Unpredictable behavior

Inspired by this post by Wolfshead.

Darknei has achived level 10!

<Darknei> /t <Nei’s bud> Hey man I finally got level 10, I’m ready to party! Where do I go?

<Nei’s bud>grats man, most people party in elyion fields. It’s north of the newb aread, along the road. You pass a town on the way, but it’s pretty short. Wanna go there now?

<Darknei> Nah, it’s late, I gtg. Night man.

Darknei logs off.

Darknei logs on, welcome to Unpredictablia!

Darknei starts traveling along the road to elyion fields, and arrives in Ambushville.

Darknei: Nice little town, I’ll set my home point here  just in case.

System Notice: Attention all adventurers, the town of Ambushville has been marked for attack by the Elite Goblin Horde! Double experience to all that assist in the town’s defense!

Darknei: But I’m in…

Elite Goblin attacks Darknei! Elite goblin does 1337 damage! Darknei is defeated!

Darknei: Crap! *home points*

Elite Goblin attacks Darknei!

Elite Goblin attacks Darknei!

Elite Goblin attacks Darknei!

Elite Goblin attacks Darknei!

Darknei: oh hell, I’m staying dead till this is over.

2 hours later…

Nei’s bud: Sorry man, it looks like they are going to be raiding here for three days or more. The lowbie exp spot has moved south of here.

Darknei: Okay. Well i’m working tomorrow, so I’ll try it then. thanks for raising me. Night.

Nei’s bud: Np man sorry you got caught up in this. Night.

Darknei logs out.

Darknei logs on, welcome to Unpredictablia!

Darknei travels to the southern exp spot without incident. However when she arrives, no one is there.

Darknei: the hell?

Darknei loses 10 hp.

Nei’s bud has logged on.

<Darknei> hey man what gives? The spot is empty?

Darknei loses 10 hp.

<nei’s bud> dude didn’t you read the forum?

Darknei loses 10 hp.


<nei’s bud> dude that area is plagued >.>

Darknei loses 10 hp. Darknei falls to the ground. Darknei has deleveled to level 9!

Darknei: Damn it… *home points*

Welcome to Ambushville!

Elite Goblin attacks Darknei! Elite goblin does 1337 damage! Darknei is defeated!

Darknei logs off.


5 Responses to Unpredictable behavior

  1. SsandmanN says:

    SsandmanN July 13, 2009 at 2:14 am
    I’ve read your article, and would like to write an opposing comment here, hope you take it as continued debate, and nothing personal.

    Your example is of a low level character, who embarks on a trip to the next “leveling zone”, and on the road is caught up in the skirmish of a band, raiding the nearby town. He doesnt have much of a chance and is frusttrated by the raid, that interrupted his daily routine of “living”.

    Hmmm… so you’re saying we should lose all sense of adventure?
    The metaphor in your example is very strong, it is actually a cliche. A perfect example.

    Ever since Little Red Ridinghood hit the road to her grandma’s house, taking the trip along the dusty road in the forest is a hallmark for adventure, unexpected trouble and struggle to overcome huge odds.
    I won’t mention other fantasy books, the “Lord of the rings” will suffice:
    ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he used to say. ‘You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.’

    We all know what happens next
    And I do believe this sense of adventure, this thirst for the unknown is what motivates people to play fantasy games, fantasy MMOs in particular.
    Your character is frustrated to be ganked by raiding goblins, or to end up in a plagued land…
    Do you think Red Ridinghood was happy to meet the Big Bad Wolf?
    Was Bilbo happy to be chased by goblins or Frodo by Nazgul?

    And yet this is the excitement we all crave. At what point do we turn from adventurers, hungry to jump in the mouth of trouble, to take on every dark alley and every gloomy forest, to grumpy old men, little hobits, each living in his own hole in the ground, not wanting to hear of the outside world?

    I understand there should be “living” and housing and a little bit of daily routines, so you can submerge into your character actually living a life. But since when do players prefer day-to-day boredom before adventure?
    Does every adventure have to be planned?
    “OK, I am going to kill me a dragon on Friday, then I will get ambushed by several bandits on Saturday, I am going to sqeeze the defence of Helm’s deep on Sunday, just between breakfast and the noon show on TV…”

    If you want to play dress-up, you can play Sims, you can play it online even. There are several Barbie adventure games out there…
    But when you play “World of warcraft”, and there’s a big bad Lich King on the cover, flaming eyes, frosty sword and all… dont you know what you are getting yourself into? Dont you actually expect to be fighting an evil foe? Why the outcry of frustration?

  2. Dblade says:

    Interesting counterpoint. I’m not saying we should lose all adventure, in the story just getting to be able to party is adventure enough, and the trip to an exp spot is too, the point was more that adventure varies on the person, and what may seem adventurous to some means a lot of time dead with no recourse to others. However your point is pretty strong to address directly outside of that framework.

    The problem is that while you think Frodo, scripted events like the zombie event, and general ones like PvP make most people into Boromir, who in the trilogy, gets the bad side of him drawn out by the adventure and gets killed. People actually lose from events designed to increase their sense of adventure.

