The Double Edged Sword
Oct 02, 2007 15:51:20

Jay: "Why the big secret? People are smart, they can handle it."
Kay: "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."

The quote above is one of my favorite quotes from "Men in Black" (the first movie) - and it certainly embodies the point of this article.

In Virgin Worlds #86 Brent talks about one of the sessions at the Austin Game Developer's Conference. This session was by Gordon Walton, the co-studio director of Bioware Austin entitled "Making MMOs Post World of Warcraft". It included 12 lessons learned from observing Blizzard's "entrance into the gamespace".

One of those lessons was "solo play - gamers want it". Gordon feels that this was one of the true innovations of World of Warcraft. However, it was not Gordon Walton's opinion that I found of interest. Rather it was Brent's reaction to it that got me thinking. Brent felt that not only did WOW break the mold on in this area but that "It has broken the mold in some bad ways when it comes to community, pickup groups and reliability of other people." - this point at which solo-ability becomes a double edged sword.

It is certainly true that WoW has made solo-ability something the MMO community expects from their games. Where the solo-ability of WoW fails dismally is end game raid progression. That is the point, as is the case throughout Lord of the Rings Online (Lotro), at which World of Warcraft shoves grouping down everyone's throat. Want to do anything in endgame other than PVP? You MUST group. Half of the quests in Lotro seem to be for groups. Even so, it is not the necessity of a group that I have a problem with. Many of my best times in gaming have been spent in groups.

Where it all seems to break down is when a game is designed in such a way that the only way to be successful at a quest or raid is when players see a need for pre-determined mixture of classes. This is where a game design that encourages solo-ability has had a negative effect on gaming communities. It seems to engender players with a self centered attitude. These are the "panicky, dangerous" people in the quote above. There have been MMOs I have played where I couldn't get a group for "love or money" as the old adage goes. If you experience this enough you begin to develop a carefully honed sense of cynicism.

Yet as I said, there is another edge to this sword.

The reaction of players to a game design with stringent end game class requirements isn't ALWAYS negative. As Kay says in the quote above, a person is smart. Sometimes a given group of people are smart.

One of the best ways to tell if someone is your friend in real life is ask them to help you move - then wait for the excuses. One of the best ways to tell if someone is your friend in "virtual life" is try to get a group together.

"Sometimes a cigar is just a smoke" - attributed to Sigmund Freud

There are times when I have been greeted with stony silence when I have tried to get some help with quests. Yes, it is true, sometimes the silence is because one rarely hears "we can't do the quest without a hunter." But sometimes a cigar is just a smoke. Sometimes the sound of *crickets* you are greeted with, when asking for help doesn't mean no one is interested in helping. Just as Blizzard Broke the mold of what was expected in games, there are players who broke the mold of what developers expect out of gamers.

I originally came to World of Warcraft specifically to play a Dwarven Paladin. What attracted me to this MMO was the artwork - the first time I logged on and saw Ironforge I said simply "WoW". But I let the opinion of the gaming community on the whole, and their negative opinion of paladins affect me and the paladin was soon abandoned. What brought me back to WoW as not the artwork, it was not the game play. It was not even 10 more levels in the Burning Crusade. What brought me back was a group of people who "broke the mold" of the way most gamers react to the end game structure of WoW.

This last weekend I had been reading some articles about WoW as I often do. I logged on late on Saturday night with the sole intent of "re-speccing" my paladin and seeing what the result would be. When I logged on I received a group invite at nearly same moment. It was a guild member so I naturally accepted.

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"To finish the quest to get your epic paladin mount" came the reply.

One after the other, three more players were invited - three players that were some of the "heaviest hitters" in the guild. I was whisked off to Scholomance, which was promptly cleared by my guild mates in what must have been record time. It was the World of Warcraft equivalent of the Raid on Entebbe. When the death night I was to defeat was summoned all I had to do was smack him once with my sword and my guild mates killed the death knight in about 4 seconds flat - he didn't know what hit him.

Just yesterday I asked on of the guild officers what "spec" I would have to have in end game, as a paladin, to get a spot in raids. I expected to have the spec dictated to me as had been in the past. I expected to hear "protection spec" or "holy spec". What I heard instead was something unexpected:

"Play whatever you want. Play your RP gear if you want."

"And still be able to raid with the guild?"

Yes I was told. I was shocked.

If Blizzard broke the mold of what gamers expected out of videogames, every now and then a group of players comes along that breaks the mold of what Blizzard expects out of gamers.

See you online,

- Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on Oct 02, 2007 15:51:20 CST (comments: 1)







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