Saturday, April 17, 2021

Bad Idea

I don't have any one thing on my mind today, just a clutch of random thoughts drifting around and bumping into one another. I guess that means it's time for one of those portmanteau posts...

When Devs Disagree

Well, that's a terrible name for a web show. I wouldn't watch it. Lucky no-one's made one and called it that, isn't it? If they had, though, and if I was unfortunate enough to get the gig booking guests for it (although how would that happen?)...

What do you call the person who books the guests for a chat show, anyway? The booker? The booking agent? What Janeane Garofalo did in the Larry Sanders Show, that's the thing I mean.  

Well, not that! Not what's happening in the clip. That's where you get fired and your boss takes it as an opportunity to ask you out on a date. 

Is that really a thing that happens? I wouldn't know. I've never been fired. I did hire someone once because I wanted to go out with them. Is that better? Or worse? It was in the 1980s, though. The world was different then. Don't get me started.

Anyway, I just linked that scene because there are no clips on YouTube of Paula actually doing her job. There's just that one of her getting fired for doing her job badly (I'm guessing, although who knows what she was fired for? It was the Larry Sanders show. Could have been anything. Maybe it was so Larry could ask her out. Maybe that was the actual plot...) 

Oh, and there's one of her getting a warning from Artie, telling her not to do her job badly just because she might be... well, I won't go into the details. You should just watch it. Or maybe not. It was on network tv. I guess it's okay...

It seems Paula did her job badly a lot of the time, although I remember the joke being she did it about as well as anyone could in the circumstances. At least, that's what I remember her doing from when I used to watch the show back in the 90s. I ought to watch it again. It was one of my favorites. 

I could. There are plenty of episodes of Larry Sanders online because apparently whoever owns the rights doesn't care enough to get them taken down. Same with Newhart, oddly enough. And Frasier. You'd think someone would notice. I mean, I get why no-one bothers about Boston Common or Bakersfield PD but Frasier? 

Those were two really great shows, though. I downloaded all of Boston Common just in case it vanishes from YouTube some day and I have all of Bakersfield PD on VHS. My friend Tim sent it to me before he died.  

Watching VHS tapes is a lot of fuss these days, though. I have to connect the old VHS recorder I got from my mother to the laptop and they don't really like to talk to each other. I have many hundreds of tapes I'll probably never play again. 

It's a lot easier just to watch whatever's on the tapes online, if someone's uploaded it. I mean, what's the difference, morally or legally? (I know what it is. Don't get me started on that, either). Probably those are uploaded from VHS anyway, judging by the quality. 

I see it as a public service although I don't imagine that's an argument the television companies give much credit. Still, if someone hadn't done it I'd never have seen Boston Common at all. It's not like anyone ever thought it was worth putting out on DVD. Oh, wait...

I suppose I could have gone through some of the Larry Sanders shows for myself and found a better scene. By which  I mean a more appropriate scene, one that's more germane to the point I'm trying to make. I'm hardly going to find a better scene than the ones I did link. Either of them. They're both classics. But I could have found one of Paula booking someone then edited it and re-upped it to my channel and linked to that.  Who has the time, though, amiright? (And who says "amiright"? Am I right?).

Hang on, where was I? Didn't I say I had a point? Anyone know what it was?

Oh yes! I remember. So, over at MassivelyOP they had an item on the latest of Raph Koster's peculiar press-release/fireside talks (Seriously, what are they supposed to be?) in which he says any number of things that I either don't agree with or don't believe make any sense at all. 

The one I really didn't take to was this:

"“Players get bored. It’s natural. It is really rare that a single game holds someone forever. And if you don’t have something else for them to do as a change of pace, well, you’re likely to lose them. Supporting a range of ways to play means that when someone gets bored of one activity, they can do something else, which is the most human thing in the world. What is weird is the idea that someone would spend all their time doing only one thing to the exclusion of all else — even if they love it!”"

It makes me wonder if he's ever played an mmorpg. "Doing one thing to the exclusion of all else" is pretty much the strapline for the genre! 

