Saturday, June 6, 2009

Would you care about that in a non-MMO game?

It seems like everywhere I look these days there is somebody spewing out some nonsense about how nobody will do anything in a game if it is not allotted a sufficient "reward", where reward is some shiny trinket that your character can keep.

In one form or another, the human race has been playing games for thousands of years. Despite the astronomical salaries attached to some pro sports stars, most people are perfectly content to play games completely for the fun of the game itself. When you checkmate the king in chess you don't look around expectantly waiting for his treasure chest to materialize in front of you, you set up another game and set to thinking about how you're going to take down your opponent this time.

This new bribery of sorts is a thing pertaining specifically to MMO's. Single player RPG's rewarded people with trinkets all the time, but it never became an issue because the games didn't involve "grind". Everything you did was moving you closer towards completion of the story, and very few encounters were the same as any others. Therefore you actually enjoyed what you were doing, and so did not need to be "motivated" to play through the game.

Most MMO's, on the other hand, are painful. Everything you do is the same as everything else you've already done, and so players actually have to be goaded, much like cattle, into going down a particular path.

The worst part is, there are some people who seem to accept this as par for the course, and play games only if the progression of juicy "rewards" fits their expectations.

These people are what are referred to, in general, as "Loot Whores". Don't get me wrong, we all love loot to a certain degree, but most of us can appreciate the fun or lack-thereof of the gameplay in some way or another. But the loot whore is a beast who has eschewed all forms of gameplay in favor of pure, pathological desire to obtain more loot.

Loot Whores come in two distinct flavours. The first is probably the most obnoxious, because they pretend to be "hardcore" in their appreciation for particular elements of gameplay. In actual fact, all species of Loot Whore care only about loot, but these "hardcore" beasts require their loot in a given context. Some players require that the loot only be acquired in the presence of at least 20 other people, or perhaps that the loot is not able to be obtained by at least 90% of the other people playing the game. The most obnoxious kind require the loot to be taken from other players.

The less "hardcore" flavour of loot whore is less bothersome, in that they will take their loot however they can get it. However, make no mistake - they are still a parasite on the soul of the video game industry, swaying the game developers towards removing all vestiges of gameplay from their games until all we're left with are glorified slot machines with a chat window.

What can you say to the Loot Whore to lead them back to the path of the righteous? I suspect that there is precious little, it is probably already too late for most. Perhaps the direct approach is the best. Sit them down, look them in the eye, and ask to them to please explain why they would give two shits about whatever they're complaining about if the game wasn't an MMO.


Anonymous said...

People used to care a lot about loot in D&D, for what it's worth. I think for some versions of roleplaying, it replaces, "but what is my character's /motivation/?"

Melf_Himself said...

There's a difference between caring about loot, i.e. cool I got this +3 sword of trollslaying, and refusing to do something because you don't think the loot rewarded is sufficient.

If you have people caring to that extreme about loot in DnD, it sounds like the work of a poor DM who did not challenge / interest the group sufficiently.

Tesh said...

Hmm... think Syncaine will bite at that one?

I'm all for making the actual *game* fun to play. I've argued that for a while now... albeit in a somewhat less grumpy way, and usually involving convoluted schemes to get rid of levels and classes. If all there is to an MMO is a shiny treadmill with plenty of window dressing and a dangling bit of cheese, well, I get tired of it quickly. I mustn't have the Loot Whore midichlorians running rampant in my system.

If it's not fun to play, I'm not going to play it, and I'm definitely not paying for it.

Melf_Himself said...

I'm right there with ya Tesh (except for the getting rid of classes part... whoops I take it back, let's not turn against each other again :p)

I doubt syncaine will bite, I didn't bother pointing to it on his blog, and I'm sure he knows that I'm right anyway ;)

Tesh said...

Oh, I readily concede that you don't need to get rid of classes to make the gameplay fun. That's just the direction I come at it from. You can maintain a rigid class system and still make the actual gameplay a ton of fun. ;)

Fortuente said...

> glorified slot machines with a chat window.

I don't really know but I would not be surprised in the slightest if that is/was a conscious design decision. There are reasons why people become addicted to gambling, and I've always thought MMO "addiction" is merely another form of this pathology.

Anonymous said...

The slot machine analogy is very much spot on here I think. While not being directly virtual casinos, many MMOs do work along the same lines to condition players to stay on the premises for anything.

People respond differently to the situations, some simply take a break from MMOs, some others slip into the loot addiction.

B.J. @ said...

I am guilty of not caring about my level or equipment in a non-MMO. I just want the story. The entire reason I play SPRPGs is for the narrative because they are often incredibly detailed. The rewards and items don't matter at all to me.

Then the MMO comes along, and I can rarely get into a SPRPG anymore because all the time I spent questing and getting immersed in the narrative leaves me nothing to "show" for it. I am in a closed room with no way to brag about what I did save Xbox Live achievements and GP.

MMOs have really spoiled me in that regard, but there are some games like Bioshock and Mass Effect that keep me playing despite feeling as though I am not having an impact in the world itself. I really hope that Bioware's The Old Republic really does what they brag about it doing so that I can finally have both ends of what I love: an immersive narrative and kick-ass Jedi robes (or whatever is the flavor of the month there).

I am moving toward becoming less aware of the loot and ePeen aspect of MMOs, and I think that's a good thing. By the time I ween myself off of being so overwhelmed by the genre's conventions, I should finally be able to immerse myself in a game world for the playing experience itself instead of always feeling the need to one-up my friends and anonymous people standing around the bank with shinier shoulders than I've got.

Anonymous said...

The worst thing is, by catering to loot whores, games designers:
A) make everyone a loot whore
B) anyone else quits their game