Minimum Requirements

Half-Life 2 for the curious.

I had a spark of memory on a topic I’ve been wanting to talk about for a long time. It boils down to a fairly simple topic, but stems from a far more diverse and complicated issue. It was recently personified in an interesting forum post. The writer was addressing a group of people who did something he did not understand, and has resulted in a frustrated change in play. Pretty common situation. Expectations and outside responses not matching up leads to friction. However it’s the particulars of this situation that I find of specific interest as a look at player perceptions.

In this particular event, the problem arose from a negative reaction of the general populace upon requiring the use of Ventrilo and a direct request for an invite to join his warband. The outcry was that these restrictions were elitist and segmenting the population by placing ludicrous demands upon the other player. For those not in the know, by no means are these a hurdle to overcome. The programs are free and quick to download, and the interface is notoriously easy. Voice communication in genre is becoming considered by many to be a standard, due to the limitations of traditional typed-chat. How could a player not be able to recognize the necessity of fast passed, easy communication for a situation that was dynamic and hectic?

Still, this goes on even further than just the one instance of a forum frustration. There’s a corresponding and overriding philosophy among gamers in general that I find to be highly frustrating. It’s the curse of accommodating accessibility and solo play. I’ve talked about it before in less specific bits, but this is becoming a greater problem with each iteration of mainstream MMOs. In WAR, players for some reason, expect to go out into an RvR lake, and play by themselves, and accomplish something significant. RvR lakes in general tend to be the domain of warbands. It’s the PvP equivalent of a large raid.

Please raise your hand if expect to successfully finish *insert current WoW raid du-jour* by yourself.

Odd, no takers. Yet somehow, players go out, and think that they will capture keeps, and make a huge impact on the tides of the war all by their lonesome. Now keep in mind, I’m not saying you CAN’T go out there, and play solo, and enjoy yourself. Heck, to use some terminology from Wolfshead, going solo is more adventurous. But you won’t see a large impact. The rewards from doing so are almost entirely non-tangible.

In WAR, what would be equal to a large raid, people expect to do solo, and what would be equal to group or small raid content (scenarios), people expect to solo as well. It’s as if there is some overriding sense that the entirety of the trip through the game should be taken entirely on ones own. Why is there this split in the perceptions of the player base? I don’t think it’s blatantly the game design’s fault, as there are many perks and advantages that greatly encourage a player to join a guild. Additionally, teaming up with a guild is almost a trope and a base gaming principle in today’s “virtual worlds”. When’s the last time you saw someone with a guild tag over their heads? Everything about the game pushes players to join together, and to overcome opposition. The very title of the genre screams that concept. Massive Multiplayer. It means on both sides, not just the other guy.

Sadly, it seems as if this is the way things are to be for the forseeable future. Upcoming games do not offer me any hope of that changing. Hell, some games are pushing to reinforce that idea, only more-so. Companion characters anyone?  When the game starts giving us direct equivalents to other players to compensate for our lacking, how far do we come from just accepting that the genre name is no longer applicable, and we’ve been suckered into paying a monthly fee for a chat room attached to our game?

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13 Responses to Minimum Requirements

  1. Andy Hunt (Bursh) says:

    I wonder what percentage of the people who do want to be solo players have come from playing other MMOs where this kind of behaviour is advantageous is some regard? I’d wager that it’s quite high.

    To me, there’s a line to be drawn between those players who:
    *Don’t want to play in a group
    *Want to be in a group and not cooperate
    *Want to be in a group and cooperate but not use Ventrilo.

    The top two here, to my mind, smack of not understanding the game properly. As you so rightly said, you can’t accomplish anything in this game on your own – aside from few quests.

    However, the latter of the three sounds to me like the player has some sort of reason not to be in Vent. I’ve met players who don’t use it for a variety of reasons – one reason in particular I want to point out is deafness. One player I’ve talked to was (and is) deaf in real life and for that reason couldn’t use vent, and there were quite open about saying so. To me, that’s the kind of reason warband leaders have to be permissive of. If that person wants to join your warband, and you have no personal, or skill based, reason to deny them access then there can be no harm in allowing them to join, so long as the leader is aware of this issue. It’s not exactly difficult to cater for that person at the end of the day – how hard is it to ask one person in vent to relay instructions in to text?

