Failure FTW

You know what your problem is? You’re too good. You have found what you are good at and stuck with it. You are the best tank out there, and you have been tanking for your guild for three games now. Everyone relies on you for that. You leveled a (feral) druid alt, and you tried a mage, but the playstyle is uncomfortably different and you’re not good at it. Why be a lousy mage when you could be a great tank?

You are stuck in your comfort zone. You need to go out there and fail. Try a lot of things. A lot. You will be lousy at most of them and you will do dumb things. But a few of them will really work for you. Maybe you are not such a bad rogue once you stop trying to play the class like a tank. Maybe you could be the best healer ever because you know exactly what the tank needs. Maybe you find that one type of PvP is fun, or you miss racing games, or that small publisher made the best little niche game you have ever seen.

That’s the entire basis a major component of our economy: failure is easy to recover from, but success is rewarding and lasting. That is why your game has a light death penalty: try everything, even dumb things, and you can find something new and fun. And if not, if nothing is better or is even a viable alternative, you are still the best tank on your server. You are accepting that role consciously and knowingly, rather than just clinging to the familiar.

: Zubon

Crap, I don’t have do that, do I? I’ve been playing a mage or a healer since like 1999.

14 thoughts on “Failure FTW”

  1. Bah. It’s not necessarily it. I took every WoW class to 60, and performed admirably well in all of them. I hung some of them up pretty quickly (rogue was the record) because I stuck with styles I just didn’t like to prove myself against the comfort zone theory. I’d thought about it myself.

    The problem, for me, is more that the core party mechanic hasn’t changed. CoV did things a little differently, but pitted us against thousands of iterations of the most mindless encounters in MMO gaming (with a few exceptions for task forces/trials). Broadband is becoming far more widespread and systems are becoming more capable of handling the games if the graphics aren’t pushed a dozen times as far as gameplay. Even then, what I want from developers is ridiculous.

    I want positional combat. I want someone to act as a tank not because he can hold aggro, but because he’s carrying a big shield (which enemies can’t walk through) and a mace, and standing between the enemy and the casters. I want to be able to fight tactically and defensively, so that mid-combat healing isn’t necessary to survival. Having healers in less than a raid should be easy mode. I’m tired of wiping because I got three consecutive critical heals or because my tank doesn’t see the point in sunder armor on elite casters. I can’t remember who set the current brand of gameplay in stone, but I’d rather someone set out to break the mold rather than to approach WoW’s glory by participating in the Clone Wars.

  2. Ditto the above. Except you could skip the “healing in combat” entirely, as far as I’m concerned.

    (And I personally like playing healers, I might add.)

    I agree that for some, trying a different role might well do the trick. However, when you’ve got 10+ years under your belt, a dozen titles and more left scattered and broken in your wake…

  3. “You are stuck in your comfort zone.” Yeah thats a valid point, but don’t move out of it by changing your class. What most people have problems with is wiping in 5 mans / raids. IMO thats he place where everyone could improve much. You wont learn the game much just by progressing with people which do the hard work for you. Don’t join the guild which is progressed far just in order to farm stuph with then. You will learn a lot about your class, other classes and about everything just by practicing some encounters over and over. I wont even mention how well it will felt if you will get him down for the first time after many wipes. ;)

  4. Definitely agree with Jezebeau. I have some additional wants.

    I want raids to go away. Now. Either turn them into multi-team missions (Team A attacks the enemy factory, Team B attacks the training facility, Team C defends the city against supervillain attacks, Team D attacks the main villain in his lair. Each team has a goal, and if the goal isn’t accomplished in time, the other teams receive a debuff/enemies get uffs/reinforcements arrive.) or, alternately, ramp up the AI significantly in the elite encounters.

    I want the Tank/Healer/DPS crap gone. It isn’t necessary, it isn’t fun, and it’s stifling of concept. We can find something better than “Make this bar go down and make this bar go up.” We certainly don’t need to make it so that you need at least one of each to survive content.

  5. I don’t disagree with the comments, and just posited last night to my guild that someone should make an MMO where the mobs act like enemies in a good single player FPS…none of this aggro range crap, how about if you walk in front of a mob or make too much noise near it then it will attack you. Etc.

    I think the problem is that while something like that could work if done brilliantly, the tank/dps/healer approach is tried and true, and Blizzard isn’t going to screw with their golden goose.

  6. Looking at the comments (which I largely agree with, by the way), I can’t help but wonder if this is just a by-product of the fact that we’re almost all seasoned MMO veterans. I’m not sure that it’s the formula that’s tired– after all, we all lived it and loved it for years. It’s a game. It doesn’t have to be more realistic. The tank/heal/dps minigame that serves as combat is pretty engaging for new players (and as much as you might be sick of it, come on, you still like it and play with it). Just look at WoW.

    Even if the paradigm shifted I’d still want to play in my comfort zone occasionally. But yeah, choices would be nice in the MMO realm. When you’ve been playing long enough that you’ve been there, done all of that, a system like the one Jezebeau is describing sounds pretty neat (and it might sound horribly frustrating to a player who hasn’t ever played a game like this or just plays casually for fun– I think my girlfriend would be annoyed by the complexity of that system). The question is really whether there are enough MMO vets out there to make a game like that commercially viable.

