Friday, 11 February 2011

The four faces of Warcraft

As I discussed in last week's post, there are two different dimensions to the word "hard" when applied to MMOs: time and skill. Different players may want different things from the game, which makes it hard to accommodate all of them. To illustrate this, consider the four examples in the diagram above.

The fun-lovers see their games as a form of entertainment, no different to going to the cinema or the pub. They aren't particularly looking to be challenged and if they get bored they'll happily go do something else. Fundamentally the game just isn't that important to them. "It's just a game" is their motto and they really can't see why everybody else gets worked up about what should be a bit of fun. They'll happily solo for a while or maybe queue for a quick dungeon finder instance, but they certainly aren't going to take things too seriously and find it baffling that people "waste" time reading Elitist Jerks and min/maxing their characters. No point in turning a game into a second job. They're the ones who are up in arms about the harder heroics in Cataclysm - why on earth would you want to make a game less fun?
Favourite other game: Guitar Hero.

The racers are looking to be challenged. They don't want to spend their life "grinding to get to the real game". They're the ones you see on the forums demanding faster levelling or AOEing their way through todays instance at breakneck speed. If there were an option to buy a pre-made max-level character, they'd take it in a shot. Racers are baffled by the silliness of the fun-lovers - why bother playing at all if you're not going to take it seriously? They look down on those who waste their lives away playing the game many hours at a time - it's skill that should be rewarded, not time spent.
Favourite other game: Left4Dead

The gardeners aren't all that fussed about being the best at the game - why stress so much about a bunch of pixels? They use MMOs as a way of relaxing after a stressful week: the last thing they want is a bunch of over-excited raiders getting all sweary over a boss-fight. WOW is full of gardeners, working on achievements, collecting pets, role-playing or levelling another alt. They're baffled by the racer's need to "win", but equally wonder why the fun-lovers bother playing a game they don't care that much about.
Favourite other game: The Sims

The masters are perfectionists, seeking to optimise every aspect of their characters. If you're going to play the game, at least do it properly. They look down on the "lazy" racers who aren't prepared to put the work in to get the best rewards - hard work should be rewarded in game, just as it is in real life. They find the fun-lovers deeply irritating and dread the day they end up in a group with one. Masters are the ones you see telling "hilarious" stories about spellpower-equiped death-knights, because they do a detailed inspection of everyone they group with. Masters are the ones you hear complaining about how the game has been dumbed down since Vanilla and wishing for a return of real challenge.
Favourite other game: Everquest (pre gates of discord)

Blizzard's problem is that whenever they make a change that makes one of these groups happy, they're going to annoy one of the others. That's what accounts for the seemingly contradictory feedback they receive.


  1. I think what makes their (Blizzard's) job even tougher is that many players, myself included, fall somewhere in the grey areas between the 4 types. For example, I like raiding but don't have the kind of time I would *like* to spend doing it or preparing for it (running heroics for Valor Points for T11 gear, for example.)

    Because many of us are somewhere in the middle, it makes it even more difficult to please us at any given time or on a particular patch. We (I) want ALL the issues that impede my enjoyment handled EVERY time maintenance is done, but that's just unrealistic.

    Thanks for laying this out, Sven. I think it's inherent in an MMO, but that doesn't mean it's any less critical to understanding and maybe being mroe forgiving as a player base. BUT it's also no less important for the game developers to take into consideration, which IMO seems to be missing from a lot of what's going on post 4.0.6.

  2. Sorry- I forgot to add to my first point that I don't consider myself a "racer" because I understand and appreciate the time and effort it takes to prepare and succeed at end game content. I'm not looking to be carried ;)

  3. Not only are most of us somewhere in the middle, we often move around as our lives change, so even if a particular change suits us now, it may not in the future.

  4. What I love the *most* about this situation, lol, is how we can understand that it exists and yet, I find myself leaning more toward the OMFG I HATE BLIZZARD! NERDRAGE!!! than the cautious and thoughtful. I'm quite disappointed with a number of things post-patch BUT somehow I still manage to have fun, even as a Survival Hunter ;)

  5. Okay then, I'm trying to figure out what box I currently fit into :)

    I'm not a master (or a mistress, come to it!) I'm not, and never will be, a racer. I'm somewhere between a fun lover and a gardener (as you haven't given 'belf' as an option...) Actually - on second thoughts - can I be a fun loving belf gardener? Can I? Can I pleeeeease? *puppy dog eyes*

    On a serious note - this is an excellent post, Sven. And yes, your comment about shifting wants as our lives change is right on the money as well.

  6. Players also overestimate their own skill. So they say "sure, we want harder content", assuming they will be in the favored 10 or 20% that is good enough to do it.

  7. I wouldn't be entirely sure where to put myself in that, and as said in some previous contents, we do probably move around as our life shifts as well.

    My favourite other game is Zelda.. does that make a difference? ;)

    I do make preparations for raids, and I do my EJ and other resources. But I don't look down on people who don't (though admittedly I would probably laugh at the DK wearing spellpower plate).

  8. Nice post. While I really like your 4 categories, I think you are overstating the fact that players from one category look down on the other players. For example, I never entered a single raid instance but I totally get that raiding can be fun for some people.


  9. @Dr

    I'd agree that not everybody feels hostility towards those with different play styles. However, a brief glance at the forums suggests that some do. Perhaps not the majority, but a loud enough minority to be noticeable.

  10. Based upon this I'm pondering playing left for dead - I'm a racer for sure (I hope). That is a darn handy little matrix.