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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 10:49 pm 
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(Warning: long post. I will split it into three parts.)

(I was going to title this "Players Don't Want To Have Fun," but that felt too argumentative. Besides, the trend of game-criticism articles reffing 80s music pretty much died out after Zorkenheimer's recent three-book series: "Every Breath You Take (Until Your Inventory Fills Up)", "Like A Save-File Virgin", and "We Are The World of Possible Actions".)

I got caught up in two threads recently. I commented on both at great length, as I usually do; and I didn't notice until afterwards that I was contradicting myself.

(Thread 1: http://urulive.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=5799 )

The first was on possible CRPG-style mechanisms for Uru Live. That is, activities which players can do which are not exploration or puzzle-solving, but rather -- to be blunt -- time-suckers. You do them repeatedly and the game keeps track of how much you've done. In the oldest CRPGs this was (as I usually term it) "clubbing rats", for which you were rewarded with bigger clubs and tougher rats until you reached the end and bought the sequel.

Nobody is advocating *that* for Uru. (The market is super-saturated. Really; if you say "Night Elf" in any coffeeshop in Boston you'll find Warcraft players crystallizing out on your laptop.) But there are alternatives which don't involve clobbering NPCs. Most MMO-CRPGs have some form of "crafting", where you spend your time creating items in a player economy. _A Tale in the Desert_ specializes in this, so it's not surprising that my notion of a good Uru CRPG activity looks like ATITD:

"The activity should be at least somewhat mind-engaging. Working smarter should be more efficient than brute repetition. The returns should diminish past (say) 30 minutes a day per person, so there's no real reward for a six-hour rock-clearing session. It should be more efficient in groups, to encourage social activity."

To which I got several replies, but the one that struck me was this:

"So some people don't like to grind? Fine. Don't make them."

Now I change the subject.

----------------

The other thread (no, I'll return to the first one in a moment) was about Eder Delin.

(Thread 2: http://urulive.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=96277 -- see page 3.)

This is Uru's first truly multi-player puzzle. As is inevitable, not everybody likes this development. I confess to a moment of annoyance myself: I have been in the habit of solving puzzles solo and then hanging out with other players to be social. That won't always be possible, from now on.

(The reward, not incidentally, is a very small "final" area and a trophy stone in your Relto. No major exploration or story stages are unlocked by the multiplayer puzzle. I don't know if that's going to remain the policy in future Uru developments, but it's what we've got now.)

But the reply that struck me was this:

"Either way, it doesn't allow for being forced to do both (some [Ages] alone and some together)."

(Another thread with similar sentiments: http://urulive.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=5926 -- see page 2.)

Next post: how these two cases are similar...

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 10:49 pm 
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Those two replies have a commonality -- coercion. Make them do this (or don't); they're forced (or not forced) to do that.

I replied in the second thread, and spoke to that issue. I said: nobody's forcing you to do anything. You can choose to solve this new Age, by getting together with some folks, or leave it alone.

And as I was writing that, I was mulling over my reaction to the *first* thread. I hadn't gotten around to replying, but it was this: oh, sure, you're not *forcing* players to club rats (or weave cloth, or clean rubble). But they'll feel like they have to anyway. Because if it's a major part of the game, then not doing it is not playing the game.

Clearly, I'm trying to eat my cake out of both sides of my mouth.

Which is to say: I'm right both ways. (Naturally. :)

In the first thread, the *same person* who said "Fine. Don't make them," went on to say "Where's the counter that ticks off one each time a person reports all 30 markers? Why aren't we pressuring more people to calibrate that thing so we can get it started?" That is, suggesting that an existing gameplay element -- finding markers -- be made a measurable group CRPG activity, just as I was describing. And, entirely naturally, he described this in terms of *group pressure* -- players would feel *forced* to do this, to contribute to the group effort. I agree; that's exactly what would happen.

In the second thread, I tried to say that nobody should feel forced to join a group solving effort. But "you should not feel that" is always a warning sign. When those words come out of your mouth, it's time to step back. Someone *does* feel that way. Why?

A very common game-design mistake is to make two paths available, and say "Great! Every player will take the path he enjoys more. I've made everybody happy." What *actually* happens, as I've described many times, is that most players only find one path. Half of them (or, it sometimes seems, all of them) hate it *but never look for alternatives*. They finish the game and then write you hate mail about how you forced them (coercion again!) to do this stupid/tedious/illogical/unseemly thing.

The Uru case is slightly different. Two paths are plainly visible, but they lead to different places. You've got solo-puzzle Ages and multi-player Ages (well, one so far). If the game adopts something like my notion of CRPG activities, there would be exploration/puzzle areas and work/activity areas. And inevitably, players will... feel forced to do both.

Next post: how can you be forced to do anything in a game?

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 10:49 pm 
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Which brings me to the title of this post. Why do players do game stuff they don't enjoy? Aren't they playing for fun? Clearly, no. *A player's goal in the game is not to have fun.* The game provides goals; the player seeks them. If he has enough fun along the way, he writes happy blog posts, recommends the game to his friends, renews his subscription. If he doesn't, he writes hate mail, cancels his subscription, and microwaves the CDs.

The *designer's* goal is to make the game fun; but the player is not a fun-seeking entity. The designer has to work like fiery abyss to push fun into the player's way. If the designer fails (for a particular player!) then that player discovers goals which require him to do stupid/tedious/etc tasks. (For his particular tastes!) So you can't discuss why players complain, without analyzing their goals.

Where do these goals come from? How does the game "provide them"? Several ways. There are rewards -- both substantive (beautiful new areas to walk in) and abstract (trophies). There's sheer weight of content: if most of the detail, programming, or interface is devoted to path X, then path X becomes the primary goal. There's advertising, marketing, and labelling.