    Failing that, there’s the growing indie scene. My money is on the coolest games coming from that sector, and with innovative mechanics like the ones we’re talking about.

  7. I agree with the concepts of making games harder (MMOs specifically). There is no reason to die in most MMOs nowadays, other than being lazy, such as not gathering the proper group before a mission/quest. I was getting excited for Lotro since it had no specific “healer” class, but the minstrel pretty much fits the bill. If you’ve ever played a single player FPS through to the end, you’ll find you either die at least once, or come very very close. There aren’t enough significant challenges to players and therefore people feel the need to come up with self-imposed restrictions or challenges.

    According to Theory of Fun by Raph Koster, people like patterns, and the most fun they have is when they are grokking a pattern and for a short time thereafter. The problem with this being, that MMOs nowadays have already been grokked by the majority of consistent MMO players, since the mechanics haven’t changed significantly to the point where they have to learn something new. Your point, make games fun by switching classes, will only temporarily feed your fun factor. It’s true, players DO have fun while learning something new, and learning something new is always good (survival of the species). But overall meeting a different pattern that never changes isn’t going to make players happy in the long run.

    PvP aspects change this by letting players invent their own patterns and compete/compare them to others. This has a somewhat unfortunate sideaffect of pushing away players who find changing patterns to be too hard to grok, and therefore no fun. This is pretty much the only reason players don’t DEMAND PvP in every game they play. Players WANT patterns they can grasp, but one they’ve grasped them they leave or demand more content so they can continue having fun. PvP patterns are by their very nature, unpredictable, which some people have grasped and find fun learning and exploring new patterns on a daily basis, while others will simply can as unreasonable patterns that they will never be able to completely grok (which is true in most cases) and unfortunately, bash for a variety of reasons which they never explore to find the true reason, the game is too “hard” for them to understand on an abstract level.

    So there’s my rant, take it or leave it :)

  8. MMOs are not complex enough. There, I said it.

    More accurately, MMOs are complex enough on the outside, and not complex enough on the inside. There are plenty of crunchy stats and builds and talent trees and quest maps and loot tables and yadda yadda ya that’s accessible to the player either directly or after a little bit of trial-and-error discovery. Generally, things do not happen in the game unless a player causes it to happen, and cause and effect are easy to determine.

    This, I’m sure, is completely on purpose. For one, it serves to entertain those who enjoy minmaxing, tweaking, and trying to get an edge on their opponents. In my experience, both Guild Wars and Eve Online (and, I’m sure, WoW in endgame, but I have no experience with that) have done this to great effect, by giving players an amazing selection of skills / ship modules to choose from, which can be combined in various ways to produce new effects, attacks and defenses. When players can easily determine how the game will react to their actions, and they have a lot of options available to their characters, a large part of the “gameplay” occurs between game sessions in considering and planning new characters tweaks, which in itself can be very enjoyable.

    For two, it puts a large amount of the complexity in the hands of the supercomputers on our desktops and doesn’t complicate things unnecessarily for the hard-working servers in the datacentre.

    But I think this is a short-sighted approach. It doesn’t matter how complicated things are on the backend, you can still keep the front end nice and tidy. What would happen to WoW if, when you found a new shiny dagger, the system didn’t give you an exact rundown of all its specifics, even down to the point of calculating its DPS for you so you could be a complete moron and still make an optimal decision regarding whether or not to sell your old dagger?

    Maybe its “specs” consisted of only “it’s a pretty darned sharp dagger”. Would it give more or less appeal to the game? In my mind, maybe less appeal in the beginning, but definitely more in the long run. Not only would my character become more accomplished, but I as a player would feel accomplishment too in learning more of the hidden intricacies behind the game curtain.

    How about this – don’t float hitpoints over people’s heads. Don’t show me their green bars when I click them – maybe just say “chipper” or “badly wounded” like using the old ‘consider’ command in MUDs would. Introduce some amount of player uncertainty to keep me on my toes.

    On the other hand, add complexity server-side. If I fail a quest, have the quest giver speak poorly of me to his NPC friends and other PCs. Add (working) dynamic quest generators, so two people don’t run the exact same epic quest with all the negative implications that brings. If too many deer get killed, have the wolf population starve and become more aggressive towards PCs (and vice versa). Make what I do in the game matter – allow me to live in a world, and I’ll be too distracted to try to observe patterns in your game in order to outsmart it.

    As a side note (and more on-topic) it really irked me when Beta testing LOTRO and the class descriptions actually included “The Champion has good Damage-Per-Second”, “The Guardian is a tank” and so on. Far from trying to break any kind of mold, Turbine actually wholly embraced that worn-out model, which entirely clashed with the lore and license. Double-plus ungood.

  9. Would the market actually embrace a game that broke the mold?

    It’s a chicken/egg sort of situation – gamers are buying fantasy MMOs (Ultima/EQ/DAoC/WoW) that use similar gameplay mechanics, and games that are different (non-fantasy settings, different leveling/ranking gameplay) don’t sell. There’s layers and layers as to why, but publishers tend to look at the PowerPoint pie chart and summarize that “WoW sells, make it like that.” So, we end up getting More of the Same, and the notion that different games don’t sell ends up as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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