The Importance of Being Skilled

geek_flow_chart_nytMany people laud Warhammer as being a game more dependent upon the skill of the player over other games that depend more upon a lucky string of crits/stuns/attacks/perfect combo/etc… Still others have claimed that no MMO has ever really needed copious amounts of skill, just time and a general understanding of game function. I stumbled uponan interesting quote while browsing the blogs out there that got me thinking on what skill means in online play, and the different manifestations it takes.

The writer was talking about games, development, and how people approach them from the perspective of someone from inside the process. The quote for anyone who doesn’t want to follow the above link, or is just too lazy is this:

If your game’s advancement is based on skill, after some period of time, only the most skillfull will play it. 

It’s astoundingly profound in it’s simplicity. There is a barrier, or event horizon of sorts, where the level of needed skill not only prevents a significant portion of your potential market from exceeding in your game, but at the same time destroys any fun they might get out of your product, possibly removing them from your customer base. This is not always as large of an issue in games that don’t have monthly subscription or recurring fees. For games that profit off of box sales alone, it’s not as huge of a deal, until they release a new / different game, and consumers tend to be more consuming of new products from the same company than they are of continuing with a product they have already found unsatisfactory.

So, what different types of skill hold acceptable levels to still remain enjoyable, but not prevent too much of a learning curve to the new gamer? Twitch-based games, primarily FPSs, require a lot of fast response, precise interaction skill. RTS games demand the player to manage large amounts of information at once. The player is constantly making decisions based on win/loss probabilities and how to effectively advance your own units while countering the opponents, as well as keeping a balance of income/spending. A hack and slash requires little skill as well, other than purely being able to click very quickly. MMOs demand time, and a large amount of meta-gaming to determine what is the most appropriate use of your time to achieve goals in-game.

All of those are skills to one degree or another, how difficult each skill is to preform varies greatly. It’s also worth noting that those are all just general guidelines. EvE is so difficult to figure out how to play, that it makes you want to give up almost right away, and I know, I’m on a trial right now, and still don’t really have a good understanding of how the hell to travel around. In contrast, WoW holds your hand the entire way through the game for the most part, and skill in WAR is thinking in terms of strategy: feints, flanks, and other military maneuvers.

So, do more people play WoW because it arguably takes the least skill to succeed in the main goal of the game? Is EvE a niche game because of the steep learning curve? Is WAR where it is because it’s accesible early on, but not quite as much in the late game? Why do FPS games hold such a high following then? Twitch skills are incredibly hard to keep up on, is that why their players are mostly younger, the ones possessing the physical  skills needed to succeed in that realm? It’s an interesting topic to mull over when considering future games like Darkfall, and previous games like AoC, which boast(ed) of heavy skill based gameplay, requiring fast reflexes. Darkfall in particular reportedly has no auto-attack or target, in favor of an FPS style reticle for aiming attacks. Do these features make or break the marketability and retention of players? Where is the line drawn in the proverbial sand of design?

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About Shadow
Making serious business out of internet spaceships.

2 Responses to The Importance of Being Skilled

  1. chris says:

    I wonder if that’s why I love to play so many alts, I don’t have the advance skills to go into the upper levels. I am finding that although I love war, I like it especially in the 10-20 range?

  2. shadowwar says:

    It is especially fun in those ranges, for a number of reasons. One of which is the time/progression ratio. It takes relatively less time to get to level 21, than it does to 40. Maybe 3 days compared to about 8. The other is the distinct lack of crowd control that makes it impossible to do things when getting assist trained in T4, hopefully patch 1.2 will help alleviate the second somewhat, and at least the first problem has been improved somewhat. If you play, and want to group up sometime, tell me what server (or come to Ironfist) and we can roll out together sometime, would be good to play with you sometime.

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