Players certainly do get bored doing it. He's not wrong there. You can hear them saying it over and over in general chat in every mmo ever made. The thing is, they say it while they're doing the same thing they did yesterday and last week and last year and the year before that because if there's one thing mmo players can be relied upon to do it's  "spend all their time doing only one thing to the exclusion of all else".

Cue Rob Ciccolini, executive producer of Lord of the Rings Online. Here he is, as reported by MassivelyOP again, explaining why he won't be removing the widely-despised Legendary Item grind from LotRO:

"We want players to have things to do while they are leveling. I know that some players are ‘Oh, this is too grindy and sometimes we overdo it,’ but ‘grindy’ doesn’t scare me as much as ‘I don’t have enough to do.’ I don’t have enough to do is worse because players want to play the game but they don’t really have goals to pursue."

And there you have it. One developer believes you keep people playing your game by giving them a whole load of unrelated things to do, even though most players show very little interest in anything outside of their preferred playstyle and get out the tar and feathers any time anyone tries to make them broaden their horizons, while the other thinks the trick is to take one thing people already don't enjoy and stretch it out so it takes literally forever, no matter how much the players claim they hate it, just so they'll always have something to do.

It just screams "celebrity death match", doesn't it? 

Oh, hey! That's what the web show ought to be called! Developer Death Match! We'd all watch that. Although, come to think of it, I never really liked Celebrity Death Match. And judging by the clips I just watched, it hasn't aged well.

So, what else was I going to write about? Um... Dragon Nest Origins and DCUO, I think. Seems a bit pointless now. 

I'll save them for the next time I'm stuck for something to write about.


  1. ❤️

    Write in this style more often, please. I promise I won't get bored.

    I'd watch the hell out of Developer Deathmatch.

    1. Thanks! I really do appreciate comments on style and I don't get many. If only I knew what style I was gong to write in when I started each post I'd be happy to do requests but usually I'm as surprised about how they come out as anyone.

  2. JFC it ate my comment. First time that has happened in a while.

    Anyway, excellent post!

    I don't know if you saw my comment over on the MOP post, but my first thought was how much of a polar opposite this was to what Raph was saying just the day before.

    I may peg Raph as too much of a blue sky optimist on design at times, but this guy going on about how they can't remove a despised grind because they're afraid we'll all wander off so deeply misunderstands what keeps people playing these games that it is almost tragic.

    I will probably have a further post about this myself, but I have to sift the implications of what was said. It certainly explains much of what I don't like about LOTRO and sucks out any hope that the game will get better when the executive producer feels that making horrible mechanics is the only way to keep people invested. It boggles the mind.

    1. Thanks for re-doing the comment. I know how incredibly irritating it is when you type a whole long, thoughtful observation and it just vanishes into the void.

      I didn't see your comment because I pretty much driveby snipe MOP's comment threads. I just went back and read it, though, and it is brilliant! I so wish I'd thought of that. Also, I think I'm going to watch Bojack again from the beginning. I'm sitting between a four foot silk flag of Princess Carolyn and a poster of Bojack sitting on the diving board of his pool so it's always in my mind to watch it, anyway.

      Of the two approaches I would certainly rather play a sprawling, unfocused game like Raph suggests than a tunnel-vision grindfest like Rob wants but I really don't think either is a model for success. I mean, I love EQII, which is pretty much the poster-game for Raph's "give em all the things and let em sort it out" approach, but it's hardly bringing in the crowds, is it?

    2. If you read his resume you can get a sense that Raph had input on EQII even when he was more on SWG, and he was directly involved from launch until Hartsman took over.

    3. Oh yes! I had completely forgotten that! I remember now being somewhat apprehensive about his involvement at the time because I'd been reading his philosophy on SWG before it launched and that had been one of the reasons I lost interest in playing it. When you consider what I've always said about EQII from launch and how I've always portrayed Hartsman's revamp as not just the turning point but the true beginning of the game, it really fits together. The thing about early EQII was that it looked like you had choices but really you were forced into doing ALL the things, not just the ones you enjoyed. Hartsman broke all that up and gave players genuine freedom of action. Maybe the two of them should team up.

