PvP or PvE Have Become Meaningless Terms

I don’t think it’s really useful to just say PvP or PvE and assume everyone has a shared standard of values and definition of what it means anymore.

I mean, even the concept of a “raid” has begun to diverge.

A Wildstar raid has a different feel than a WoW raid. With absolutely zero experience in either, I feel fairly confident in saying that one is liable to have a lot more colored shapes on the ground and bullet hell than the other. An Archeage raid apparently involves trying to take down a world boss in the middle of a big ass PvP warzone, and then there’s GW2 not-quite-raids, which can apply to taking down world bosses or a zone challenge in an organized fashion with 100-150 members, or the WvW usage thereof, which is an organized PvP-esque group of 10-20 guild members, firing off skills in a coordinated fashion to defeat other parties.

What more a general term like PvP or PvE?

Instead, I’d like to suggest that we start breaking down these large concepts into various factors that we can profile different players by.

I’m still grappling with the precise factors, so there may be overlaps or repeat themselves somewhat, but I’d propose things like:

  • Loss aversion / Risk Tolerance
  • Need for Control (over self / surroundings or daily game experience / others)
  • Need for Variation
  • Need for Challenge
  • Luck vs Skill Preference
  • Time Investment / Effort vs Skill Preference
  • Contested / Non-contested Preference
  • Asymmetry Tolerance / Level or Uneven Playing Field?

Our very general concept of PvP tends to assume that PvPers have pretty high risk tolerance and aren’t very loss averse, treating character death or equipment loss as no big deal and part and parcel of the game. They’re probably fairly open to being acted on by others and responding to sudden changes in their surroundings or daily game experiences, while having a need to control or dominate others through defeating them and enjoying the sweet thrill of victory. They might have a high need for variety, given that PvP situations tend to result in unpredictable matchups and encounters. If you listen to what PvPers say about themselves, they love the challenge of an evenly-matched unpredictable human opponent wit-matching battle, and PvErs are ez-mode-seeking noobs.  And of course, they enjoy contested games.

You may note that I didn’t mention certain factors like  “luck vs skill” or “time/effort vs skill” yet. I’ll touch on that later.

Conversely, the generalized ideal of your typical PvE carebear is that they’re very loss averse, being allergic to dying even once in a fight. They may have a higher need for control over what happens to them in their daily game experience (which explains all the stereotypical begging for PvP flags or PvE servers so that they can choose when and where they encounter PvP.) If you listen to what PvErs say about themselves, they love a challenging raid encounter boss that they’ll have to keep trying and trying again to defeat, and PvPers are ganking griefing bullies who love to pick on those who can’t fight back.

Try as I might to shoehorn the other factors in, you might observe my attempted generalizations breaking down because really, there’s no stereotypical PvEr, just as there isn’t a stereotypical PvPer.

Some PvErs don’t really need a lot of variation in their daily MMO routine, or maybe it’s just for certain activities. I personally am quite content to farm repetitively for periods of time or mine a bunch of nodes in peace and quiet with no one interrupting me. I quite appreciate a predictable mob whose attack patterns I can learn and then slowly master and defeat. Then again, I get bored out of my mind if you ask me to repeat an easy world boss cycle or the same goddamn dungeon over and over, while other players – I note with absolute bemusement – are perfectly content to do just that!

Other PvErs are languishing away, hoping to eventually find devs with the tech and money to create a more unpredictable PvE world of mobs with intelligent AI and dynamic events producing a great variety of situations to encounter. But only computer-controlled, mind you, human players are too threatening.

Some PvPers are content to log in daily to their WvW matchup or their MOBAs at a set time every night and just play the same series of maps over and over, finding variation only in the players and playstyles they encounter, and the random micro-situations that result. Others really like the grand vision of a living breathing immersive world that’s set up like the Wild West, where you’re free to attack others whenever you want, where there aren’t many rules but the law of the jungle or the sheriff and his posse… while still others are sitting on the fence waiting for another set of laws somewhere in between the more lawless times of our history and our modern day world.

You’ll find that among both PvErs and PvPers, some people are a lot more willing to gamble big than others, or able to take the prospect of serious loss or backwards progression with equanimity. Their opposite number are the ones that argue against permadeath, against equipment loss in any form, against anything high-risk and high-consequence and would prefer everything of that ilk not present in the games they play.

Someone without a very high need for control over themselves and their surroundings may be a viable candidate for showing up in an open world PvP game, or a game with negative or backward progress consequences, regardless of whether they consider themselves a PvPer. Especially if you can tempt them in with things they -are- interested in, such as being able to socialize in a close community, or crafting/building/decorating a house, or trading and market PvP, or a simulation of a ‘realistic-in-their-eyes’ world and they’ll cheerfully put up with being your fat targets for combat-oriented PvPers in trade for those things.

On the other hand, those players who hate that sort of thing won’t be caught dead or alive in those kinds of games, or if they did get attracted, they’ll probably end up flaming out and rage-quitting one day when they can’t take it anymore.