    The zombie event from what I hear was full of it, many players powerless to do anything they wanted, and forced to “lose” and do nothing but react.

    I’ll use an example from FFXI-pre MPK patch, aggroing mobs when zoned used to walk slowly back to their spawn point, and aggroing people on the way. This gave oppotunities for adventure-you could be the white knight standing next to the zone to kill incoming mobs (although beyond a certain level, and with a high enough chain of enemies, no one could. MPK means Monster player kill.)

    But for the people experiencing, chances are you just died. If you were lucky you stopped killing your mob and ran to zone before the aggroed mob latched on to you. Unlucky, your party wiped. The worst case was actually like my story here, when you zoned out to a new area, you could get killed by a mob at the zone line with no way to react at all.

    That kind of adventure was all boromir. That’s really what most people think of, and they romaticize it in hindsight; when they played, it wasn’t adventure, they hated every minute of it. SE patched that, and despite all the whining about lost adventure no one really minded it in practice.

    If you want adventure to work, players have to be able to do more than react, and the only real way is by scheduling it. You simply can’t make something come out of the blue, your players will not be able to react initially, and if you do something like the zombie zerg and keep changing the rules, they may not be able to at all, and feel powerless. No one likes that.

    It would be interesting to see how someone could design something like that to actually work.

  3. SsandmanN says:

    First a few clarifications about the zombie event:
    When it started it took 10 minutes for the disease to take effect.
    The disease was always cleansable by any class that could abolish disease.
    This meant once you get infected you had 10 minutes to ask a paladin to cleanse you, to finish your sales in the AH or whatever.
    Later the disease got “more potent” and it took only 5 minutes for you to turn, but then there were NPCs in key positions in the city that cleansed you for free.
    The only real hassle were players that turned hordes of guards into zombies, and then relied on the zombie ability to turn you faster with each hit. So if they controlled a large enough group they could turn you with one hit from each zombie.
    There were several problems though.
    First – the zombies moved at a walking pace, and had only a limited ability to move at running pace for a short duration. So if you were mounted, there was no way a zombie could catch you.
    Second, the zombie group was constantly being attacked by guards and so it took effort on the controlling player to keep them clumped up enough to be able to turn you in one hit.
    Third – the zombies were very easy to kill at range, so a hunter or mage could kill the controlling player very easy. Then the zombie horde quickly dissipates, and amassing a new critical mass took a lot of time and effort. If you see a zombie player fighting a guard, you simply help the guard and put a stop to the whole chain reaction. Hence the sight of a zombie hitting a guard in a secluded corner somewhere was very frequent.
    Fourth – avoiding the whole thing altogether was not hard at all.
    Zombies were seen only in the 3 major cities for each faction. If you were in Shattrath, the whole upper floor was guarded by NPCs, so eventual zombies could be seen only in the Lower city, but since most players were just staying on their flying mounts, even there they were a rare sight. Lower city was more like a training ground for zombie wannabees, who experimented on guards there and later moved to a faction city.
    So even if you were in a faction city, just running away from a huge ball of zombies was really no trouble at all. You could by chance get infected, but as we said getting cleansed was no hassle at all. If you were a paladin this whole thing was a joke to you.
    Low level players could very rarely see a small town being raided, usually by a single controller who turned the whole town into zombies. Problem was zombies need to eat or else they die, so you could just stay out of the city for a few minutes and the whole thing would just die off. Leveling in the fields was never interrupted, there were no zombies there, and could never be.
    I am intentinally omitting the case where several zombie controllers moved together in a group, cause it is no different than a horde raid in the faction city. Both times it is a raid of players against the population of a faction capital. So if you die in the first case, you would have died in the second as well. Except in the second there was the safe areas around the cleansing NPCs, where no zombie could set foot.
    Lets not forget that after all, there are PvE servers, where you could just flag yourself off for PvP. So if being ganked on a PvP server is a hassle to somebody… that’s kind of ironic since he chose this server in the first place.
    So in conclusion, the zombie event was like the rain – it was something you couldnt ignore, but if you really wanted to go somewhere, you just put your umbrella on and go. In comparison to such a minor to moderate inconvenience, there was a huge outcry of frustration, that was really puzzling for the people who enjoyed the event as a breath of fresh air at the end of an expansion that was long and beginning to get boring (TBC).
    Also noted – as the plague progressed slowly, the whoelevent was hardly unannounced, so it was as scheduled as a non-instanced event could be. You didnt get to choose when to “enter the instance” as we said, but should all events in the game be on schedule? On “your” schedule specifically, when it is supposed to be a “world”, where things hardly ever wait for your approval before they happen.