    For me, the rest of the time spent when point 3 (above) is the case, the reason often boils down to something akin to the player being a younger person who doesn’t want their parents\guardians to hear the things being said in Vent – or is otherwise prohibited from its use. These types of players can usually be weeded out by pointing out that being on Ventrilo does’t necessarily entail speaking (I have guildies that I’ve been playing with for more than 9 months and I’ve never heard their voices!) and that they can just listen. At the end of the day, if they still don’t get in vent, you can easily find a replacement player if you’re adamant about having everybody in vent.

    To my mind, asking people to get in Vent is no more of an elitist requirement than asking Olympic sprinters to be fast. If asking people to get on Ventrilo is elitist, then so is asking sports players to come to training if they want to be in the team.

    When it all comes down to it, if you won’t even get in Vent to listen and you haven’t got a legitimate reason for not doing so, then you’re really cheating yourself out of enjoyment. It’s not like we (the people in Vent) can’t find somebody else!

  2. Mr Meh says:

    I’ve actually been reading the forums lately. I remember reading this yesterday.

    It’s amazing not only the two vastly different servers Gorfang and Badlands are, but just how vastly different the two sides of Gorfang are.

    Anytime I pug it up in a WB, fiveminutes doesn’t pass without some asking “vent?”

    ‘No vent. We are puging’

    5 minutes ….

    “Vent?”

    • shadowwar says:

      I’m curious about the differences between Badlands and Gorfang. I play on two servers, but I don’t really spend any significant time on Iron Rock any longer. I’m fairly insulated from extra-server social paradigms. That said, my recent trip to the dark side of Gorfang, was fairly enlightening.

  3. Attic says:

    “Everything about the game pushes players to join together, and to overcome opposition.”

    Are you referring just to WAR or to MMOs in general? ‘Cause I have to vehemently disagree with both.

    In fact, I see WAR the opposite way. The game is based on the WoW model which, with few exceptions, encourages people to be solo and anti-social at the lower echelons of gameplay and then suddenly shifts to needing a much greater degree of socialization and cooperation at the upper levels. In the lower tiers in WAR, and even in T4 to a certain extent, most people are going to be soloing in PvE (I don’t give a damn about the intent behind PQs, they have failed to live up to that intent), solo queuing scenarios, or joining open warbands.

    This is what the game is sold as to the vast majority of people coming in: a game with no consequences, no necessary commitments, and no need for meaningful social interaction. I don’t believe it is a stretch to say that if people play through the game til they reach the endgame that it’s because they like that environment. If that is the case is it really all that shocking that they resist and are upset by the other portion of the playerbase and even the game itself trying to shift their playstyle over to something that is almost antithetical to what they were enjoying before?

    I think you can see this mentality displayed in the vitriolic bitterness you see some people display on the forums about the whole premade vs. pug teams in scenarios. It’s not just about the inherent disparity of cooperation, coordination, and communication between the teams; it’s also because a portion of the pugging population doesn’t want to play the game that way. They’re happy being by their lonesome, occasionally calling someone a noob in scenario/region chat or laughing at one of their guildmates mt’ing some of the lines from his awkward cybering session.

    tl;dr edition. Most modern MMOs make their games so easy to solo from the beginning all the way to just shy of the end that there is no real impetus to work with people as a team. The game teaches people to think of everyone else running around, at best, as NPCs with funnier names and at worst as actual impediments to their enjoyment. The whole leveling game trains people to think this way. And to have the game suddenly shift tracks once you hit the glass ceiling (be it level 40, 50, 80, whatever) is a jarring experience that will drive people who are unfamiliar with how standard it is in MMOs to either quit, roll an alt, or resist the change with everything they have.

    • shadowwar says:

      I did mean in regards to WAR in specific. That said, I disagree with your disagreement. The leveling game (as far as purely gaining EXP for the 40 levels) does have a focus on being solo. However, this game is all about RvR. It’s all about PvP. Everytime you go into a scenario, and find yourself against a premade, that’s encouragement to go make friends. Everytime a warband runs you over in a lake, that’s encouragement. Access to mounts, scrolls, increased rested exp, banners, and a slew of other things all are big bonuses for anyone willing to socialize. Where Mythic fell short, is in making those benefits painfully obvious.

      WAR followed WoW in allowing players to solo for their entire game if so desired, but they put a much stronger reliance upon group and team play, throughout the entire game. There is a significant difference between allowance and encouragement that I feel often gets overlooked.