    4. Echoes of Faydwer was very much a revival of EQII at the time. (Though it looks as ugly as sin now compared to more recent zones.) Hartsman took what he learned and made Rift, which has had some issues from the first expansion forward, but was a pretty solid offering at launch and is still around, while Raph made... MetaPlace. Need more Hartsman I think.

  3. I did not read the dev chat. But from the MoP article it looks like they are implementing a challenge mode from DDO called Reaper in LoTRO. It's a way of cranking up the difficulty well beyond what the game was originally designed for. The idea is that in encourages grouping, and give players that have been grinding and improving their character incrementally for years something challenging to do. It also pushed par for joining pugs out to a power level that new players need to either grind for a very long time or open their wallets quite wide to reach.

    It sounds like SSG may be looking at ways to make having a maxed out LI and maxed out traits feel less optional to join PUGs as you are leveling. If the main goal is to milk whales, look for challenge mode XP, challenge mode traits, and XP accelerators in the item shop. That's how Reaper works in DDO.

    All that said, LoTRO has nothing like the reincarnation system. At low levels the potential difference in power between a maxed out character and a new one is not nearly as stark as it can be in DDO (barring some kind of new challenge mode traits being added).

  4. So to clarify the last part of my post, it's entierly posible that the new challenge mode will have non of the bad side effects in LoTRO that it does in DDO. I will also say that the most hardcore players in DDO absolutely love reaper, so it could be a next benefit regardless.

    1. There's a clear separation between what would attract and keep a large number of players and what would extract the most money from them. Catering to the hardcore has to be a lot more reliable more efficient, provided you attract a hardcore who actually have money to spend. By definition, if you set out to attract people who are easily bored and need distraction you're going to be competing with every other shiny, new attraction out there. If you focus on giving a core group exactly what they want you stand a much better chance of locking them in. The problem comes when you can't hold that group any more. Then you're dead. It's the old "eggs in one basket" routine.

      It looks as though SSG are prepared to drive everyone else away just to keep that core group in DDO and if it's making them more money they may well want to transfer the technique to LotRO. One thing I think we can say for sure now is that whatever's going on over there it's not being driven by some upper management agenda at Daybreak. All the games there have an element of power-grind but no more so than the genre norm and they all go out of their way to allow fast catch-up for newcomers or returnees. SSG doesn't seem remotely interested in doing any of that.

  5. Perhaps I’m not thinking deeply enough, but I don’t get why both are polar opposites. Strikes me that both are equally wrong (or right, depending on your point of view). Both stratagems do a great job at making players hate, resent and eventually burn out of one particular game, thus creating the self fulfilling prophecy that players will get “bored” of one particular game and leave.

    Perhaps it’s better to look at what the games with longevity really have been doing - focusing on their core gameplay idea, adding improvements around that, creating changes and novelty in seasonal updates and expansions (thus allowing for players to go through the boredom cycle, leave for a while and then come -back-, still with positive impressions about the game.)

    1. The "opposite" is very much in the approach to my mind. Raph, perhaps optimistically, wants multiple paths for people to explore in an MMO. LOTRO has pretty much a single adventure path and, once you're in Moria, you have to get on the LI grind or give up on being able to do the content.

      So the opposites are somewhat based on structure. Raph is against a lot of structure, which can backfire, while Ciccolini is so invested in structure that he'd prefers even grindy loathsome structure like LIs because bad structure is better than none.

    2. I think they're both missing the point, which Jeromai hits squarely on the head: know what your game is, know who it appeals to, do it well and keep building on that. Of course, if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it. Players are fickle and developers are creative. The two don't always dovetail.

      Of the two approcahes, though, I'd far rather have someone spew out a whole load of options, most of which I might not be interested in, than have someone give me one choice and tell me I'd damn well better like it. I might not end up playing either of their games but I'd be a lot more likely to keep checking back with the first to see if there was something new that I might enjoy. The other game I'd just forget about.


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