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.

A Guide For Every Season

This post was sparked by a thread that popped up over at the Guild Wars 2 Guru forums.

(I know, I know, it is a cesspool compared to the official forums, which aren’t much of an improvement either, but drama at a distance is sometimes entertaining and one gets the occasional news/valuable tidbit that one has not heard about.)

Some guy asked for a leveling guide from 1-80 for Guild Wars 2.

Of all the-

I don’t even-

Hello? This is an MMO with a completely FLAT leveling curve! It’s meant to take an average of 1.5h per level.

It is clearly marked on the map which zones are appropriate to which level range.

Which is infinitely more sensible than a list going Plains of Ashford 1-15, Diessa Plateau 15-25, etc. because you don’t even see or know the name of the zone on the map until you venture into it.

The game downlevels you in any zone you’re too high leveled for, so that there is some difficulty/challenge remaining. You can practically go anywhere if you don’t like the proposed paths.

Hell, if you don’t want go anywhere and have other characters to be your materials supplier and gold daddy, you can CRAFT your way from 1-80. (Refer to ubiquitous crafting guides online, I suppose.)

Guides That Are Really Walkthroughs

Of all the ‘guides’ that pop up for various games, I honestly fail to understand leveling guides the most. What kind of person requires someone else to hold his hand, set his goals for him and tell him exactly where to go on each step of his journey to max level? Is it that hard to figure it out for yourself?

This is a rant against those who don’t want to think for themselves, who eschew discovery and learning, slavishly following other people’s instructions on how to do something.

There is an amazing number of them, just going by the number of hits I get on my page that is a simple map and directions and answers the questions “How do I get to Blue Mountain in The Secret World?” I fail to see how someone moving around the map doing quests can miss the Blue Mountain exit, but evidently, people do.

Little wonder why people put up all kinds of crap guides on websites, lace them with tons of ads to generate revenue, and let the Googling masses loose upon them.

Guides That Are Really Cheats

The countering defense to this is that for some people, they say that they are looking for guides that will show them the optimal path. They’re on a search for efficiency, the speedrun way.

A little questioning in the thread I brought up reveals that the original poster really wants, not just a leveling guide, but a FAST leveling guide, a power-leveling method. He wants to get his alt to 80 as uber duper quick as possible. He wants to find those weak spots of a game, such as a continually respawning dynamic event that will yield an abnormally higher rate of xp than the average, or perhaps mobs that return lots of experience to farm, and so on.

To me, it sounds like he’s looking for someone to share (ok, too kind a word, to give) knowledge of a near-exploit or a loophole for rushing to max level as fast as possible.

Putting aside the ‘why rush headlong into boredom and burnout quicker’ retort for now, we run into the ‘how stupid do you think those in the know are, that they will share this with you in a public setting, so that the developers can close it in the next patch?’

Little tip: Follow the bots. The gold farmers know where to be. It’s more than a game to them, it’s their livelihood. They -know-. And because of the way xp sharing works in this game, you can make use of their leet multiboxing hax skillz to kill stuff at a vastly accelerated pace.

Caveat: The above tip segues immediately into the ‘how much do you value your account’ argument, because ArenaNet is pretty fond of the banhammer for stuff they deem as exploiting and 72h suspensions for mere infractions, and they don’t even have to worry about losing your sub fee.

TL;DR: Follow my tongue-in-cheek suggestion at your own risk.

Guides That Are Really Guides (And Those That Are Not)

Ok, we cannot expect everyone to be number-crunchers or systems explorers, so there is some validity to the argument that writing guides that explain numbers and stats, esoteric knowledge, and shares and teaches strategies and general philosophies are kosher on the quest for the holy grail of min-maxing.

I don’t actually have an issue with guides per se. Especially if they are written with an intent to teach, or share, or discuss strategies or builds or what-have-you.

I tend to have a small issue with guides written like they are the be-all and end-all of all possible knowledge and treat-me-like-holy-writ-or-else, but I suppose if authors need that egomaniacal boost in order to get them to write in the first place, we can give them a little leeway for that.

But I do have big issues with people who do take them verbatim and everybody else is WRONG and we must all DO IT THIS WAY or else the sky will fall down and the earth will be swallowed in a pit of hellfire.

And there are an amazing number of people who don’t want to think and just want to follow someone else’s checklist or directions or list of ingredients or goals. Why in the world is that the case?

I don’t understand leveling guides, I think I’ve said that before. I find it terrifying to think that someone needs to be led around by the nose in this fashion. How are they going to manage more complex parts of the game? Find more walkthroughs? Pay someone to play for them?

