GW2: The Psychology of Self-Motivation

The more I keep thinking about it, over the course of one work day, the more I think that Anet quite possibly got it right (or at least, more things right than wrong) with this latest patch.

To make sense of this, a little homework is necessary with this TedX talk on self-motivation.

In it, Geller talks about the factors that contribute to feeling empowered and motivated – competency, consequences, choices and community.

We can see that the feeling of competency took a hit with the original HoT difficulty levels, adding up to feelings of apathy and learned helplessness across a fairly wide swathe of the population, who walked straight into HoT zones or raids and got pasted on the ground.

The new patch adjusts quite a lot of this across the board, from making Adventures and waypoints slightly more friendly and accessible, reviving renewed interests in dungeons (which can serve as a stepping stone and training ground of difficulty) and coming up with a fairly creative solution to dps meters by adding an in-game one in conjunction with test dummies in a private instance off a raid lobby. 

(Given the growing need for one, this seems a fairly good compromise that tries to avoid as much potential toxicity as possible. One can use it in private as a personal yardstick for improvement; static raid groups can use it to train their members – that is, it’s consensual if you step into said instance with other people with the intent to measure dps, and way better than a random PUG just spamming Recount numbers out of nowhere. 

Speaking of which, it’s also inconvenient enough that it’ll be a -really- motivated PUG who would hound someone into displaying their dps (by the time they test everybody’s stuff, they’d probably have been better off just using the oodles of Legendary Insights “elitist” shortcut.))

Anet has also spread a very lavish hand where -positive- consequences are concerned, aka the “Is it worth it?” part of the self-motivational question.

In many cases, yes, it’s certainly much more worth it than before. Which has quite the inspirational effect on many people.

The part that’s been sneakily growing on me the most is the -choices- part of the equation.

With a broad sweep of the patch brush, many aspects of the game feel either more -doable- (aka competency) or more -worth-doing (aka consequences).

This leads to a sudden surplus of choices for what one might want to do in a game session.

With choice, comes more of a feeling of autonomy and control. 

Suddenly, I’m playing a dungeon or raiding because I want to be, rather than because there ain’t enough critical mass for a HoT zone meta or there’s no point trying to do an Adventure that is impossible to get to and has ridiculous NA-calibrated target times anyway or because there’s no new content or story available -except- inside a stupid raid instance. (Ok, the last is still a little hopeful, presumably Anet is finally revving up for actual new content now.)

Lastly, community. As much as I’m fairly disconnected at the moment, I see quite a lot of opportunities for community to occur in this latest patch (though I’m not sure how much was intended by design or just a happy coincidence.)

Introducing daily jumping puzzles or mini-dungeons is BIG. This is so totally what the GW2 community needed, the opportunity for small groups of randoms to encounter each other in a small area, help and be helped.

The raid lobby is a clever way to group the niche community of raiders together in one place. I presume it’s going to be similar to the PvP lobby, or a more compact Lion’s Arch pre-megaserver. It’s likely raiders will keep seeing similar names hanging out there, and that familiarity is what builds solidarity and community (which is motivational to many.)

Reviving dungeon interest is yet another source for strangers or guildies to encounter each other and potentially bond. Especially if some are motivated by the thought of building some kind of static arrangement to speedrun their 8 dungeons.

The impending attention to WvW is another potential spot for community building as well.

I’m not sure just how much effect all the above will have on me, presently existing in a sort of externalized MMO geological time scale. 

The latest self-inspirational idea to hit me is the possibility of reviving solo fractal or dungeon attempts. I avoided five man group content for a really long time, but a few days ago, I attempted some low-AR daily fractals with my raid necro and it was both doable (with a few repeated tribulation-style deaths here and there) and satisfying.

Of couse, any damn fractal with a mechanic that requires more than one person (dredge pressure plates, Old Tom in uncategorized) is an impossible problem… Or is it? Apparently playing two accounts at the same time is not verboten, as long as one keypress does not control multiple things at once. 

