What I Enjoy May Not Be The Same Thing As You Enjoy, And That’s Okay.
Good whatever-time-it-happens-to-be-where-you-are, ladies and gents and honoured readers that do not identify with either category. By now, you’ve probably read Jon Peters’ blog article on traits and attributes, and if you’ve been paying attention to the community, you’re probably aware that there’s a bit of a controversy regarding the decision to make respecifying a character’s attributes require paying an ingame fee. Watching that unfold has made me think of a recent piece of Australian political history, which I’d like to share with you before I continue. I’m aware that that’s a topic that’s probably of little interest to most of you, but please bear with me – it’s only a brief three paragraphs, and there is method to my madness.
(If you absolutely can’t bear to read even that little politics, you now know how much to skip.)
Roughly a decade ago, the Australian Labor Party (yes, despite the propensity of Commonwealth English to insert the letter ‘u’ into places that American readers aren’t used to seeing it, that is correct) had just lost two elections and was facing a loss in a third. As seems to be the party’s general response to poor results in the polls, their response was to install a new leader – this time a young, hardnosed, up-and-coming figure from the far left wing called Mark Latham. Immediately, the core Labor supporters went into party mode – this was the man who would tell it like it is and finally persuade Australia that capitalism was the devil and socialism was the way to go.
Instead, what happened is that the Labor Party went into what was possibly their greatest defeat in the history of their party. Mark Latham disappeared grudgingly into history, and the conservative Liberal Party (yes, I know it’s confusing, this is why Australians talk about “small-l” and “capital-L” liberals) governed pretty much without an opposition for the next electoral cycle. Ironically, this probably contributed to the defeat of the Liberals in the next election, through giving them enough proverbial rope with which to hang themselves.
So what happened? Basically, Mr. Latham was capable of speaking quite eloquently and persuasively… to the people who already shared his position. But he lacked any empathy or consideration for people whose politics and worldviews were more moderate than his own, let alone leaning in the other direction… and the Australian electorate punished him for that. (For a more recent and, for most readers, more relevant example from the other side of politics, consider Sarah Palin.)
Okay, all you people who got scared away by the politics can come back now.
I hope I wasn’t just talking to a completely empty room.
So, why bring this discussion of politics into the gaming community? Because when I see the responses and counter-responses to ArenaNet’s recent backflip on respeccing, it reminds me of what happened with Mark Latham. The bulk of prominent community members and bloggers have come out in defence of the move, arguing that it’s not really a big deal. With each of these is a chorus of responses congratulating the poster or blogger for telling it how it is, predicting that this should be the final word in the discussion and how all the whingers should now concede that it really isn’t a big deal. And then, to their surprise, when a member of the vocal minority (and, truly, it is a minority, for reasons that I’ll go into later – although some of you may know what’s coming) finds and responds to the article, it isn’t to thank the writer for helping them to see the light and beg forgiveness for creating such drama out of nothing, but to say with varying degrees of tact that no, they’re not satisfied with the explanation given.
Why? Because while to most it’s a minor irritation at worst, to some it really is a big deal. Not because they enjoy making mountains out of molehills. But because they’re simply looking for something different out of the game – something that, up to now, ArenaNet had promised would be catered for. Because, as it turns out, different people are looking for different (albeit usually compatible) things out of an MMO.
Back in the late 90s, Richard Bartle wrote a paper describing four different types of players of MUDs (the progenitors of MMOs), which has lead to the development of the Bartle test to identify which group a player falls into. In order to keep everything on one page, I’m going to use the same groupings. To summarise within the context of Guild Wars, they are:
Achievers: These are people whose primary focus is in competition against the game, usually to obtain rewards in terms of ingame items and titles or in the kudos and sense of achievement of defeating a difficult area. You’ll usually find these people farming lucrative zones, clearing elite areas, and clamouring for more rewards for grinding to separate the truly dedicated from the rest.
Explorers: These are people whose primary focus is in interacting with the game to discover new things. You’ll usually find these people exploring parts of the game world and lore that are of little interest to most players, discussing their findings in forums, and complaining about grind-based barriers to their exploration of the game or the world.
Socialisers: These are people whose primary focus is in interacting with other players. You’ll usually find these people acting out roleplaying scenarios in common areas or in forums and writing out detailed backstories for their characters.
Killers: These are people whose primary focus is in competing with other players. You’ll usually find them in PvP. (The original paper relegated this group to trolls and gankers, but that is the destructive extreme, not a true representation of the group.)
