Ok, I haven’t posted much lately (for lots of good reasons, none of which I will bore you with here), but after reading Ethic’s recent post on farm status I couldn’t resist opining a bit.
Several of the comments posted on his topic seemed to confuse the differences between repeating the same quest/mission/instance over and over to obtain a piece of loot with the satisfaction of repeating a quest for the thrill of achievement or the sheer fun of adventure, or even the replayability of games like Tetris or Minesweeper, where the gameplay is repetitive (then again, it is the same for Chess and Monopoly, isn’t it?).
The problem with farming is the goal or end result. Like rats in a laboratory, gamers are trained to do the same tasks over and over (sometimes they are quite mindless or time consuming) in a very rote pattern to get the nugget of food at the end (or in the gamer’s case, boots +1). At some point, the enjoyment from completing the quest (or whatever) and getting the reward at the end loses meaning and is repeated solely for the acquisition of the same item (for sale, trade, guildmate, friend, whatever).
This is quite different from the repetition in a simple game…tetris, minesweeper, chess, whatever. While those games may seem (from an external perspective) to be terribly boring and repetitive, each game stands alone and requires thought, strategy, tactics, and effort. This is doubled when playing against an opponent whose moves vary as much as yours. The rewards here are 1) the game itself 2) the challenge, which always varies from game to game and 3) the satisfaction of beating your opponent, getting a high score, or merely doing something stunningly clever (even if you lost).
In contrast, farming is always the same. Sure, you might try a different approach to killing the bad beastie at the end with your shiny boots, but ultimately, farming can get to the point where you can do it in your sleep, or macro it. THAT is what drives many of us nuts.
When we talk about doing something new or different or better, our arguement is (well at least this is MY opinion) that most MMORPG developers out there simply can’t think out of the box, don’t have a solid grasp on designing a MMORPG to start with (side note…I will submit to you that any team of programmers and artists can build an mmorpg, but very few can create a *good* one), or management interferes and insists that the game be like other “successful” titles.
The problem with THAT is multifold…first, I submit to you that successful games are successful not because they are good or awesome, but simply that they are the best out of the current offerings (like most political races…they all suck, but you have to vote for someone). Secondly, MMORPGs are essentially clones of each other. “Oh hey, that game sold well, make one just like it, but change the story around a bit, and we will market it as the best next-generation game ever!”. That happens in this industry more than people realize.
Actually, while I am on that point… pick ten mmorpgs…five that are commercially available, and another five in beta status. Compare 1) screenshots 2) character races 3) professions 4) magic spells/system. How many of them are nearly identical? How many are trying something different?
Relmstein commented “Why take a risk on a non-standard MMO when most of them have been horrible money pits?”. Good point, but not a good argument. First, I refer to my comment above…anyone can make an MMORPG, but very few people really know how to design one. Give me a bad non-standard MMO money pit, and I could probably come up with half a dozen bad design decisions that were made that if done differently would have completely changed its “grade”. In other words, most MMORPGs that get an “F” could have made at least a “C” if they had some some basic things differently.
Another point that should be made here is that non-standard should not mean “totally off the wall bizzare and completely different from anything anyone has ever seen!” which usually means crap. Non-standard should be “not the standard” or “different than what you would expect”. Personally, I want to build something non-standard… that means, different, better, unique, and original. Not weird, awkward, nonsensical, crap, and boring.
Our industry is in danger of decline, even as the size and revenues are gaining momentum. Most of the “new” mmorpgs I have seen out there are more of the same and “just like EQ” or “just like WoW”. Screw that. Give me something different. I am tired of choosing chocolate or vanilla, with or without nuts. Give me peppermint, cinnamon, rocky road, peanut butter, butterscotch, toffee, cherry, and rootbeer. But please, dont give me limp lentils, soggy cauliflauer, broken broccoli, or squash.
Back to farming…there are other ways, but everyone is so used to the same old model that they default to it and don’t bother trying to try a different approach. Why do we farm? Because the same static mobs drop the same static loot items. Why is that? Because that is the easiest way to develop things, and it isn’t hard for the designers to make content.
So, we spend hours killing rats at the rat spawn, waiting for the king rat to come out so we can kill him to get the “king rat tooth” and the “golden ring of rattiness” that he always (or “sometimes”) has on him. What is the “non-standard” alternative? Hrm, there are a couple of ways, good and bad. Personally, I favor 1) more of an emphasis on player crafting and less on generic and static gear (I swear, if I see another bard wearing cobalt armor I’m going to rip my eyeballs out) 2) loot tables! Sure a creature may *tend* to drop something from table y, but he has a small percentage of dropping something from tables x and z, 3) quest items should simply be quest items…nothing like boots +5 every time, all the time.
I’m not saying that either or both of those is the perfect answer, but they are sort of non-standard, but not crazy design mechanics that have no real reason or rhyme behind them. Plus, neither is very far from what we are currently stuck with.
By the way, instanced farming is a dumb ass idea. Yes, I said it. It is a dumb ass idea. It is a hack solution to a problem, with no real effort of actually solving the problem. Then again, they already backed themselves into a corner with the whole static mob drop thing, so I guess this isn’t all that bad an idea (if their goal was to give everyone equal opportunity to farm a spawn instead of fighting with another player for it…oh wait, isnt WoW a *multiplayer* game? Why is everything getting instanced now? When are developers just going to admit they are making great single player games (or lan style multiplayer games) with a fat networking pipe in the back)?
Ah, but I digress. Yeah, this is a long post, I’m making up for lost time.
So to summarize, repetition is not bad. Repetition because there is nothing else to do, or because it is the only way to get the same damn item everyone else has, or because the designers couldn’t come up with any original design or content ideas, are all bad. When repetition becomes rote and something that can be macroed, its bad. Repetition that is at the same time full of variety and challenge, with a reasonable reward a the end is a good thing.
All good things in moderation.
Ok, let the comments begin. Am I wrong? Off-base? In the wrong ballpark? Dead-on? Genius? Lunatic? Or just another boring opinionated ranter?
Robert “Nicodemus” Rice