Thought of the Day: When reaching your goals is all about the journey

The perennial casual vs hardcore debate rumbles on, and I thought this was a really interesting thread on the topic on tankspot. It is particularly interesting in WoW at the moment, because people are deciding what their goals will be (raiding and guildwise) in the next expansion.

And I just wanted to pick out one quote:

I think the reason Hardcore people really get progression(and so much faster) is because when you put 25 people in a raid who want to be the best at X class, instead of 25 people who want to get X gear(or X boss). you’ll get much further.

There does come a point where it’s all about recruitment. But there’s also a point where a lot of people would say, “who cares about being best at X class as long as you’re good enough”. Clearly not a hardcore attitude, or is it? Spending Z extra hours to nail that last 0.5% of performance when it isn’t necessary is not a very efficient use of time.

I think there’s two different types of goal setting.

  • I want to do/get X as fast as possible.
  • I want to do/ get X as efficiently (i.e. as little excess work) as possible.

Optimising efficiency hasn’t really been popular gameplay in western games, it’s a little alien to designers.

But if your goal in Wrath is to kill the Lich King, there’s no special benefit to being in a hardcore guild if a more relaxed setup could also do the job. Each week we’re seeing more raids take down Arthas for the first time. It’s a really big moment for any group that had been raiding together for most of the expansion, however casual.

And the particular  challenges facing casual raid guild leaders who need to pull together players with varying goals, commitment, and availability and keep things running for months on end are not well understood or rewarded in game.

To all of them, and everyone who raids with them, congratulations! You rock.

When good enough is Good Enough

If a PvE challenge is too tough, you can go away and do something else and come back later when you’re tougher and have better gear. In Japanese-style RPGs (which let’s face it, is where most of the quest based play was taken from) you can do this by wandering around and killing random monsters that turn up just for that purpose.

So you can control your own difficulty by deciding just how overpowered you want to be when you take on that fight. Think of how many times you’ve gone back to a lowbie area to one-shot some annoying mob that made your life hell a few months ago. Just because you can.

At end game, this doesn’t work so well any more. There are limits there on how much more powerful it is possible to get. And it also takes a lot more time and effort to pursue end game gearing. So an end game challenge can be genuinely difficult in a way that means it can’t (yet) be beaten by being outgeared.

You  balance how hard you want the fight to be with how long you want to spend preparing for it. Or in other words, you have two resources to balance: your time, and challenge difficulty. The more time you have, the easier it gets.

So what does this have to do with being good enough?

I’ve been reading blog posts recently discussing the concept of ‘good enough’ with respect to raiding. Gevlon argues from a pragmatic point of view that some people are too competitive for their own good and as long as you are good enough to pull your weight and do your job, it’s enough.

This is very much where I stand also. If you’re good at assessing what sort of challenges you can take on at your current level, then you can save a lot of time and effort. Why put in extra work when you don’t need to?

This attitude can be interpreted as being lazy, or being satisfied with being mediocre. It isn’t necessarily either of these. You’re certainly saving some time, but whether or not it’s lazy depends on what you do with the time that you had saved. (This is aside from it being just plain weird to accuse people of playing a game lazily.)

I value my time, and leisure time not spend grinding instances is time that I can spend with my spouse, hanging out with family or friends, time to catch up on BSG DVDs, time to blog, or just time to catch up on housework. All of these things are more important to me than having best in slot gear when I know I’m already good enough to fill my role in the raids we run.

From this perspective, ‘good enough’ is all about balancing out resources. My time, my fun, my in game goals. Fun is an odd quantity, not necessarily at odds to the other two, but it’s worth mentioning because ultimately games are played for fun and if you aren’t having enough fun, you will burn out (or realise that you aren’t getting your money’s worth and go play something else).

As an aside, I do wonder if we’d value our time more if we had to pay by the hour rather than use a subscription model. I’m not sure any RMT games use this model but for any that did, I’d expect the player base to be very focussed on efficiency.

This sense of ‘good enough’ is important to project managers and raid leaders also. Groups (both in game and at work) gain morale from successfully completing tasks. Time is always a limited resource. So is manpower. iRL, budgets are also an issue. And as a leader, you have to make the judgement call, ‘Are we good enough with what we’ve got now?’

And if you get it right, then it’s a success for the whole team. Not a lazy success, not a mediocre success, but a smart and efficient success.

Efficiency, the best efforts from the least time

One of the things that marks out the real hardcore guilds in game is their dedication to efficiency. Not to doing crazy stunts just to prove how hardcore they are, but to achieving the best results in the least time.

It isn’t necessarily the 5 raids a week guys you should be looking to for true hardcore. It’s the guys who keep a disciplined 2-3 raids a week. And are able to clear content with fewer hours invested into the raids.

This is not a blog about being hardcore, since I’m not. But I appreciate the challenge of doing the best you can with the resources that you have. It doesn’t mean that you can’t improve, any good raider will always be striving to do better, and if you aim for efficiency then you want to make every minute count. But at the end of the day you have to ask: Did we succeed in our goal? Was it fun? Did I stick within my time budget? And as a raid leader, you really don’t want to make people stick around while you wait for that last perfect person to log in if there’s someone else around who wants to come who will make the raid possible.

Oh yes, sometimes good enough is absolutely Good Enough.