Why we need killers to show us how to have fun

Sara Pickell wrote a brilliant post about MMOs, and the struggle between companies trying to sell them to us as goods vs services. I’ve tried to come at this from a different angle before, but she does it far more eloquently than I did.

But there was one paragraph that made me stop and think (and she’s referring to the Bartle player types here – achiever, explorer, socialiser, killer):

The primary audience of any product will always be the achievers, those who want it for it’s own use and to excel within it’s use. The secondary target would be explorers, those who are interested in seeing it in it’s entirety. You may still want some socialites to build buzz for you, but they are more likely to strain your system without seeing very much content so their presence is more a marketing investment than anything. Killers are last place, to one extent catering to another audience is always a good thing, on the other, killers are more likely to drive away other players or cause harassment issues. Killers are probably only given serious representation now because they simply make up one of the largest minorities in MMOs.

I think it is commonly held (by non-killers) that the ‘killers’ (ie. players whose primary way to have fun is by attacking other players) are a negative influence on the genre. They’re the griefers, the min-maxers, the trouble-makers, the forum whiners. They’re the ones who will drive other players away by corpse camping them for hours and then flooding forums with illegible leet smacktalk. They’re the kiddies, the guys who just don’t know how to play nice with others.

But all virtual worlds involve competition

When you get more than one person into a room, in real life as well as in a game, they will compete with each other. It may be subtle, it may be non-serious, but they will compete for any resource available.

The idea that a virtual social world utopia would be completely free of negative vibes is ridiculous. Social competition is some of the most bitter, vicious, cut-throat gaming that it is possible to have. And it’s largely based on trying to be popular. Being bitter about not getting enough attention from ‘the right people’. Networking. Trying to make yourself useful. Cybering for extra perks (it happens a lot).

You know what guild drama can be like? You know how people fret if they feel left out of a clique? Imagine an entire virtual world which is all about guild drama. I’m not saying that it can’t be fun – people are extremely fun. They will surprise and entertain you in ways that no mechanical NPC ever can. But we don’t have a good ruleset for social competition.

If the killers know one thing, it is how to compete

And this is where the killers come in. The way they compete is far simpler. You kill someone. Or you get killed. You exchange some smack talk. You go back to base and start again. At the end of the session, they leave the game on the table.

Compare that to the extended guild drama bitchfests which can leave people in tears or depressed for hours. Which is the most healthy form of competition, really?

For all that devs and other players complain about the killers in our games, I wonder if we need them there to teach us how to play the things.

the little paladin who didn’t

This is a guild drama (well, not really drama, just minor rant really)  issue that I read about from Tobold. The basic story is that a paladin was in a raiding guild, he got geared up quickly and then got bored with the content and let his guildmaster know that he was taking a break until the next raid instance was patched into WoW — for the record, we don’t know when this will be, estimate is a few months yet. Matticus, his guild leader, lets off some steam about it here. The Greedy Goblin defends the paladin, but I’m going to do it better ;)

Storm in a Teacup?

As an experienced drama consumer, my first reaction is disappointment. If this is the best we can do for drama these days, then my friends, we have some work cut out for us!

Really this should not be worth ranting about. People come and go from raiding guilds all the time. Real life throws up hurdles, people burn out, sometimes they decide to hop to other guilds or other servers; it’s a fact of life. If you are a guild or class leader, you are basically always recruiting.

In this particular case, Spinks’ spidey sense of over-reaction is going through the roof. OK, a raider left. On entry level raids which the guild has on farm. So how long precisely would it take this guild to gear up a new replacement holy paladin (it just so happens that they are the only class/spec which does not share loot with anyone else — so if holy paladin loot drops, it has to go straight to the new guy)? A couple of weeks. That’s ALL.

So what’s the big deal here? Shrug, move on, say to the old guy, ‘Thanks for all the time spent raiding with us, we’ll look forwards to seeing you back but we will be recruiting to fill your spot so we can’t guarantee you a raid place.” And then recruit an enthusiastic new guy and throw some loot at him/her. It’s not that hard to recruit this early in the expansion cycle and if Matticus’ guild has a good rep — which I am sure it does, he seems like an upfront guy — where’s the problem?

It’s not as if he left to go to a competing guild or a different server. He just got bored and wanted not to burn out.

But we geared him! We own his soul!

I see this attitude a lot among raid leaders and it’s dumb. Once the gear has been distributed it is history. The person who got the shiny earned it by being in the raid where it dropped. By being in that raid, they helped the rest of the raid too. They don’t have to keep playing five days a week for the next six months before ‘everyone’ agrees that they own it.

Sure, this doesn’t apply when a new guy really is being boosted but if the player was pulling his/her weight and contributing to the raid where the gear dropped, then they’ve earned it. In the case of the holy paladin, what else are you going to do with the loot? There’s no one else to give it to. If you run a DKP system and a raider earned enough DKP to buy a drop, then they have already earned it. They’ve earned it from what they did in the past, not from what they may or may not do in the future.

There is certainly an unwritten contract in some raid guilds that when you join, you’ll attend regularly for at least X months but at the end of the day, real life does intervene, players do burn out, and things happen that a person might not have anticipated.

He only raided for loot

My reading of this incident is that the paladin was burned out on the game and just didn’t communicate this well. So how much does loot have to do with burnout?

Well in any MMO, character progression is one of the big incentives to play. There’s always something you can do to make your character better. Some tradeskill to learn, some gear to aim for, some reputation, some realm rank, some achievement or tome unlock (can’t remember what they’re called in LOTRO, mea culpa).

When you get to a point that your character is ‘finished’ it really does affect player interest in the game. I find also that hoping that some cool loot item will drop keeps my interest in raids long after they would otherwise get dull.

I mean, I like hanging out with my friends in raids too, but the loot does add something to it. So I can easily imagine that spending X nights a week in raids that you could run blindfold (I’m projecting, they aren’t that easy for us :) ) where there is nothing left to drop that you could possibly want could lead to burnout.

So, are people getting bored with WoW?

The problem here is people in advanced raid guilds being bored with the content. In a way, it’d be easier if he had made up some story about exams or moving house or wife aggro. But this way, it sends a message to the rest of the guild, who may or may not be getting bored also. ie. ‘He took a break because he was bored — hey good idea, I’m getting a bit bored too, maybe I’ll do the same!’

So it’s a problem for the guild leader. But there’s no reason not to try to be as classy as possible about the whole thing. The guy did not stab anyone in the back (literally or metaphorically). He just was honest.

And if we’re honest, how much of the fun in MMOs is about getting new stuff for our toons and watching them progress to bigger and better things. Higher levels. Shinier gear. Fighting bigger and more exciting monsters. When you can’t do that any more, do you not get bored even a little bit?

The lure of wondering if that awesome bit of shiny loot will drop this week can stave off the boredom for awhile. Or at least it’s something else to focus on. But when there isn’t anything like that to look forwards to? Yeah people are reminded that they’re actually ….  a bit bored.