Circles and Arrows and a Photograph on the Back of Each One

One of the first things I noticed when I first started playing EQ2 was how behavioral it was. There was a pleasing tone, and a gfx display when you leveled. There was another sound every time one of your skills improved. There was audio cues, reward and punishment, for countering an event while crafting, and another sound for completing a quality tier during a crafting encounter. The electrons staged a celebration on your computer whenever you actually completed a recipe.

All of this seemed great. And it extended to quests, too. Completing quests got you rewards, experience and loot and praise.

So what did I do in response to all this? Basically, I trained myself to ignore it. I couldn’t have told you why back then, but it seemed too much like I was being manipulated, being pulled toward a game-playing behavior that I didn’t like. We know that now as The Grind. I leveled more slowly than many people, and did horrible grindy book quests, and tried to solo as an Illusionist back when that was hard and our DPS sucked. I avoided trying to maximize my DPS, preferring to try to maximize my ability to control an encounter. Unfortunately, this put me at odds with most of the rest of the players and the game designers as well. Eventually I gave in and respecced to high DPS. In EQ2.

Tipa posts today on “How I Killed MMO’s (Can FFXIV give them a rez?)”

I don’t want to wait. I want to skip the boring parts and get right to the fun parts. Boring time is time I could spend doing something else. I don’t even bother pretending, when I start a new MMO, that I’m there for the long haul. Wizard101 has been the exception, here. I sub to WoW for a couple months every year or so, plan and enjoy some F2P RPGs until something else comes up, but — I’m going to be playing any given game only a few weeks, I’m never even going to see whatever end game you have cooked up. The first time the game gets boring for me, I’m gone.

There’s some discussion of quest-text skipping, too. Tipa mentioned wanting to to skip through the cinematic story parts of the latest Rock Band edition at Best Buy. Because that’s not relevant to getting the reward. But the part that made my day was this:

This is pretty consistent with research on intrinsic motivation. Children who are rewarded for drawing pictures tend to not draw pictures except when they are rewarded, and generally lose interest after a while. The link earlier in this paragraph is to an article with the subtitle “Creativity and intrinsic interest diminish if task is done for gain.”

When I think of my career, I realize that I did as much as I possibly could to keep my intrinsic interest, and my creativity, alive. I need to get paid for working, it’s true, and I wanted to be paid fairly. These things got discussed twice a year, at salary time. The rest of the time, I mostly ignored my pay when it came my work. I worked on things that advanced corporate goals, to be sure, but those goals were also in accord with my own personal goals and interests.

But this isn’t always the case with games. I’ve been the grinder, at one time grinding out writs in Lavastorm to level the guild and to gain faction with the Concordium. I’ve skipped quest text myself.

The game makers seem to be catching on to this. EVE is famous for how sandboxy it is, and how little direction it gives its players. My current frustration with EVE is that it isn’t quite sandboxy enough. I’d like to be able to produce new in-game items, such as an item named “A Lock of Toldain’s Fabulous Red Hair”, and hand it out as a gag. I’d like to be the only person in the game who could produce an authentic version of it, too. But I’m fine with someone else being able to produce a good counterfeit of it. That could produce fun, in the hands of people who want to play.

There are some serious technical issues with this: If every player did this, It would create massive problems in their databases. But I’m impressed with stories like this, where a very good time is had by all using only dice, blocks, graph paper, a few reference books, and a heaping helping of imagination.

It has been argued that the all-too-literal 3D gfx realizations of modern gaming leave too little to the imagination. But it doesn’t have to be so. There are definitely games that think of themselves as canvas and palette.

As far as FFXIV goes, Tipa writes that it seems to lead one around by the nose a lot less. There seems to be a story in there, but you are going to have to go out and find it. I don’t think this is quite the “canvas and palette” idea.

As regards DDO, which is what I’m mostly playing these days, there are some leanings. Yes, the game is entirely structured around quests and instances. However, the problems posed in these quests are somewhat open ended. You can go through the instances in “Hulk Smash!” mode. Or you can be more of a manipulator, such as Karaya “You’re on my team NOW” Nydusi. (Ok, ok, I know you spelled your name that way in some game or another.) There isn’t just one way to deal with any trap either. They can be jumped over, disarmed, tumbled through, resisted, or just plain tanked. In most cases. Each one is different. But there isn’t one way to solve it. Sometimes Feather Fall is just what you need to deal with some situation or get the treasure. It’s not that I care that much about getting the treasure, but it’s that figuring out how to do it is fun.

Or another case in point: Soloing a wizard in DDO. The fundamental problem is that not only do you have few hit points and bad AC, you don’t even have enough spell points to kill every mob in the instance. (This is in contrast to sorcerors, who probably do have enough spell points.) So, you are going to have to do something more creative. I’ve found one style that works pretty well, but there are probably more.

Have I ever given up and looked at the answer on the internet? Not once. As Tipa says:

I could go the web and find the next step already written out for me, with guides and arrows and hints and suggestions and 8×10 glossy pictures with a paragraph on the back explaining each one in great detail with times and dates and ….

Ahem. I think you mean “8×10 color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one”

(What can I say? I am that guy. I am the original “that guy”. This sort of thing is bound to happen when you are 3000 years old.)

But it’s a good point. There’s one dungeon, early on, that I still don’t quite understand all of how it works: What’s that lever for? But maybe I will figure it out one day. And that will feel really good. And I’ll be happy for them, but irritated that they got it first.

May you all have a Thanksgiving dinner that can’t be beat.

2 thoughts on “Circles and Arrows and a Photograph on the Back of Each One

  1. Which dungeon do you refer to? I know of several with levers that aren't immediately obvious that open a secret door/wall (behind you, of course) with another lever that then opens up a new room/area for you to explore. Let me know which and I may be able to give some hints without giving it completely away.

  2. If there's a lever, you pull it.If there's a valve, you turn it.If there's a chest, you open it.If there's a mob, you kill it.If there's a trap, you die, embarrassingly. x-PAnything else is just style.I pulled the lever. A gong sounded in the distance. They knew I was coming. Nice of them to let me know they were on to me, though.

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