On the PvE front, the control freaks are the ones that are most likely to be in regular groups of friends and not caught dead in random LFG finders, or off soloing by themselves, or possibly even leading – setting up situations under their personal control, in other words, and are liable to get twitchy or toxic when things don’t quite go their way or as they expect. Their opposite number are liable to be flitting from random situation to random situation with nary a care in the world.

In the same way, one might even suggest that we have low-challenge-seeking PvErs AND PvPers. One farms punching bag autoattack mobs, the other farms newbies or low levels, and both enjoy what they do.

The typical gamer, whom you’ll find almost always praises themselves as loving high challenge, will often speak in desultory fashion about this subset of players – but like always, it’s not so much what people say, as what they do.

I’ll  personally admit to liking a bit of easy fun now and then, even if I’ll rather do it to mobs than on another person. Then again, if it’s for an overall objective, I’m not above ruthlessly spawn-camping someone to break their morale so that they leave the battlefield and leave the other side outnumbered, or targeting the weakest link first and taking them right out, when I’ve chosen to play a PvP game. I like to play my games well and as efficiently as I can.

Given my observation of the general mass of players in any game, I suspect the ‘easy fun’ lovers to be a substantial subset, if not an outright majority. A dev would actually have metrics of this. And if they want to get paid, it may very well be in their interests to give these easy fun lovers some outlets. (Which leads to things like ‘welfare epics,’ ‘spam 1 to get loot farming’ and ‘gankers that sit around in low level zones cackling.’ Evils in the eyes of high-challenge-seeking players, but perhaps they’re necessary evils in a particular game. Or perhaps not – we’ll just have to see if anyone comes up with any cleverer design solutions.)

I also want to point out that it’s not a dichotomy. The theory of flow suggests that there are at least three states that ‘challenge’ can exist, rather than just high vs low, black vs white.

There’s low, middle or optimal, and high.

Too high challenge is frustrating. Overly frustrating people leads to learned helplessness and quitting.

The dream, of course, is the middle path of perfect, optimal challenge, leading to engagement and flow. Except to complicate things, different people have different frustration tolerances too, so what’s middle and optimal for one, may be too hard or too easy for another.

(Variable difficulty levels that adjust to the player is one suggested solution, but it’s always much easier typed or said than done, of course. Exactly how you vary this, and whether you let the player have any say or control over the matter, have been attempted by different games to differing effect.)

Also, some are more able to persevere after being knocked down, and others will throw in the towel earlier. This is less of a moral impeachment on their character, but more often due to a perceived locus of control. People who believe they can’t affect their situation and convert it from a negative to positive result are more likely to just give up.

Someone who is convinced that their twitch reflexes aren’t very good and not easily improved are more liable to just shrug and dismiss ever being any good at action-y games, whereas another might find they have sufficient time and motivation to keep practicing and plugging away until they improve.

Me, I really detest the concept of grinding for better stats to improve performance, so if you present such a game scenario to me, I’m more likely to tell you to soak the game in a barrel of water and that I’m going off to play another less annoying game that doesn’t force me into this treadmill. Another person who really digs the idea of putting in effort and seeing visible incremental progress come back – regardless of how static his or her personal game-playing skills remain –  will happily jump onto this crystal clear path of progression “to get stronger.”

As Talarian suggests, the higher-than-average skilled will always argue for a meritocracy where better skill leads to better rewards. But the presence of randomness and RNG luck rolls reward the weaker or below-average players from time to time and keep them playing the game – which is beneficial to both devs (who get paid) and for the game as a whole (higher population, more concurrent players, etc.)

Let’s not forget that if you chase away the worse players, the average will move, and there will be a new bar for “average” that’s set even higher, causing a new group of players to become “below average.”

Too much randomness, of course, and you don’t have very much of a game at all besides a game of pure chance, which will chase away the subset of players who want skill to have a tangible effect on their success at a game.

Then there’s my afterthought of asymmetry tolerance, which I -just- shoehorned in.

Perceptions of this also differ. Some people hate the very thought of GW2’s WvW because there are servers that are more populated than others, or number imbalances at different timezones, and refuse to play such an asymmetrical style of PvP. Give them totally even number tournament-style matchups, thank you. That’s a lot fairer and more competitive, in their viewpoint.

Me, I can deal with the above, because I find that they replicate a certain ‘reality’ of military history, that outnumbered fights happen and that there’s a beauty to tactics and strategy that can change localized number imbalances in your favor – such as feigning attacks in one place while committing to the real thing at another, or just spiking and focus-firing important or weaker targets.

But I do tend to cringe at stat and level imbalances piled on top of these, and find that a little -too- asymmetrical for myself to tolerate. Others are perfectly fine with it – after all, it’s ‘realistic’ too that some people might be naturally stronger than others, right?

The types of games that we play are very much dictated by our own preferences of factors like I’ve suggested above. It’s too much of a simplification to just lump things as PvE or PvP, and assume that never shall the twain meet.