    Last thing – mob trains in other MMOs are not a random event.
    This is a game mechanic that was there since the beginning. You knew about it, or saw it at the very beginning of playing the game, and as an integral part of that game, you could just make the decision to not play a broken mechanic.
    A similar broken mechanic is for example the way a hunter could climb up on top of a mast in Booty Bay and just kill everybody, while impervious to players or NPCs. Now this, as a broken mechanic, was indeed frustrating to me as well, but still it wasn’t so bad that I would go cry like a baby for being PKed.
    A strong element of player interactions such things bring is the PK – AntiPK minigame, where some players would enjoy ganking and some players would band together to hunt gankers. There were parties and raids to keep Booty Bay clear of flying hunters, and there were parties and raids to keep capital cities clean of zombies.
    We could compare this whole thing to Age of Conan, where there are no factions, and everybody is flagged for PvP – everywhere.
    Also, back when I used to play it, there was no system for policing PKers. So while leveling, someone could just come next to you and kill you, with no consequences. If you run into a party of two or more players leveling together, they will most certainly kill with no thought, cause there are no consequences.
    It was not uncommon to see max level players in low level areas just hunting the lowbies for sport. It was a bit frustrating sometimes, but people just took it as part of the game. Even though I was ganked hundreds of times on my way to max lvl, I just res-ed and went someplace else. Sometimes you gank them back – it’s a dog eat dog world…

    “No low level players were hurt in the making of this article” 🙂

  4. Dblade says:

    “So in conclusion, the zombie event was like the rain – it was something you couldnt ignore, but if you really wanted to go somewhere, you just put your umbrella on and go. In comparison to such a minor to moderate inconvenience, there was a huge outcry of frustration, that was really puzzling for the people who enjoyed the event as a breath of fresh air at the end of an expansion that was long and beginning to get boring (TBC).”

    From what I understand though, there was enough griefing to make it more than you think. You could deny people the use of towns, auction services, and generally disrupt them to the point of making them not want to log on.

    If it really were as you say, you wouldn’t have seen the outcry from it. Usually most players won’t mind some disruption, Holiday events for one in any game disrupt people’s schedules. But reading up on it I got that was the disruption was systematic and severe, and after awhile people couldn’t even respond defensively for it.

    “Last thing – mob trains in other MMOs are not a random event.
    This is a game mechanic that was there since the beginning. You knew about it, or saw it at the very beginning of playing the game, and as an integral part of that game, you could just make the decision to not play a broken mechanic.”

    If you want to be technical, no you don’t know about it at all.,Most people in FFXI only learned at level 10 when they went to the party level areas.

    I cited those because they are an example of schedule disruption, and were very effective, even if not dev lead. A lot of people reacted to the patch over them like people reacted to the zombie event.

    The whole PK thing works mostly because you have to know what you are getting into to do it. It doesn’t work perfectly, because a lot of people expect a basic level of fairness which doesn’t exist, but it would be like opting in or out of the zombie event.

    Even in full pvp games, you know what it is about before buying the game, so its an opt-in experience.

    I’m very much not a fan of it, I’ll do a separate post explaining why some time, but PvP as a concept is no problem because of opting in. The “adventure” discussions is more about not being able to opt in or out of events that happen in the world.

  5. SsandmanN says:

    Ya, well… for good or bad WoW has a subscription based model, so opting in is not an …option 🙂

    I realise that there are other views than mine on the subject of the zombie event and game mechanics, as much as I realise there are people who have different playstyles than mine, and wouldn’t agree with me.
    But at least, I am trying to be about as vocal as the ones opposing zombie event, when discussing game development, because I think it is a fair point.
    All in all, you can’t make everyone happy, and Blizzard is trying to do just that, so there will always be someone criticising.
    I personally finally decided I’ve had enough of their carrot-chasing mentality and quit playing, but discussing the design is still a good topic.
    It is too bad you didn’t experience the event yourself, then we could have had a more detailed argument, but there are events like this in other games.

    Making your players totally unable to react to world changes is a bad design decision, I think we both agree on this one.

    Slightly inconveniencing them, in order to make it harder, according to me is a good game design.
    It makes players push to get to the next level and disourages slouchy gameplay, which I think is where WoW is headed.
    Regardless of zombie event, there is already a segregation of “casual” and “hardcore” players be it “pro” PvPers or raiders.
    The ones are spending insane amounts of time in game, that couldnt be healthy, physically or socially, for any individual. The others are literally doing nothing and getting rewarded just for logging in.

    To make an economic example, you have the sweatshop workers, putting in insane amounts of work hours, and you have the people living on social security money, sitting at home and drinking beer.

    In my eyes the MMO population should be struggling to achieve the “middle class” playstile, where a player puts in moderate amounts of time and effort and gets rewarded accordingly. The developers should actually be striving to enforce such kind of gameplay, and have mechanics that if not punish, at least not reward any of the above extreme behaviours.

    Example of an attempt for such a mechanic in WoW was the rested experience bonus, aimed to reduce the “hardcore” behaviour, compensating the mob grinding. Needless to say, I think such mechanics are poorly implemented or overall abandoned.
    But anyway, thats just me 🙂

    BTW props onchanging the background of the blog. The white on black was kinda hard to read 🙂

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