The idle thought arose of having a client open in each screen, and quick swapping windows to position supporting secondary characters, whose main purpose would be perform the necessary mechanic and not die, during the crucial time, while I mainly soloed the fight on the primary character.

So far, laziness and lack of time to experiment stands in the way. I’d need to figure out how to bypass the restriction on having multiple clients open (there are programs for that, but I’m not the trusting sort and would rather kill processes by hand.) I’d need to ressurect my second account and actually level up and gear a character. I might need a third free-to-play account if two characters aren’t enough for the mechanics…

… But it is a tempting thought nonetheless. 

Or I could work on finishing one collection or another.

Or I could work on a second map complete so I can build a third Legendary someday.

Or Fractals. Or dungeons. Or HoT zone metas. Or HoT zone solo exploration and adventures. Or WvW.

Or I could just not get so attached to the idea of various GW2 goals and work on other real life ones instead, which are also pressing for attention lately. (I haven’t caught up with half a year’s worth of hobby magazines, for example, and I’ve been buying a bunch of sci-fi books and anthologies off Humble Bundle with the intent to actually get around to reading them.)

They all sound like good ideas. Bottom line, I don’t feel like I’m in any particular hurry. Just gonna continue on in geologic time and squeeze in a bit of progress here and there.

A Single-Player MOBA?

Tobold has come up with an intriguing, if heretical, idea: Why not a soloable or single-player MOBA (or game mode?)

It’ll catch a hitherto untapped audience, those that prefer PvE or those that can’t commit to the length of a match with other players (without a pause button to periodically go AFK) or those simply too nervous to learn the depth of a MOBA while facing the habitual toxicity of its regular audience (and provide a stepping stone training mode for those who might not mind PvP but want some extended practice by themselves first.)

The imagined protests that immediately cross my mind are those that shriek, “OMG, the very POINT of a MOBA is to group up to defeat challenges! Teamwork and communication are critical! The very feeling we’re craving is in that practiced coordination and super-smooth execution! Go solo somewhere else, like a singleplayer RPG, and not in MY game!”

Amusingly, it seems to be a similar protest to those who oppose soloability in MMOs, or soloable dungeons, or what-have-you.

There appears to be an underlying fear that they won’t have anyone to play with, if a solo option existed.

But frankly, that seems to be a completely off-base assumption, given the example of both solo and group options co-existing in MMOs. The social players still party up and complain bitterly about instances that force them to solo, the solo players still wander off by themselves and complain bitterly about instances that force them to group, and if the devs manage to hit that magic “no-forcing, solo or group as you prefer” option, then everyone seems more or less happy, or at least, content to deal with it.

Creating alternative game modes is great for variety, offering choices for people with different preferences.

The danger seems to be mostly overwhelming a player with options (which basically means they need a linear progression path or some kind of signposting or a “do this activity for more bonuses today!” promotion), plus the issue of having to devote sufficient developer resources to tend to that game mode.

Some people might wonder, “Well, in many MOBAs today, you can already play solo, in a sense. What’s he going on about?”

It’s true. Many many people solo queue into a match that contains other players on both sides.

Still others will solo queue into a co-op game, in which players are all on one side and bots on another, which is the equivalent of GW2-like social engineering – everyone on the same side, incentivized to cooperate against a computer-controlled enemy team, essentially PvE in a MOBA.

Anyone can easily set up a bot game in which all other nine players are bots, where they are completely alone and left in peace to do whatever the hell they want, or a custom game where they can tweak some variant of this player-bot formula to however they like.

But I think Tobold is implying something a little more. That developers can explore this as yet unexperimented-with space or niche further.

An easy analogy is that of dungeons in an MMO.

People expect to group up, to have roles and experience teamwork while defeating a sequence of enemies (with complex mechanics to learn) for rewards at the end.

However, we have the example of Guild Wars 1, which turned the concept of dungeoning on its head a little by letting players solo their way through pretty much all instances with henchmen or heroes (and mind you, some players still grouped to do the harder dungeons faster and more efficiently.) Ditto The Secret World, if I remember correctly, some instances were soloable.