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Grouping and Soloing in Terraria Hardmode

Cowabunga!

Over on the Terraria end, hard-mode has been my drug of choice.

I find that I enjoy the challenge of facing something difficult and initially pwns your face off, but then steadily working out how to defeat it via better and creative tactics (and possibly incrementally better gear.)

The big BUT is that I can accept this quite easily in a singleplayer or small multiplayer game, but somehow the flow seeking for optimal challenge seems to break down in a big MMO.

One major difference that I can think of is that Terraria allows creativity of block placement and the ability to alter your scenery. You get to dig trap pits, walls and barriers to shield yourself, plot and plan and set up regeneration stations (<3 my honey pits) and the eventual reward of this industry is the capacity for “easy fun” when the mob progresses to the “on farm” phase, where you stand around, hold down a mouse button and cackle as things die and loot drops.

In a big MMO, progress is more measured by how good your gear gets, and how well your group/raid members play.

In Terraria, there is incrementally better gear as well, but progress on that front is generally a lot faster.

RNG chances of 0.5% – 1% are a LOT more palatable when you can go through one mob in under a few seconds and can generate hundreds of them in under an hour.

Contrast this with an MMO raid where you only get to test the favor of the RNG gods once a night for maybe twice a week at best and things start to get annoying very quickly.

Mobs in Terraria can be soloed. I’m not at the mercy of waiting for others to match my timings and praying they or their gear is up to the fight.

They’re also easier in a group, so there is still incentive to come together when everyone is online.

And of course, the most fun in Terraria arises from the creative collaboration. Taking the ideas of one person and then running with it, being inspired by and improving on it.

arena

The old new arena, you may recall, was a clean glitzy place marred only by the record of our untimely demise at the hands of Skeletron when we summoned him on a whim a little -too- close to the dawn.

Post-hardmode, one thing has pretty much led to another.

Our group ‘boss’ project has been the Pumpkin Moon event, a series of 15 waves to be fought during the space of night. Logically and rightfully, it’s a lot easier to push the waves when there’s more of us around than attempting to solo. (But you could always summon it solo and still try it out, so there’s no nasty restriction there.)

Eri and I once attempted the event as a duo, and got to something like Wave… 4? Memory fails. From there, we noticed the tendency of mobs to start falling into certain locations, like a lake bed, and the idea was born to start playing mechanic and wiring up traps to defeat the smaller mobs more easily. (Also conveniently getting all of us familiar with the new stuff to boot.)

Each person has built upon the ideas of the other, and our new arena is pretty danged lethal. (Note: Keep hands and feet and body away from machinery when spiky balls are in operation!)

newnewarena

The assorted junk at the center of the arena was also a collaborative effort. I stuck a honey pit and campfire (and later a heart crystal) there cos I loves me some stacked regen. I put a clock there too cos I hate shuffling around my accessories trying to check when night was coming via a GPS.

Eri set up teleporters for kiting bosses, and a bed spawn point, and a chest and other conveniences have popped on in.

I wanted to play with asphalt.

I had 999 pieces of gel to use up, and the thought of running places at double the speed was very appealing to my lazy soul. Especially for getting to the dungeon quickly to farm all the goodies inside.

What better to use it on than Eri’s already set-up highway?

Followin' the black brick road...
Followin’ the black brick road…

Of course, sometimes collaboration has a cost. It involves compromises.

The new and improved lethal trap corridor below our arena necessitated the removal of a scenic lake. Someone’s *cough* lazy draining methods have turned it into a somewhat boring rectangular underwater reservoir.

reservoirdeath
I see it also claimed the life of its builder. Hooray for turtles and their were-merfolk ability!

Of course, all this means is the ability to re-collaborate and re-improve on the design.

I’m still pondering what to do with the stored water. I recently worked out how to pump liquids with pumps and wires and am somewhat eager to play with it. Just need a good idea.

I installed a bit better lighting because turtles are still blind as a bat (need to farm my nice white light off dungeon mobs at some point), took the opportunity to redecorate my tunnel in the gaudy fashion of someone who really likes those crystal shards but has no real sense of what’s appropriate, and stuck in a new door for one more minor mob speedbump before they pop in to plague me in the midst of crafting stuff.

Oh, and I also repaved the new way up (the one that doesn’t involve flying head on into a hundred spiky balls) with asphalt, just because.

It makes a hilarious fun slide into the other pond on returning from the castle.

And the cost of the speedy new west highway?

pumpkintunnel

Someone’s pumpkin has a hole in it. A very straight worm drilled through it. That’s what a little bird told me. Yes.

Halloween’s over. Pumpkins rot, y’know?! (At least, partially.)

My creations tend to be more on the ugly but functional side of things. Especially for speeding up farming of items I want, but am too impatient to spend hours waiting for.

Terraria has been kind enough to allow increasing mob spawn rates by standing by a water candle and drinking a battle potion, so farming seems to be very much a part of the game.

