Viva la Difference!

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.)

Wait... how did I end up in an article about gaming?

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

  • http://twitter.com/elixabethclaire Elisabeth

    I don’t think the question is whether or not it’s a big deal for some percentage of the playing populace.  Nobody (at least, nobody who should be taken seriously) is saying that people don’t exist who would prefer to respec at will or that their concerns aren’t valid. The question is one of facility, and respec fees are a relatively low-impact form of goldsink, valuation, and balance control.

    I like the idea that’s been batted about of being able to have two sets of traits to switch between (while out of combat), but until we’ve had more people playing the game and reporting on their actual (rather than projected) experiences, advocating change and saying that players are being punished for their “perversions of the way the game is intended to be played” is so much empty theorycrafting.

    • Draxynnic

       My intent was more to use this particular controversy to highlight that not all players derive their enjoyment from the same thing and what one player may regard as inconsequential CAN be important to another, rather than go through all the arguments for or against the change in policy (and there is documented evidence that there is a change). A common response I’ve seen goes along the lines of ‘according to ArenaNet’s design you should be able to progress perfectly fine without changing your attributes’. This is 100% true but 100% missing the point, as concern over collecting gold and other awards is primarily an Achiever characteristic.

      I do think, though, that as a gold sink, this system is going to put a disproportionate amount of ‘sinkage’ on a particular group of players… or push them to play in a way that will mean they’ll enjoy the game less overall. If it’s a significant gold sink, it’s one that’s landing primarily on a minority, and likely NOT the people who are raking in the most gold – which means it’s a system that could end up widening the gap between richer and poorer where gold sinks are supposed to do the opposite.

      Still, the takehome message for everyone to keep in mind that just because someone is making a big deal about something that you don’t think is a big deal doesn’t mean they’re just complaining for the sake of complaining.

  • saluk

    It’s easy to boil down the complaints about the traits system to a single issue, but it’s really complex. Different people have different problems with it. For some its the fee, for some its the map travel, for some its the linking of attributes to trait lines, for some the idea is fine but the actual traits/attributes etc chosen don’t work for them…

    I also don’t agree with your dilineation of what different types of players will like. I’m an explorer and I almost never respec in games. When people ask me to respec I feel offended. I love exploring the world and seeing all I can see, but I’m not so interested in number crunching or min/maxing.

    I do agree with the articles overall premise though. Different players are looking for different things out of the game. Not everyone is going to be happy, but just because something seems fine for you or fine for the game, other people probably have legitimate reasons that it’s not.

    • Draxynnic

      Well, I did say that some explorers are content with exactly that. :P

      The bottom line really is that people are different. The categories make for a good tool for demonstrating that and showing in general terms what priorities people have, but in the end, they’re just a tool – there will be big differences even among people who mostly share a category.

  • http://twitter.com/TriggerSad Marcos Perez

    Hrm… That an interesting view on the discussions that have been going on about the system. It’s just as a whole, both sides just need to calm down. A lot. No one out side of the actual testers have had an extensive look at the system. Members of the press where given the option to play the game for only a weekend, and were presented with so much that the lack of in-depth coverage didn’t surprise me.

    I mean, what could they have done during the weekend besides just show footage of each trait line and accompanying traits? They couldn’t possibly try to break the system, they wouldn’t have been able to come up with well tested builds without sacrificing time in other areas of the game. There needs to be more people playing around with it like Elisabeth said, or at least have people that can play it and talk about it. When that does happen, we will know if it is a good or bad system.

    • Draxynnic

       There’s a lot of truth there. We simply don’t know how much of an impact it will have – even the people who’ve played haven’t played enough to see the long-term effects it has on the economy or individual players in the economy. There have been people who have played and have said they didn’t find it to be a problem and people who’ve jumped on that and claimed that this means there isn’t one, but we just don’t have enough information – to really judge the difference, we’d need to get one person that changes builds regularly and one who doesn’t and see how they perform over an extended period of time. Paying a few silvers a couple of times over a weekend with a throwaway character won’t be a problem for anyone, doing so a couple of times a week over several months will add up.

