Monday, January 4, 2016

My Life as a Gamer: Learning From World of Warcraft

The development team for World of Warcraft gets a lot of shit flung their way. Some of it is deserved. However, what goes unappreciated by many is how they get things right- how often, and why.

Over at MMO-Champion, they reported that it is now possible for players who completed the Legendary Ring quest to buy the item required to upgrade it, and you can double-dip with the drop from Archimonde (final boss in the final raid, Hellfire Citadel, in Warlords of Draenor). While some grousing did go on, most reaction is positive because it keeps people who already farmed enough Valor to fully upgrade their character's gear a reason to keep going.

This is the sort of thing the team excels at: identifying player psychology and making it work for them in terms of keeping players playing. The team, for all the crap they get, consistently correctly perceives what the players actually want and by now they figured out how to use them. The return of Valor to the game, but confining the means to get it to doing the dungeons, obsolete raids, and LFR content that the targeted audience (the raiding community doing Hellfire Citadel on Normal or better) would otherwise wholly ignore, was genius.

The reason was simple: the team wanted to get the raiders, who ignore that stuff because they had nothing to gain from doing it otherwise, back into the queuing pool for this stuff in order to improve performance metrics for these things. The result was that more instances of this stuff got launched and cleared, making more and more players who aren't raiders able to reach the point where they can participate in Normal-mode raids in Hellfire Citadel with folks that they met while gearing up. (This is also why Timewalking became a thing.)

These also serve as soft or secret nerfs to the raid content, making it easier on the other end for players who are new (or returning, or bringing an alt) to join into the fun without spending anywhere near as much time as it formerly took to get to the fun part. This is a good thing; players want to be where the action is, and Blizzard is wise to cut out no-longer-necessary roadblocks as soon as their purpose is fulfilled.

Let's apply this shit.

Two big points:
  1. Players want to be where the action is RIGHT NOW.
  2. Players don't want to see the man behind the curtain.
Which leads to these corollaries:
  1. Active management of your mechanics is vital to keeping your players engaged with your content.
  2. Managing your mechanics via setting developments works best to keep the players where the action is.
The applications to this outside of making videogames is obvious to me, and I will apply these lessons when I run my next tabletop campaign.

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