And there's player expectation -- which is self-reinforcing. If players expect goal X to be important, they'll sit around talking about X. That will be their focus. They'll attract new players to whom X is important. If X doesn't show up, their fun is spoiled. The *designers*, not being idiots, will pay more attention to X.

But, heck, forget about the feedback loops. At root, a game can only suggest priorities. I decide to be a trophy completist, or I don't. I decide to stick to solo play, or I don't. Or... I don't *decide*; I *want* one thing or the other. Decisions are conscious. Desires just are.

And this, I think, is why these forum discussions flare up. We understand that expectation is crucial; we try to manage expectation. And it's hard to do that without saying, dude, you expect the wrong thing. You *want* the wrong thing. No wonder you aren't having fun.

I say stuff like that. Sometimes it goes over okay, and sometimes it annoys people. (And both at once, I'm sure.) So... be aware of what you're asking. I guess that's my whole point here. Player expectations are decisions, and they're also desires. You can discuss them, but you can't demand them.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 11:00 pm 
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See, part of the reason people feel like they have to solve the Delin puzzle, for example, even if they don't want to is because they want to play/solve all of Uru, especially if what is coming up is dependent on that. And yes, to say 'alone or together' and then provide a together-only path, not everyone will be able to play. I think one of the things that Cyan, mostly, has done a great job with is involving everyone.

So yes, I agree, when someone says, well, you're not forced to solve Delin, or whatever, it's like, no, I'm not forced, but I do want to play Myst and Uru, especially since I'm paying for it, so if i want to play it, I do have to do this.

And my main goal usually is to have fun, and then you get to that part of the game that you always hate but you feel that you have to do it because, by that time, you want to complete, or collect, or solve, every part of the game, especially since you loved the rest of the game so much.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 11:53 pm 
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Well written, belford. That's really all I wanted to say..

oh and wait about 5 years... then Delin "forcing" you to do multi-player puzzles will be a lot less. Right now there isn't much to do. We have the basics but in the long term there are going to be.. well just a WHOLE LOT of ages to explore. At that point it will be easy to choose to do things solo or together. As of right now the "togethers" have been getting left out. Delin finally gives them something.

We have one alone. The cleft.
We have 5 optionals. Teledahn, Gahreesen, Kadsih, Eder Gira, Eder Kemo.
We have 1 together, Eder Delin.
And a few places to hang out. City and hoods.

Not bad for a begining.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 12:32 am 
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Great set of posts Belford. Not much at all that I can add. Thank you. :D

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 11:18 am 
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Good stories. What I'm missing in the discussion is: do we, loners, get extra 'bonus points' for not solving the Delin Age. I am an observer, I don't tend to speak to people, I watch them. So I don't get my head mixed up by all kinds of gossip and rumors and small talk. I explore without the noise of others, without distraction. I discover very small cracks in certain areas in the cavern leading to mysterious rooms, unknown by all the people who wanted to experience their Disneyland in Eder Gelin....my "bonus points'.

Grretings


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 12:05 pm 
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Belford, may I say you have a marvellous way with words.

I think what everything boils down to is an inherent human nature to complain. How often do you here of people, companies, etc getting thank you letters? More often people send complaints and hate mail.

It's sadly just what we do.

I know allot of people who want to play alone, but Delin is important for the community as a whole. It tries to knit us together where we have started to crumble.

Getting 7 people to help you isn't hard or uncomfortable - just pop into one of the bigger hoods and ask.

We're a nice bunch, we won’t bite. :roll:

People expect far too much from a beta. Just be glad we're even allowed in and less of the moaning.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 9:07 am 
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I think people are jumping to conclusions also. Delin is tiny because Cyan is feeling out how the multiplayer can work. It's an Eder - it's not a giant age. Someone wrote it to be a park, and it happens to have a puzzle in it. That's why I don't think it's critical that you *have* to solve Delin. In fact, I got the ring without knowing how the puzzle worked at first - I stumbled in and ran like a lemming with about 15 other people whom other people who knew what was going on solved the puzzle to get them through.

Only tonight did I actually assist with the puzzle, and it was surprisingly fun to do. It's funny and frustrating until everyone gets the method and teamwork straightened out. We're also being held back by a slight bug in the response feedback of the puzzle...but this is Cyan's first attempt at a true multiplayer experience.

I think it's possible that Delin could be the warmup for Tsoghal in the same way that the Kadish puzzles build on what came before.

I'm also finding myself not logging into Uru religiously - once or twice a week instead of every single night and it's a very pleasant diversion in that way. Not feeling like you have to keep up with every single minor change is freeing and enjoyable...plus checking in every couple of days lets the new content pile up a bit so you have a trinket *and* a barrier down *and* other changes instead of feeling like you have to log on and scour the place to find that the rocks on a table were rearranged.

We were joking in the hood tonight about how Cyan's plan with Uru is to turn out a cadre of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder who run around shouting "THAT CONE MOVED! I KNOW IT DID!" If you consider the Cavern a weekly daytrip instead of work (and you can't do it like work in the same way that you can in World of Warcraft) it's a much better experience.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 11:23 am 
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Well said, jayctravis. I myself am at the point of holding myself back and relax. Too much cheking ingame and on the forums for daily news did a bad job for me, the fun and attraction of being around vanished. I am getting myself convinced now that not having the island relto page or not getting through the door in the Delin Garden is a good thing. I don't want URU to be like Disneyland where I have to join the queue for the latest attraction. This reflection of me on the game is pure psychology and a, I hope, liberating experience. For me this means the success or failure of the game.

Greetings


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