If you’ve been reading a representative sample of my writings on the topic of Guild Wars in the past, you probably won’t have any difficulty in guessing which of these groups I myself fall into.
Now that we’ve introduced the cast, let’s consider how a fee on changing their build influences each of them:
Pure Achievers, for the most part, are likely to come up with one build that works for them and stick with that – perhaps a couple that they use in different situations, but largely they stick to what works. Some hyper-examples may come up with the absolute best possible build (in their not necessarily correct opinion) for any situation, not just for themselves but for their party – and then insist that everyone who plays with them uses that build to avoid the risk of someone with an ‘inferior’ build slowing down their rate of achievement. I think everyone else can agree that this sort of behaviour is undesirable for the community as a whole and should not be encouraged. Saner Achievers, however, are likely to change their build infrequently and remain little affected by the fee.
Pure Socialisers only care about builds in how they mesh with the persona they’ve developed, whether their own or of the character they are roleplaying as. Such players don’t care about the efficiency of their build, instead choosing skills, attributes and traits according to what they feel fits them or their character. These players are probably the least likely to change builds at all, seeing their build as a reflection of their character, and are only likely to change builds if they feel a different build better reflects their persona, or if they decide to change their persona. Jon’s comment about building permanency probably resonated most strongly among Socialisers.
Pure Killers are… basically unaffected by the change, since respeccing is free in PvP zones.
Pure Explorers… well, there’s a reason I’ve left them until last. Some explorers may be content with simply using the build that best helps them explore the world, but for others, trying new builds is another avenue for exploration. A pure explorer would be inclined to try different setups on a regular basis, just for the joy of trying something new – and under the new system, this means they’re going to have to cut back on their fun or be slugged by the respec fee a lot. This isn’t about indecisiveness – most explorers would probably be able to tell you their favourites among the builds they’ve tried – but experimentation.
And this is why the majority opinion is that it isn’t a big deal – because, assuming a roughly even distribution, for three quarters of players it really isn’t. For the remainder, however, it feels like the company is telling them that what they enjoy doing is wrong and that they need to be fined on a regular basis for their perversions of the way the game is intended to be played.
To provide an example that’s even older than my political discussion above, but probably of more relevance to most of you: Diablo 2 an archetype of a game aimed at the Achiever playstyle. It had no respecs at all, and by the time you kill Baal for the first time, your character’s level is in the late 30s and you’ve had the opportunity to try out everything in your class’s armoury – at this point the game assumes that you’ve decided on which skills will best suit you as you go into Nightmare and Hell and it’s time to stop experimenting, invest solely in those skills, and start achieving.
I never got as far as the end of Act 1 in Nightmare. Not that I couldn’t hack it – just that for me, the idea of playing through a story I’ve already seen with a build I’m already familiar with was such a snoozefest I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the time to do it. For people like me, once you’ve played through the content once, it’s not the quest to grind your way to the +6 Vorpal Sword of Awesomeness that provides longevity to a game, but the ability to play through it with something different.
“But Drax!” you may be thinking, “Why would a pure Explorer care about gold? That’s an Achiever’s goal!” And that’s true, a pure Explorer’s only consideration for gold would be in how it supports their exploration. However, very few people playing MMOs are pure anything from this list, and there are more suited things for such purists out there. Pure Achievers would play insanely hard single-player games like I Wanna Be The Guy for the bragging rights. Pure Socialisers would be content with a chat room, at most a chat room with good graphics. Pure Killers would look for a dedicated PvP game, and pure Explorers would lean towards pure exploration/puzzle games such as Myst. Just because I enjoy exploration doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to some of the shinies that can be exchanged for gold – I’m just more inclined to save up for them with the profits gained through exploration rather than figuring out the best way to achieve such goals ASAP and shooting for them that way.
If you take nothing else away from this post, I ask you to remember this: Next time you find yourself thinking that someone is making mountains out of molehills, stop and think before you ridicule them for it. Think about which type of player you are, and how the issue in question might impact on other types, and you might realise that for them it is a big deal after all. While there are some subtypes of players that certainly are detrimental to the community as a whole, I hope you’ll agree that I’m not one of them… and that you’ll join me in hoping that ArenaNet succeeds in creating the most enjoyable game possible.
For all of us.
Opinions expressed by members of the team are not necessarily the opinion of the team as a whole.
So, which of the types described above do you think fits you best? How has your type influenced which games you play and how you play them… or how you’ve to responded changes made or announced by the developers? Had any run-ins with players of different types that clearly just didn’t comprehend your position? Comment below!