minecraft I think is a phenomena that really does deserve some deeper exploration. For me the thing hits beautifully at some of the upsides and downsides of both warcraft and second life (granting its not an MMO, but single player game that plays beautifully in multiplayer mode).

Back in my uni days I was involved with a lot of role player gaming. One of the things though that I always disliked was the heavy number crunching the things involved. Spend a day rolling and designing a character, play for 5 minutes, roll dice and argue with the DM, play another 5 minutes. To my thinking it required a really talented DM to get the pacing right and make me not want to flip the table in boredom. But what made a good DM was the ability to take the focus away from mechanics, and put in a bit of his story and let us make the rest of our story.

WOW doesn't do a bad job of hiding the number crunching from beginers, but it quickly becomes aparent that to actually derive any sense of progress one needs to start taking the number crunching serious, and to be honest if I wanted a TRULY number crunching game, I'd be playing EVE , which allows some frigging epic user-made story telling to compensate for the fact that often it really is "spreadsheets online".

Minecraft seems to have almost no number crunching at all, at least not until folks get into construction and in fact it has no real storyline other than a vague "You start on an island and you better find shelter for when the sun goes down zombies play also you can punch trees down" , in fact it has almost none of the traditional elements of what makes sandboxes and adventure gamescompelling is there. Yet the thing is crazy addictive.

Which makes me think that minecraft has challenged a lot of the fanciful ideas of other games. To my view its blowing second life out the water too, not in spite of, but because of second lifes cloying focus on its articifical economy. Turns out people dont have to be paid money to make beautiful things, people will just do it for satisfaction and the joys of showing a friend about your castle. The monster-play is dead simple. Spiders, zombies, skeletons and creepers. No obvious stats (although presumably there are under the surface), but the game has impecible dramatic timing. Whereas world-of-warcraft seems to be a bit like a dragon-force song, with lots of math , epicness, pace and magic, minecraft is more like a creepy and wierd old black sabbath song. Dark, ponderous and occasionally scary as hell. Nervously creeping along in a dark cave when suddenly theres a hiss, and after a brief struggle to escape, your shits blown up and your lying next to your chair shaking with minor palpitations.

No math, no min-maxing , just pure gameplay.

Game makers would do well to study he heck out of that game.

The comments to this entry are closed.