I’ve taken a look at the odd crafting guide before, mostly from WoW, and some from GW2. A lot are just shitty terse checklists. From X to Y, do this. From Y to Z, do that. The only valuable thing in them is possibly that someone has counted up the number of materials you’ll need beforehand so that you can gather them first or buy them wholesale from an auction house, and one has to block a whole lot of ads to get that one sentence.

Probably the most comprehensive guide I’ve seen on the subject is an LOTRO guide for the Scholar, which besides an FAQ, includes suggested crafting node locations, though there is a hell of a lot of ingredient lists that are probably better off on a wiki somewhere.

I could point to the ATITD wiki for what proper crafting guides should look like, but practically no other game has that kind of complexity. Maybe Puzzle Pirates.

See, the really cool thing about this sort of guide is that even after reading it, it is not an instant “I win” button, you still have to put in time and practice to increase one’s performance, armed with better knowledge.

If, after reading a guide, you could program a bot or get your cat or parrot to do it and still attain 100% success, something is dreadfully wrong somewhere. I’m not sure if one should blame the game’s design, or blame the majority for wanting mindless button-pushing achievement.

A Guide By Any Other Name

I guess part of the problem is that every player’s definition of what is a useful guide differs.

I assume that people write and make the guides that they themselves would prefer. Which doesn’t bode well for the theory of crowd intelligence or humanity as a whole, given the number of cheats and straight up walkthroughs out there.

Either that, or they take the lazy way out and write down the least amount of words necessary, which boils down to a terse laundry list of “go here” “do that.”

Maybe the lazy man’s guide explanation is why there are so many unedited video ‘guides’ which are just playthroughs of a particular sequence. Extracting benefit is left as an exercise for the viewer to manage for themselves, which can be either slavishly aping what has been done, or pulling out the general principles to understand, utilize and possibly apply elsewhere.

Perhaps ‘a magician never reveals his secrets’ may be a reason why some people just write out the bare bones of what to do in order to gain the desired end result. They know that that’s what most people just care about, and in that way, they keep the superior edge of true knowledge.

But it really bugs me that so many people just care about the ends, and couldn’t care less about the means. This is why we have gold-sellers, why we have folks asking ‘where is the loot’ and looking for the next developer created shiny carrot to lead them on to the next, following guides written or filmed by other people.

Taken to an extreme, one may as well sell one’s copy of the game and just watch other people play the game from start to end for you on Youtube. Gaming as spectator sport.

Why? People, why? How special does it make you feel, if none of it is really what you accomplished on your own?

It’s borrowed fame. It’s pretense.

I can understand not wanting to reinvent the wheel from time to time, or even ‘skipping content’ to get to the good bits (though I personally think you’re skipping faster to burnout) now and then, but it’s so easy to run right down the slippery slope of not-wanting-to-do-anything-at-all-without-a-guide-showing-you-how.

TL;DR: Use Guides in Moderation

Ranting aside, at the end of the day, I guess I have to come to one of those Zen conclusions you tend to find on my blog.

Guides, like guns, are tools. It’s how you use them that really matters.

The objective and the intent behind using the guide is a big deal, and can lead to healthy or unhealthy consequences.

A little bit of self-discipline goes a long way to using them properly, and the lack of it leads to lazy dependency and misuse.

When in doubt, anything taken to an extreme is nuts.

Go play, and have fun.

GW2: The Controversy of “Grind”

208 hours later on a single GW2 character, up creeps a growing pressing need to switch things up a little. I’ll be doing a short post on what else I’ve been playing soon.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still intend to play a lot more hours on GW2 – I’m barely at 47% world completion, there are about 75% jumping puzzles still unseen and unsolved, taunting me, and I basically still enjoy wandering around the world, soaking up the lore and the scenery and grabbing screenshots of everything, plus WvW and sPvP. I like ’em all.

I can’t help but notice that there seem to be a ton of people who have retreated back to the GW2 Guru and official forums to start bitching and whining about everything under the sun, though, and most of those complaints seem to have to do with “boredom” and feeling “forced” to “grind” for endless hours to get to the uber max of uber maxness.

*sighs*

I don’t want to swing that ugly word of “entitlement” around because it’s too easy a cop out.

Also, I can’t help but notice a certain similarity of protest and reaction with my rabid loathing of what City of Heroes did with their Incarnate raids, even though this time I’m on the side of the “fanboys” and apt to just shrug and ignore it.

However, I do want to point out that my issue was more of a lack of alternative choice/option for a different playstyle (not liking mass group content) who would also like to be an Incarnate.

Conversely, the big PvE issue of max stat exotic armor has a ton of alternative choice. Enjoy the DEs? Karma will get you there in the end. You can also craft exotic armor. You can buy exotic armor off the trading post, which is the fastest and easiest shortcut method. Like dungeons? Enough tokens will also get you there. I haven’t looked, but I suspect WvW may also have an option handy.