I want the ability to summon Pirate Invasions, because they’re fun, and that requires a pirate map consumable that is used up per summon. You get a pirate map off a rare chance killing mobs in the Ocean biome. That involves walking to the edge of the map and lots of swimming, and I’ve already killed so many sharks in a prior search for a diving helmet that I could make shark’s fin soup if such an item existed in Terraria.

Solution? Enter the meteor farm. Placing 50 pieces of meteorite anywhere turns it into an artificial meteor biome, and in near end-game armor, a helpful leaf crystal acts like an autoturret that can one-shot the meteor heads that spawn to accompany the biome.

sunsandandmeteors

Ugly, but functional. And the wooden platform below catches most of the drops.

It also allows for more active participation when desired, because I can only AFK so long before getting trigger happy.

The other thing that I regularly amuse myself with is the artificial biome project.

I guess I just enjoy taming the wilderness by encasing it in easily accessible little bubbles that preserve its habitat for posterity. I don’t even mind the mobs that keep spawning from them, they make life fairly entertaining (though I do have a certain hatred for a giant fungi bulb that insists on throwing nasty spores in the air that whack an unaware person for 56 damage per spore.)

Home sweet artificial biomes. All trees finally growing.
Home sweet artificial biomes. All trees finally growing.

All attempts at preserving natural antlion populations are failing miserably. I think I need a longer desert.

All attempts at preserving the natural antlion populations are failing miserably. I think I need a longer desert.
Work has begun on an underground jungle, though so far, it's more of an underground fish farm.
Work has begun on an underground jungle, though so far, it’s more of an underground fish farm.

The Repetitive Nature of Games and Why Endgame is Elusive

Here we go round the mulberry bush...

Scree’s back! And the criticism this time is repetition.

Here’s the dirty little secret: games -are- repetitive.

One of the points of a game is that it lays out a set of rules and you repeat and iterate on the scenarios it presents you with till you get better at it and “beat it” or “win.” Games have a learning curve.

The nirvana that everyone is seeking is that perfect state of flow, where one’s skill level perfectly matches the level of challenge so that one is deeply engaged.

(Image from Wikipedia.)
(Image from Wikipedia)

Problem is, everyone is different.

One game’s level of challenge may match one player perfectly, while another may find the challenge too difficult and thus end up worried and anxious.

I’m not sure that graph is accurate on the lower scale, where relaxation is graphed at a higher skill level than boredom.

For some, it could be the other way around, where high skill level and low challenge leads to boredom, while a medium skill level and low challenge leads to finding the activity relaxing.

Then again, for others, it’s a lot easier to be bored than it is to really relax – one may need l33t Zen monk skills in meditation to achieve proper relaxation, while nearly anyone can be bored outta their effing mind on a regular basis.

It’s in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.

It really comes down to what kind of repetition you find fun (or will put up with) in order to do something that you feel is enjoyable.

Different people reach different answers.

Scree finds that PvP produces a new situation every time it occurs. Those who prefer PvP tend to claim that they are drawn to this because the skills used can be the same, but the opponents are different, creating sufficient variety for them.

I’m especially tickled because I somehow managed to find that WvW was too repetitive and burned myself out from the game format some time ago.

You see, personality-wise, I’m very low on the competitive Killer Bartle scale. I’m just not really interested in the whole metagame of guess and second-guess your opponent in order to get one-up on them and win. So my tolerance for repetition on things PvP tend to be rather low, a couple rounds played for fun and variety… done.

Even in that eden of PvP, Eve Online, the blogosphere has been exchanging a little quote of the day highlighting a core repetitive aspect of the game.

Getting from one place to another apparently involves a lot of the same steps repeated over and over – turn off and on autopilot, manually warp to zero per jump gate. The only variety is what manner of shark awaits you at each step.

For some, that’s enough to consist of quite an adventure, and they willingly acclimatize themselves to the game’s little repetitive quirks to get the bigger experience.

I’ve been playing Don’t Starve quite a bit over the last few days. I easily get to my second winter and often get to days in the 100+ range. But then, I turtle.

homesweetbase

I turtle A LOT. I don’t play RTS games on a competitive basis because I tend to derive more pleasure spending two hours teching up to EVERYTHING and then creeping in the equivalent of siege tanks or battlecruisers to slowly demolish the computer’s bases one building at a time over outsmarting a real life person, who can turn out to be exceedingly obnoxious, win or lose.

I get that a lot of clever people have discovered they can shortcut this process and created dozens upon dozens of other strategies they can use to win against another party trying to turtle, which leads to more counter-strategies to defend against this, which leads to more counter-counter strategies to get the upper hand, unsoweiter.

I get that this is a delightfully deep metagame for some.

I admire it from afar with videos and commentators to help me understand it, but I choose not to spend a good part of my life learning one game to such a high degree of focus.

Back to Don’t Starve. I build a base. Preferably near 5-6 rabbit holes.