      Still, there is a lot of room for overreaction here. Claims that ArenaNet has ruined the game are just as out of place as claims that everything’s perfect and anyone who thinks different is just complaining for the sake of complaining.

  • http://twitter.com/SoulstitchMMO Soulstitchmmo

    One of my biggest complaints with developers of late, is not understanding that you can’t use the same spec for every scenario. At least Arenanet understands that people pvp with a spec different from PVE, I just wish they understood that the same spec for WvW isn’t the same spec you’ll use for PVE and still be optimal. 

    A spec for PVE, a spec for WvW and a spec for PVP and i’d be a happy man. 

    • Draxynnic

       If I understand it correctly, you do get to freely respec for WvWvW as well as structured PvP. It’s just changing for PvE where you have to pay a fee (presumably, your build resets to PvE mode when you leave the Mists).

  • GettCouped

    Good post. Although, I am a kiler! I > :)

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  • Raena

    I’ve never really thought about this issue this way, and I never, ever, actually comment on places like these or gwg2 and such, but this article was so interesting to me that I needed to give you props for gifting me with a different way to look at the recent bickering. Personally, I am somewhere between an Explorer and a Socializer, but I’m also very extremely the type of person who enjoys positive input (be that books/tv/blogs/game opinions/life in general) and refuses to form a serious opinion about things (especially a negative opinion) until I’ve had enough time to seriously hash out my own experience with them. 

    I am completely content to roll my eyes at all of the freaking out and bickering that occurs in forums on a daily basis and wait patiently, with a good deal of faith in ArenaNet, until I can play the game for long enough to form my own opinion. Until I play it myself I just don’t think I can pick a side on any issue. That said, I don’t particularly understand why a respec fee is an issue, so I very much enjoyed reading such a positively focused, clear, and concise commentary on the topic. I hope that ArenaNet works out a system that has the least negative impact and most benefit for everyone, and I have a lot of faith that they are up to the challenge.

    Good article :)

    • Draxynnic

      Thanks, Raena! Glad to see it’s made an impression. :)

      If I’ve helped you to see a different perspective on things, then this post is serving its purpose. If you’ve been watching the bickering, you’ve probably seen that a lot of people basically seem to be arguing past one another without really thinking about where the other person is actually coming from – not just in this particular example, but in most of these controversies. That’s what I’m trying to address – if I happen to persuade someone to my point of view in this particular case that’s a bonus, but if not, hey! My whole point is that people have a right to their opinion (and to voice it) and they shouldn’t be dismissed just because it’s different to someone else’s. Even if that someone else is in the majority.

      The truth is, one thing that the other side has right on in this is that it really depends on just how much of a burden it does turn out that we’re talking. If it’s small enough that you really do have to be switching at a ridiculous rate, then it probably isn’t a big deal. Mind you, if it is such a small effect even on people who like to switch builds regularly, then it’s not really serving as a gold sink – but it may be serving some other role that ArenaNet feels worth the inconvenience. We’ll see once people start playing the game for real, but something I think a lot of people are really looking for is to find out just what ArenaNet’s reason is for introducing the respec fee.

      A commenter on Reddit also raised a valid point in that this doesn’t just apply to people engaging in forum debates, but to games themselves. ArenaNet is one of the standouts in that respect, but I’m sure we’ve all seen a tendency for developers making MMOs that are basically WoW with a gimmick or two. Now, WoW is a great game for those that enjoy it, but it’s quite focused on the Achiever motivation. The MMO player base doesn’t need another WoW – WoW does a very good job of catering to that section of the market, and when it comes time to replace it Blizzard will probably turn out to be the best company to do so. Different games that can capture different players may well find there are far more players out there that are interested in MMOs but which are disenfranchised by the WoW-clones than they could ever get by competing with the proverbial gorilla.

      Which is exactly what ArenaNet is trying to do, and regardless of anything else they deserve maximum kudos for it… even though I have a habitual cringe that goes back to GW1 days whenever someone puts forward “it works for WoW” as a reason for doing something. :P

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