    • Andy Hunt (Bursh) says:

      My question is how many of those people who resist grouping and what to be solo legends secretly want to be playing an MMO without the stigma attached to WoW? I’m not saying that’s everybody in that segment of the player base and nor am I saying that there is anything inherently wrong with playing WoW – but I’m sure we can all agree there is a little social stigma attached to WoW (at least there is where I’m from, and not just from over-opinionated 14-year-olds on message boards).

      it’s also because a portion of the pugging population doesn’t want to play the game that way.

      I think that’s a brilliant little nugget you’ve touched upon. My counter-point here is to say that you wouldn’t go and play a shooter online and refuse to participate in combat, would you? That;s the way those games are meant to be played, and you either play it that way or you don’t play at all. It’s, pretty much, the same with WAR; though, of course, you can get by on your own. So, if you don’t want to play that way, why are you playing the game at all? What your essentially trying to do is play your own game inside the predefined rule sets of an existing game.

      I’ll admit that, at least for me, levels 1 to 39 are the worst part of the game. I would almost consider paying cold, hard money to be able to start any class I want at level 30 renown rank 20 – because I like having that period of levelling to learn how to play my class and I like the lower renown ranks because I can feel like I’m making some progress. The whole experience up to tier 4 can be done mb your lonesome, sure, but from experience I’d say it’s more fun grouping. My very first toon (AM) took me over a month to get through Tier 3 through RVR. I wasn’t part of a guild, but every day I would log on and talk to the people in /t3 and region chat and we’d start things up. I certainly would have quit the game long before reaching tier 4 if I wasn’t grouping with people.

      After levelling my first character and experiencing how good T4 is, I honestly can’t abide the lower tiers. I just want to blast through them and have fun in T4 where I can play with my guild and not have to worry about how good the random low-level pug is.

      easy to solo from the beginning all the way to just shy of the end that there is no real impetus to work with people as a team.

      I agree here, somewhat. I wasn’t around for the beginning of this game (I only joined the population little over 9 months ago) but I imagine as the population as a whole was levelling to 40 that there was a lot of action in T1-3. I think, now, most people feel the same way I do: they don’t want to muck about in the lower tiers on alts. They want to make an alt and play on it with their guild mates in T4. There’s no impetus to play with other people in those lower tiers when 9 times out of 10 a guildy will happily bring you over to LOTD and help you grind out a few levels before you get back on your main.

      Sure, doing that might leave you with a pre-teen renown rank but that, too, isn’t an issue. Now that the game has so many rr65+ players, it barely matters if you have one level 40 rr 15 toon running around with you. The pace at which they earn renown due to the level of the enemy will see them rocket up to 40/40 (level/renown) and begin getting in to gear that will see them be decent competition for the opposing faction.

      Okay, so I strayed off topic there, but I tried to keep that whole thing relevant as to why I don’t think there’s any reason to group with people in the lower tiers. However, I think it’s important to note that I’m writing that from the angle of somebody with alts. That certainly doesn’t hold true for anybody coming up in ranks for the first time. Those are definitely the people you see joining and running lower tier warbands – which is probably the reason so many of them are so horribly, laughably bad!

    • Attic says:

      However, this game is all about RvR. It’s all about PvP.

      You’re looking at things through the filter of someone who has been at the endgame for a long time and actively enjoys it. For people who are new to the game ( I know it’s a rare occurrence but bare with me) it might not be “all about PvP.” I remember the first character I played seriously in the game (a knight) was lvl 18 before I started to PvP with her simply because I’d never really done any PvP before and was more than slightly intimidated by the prospect, especially with a class that felt kinda weak and bland. I don’t think that my experience is unique either.

      Everytime you go into a scenario, and find yourself against a premade, that’s encouragement to go make friends. Everytime a warband runs you over in a lake, that’s encouragement.

      You have to remember that I’m mostly talking about newer players here. People who were weened on the succulent, pre-made free milk of T1-T3. A land where the only strategy that needs to be exercised in OrVR is “follow everyone else and kill the red names.” I believe that to these people encountering a premade like Blitz or Arsenal in a scenario is more of a reason to rail against “unfairness” and “elitism” than anything else. The whole rest of the game these people have played, which probably amounts to 30-50 hours, has built them up as hot shit, or at least lukewarm, and when you disabuse people of their preconceived notions a significant percentage of them are going to react poorly.

      Also note that I don’t believe that pugging scenarios or joining public warbands counts as “teaming” unless you attempt to take an active role in communicating and coordinating strategy with other people in the scenario/warband/other warbands. If you’re just along for the ride, following the herd to bash red names you’re still effectively playing solo in my eyes.