I expand it. I make a little tooth trap alley to the side to fend off hounds.

icallitthehoundnommer

I engage in tons and tons of repetition, including chopping wood for a day or two, gathering grass and twigs for another day, checking on my nearby spider den with pigs (aka silk farm) to make sure it won’t ever overgrow into a Spider Queen, catch and cook meals for another day or two, spend another day or two figuring out and reaching the next source of rocks and flint – just to prep for an expedition that may extend me into unexplored territory and necessitate a secondary base/firepit or an overnight stay not-at-home-base with a campfire.

When Winter comes, I run back to civilization central and my tooth traps and spend a good half my time just chopping wood and keeping the food supply going. Because I don’t want to starve, thank you. (Or freeze.)

NOT FREEZING.
NOT FREEZING. FIRE LEVEL ABOVE DESIGN PARAMETERS.

On the other hand, Azuriel would probably stab his eyes out from the repetition I engage in with the same game. He prefers forward adventuring progress.

Me, I haven’t even seen Maxwell’s door in many of my worlds, and never stepped once through it. I prefer a slow and steady stable state with some incremental creep.

My guess is that each person’s preference for how much excitement and adrenaline rush and thrill versus relaxation they want in their games is different.

(The old hard fun vs easy fun war again. There’s actually two more types if you follow the link.)

For those who find they enjoy a game that is short and linear but continually ramps up the challenge till the content is all done (like Portal and Portal 2), MMOs are going to be an inherently disappointing affair. Once they’ve mastered every challenge they care to, that’s it, done. Finite content is finite.

Time to go on to another game or another MMO, at least until the devs have enough time to produce more content to devour.

An endless endgame?

Whatever it is, it’s going to repeat -somehow-.

WoW raids are a delaying tactic. Kindly repeat the same fight but with the variation and difficulty of cat herding a lot of players with different schedules and skill levels for an RNG chance of desirable loot. Hopefully, this takes you long enough so that the devs can produce the next raid for you to do something similar till the next patch.

If you think that in Everquest Next, there won’t be players who will be searching for and making a point of repeatedly killing the most desirable mobs… I think that you’re sorely mistaken.

One hope that it has of stretching gameplay is the possibility of player-created content, which provides supplementary content to dev-created content, just like how mods can extend the lifespan of a single-player game.

Clarity of preference is important, rather than just dismissing a game as “too repetitive.”

I suspect that Scree prefers “impactful” games. A game where player actions can mean a great deal. Where player actions form the meat of the content via emergence. Where hopefully the NPCs have enough AI to form meaningful, discernable patterns that can be exploited but not TOO exploited.

Well, we’ll all be watching upcoming PvE sandbox games to see if they manage to achieve this elusive holy grail.

A lot of this stuff tends to break the moment you throw the “massively multiplayer” part of the equation in.

We’ve learned that player-created content tends to give rise to “xp farms” where players design, create and run repetitively an optimized encounter so that they can reach max level (and level alts) at the best possible speed. (Thank you, City of Heroes and Neverwinter. Possibly Everquest 2 too.)

We’ll see how fast ingenious players can map the world sufficiently to determine node spawning patterns (must farm crafting materials, y’know!) or provide trackers for mob movement or spawns to determine the most probable places to head to for xp/loot/combat action.

Case in point: observe niche game A Tale in the Desert – randomly spawning mushroom locations produced a shroomdar. This game barely attracts 1000 players at the best of times.

Do you think the combined brainpower of a popular MMO cannot crack what a single team of developers code? Or at least harness the power of massive crowds via  individual player reports? e.g. see GW2 dragon timers before the API was made available.

If you have xp in a game, players will figure out the best way to get xp fast. Even (and especially) if it means repetition.

Skills-based, not levels, you say? I point you to Darkfall and its stories of skill grind, where at least some players will macro it, or engage in the equivalent of leaving a weight on one’s keyboard a la Morrowind or other Elder Scrolls games.

If you have loot in a game, rest assured players will repeatedly do whatever it is to gather it.

Ideally, they are enjoying the activity they repeat. (Note: level of enjoyment varies based on player personality and preference.)

Whether that activity is combat (versus mobs or against other players), or gathering some form of resource (xp, gold, shiny loot for stats or looking pretty, craftables, luxury collectibles), or exploration and discovery or yes, even travel and commuting from point A to point B.

Eventually though, a player is bound to get bored of whatever repetition they were engaged in and wander off. Or burn out if they weren’t careful enough. Part of the gaming life cycle.

The real questions are:

  • Do they wander off to another activity in the same game?
  • If they wandered off to another game, do they ever come back to the one they left? (Check things out or pick up where they left off?)
  • And how frequently do they do it?
  • (Oh, and do they give the devs any money for providing such experiences in the meantime, of course. 🙂 )

MBTI and MMO Gaming

A perfect storm of stuff got me thinking along these lines lately:

Some folks in the blogosphere have been commenting about the difference between feelings of “fun” and feelings of “accomplishment.”

