What is Good?
January 25, 2010 2 Comments
I’m not asking the question from a moral standpoint. I’m not looking for what you think is right or wrong, and should I help that old lady get her wheel chair loaded into the trunk of her car at the market. No, the more accurate question would be, “What does it mean to perform well?”. In this instance that question would have a few letters tagged on as a qualifier. “In an MMO”. You hear it all the time in MMOs, particularly games like WAR. “So-and-so is good.” “X is so much better than Y.” “LoL, he’s terribad!” So-on, and so forth. So, by what stick do you measure this undefined, non-quantifiable term?
From my outlook, the quality of a person’s performance cannot be evaluated without first acknowledging the goal that the performance is directed at. I could have the highest level of twitch skills, and a reaction time measure in nano-seconds, but if I’m playing a turn-based video game, that won’t help me at all. So, this leads me to see two necessary points that need to be held in mind while going forward with this discussion:
1. Understanding the goal is necessary to define ability.
2. Ability that does not apply toward completing the goal are non-factors.
So, in an MMO, what is the goal? This isn’t as easy a question as might appear at first blush. Today’s game worlds have tried to make their games as appealing to as many people as possible, which in turn has meant attempting to appeal to a multitude of playstyles. So, with today’s games trying to be all things to all people, how do any of us determine what the goal is? Since this is my blog, I make the rules, and focus of the discussions, I’ll usually go with the immediately apparent choice: Warhammer. But, and that is a big “but”, this leads me to another realization:
3. The goal of each person in a game may differ from player to player.
4. Agreement of the goal must be reached before ANY discussion of ability can even begin.
Once the goal is agreed upon, and we all understand what that goal really is, the discussion can continue forward. In this instance, Warhammer, I see the end goal as being to “kill the other guy”. The goal is to kill them before they kill you. Obviously, you want to maximize your potential to do this, which means living as long as possible while completing the goal as often as possible, in the quickest manner available. Anything that lets a person complete that goal, and is legal within the rules and confines of the game, then it is not only permissible, but encouraged. Using anything but all you have at your disposal means less of a chance to win. Complaining that someone else achieved something because of some “unfair advantage” is near sighted, and a refusal to accept the reality of the game world.
5. As long as no one is cheating, “cheap” does not matter, only completing the “goal”.
This, however, does place a certain level of competence upon the game-maker. The onus falls upon the developer to ensure, at the baseline, everyone is on the same playing field. That is, an equality in origin. In Warhammer, that means class balance, within their determined hierarchy of power. Warbands should be greater than a full group, a full group greater than a small group, and a small group greater than a single player. Additionally, it means the class structure needs to be held true as well, as far as who beats who, and who holds what level of importance in play. As long as the developer can maintain this balance, and remain open and honest about it’s intentions with the player base.
6. Developer’s have a responsibility to it’s players to maintain balance.
7. Developer’s need to be forthright, and transparent about their design intentions.
A lot of the problem’s that you hear about coming from the game of Warhammer is the player’s perception of lack of balance compounded by what was, until recently, a relative lack of communication and transparency on the direction of the game. Player’s were feeling as if their concern’s have been going unnoticed, unrecognized, or just ignored. A common theme in many of the class discussions runs along the lines of, “It’s obvious where the problem is, why has it not been addressed.” Many times there are clear, well thought out discussions that suggest solutions, alternatives, and general conceptual reasoning behind their ideas.
So, after that slight detour, I’ll get back on subject. When the balance is right, the goal is both understood and agreed upon, and we accept that there is no wrong way to win, where does that leave us? MMOs at their core are a game of progression that rewards long-term investment. Warhammer, which exemplifies direct player to player competition puts that system directly into the face of the person on the other side of the screen. If I, as a player, have spent the time to get every pocket item, RR80, and the best set of armor bonuses possible, that is part of the skill of the game. Being able to plan ahead to obtain the items vital to upward progression, as well as combining disparate items to get the best combination possible. A guildmate said something that stuck out to me, about coordinated competitions between people at the end game. It ran along the lines of, “An extra 10 wounds, or 10 toughness, or whatever may not seem like much, so most people don’t care about putting forth the effort to get +23-24 talismans to replace the +22’s they can easily get. But when you’re facing off against another group of players who squeeze every ounce of gas out of what they have, and know how and when to apply their abilities, the extra 100 hitpoints, or -5 DPS matters, and can mean the difference between winning or losing.”
8. When all things are equal in player skill, the smallest bonus can mean victory.
9. Until all gear, and balance in archetype is equal, skill cannot be accurately measured.
So, when you hear people talk about how cheap it is to use pocket items, and then you see that person running around with less than perfect talismans, in poor combinations of set items, and only having one potion active on them at a time, you know that you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t really care about their performance. They have skipped over the basic fundamentals of the gear requirement, you know the person most likely does not play the game to win, they just play to play.
10. The opinion of players who do not put forth the effort to reach the base level of competition can be ignored.
Maybe I’m a dick, maybe I’m an elitist, but I accept the game for what it is, accept my playtime for what it is, and accept the reality of the genre for what it is. MMOs are timesinks for a hobby. The more time you put in, the more you get in return. It’s true with all things, just more-so in this particular genre. If that is something that a person can’t agree with, or refuses to accept, it might be wise to look into another platform for gaming. In MMOs, ability is more a reflection of time spent than it is of physical ability.