      My counter-point here is to say that you wouldn’t go and play a shooter online and refuse to participate in combat, would you? That;s the way those games are meant to be played, and you either play it that way or you don’t play at all. It’s, pretty much, the same with WAR; though, of course, you can get by on your own. So, if you don’t want to play that way, why are you playing the game at all?

      There’s one vast difference between an MMO like Warhammer and a shooter like TF2 and that is this: TF2 doesn’t lie to you. From the very moment you log into TF2 you are given the game as it always is, a team game where you shoot people on the opposite team and you are given both the incentive to communicate with your team and the tools to do so in an effective manner regardless of 3rd party applications or non-standard hardware. Your first hour of playing TF2 will be very much like your 500th hour. The exact opposite is true of virtually all AAA MMOs on the market, and the dikumud EQ/WoW model games are the worst about it. In these games once you reach an arbitrary point in the game the whole thing essentially shifts to an entirely different game. The transition between these phases is usually not very pretty and in my experience has been the death of many chracters. In WAR we have something that in many ways is even worse, the people from the two segments can and do come into daily contact with each other and impact each others ability to enjoy the game.

      What your essentially trying to do is play your own game inside the predefined rule sets of an existing game.

      Um, that’s what everyone does in pretty much every game. Not even just MMOs. Every time you decide to do (or not do) anything in a game you’re making a conscious choice to play your own metagame within the confines of the game proper. The only type of game I can think of that you could reasonably say otherwise about are rail shooters, and even then you can decide to things like limited ammo runs and whatnot. This is even applicable to Pong ffs.

      I’ll admit that, at least for me, levels 1 to 39 are the worst part of the game. […] but from experience I’d say it’s more fun grouping

      I can certainly empathize. I won’t even start a game unless I can convince at least one friend to come along with me. And I know that after I got my first 40 almost purely from ORvR/scenarios and had my first good taste of T4 action I’ve always tried to speed my alts through the purgatory of the lower tiers. But I think it’s important to understand where other people are coming from, no matter how bizarre and alien their logic seems to be. I’ve met plenty of people in my gaming time who don’t want to commit to a team or who treat their guild as a kind of in-game IRC channel and when these people are sold a game that meshes with their interests I have to ask if they’re in the wrong for being upset when it all gets taken away for what seems to them to be arbitrary reasons. Which is really the crux of everything I’ve been saying.

      I remember when I reached FFXIs endgame that I hated it almost immediately. I hated camping dragons for 3 hours at 4 AM just so someone else could claim it and see if they could survive the MPK attempts. I hated spending 3-5 hours a week in instances with 50 other people just to see the whole group get no drops. I hated nearly everything about it, yet I still continued playing for a year and a half after that. I crafted, I fished, I lvled other classes, I completed quest storylines, but it still annoyed me that there was a glass ceiling on my classes just because I didn’t want to deal with the big name guilds stroking their egos and preening drama whores. And I read what you guys are saying and I ask myself, was it wrong of me to feel that way? Or was it wrong for the developers to not only make their game so incongruent, but also to essentially ignore it for years on end? I cannot help but feel the latter. And I think the situation is much the same for other people in Warhammer.

      This all goes back to something I’ve been saying for years: games need to help foster their community instead of hoping it just spontaneously coalesces out of the void. The sooner you engage your players on your community the better retention you’ll have. But this is another topic altogether and I’ve rambled quite enough for one post.

      P.S. Apologies for incorrect formatting. I’m still not used to HTML formatting in wordpress.

      • shadowwar says:

        I agree with both of you guys on a various series of different areas. One of the areas of lack (if you want to call it that) in Warhammer is the obscure guiding towards being in a guild. It’s gotten much better, with being put into the newbie “forces of order/destro” guilds once you hit a certain level (I think it’s level 4). From the perspective of a new player, that should be a giant clue that this is kinda important.

        Also, I disagree about players not realizing it’s a PvP game. The quests lead you directly to scenarios, to the RvR lakes. The idea and concept behind the game, the premise that it’s sold upon to players, is that it’s a game where you fight the other guy. There’s a slight disconnect between that pitch, and the implementation at Tier 2 & 3 (in tier 1, EVERYONE floods the lake), but not so large as to be called deceptive.

      • Attic says:

        Man I hate it when the reply button doesn’t show up where it should.

