Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Risk Of Reward

I'm very conscious that I haven't posted for a few days. It's not for lack of ideas or a shortage of things to say. Rather the opposite. There's been no lack of triggers but everything seems to demand some in-depth analysis or considered thought and there's not been the time

One thing I really wanted to tear up and shake around was the concept of reward structures in MMOs. It's a topic that's been popping up all over of late.

Ravious wrote about how pleased he was to see some of the proposed changes to WvW that will impact GW2 post-Heart of Thorns, supposedly making the whole thing more attractive to people who aren't enjoying it now by adding and improving the material rewards it offers. My immediate reaction was something along the lines of "but that's not the solution - that's the problem!".

Keen had his see-back-o-scope out and he was pointing it at Dark Age of Camelot. Several commenters accused him of having the rose-tinted filter fitted but he came back with some solid rebuttals based mainly on why caring trumps enjoying.

Topauz gave me some very helpful pointers in the comment thread to my post on how much fun I was having in EQ2. As a direct result of those I went out and had even more fun, remembering just why it is that I so appreciate the approach SoE and now Daybreak take to rewarding players for joining in with their vision.

That led me start thinking about motivations and rewards in MMOs across the board. About why I'm playing and what I get out of it. About who's playing me and what they get out of that. About fun, fulfillment and Living A Good Life.

This is the sort of thing that runs into dozens of hours and thousands of words and ends up eating its host. There's time to write and there's time to game but it's the same time. This week I chose to game, which, now I come to think of it, is emblematic of what I would have wanted to write about had I chosen to write instead.

It's over-simplistic to assert that, when it comes to play, the primary reward for playing should be to have played. Over-simplistic but not untrue. It's the addition of permanence in RPGs that complicates everything.

Role-playing games, on or offline, predicate character growth and character growth mandates markers. Merely having played a roleplaying game is insufficient; your character must also have progressed and be seen to have progressed.

This I understood immediately in Everquest from the moment the first dead bat incremented a yellow bubble. Everything since then has been about acquisition, attainment, moving forward. The Player versus Environment world requires it always; we understand that.

An "MMORPG" in which the character ends exactly as it began, other than by the difference of a few thousand hours of gameplay, is unthinkable. Maybe once upon a time, when there was still some roleplaying left in that acronym, but now?

When possession moves from pocket to pasture, though, everything changes. Now we define ourselves not by who we are but by where we stand.

Keen's telephone tree that pulled hundreds of sleep-eyed adolescents out of bed at three a.m. may have gone the way of 8-tracks and VHS but the sentiment, the commitment, carries on. Else what are we to make of Mrrx, driving his car around Burbank, cellphone in hand? Or Wilhelm, following the the Fall of ZXB-VC on a Twitch feed from his desk at work?

When these things matter they matter even though we know they don't. The reward is real is all the reward we need. Defending the keep. Holding the relic. Winning Sovereignty. Protecting the Portal.

The reward for doing is having done. Anything on top is sugar. And we all know, crave it though we may - sugar is bad for us.


  1. Today, I did my first AoM solo (Ssraeshza Temple)... solo, and I did it without dying or even without pulling out any hair. Bear in mind that just about my two least entertaining activities in MMOs these days is dealing with scripted combat or jumping puzzles -- even more than crafting! Even so, I had fun because I was doing it. What with that brake stomp on xp typical of the last stretch to max level, there wasn't much progress made, but I don't think it mattered much, on balance.

    I suppose that would be low sugar experience, but, yeah... I think part of gratification like this comes from its infrequency. hmmm...

    -- 7rlsy

    1. I haven't done Ssrashza Temple yet. I only did the ones that were in the signature questline and if that one is in there I somehow missed it. I might try it as one of the dailies.

      From what I've read the upcoming Rum Cellar is extremely reliant on scripts. It didn't look that appealing to me in the first place but I really loathe scripted events in MMOs and always have done so that's a major strike against it. As for jumping puzzles, I tend to react badly to them and I often claim I don't like them, but I am beginning to feel that I'm not *that* bad at them and maybe I sometimes enjoy doing them more than I'm willing to admit.

      Hmm...both of those topics could use posts of their own...

    2. Agreed. They go on the list. heh

      (No, it isn't. I just finished the sig line for the first time over the weekend. I just took it from the solo missions npc at the dock.)

      -- 7rlsy


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