It seems one subset of people are searching for a game that gives them that accomplishment (or hard fun or whatever you want to call it) feeling, where it’s okay to “work” or put in a hefty amount of effort overcoming an obstacle so that you can feel this sense of satisfaction or triumph at the end when you achieve the final rewards. It’s okay if through parts of this process, they have to endure occasional not-fun stuff or frustration or grind as long as they reach their desired reward in the end.

“It’s character-building,” they claim.

Still others are looking for more immediate fun (or easy fun or what-have-you) where the moment-to-moment stop-and-smell-the-roses stuff is fun and enjoyable and relaxing and either easy to coast along or seeking that one true moment of perfect meditative flow. Not-fun or frustrating stuff wrecks this right in its tracks and yanks people out into gripe city.

“Whiners who need to L2P,” say the other subset. “Or learn some commitment. Pandering to these guys is what ruined MMOs. I miss the good old days.”

Let us disregard the obvious – that game designers will aim to put both types of gameplay into their game so as to suit the greatest number of people. (The first is more suited for long-term content and the latter short-term experiences, so they are relatively complementary and not always necessarily at odds with each other.)

Let us also disregard that people may not only be one subset or the other – they might enjoy both kinds of gameplay at different times.

Is there some kind of explanation or analysis that can help to explain why certain people prefer certain kinds of gaming styles?

Immediately, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) comes to mind as a helpful tool.

Of course it is over-simplification to classify all the varied people in the world into merely 16 personality types, but as these things go, the MBTI is pretty accurate and useful in being able to discern the preferences of groups of people.

Do bear in mind, no one preference is “better” than another, they’re just different. The main goal of the MBTI, as I see it, is more to allow people to understand that folks around them can have very different, but equally valid, preferences.

It’s beyond the scope of this post to cover the MBTI in detail. If you want one of those quick quizes that will approximate your MBTI, you can try out the Humanmetrics one here.

If you want to just read all the options and pick the one that best fits you, the Personality Pathways page explains what all those funky I, E, S, N, T, F, J, P letters mean.

Doing the Humanmetrics one for myself, I score this result:

INTP
Introvert(100%)  iNtuitive(50%)  iNtuitive  Thinking(62%)  Perceiving(44)%
  • You have strong preference of Introversion over Extraversion (100%)
  • You have moderate preference of Intuition over Sensing (50%)
  • You have distinctive preference of Thinking over Feeling (62%)
  • You have moderate preference of Perceiving over Judging (44%)

Typelogic explains the INTP personality in a lot more detail. I’m heartily amused by their turn of phrase, “A major concern for INTPs is the haunting sense of impending failure.” I’m sure regular readers of this blog are quite aware that I can sit around a lot obsessing about being seen as incompetent.

We’re “pensive, analytical folks,” “relatively easy-going and amenable to almost anything until their principles are violated”, but “prefer to return, however, to a reserved albeit benign ambiance, not wishing to make spectacles of themselves.”

That’s pretty much me to a T.

“So what does this have to do with gaming? “INTPs thrive on systems. Understanding, exploring, mastering, and manipulating systems can overtake the INTP’s conscious thought.”

Like I mentioned before, I play all this shit in my sidebar to grok things out. I may find one or two games that seem worthwhile to play around in for the long-term, but you bet I am dabbling with lots of other games on the side as well. I need my novelty fix or I will go crazy. I’ve learned not to expect that one single game will ever sate me entirely, so I game-hop tons, but keep one or two primary games to focus on. (It’s perhaps telling that I have to quantify and say two games, I don’t think I can ever just focus on one, period.)

INTPs are, however, not a big part of the population. Various sources peg us at about 1-3% representation, which makes us fairly un-average. We easily baffle other people who don’t share our same preferences. We’re quite easily misunderstood. The only thing we really have going for us is people stop and blink when we make one of our insightful or creative comments from time to time. 🙂

We can’t help ourselves though. We can’t help but wonder about stuff.

Like, has anyone else thought about the MBTI in relation to gaming? Or MBTI and MMOs specifically?

Google to the rescue. Sometime back in 2008, a guy made a blog post about it and made a few predictions for where you might find the various types. I think he’s a little off, and making guesses that veer toward horoscope-y, but at least he’s thought about it some.

What we really need though, is data. (Or so says the Thinking preference in me.)

In 2004, at the MUD Developers Conference, Kevin Saunders wrote a paper titled Applying Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI®) to Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) Design (I can’t seem to link the Quick View version – please google “MBTI and gaming” to get the link if you can’t FTP.)

One of the most interesting discoveries he made was that compared to the general population, we see a much stronger representation of introverts, intuitives, and/or feelers online. He goes on to surmise what kinds of game features would best appeal to this potential customer base. (This was way back in 2004 though, it’ll be interesting to see if populations have shifted any, what with WoW bringing in more mainstream game players.)