        Perhaps I’m being unclear. I never said that people were too ignorant to understand the PvP was there. What I meant was that while it might be a straight PvP game for you, for others the PvP might be more incidental. For example, if PvP was the most important thing for everyone then you wouldn’t have people leaving the game because their friends did. I don’t think that position is so strange. But maybe I’m biased because that’s exactly what I did.

        Also, I distinctly recall the game being sold on being a balance of PvP and PvE where everyone contributed to the realm effort and got rewarded for it regardless of playstyle.

        As for guilds and such, I don’t think the problem is so much people not being in guilds or anything like that. It’s more that there’s a non-negligible percentage of people who believe that their guild is an IRC channel and won’t ask to team up or do any scenario premades or try to get an alliance warband together and that this is exacerbated by the game treating such things as optional for such a long period of time that it leads people to believe they’ll always be optional when that simply isn’t the case.

        Does that make more sense? Or am I an even poorer writer than I previously believed?

      • shadowwar says:

        This layout (and my last one) don’t allow for deeper than three-tiers of replies. BAH!

        As for your message, I think I get where you’re coming from. The problem is, playing to the intent of the game. I’ve talked about this before in posts, as how it can be impossible to judge what the intent is. In WAR, I’ve always felt it was pretty clear.

        PvP.

        In early talks of the game, they proposed that you COULD do PvE and PvP, but from the beginning, the emphasis was on this gaming being predominatly PvP. The first game that really gave you experience for doing it. Many times they emphasized that you could get everything you needed from just PvP. That’s how important it was.

        In some ways, that’s become less true with time. ToVL, talismans, pocket items, crafting consumables, etc… have all forced more PvE into the game than I expected at the start.

        As to player exodus, the focus of the game woudln’t have affected that much, at least, not split between the PvE/PvP spectrum. MMOs are social by nature. The genre demands connections and group play by the base inceptions of their design. Playing solo in an MMO will result in player atrophy.

        You do hit on a good point though with the guild IRC thing. How do we get players to connect and plug in. To want to work with others and realize that it’s a team game, and guilds aren’t just chat rooms? I feel like I’d have to grab a 4-ton jack-bar and beat them over the head with it after discovering their RealID to make people realize that MMOs aren’t just SRPGs online. Of course, this goes down the path of discussion of what makes an MMO an online game, and what makes it a virtual world.

      • Andy Hunt (Bursh) says:

        Perhaps an important question to ask might be what percentage of players who aren’t grouping are super casual? Are they any hardcore players out there who don’t group? (Oh how I hate all these “casual” and “hardcore” labels. Sadly, they’re useful in this situation to communicate meaning)

        I think for the most part, people who’ve come up through the ranks solo, but who want to keep playing the game, do eventually adjust to the team-based play. However, I do agree that the game doesn’t exactly do a great job of saying “Hey, you should really trying grouping up and coordinating” in the lower tiers. I’m not sure how much of that is a function of a percentage of the population not bothering to group up in those tiers, though.

        Those players who get to T4 and don’t\can’t adjust to group play generally stop playing, in my experience. It’s a shame to see them go, but I know how frustrating the game can be when you’re on your own.

        On a slightly less-travelled path of thought: some people are just shy! They don’t want to ask to join groups in case they can’t. I’ve come across one or two players who I never saw looking for groups, but were happy to joined if asked if they’d like a spot. Just a random thought there.

  4. Rikker says:

    O.o Intelligent discussion!

    ;P. In all seriousness, it’s nice to see a real discussion of things like this.

    To put my two cents in:

    I’d say that even at T3, the game quickly becomes painfully obvious that it is group-based. The PVE at that level, for me, was so painful that I wouldn’t solo it any more (didn’t help that my character was a Zealot…) Instead, I’d organize PuG warbands all night and we’d roam around finding order/ flipping zones. Lots of fun in some of those, way more fun that doing it solo (again, the “healer” part might have had something to do with it).

    I guess at the end of the day, I agree a little bit with all of you: I do think that WAR DOES encourage group play, although it probably has room to grow.

    On the other hand, it is (yes, through the filter of a lot of time in T4,), it is CLEARLY a PVP game… which means, ultimately, you have to WANT to go find a challenge in order to have fun. If you’re expecting to RVE the whole game, it will certainly become boring, and if you’re expecting to take on organized forces with a random mish-mash of solo players, then you’re going to have a rude awakening.

    In the end, I don’t necessarily see it as Mythic’s job to make players want to play a certain way. They put out the game, in the end I’d say it’s up to the players to find their fun in a game that they voluntarily pay for.

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