We have Guild Wars 2, which has experimented with the idea of the Queen’s Gauntlet, a solo-only series of challenges (with complex mechanic to learn), as well as inadvertently produced a challenging side activity of soloing dungeons meant for groups (which appeals to another subset of players.)

Why not create MOBA game modes with a little twist to them?

One interesting possibility that comes to mind goes back to a MOBA’s RTS roots. Just like you could have one player control a number of heroes in GW1, why not let a single player control multiple MOBA heroes?  That would probably be a great multi-tasking, micro-taxing, control-group practice singleplayer challenge right there. It’s not as if MOBAs don’t embrace that concept already, with heroes that can summon other mobs or illusions.

Something else players of singleplayer modes do expect is some kind of narrative or progression path to follow. Why not throw in a story mode in chapters bookending MOBA fights, perhaps with preset groups of opposing or allied heroes?

It’s not like it hasn’t been done before. Duels of the Planeswalkers is a Magic: The Gathering game that some players buy for its PvP, and some of whom merely buy to play its singleplayer chapters or puzzle challenges, unlocking cards along the way.

One might protest that without other players to show off vanity cosmetics to, that the whole revenue stream of a MOBA might break down.

However, one could also offer hero unlocks a la League of Legends or Marvel Heroes, or even content unlocks where each hero has a ‘story mode’ that you could pay for in microtransactions. PvP players who don’t give a damn wouldn’t be nickle and dimed at all, while PvE players who like that sort of thing might be convinced to pay $2-5 for several more hours of unique gameplay/maps/puzzle/story DLC.

Unlocking special achievements or increasing levels are another easy way to keep a singleplayer gamer solo farming or engaging in speed runs or mastering Dark Souls-difficulty challenges to their heart’s content. Get X number of last hits or creep or hero kills, win Y as hero or other, defeat Z mob with some kind of mechanic or finish the match in a set amount of time or whatever.

You could have leaderboards for this version of asynchronous competition too, again akin to certain competitive mode challenges in Guild Wars 1, or even in games like Batman: Arkham _Whatever_, where you have combat and predator challenges for a single player to test themselves against, improve their score versus other players’ scores and so on.

In my opinion, the singleplayer MOBA (or variant game modes thereof) is certainly worth a company’s time to experiment and tinker with. It’ll be interesting to see which MOBA decides to eventually branch or innovate in this direction, or if they think grabbing their handfuls of the competitive PvP / eSports pie is more than sufficient to focus on.

Paraphrased Quote of the Day

From a comment by MMOjuggler over at Keen and Graev‘s, slightly paraphrased by moi:

“One person’s entitlement is someone else’s customer preference.”

So…

…how much are you willing to pay again, in order to not have to share your game with others of a different playstyle preference?

According to Crowfall’s Kickstarter, the answer is a very rough average of $100 per person (specifically for Crowfall’s potential playerbase anyway, though I wonder how much they’ll balk if asked for more money later.)

I also wonder if it’s really a good thing to have zero conflict of player preferences in a game. Where everyone is of the same mind all the time? Does that a community make, or just a cult of groupthink?

Will a constant dose of always good and always happy feelings become boring and stagnant, without an occasional influx of the bad to offer contrast and subsequent renewed appreciation of the good when it does happen? A slot machine is most attractive with unpredictable staggered rewards, after all.

Perhaps this is why we see many MMO devs adapting their game to a form where there are many different activities appealing to different playstyles, where little mini-communities can form around each activity.

Except that this produces a new problem, in the shape of potential insular silos that may develop and proceed to chase other players (and worse, -new- players) away from the activity they are zealously guarding.

So maybe the next angle of attack is… how can one encourage the naturally forming little communities to interact with each other, communicate and share information, and even intermix or intermingle sufficiently to the point where folks don’t feel hostile towards another group?