For example, introverts recover energy by spending time alone. Speaking for myself, I score extremely highly on the introversion scale, I’d be an 11 on a scale of 10 if they had one. I -need- solo time to myself. I find it very relaxing, especially if I’ve had to face people all day in real life while at work. The last thing I want to do is spend all of my game time feeling forced to socialize with others.

Add on irregular gaming hours and I become quite leery of committing myself anywhere.  Add on a preference for Perceiving, ie. unstructured activities, not being chained to a schedule, going with the flow and a Thinking preference that leaves me more interested in objective facts than what other people think and consensus-building (aka no drama, kthxbai) and I’m not your regular guild attendee. I’m quite thankful Guild Wars 2 allows multiple guilds and that a solo personal guild is quite viable if you’re patient and don’t mind spending some gold from time to time.

I’m not all people though. I suspect those with a Feeling preference would be much more inclined to seek out other people and socialize, introvert or not. And hey, Feelers are apparently the majority online, so there’s lots of potential guild members right there.

Extraverts would probably go crazy or get utterly bored of the game if they had to be by themselves for a while, so guilds and being able to party with whoever and whenever they wish is a game feature right up their alley.

I’ve no real idea how Sensing/Intuition relates to MMO gaming as yet, except maybe Sensers might need more guided step-by-step instructions and tutorials, while Intuitives may be more comfortable just feeling their way through and figuring out new concepts? That’s just a wild guess, though.

The Judging preference might be more telling. I’m guessing that Judgers really like a sense of structure to their gaming. They need to be able to make plans, to see the next goal ahead of them, and are probably the most likely to enjoy making lots of to-do lists and checking them off. They probably make good hardcore raider types. Scheduled activities, regular repetition, sense of progression, and what-have-you. Discipline is their watchword. I wonder if these are the folks that tend to seek that refined sense of accomplishment over just simple ordinary everyday fun?

If you ask me, Guild Wars 2 does a fantastic job catering to all types of preferences. There’s stuff for soloers, stuff for groups, most of it optional or do it at your own pace. You can run through the world going from heart to heart, POI to waypoint like a laundry list of things to get done to accomplish 100% world completion and get a shiny gold star, or you can wander around aimlessly to check out the hill over yonder, ignoring anything that doesn’t interest you (Bhagpuss is the epitome of this style of play, eh?)

You can play WvW or sPvP or dungeons in a hardcore fashion, with schedules, guild organization, alarm clocks, practice sessions and more, for high stakes. Or you can dabble in the same activities in a more leisurely, PUG or hotjoin manner at a lower level of intensity – just accept you’ll be steamrolled by those playing at a higher intensity level. The cost of high intensity is faster burnout, so it all balances out in the end.

Perhaps the only thing that the panacea of Guild Wars 2 hasn’t solved yet is how to help different gaming preferences find like souls.

I did some jumping with a 25% speed thief and somehow squeezed past some geometry into this little private section of Sparkfly Fen. This little illicit thrill of breaking the boundaries exploring and being in a place few ever get to gives me a helluva lot more ‘hee-hee’ laughs and satisfaction than, for example, out-playing someone and getting to do a finishing move on them.

I’m a lot less dedicated than these guys to the art or sport of walljumping, but it’s nice knowing a few like-minded souls are out there. (I learned just by watching someone a little secret climbing spot in the Lunatic Inquisition map, fer example, though it got fixed and blocked later on.)

Maybe some day, an MMO will figure out how to help players with similar preferences and playstyles find each other. Timezones, alas, do not help. (More than once, I’ve seen an NA guild or two that looks it might match me, but yeaaaah… 12 hours difference is hard to work around.)

Until then, I guess we just have to play our MMOs and enjoy them our way, while recognizing they’re populated with a whole host of people with varying preferences and priorities.

PC: Cook, Serve, Delicious!

Who’s up for round 2 of cheesy casual games celebration?

I have a weakness for cooking games. Call it a fascination with food porn (I love watching the Food Network and browsing random food blogs like Food52, Serious Eats or Chowhound) married with the love of a good meal and the conviction that one should know how to cook good food or be hopelessly stranded at the whims of someone else’s kitchen controlling fancy. I’m always deeply amused by how accurately (or not) various games simulate the cooking process.

(Don’t get me started on GW2’s cooking craft profession. It’s evident someone who knows how to cook had a hand in designing which things went in each recipe, and the food/ingredient nesting has blown my mind and my alt’s inventory. I’ve yet to cross 75 in cooking still. I don’t dare to, until my other alts have eaten away some of the products.)

Toss in a good mix of frenetic arcade fun and multitasking juggling, and cooking games are perfect for bite-sized portions of gaming. (Pun very much intended.)

Cheesy as they are, I’ve played games like Cooking Mama on the Nintendo DS, amused by the use of the stylus and blowing feature to simulate various kitchen activities, as well as Burger Island, a more repetitive arcade game of arranging ingredients as quickly as possible. I’ve played stuff like Restaurant Empire and Diner Dash, which are more games to do with restaurant seating and arrangement of customers than cooking. And countless cooking-based Flash games whose names are now lost to bad memory but have themes like sushi, pizza and so on.

Typically, most cooking games let you click on various ingredients to arrange them according to a recipe or a picture, potentially processing them through some simulated cooking technique involving keypresses or mouse clicks, before serving to a customer. Repeat as fast as possible to make money. Spanners are thrown in the works when different foods require different prep times, various customers have different patience levels and so on.

Well, Cook, Serve, Delicious! from Vertigo Gaming is a cooking game on steroids.

It’s based on two free games from the same developers, Ore no Ryomi 1 & 2, but appears to have a lot better visuals and polish. (Call me picky, but I don’t enjoy my games with stomach-churning ugly images out of the EGA era. Give me stuff that looks decently pretty, or give me plain text and ASCII, not pixelated non-art.)

I especially appreciate the control scheme, which primarily makes use of the keyboard. (There is a mouse control option but honestly, and MMO players should know this, keyboard shortcuts > mouse clicking in general.)

This enables Cook, Serve, Delicious to venture into a deeper complexity than most cooking games dare to go, and have it start emulating typing games, or even, the complex keypress patterns / muscle memory of Starcraft build orders. The developers call this ‘hardcore.’

Me, I’m not sure I’ll go that far, but I’d compare it quite favorably to something on the same level as Plants vs Zombies.

Both  games look cute and casual and have relatively pleasing cartoony art. They’re easy enough to get into and play. But there’s also enough here to keep adults occupied for a decent amount of gameplay time.

For example, here’s one of the simplest foods, a corn dog. The keypress pattern is 1-5 for the customer, then K and/or M for ketchup or mustard, depending on the order below (speed reading is important here). Then Enter to serve.

Not too difficult. Customers stop being interested in it by the time you hit 2 star restaurant level, so you’ll have to graduate from it eventually to something more complicated…

How about the salad? In this case, V, C, O, B and M, before Enter. Customers order an extremely varied amount of toppings for this dish – just greens and carrots, ranch and cheese, thousand island and the works, etc. One is kept on one’s toes.

I’m tickled by lasagna, which simulates building the layers very well. The simplest lasagna involves typing P S C R three times, hearing each layer thud down with a meaty slap with each keypress, before hitting Enter to cook (a wait time) before serving. More tricky lasagna like the above involves incorporating meat into two layers, so it is P S M C R, P S M C R, and finally P S C R for the last layer.

Different foods are prepared in different ways. Steak and chicken involve keeping in mind the number of keypresses you just made as it doesn’t show you how many times you’ve added the seasoning.  Soup is an extreme pain, with two pages of ingredients – with keys not exactly tying too well to the ingredient name – and chopping involved.

There’s a decent selection of food (to be prepared and cooked in various ways) that can be bought and upgraded, and a little strategy section involving ‘restaurant management’ before each arcade game day. One can pick various foods to be used in the active menu for the day. This affects the amount of “Buzz” your restaurant has, and the number of customers visiting per day.

Quite a complex selection of factors affect buzz, from the weather, the time of day and the foods you’ve picked that suit the various times. Liquor creates negative buzz (as you’re ostensibly in an office tower. It’s amusing to see how many pop in for a 10am pint of beer) but is profitable and quick to prepare.

Food can be healthy and create a positive health-food buzz, or conversely be full of fat and create negative fatty food buzz. Ironically, the deep fry foods are among the quickest and easiest items to prepare.

On some days, you may want quick and easy items to prepare, in order to deal with sanitation inspectors who pop in for spot checks and make sure you deal with chores like washing dishes, taking out the trash and yes, flushing/cleaning toilets (for customers evidently too lazy to do it themselves.) Or to make it easy on yourself when you want to win bets from some guy who offers you challenges via email.

If there’s one criticism I have about this game, it’s that progression seems a little slow. Moving up to a one star restaurant involves completing 20 days, among other challenges. I was done with all of the rest by day 13 or 14, and had to plod patiently through seven more days.

I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of this game though. Around half of the more complicated food has yet to be unlocked, three quarters are still not upgraded. There seem to be a few more extra events later on, such as catering events and possibly some manner of iron chef tournament.

It’s currently selling for $8.95 on the developers’ website, and is also available on Desura and Gamersgate. It’s sitting in Steam Greenlight at the moment, and is one of the few games I’ve bothered to log in and upvote.

If you ask me, it’s a mite overpriced for 9 bucks – thanks to Steam spoiling me, I’m a firm believer in casual games being priced at $2-$5 – but I was able to convince myself to pick it up as part of Vertigo Gaming’s $15 bundle for six games – including CSD and Oil Blue.

I’m quite happy to pay roughly $3.50 for those two games, and $2 for the other games in that bundle to try them out. At that price, it’s a steal.

Try it yourself, there’s a downloadable demo which sold me on its merits.