The next issue that this argument always segues into is a disagreement on the amount of TIME it should be taking. Way too long, is what the unhappy are complaining about. On this, I have some sympathy. Back in CoH, a bunch of us were fairly rabid for a while regarding the pathetic exchange rate of solo Incarnate earning power versus someone who just jumped into a group and closed their eyes and pressed random buttons for 15-20 minutes. Though I think the most galling thing was the perceived lack of respect for our preferred playstyle and a distinct disparity of faced challenge/difficulty level versus reward.

Honestly, I don’t really feel that disparity in GW2. Crafted exotic armor is basic, looks okay and works. That’s the baseline. Karma exotic armor is going to take a longer time to accrue, but not at that high a difficulty challenge, so that seems more or less fair. The sobbing mostly comes due to the dungeon exotic armors – which appear to be meant to take a pretty damn long time, and involve a high level of challenge in group coordination. The additional cosmetic aesthetic reflects that.

I think it’s intended that you feel pretty special when you get one piece of exotic armor (and over the moon if you ever get a legendary) but the baseline of these unhappy players seem to be set at a much higher level. Being decked out in exotic armor from tip to toe seems to be the expected thing, so correspondingly, they get upset when they learn it’s going to take at least a month or more.

(Me, on the other hand, I’m carrying a set of decent stat yellows around for dungeons and WvW and slowly upgrading it with crafted or karma exotics, I got the shoulders swapped out and nuthing more. I also wander around in PvE zones in an el cheapo blue and green magic find gear left over from crafting, studded with slightly less cheapo major runes giving magic find, with omnomberry bars to hand (whoever thought of that berry name is awesome) and manage just fine, with a yellow weapon or two.  I -just- swapped two of the pieces to yellow rare Explorer’s yesterday after checking my bank and going, oh hey, there’s 30 sharp claws in here! Yes!)

I’m not sure there’s that much to worry about. In dungeons, how well you play and your build and how cooperatively your entire team works together will help you survive a whole lot longer than slightly better armor. I’ve successfully gone through explorable modes in yellows (and before that, in blues and greens) and no one can “inspect” you to be all huffy about it either. (If anyone ever demands for linkage, I’ll group them with the groups who keep on chatting LFG guardian/warrior on my avoid-list, thanks.)

In WvW, while you may very well have an advantage 1 vs 1 or 2 decked out in very shiny armor at level 80 versus some random lowbie in blues, all that orange glamor is not going to help that much when a zerg of 10-20 or 60 rushes into you. It’s a lot more about group organization and coordination. Some siege equipment would do a hell of a lot more damage to that wall or door, fer instance.

Perhaps it’s just the style of game that promotes a mindset of acceptance in me. Guild Wars 1 has a long history of long-term goals, some of which should be attempted only by the most insane or the most completist. GWAMM, fer instance. Legendary Defender of Ascalon wasn’t that easily achievable either. To this date, I have neither of those, nor does many of those who played GW1, I’m sure. But some have achieved them. That scarcity makes it all the more special to them, no doubt. And I don’t have a problem with that, I can still enjoy the game without those titles.

I guess the problem for some comes when you layer a cosmetic skin on as a reward, rather than a title. For some reason, words are easily dismissed, but something so visually shiny is harder to bear for them. (I do fine looking el cheapo in Glitch, but judging by the number of players who have paid money for credits to dress up their toons, there’s a huge pool of folks who love customization and self expression and possibly keeping up with the Joneses.)

I can’t really help there because I have the ultimate cosmetic cheese-out solution in the form of the HoM. Whatever the hell I’m wearing, if I hate the look, I can make it look shiny enough with those bonus skins. (And I still get tells about that flaming dragon sword.)

But I think some examination of the cheaper crafted armor skins and mix-and-matching with cheap stuff bought off the trading post and free transmutation stones would probably work as a stop gap measure.

Perhaps things will get better when they finally start selling costume and transmutation skins in the gem shop.

Oh, don’t gasp, GW1 has a history of that too. And lemme tell you, those skins can look absolutely gorgeous. I wear ’em in preference over armor any day. I look forward to all the bitching and whining about unfairness that will start up when that happens – little tip, save up those gems if you can’t convert spare irl cash readily!

Finally, there’s the issue of just not liking the style of game. Seriously guys (and gals), if the lore or the environment or the aesthetic just leaves you cold, don’t bother following the hype and being disappointed later, you just won’t want to play it. Period.

I got nothing invested in WoW lore. I disapprove of the holy trinity and the endless raid/gear grind and achievement mechanic. I only fiddled with it up to level 60 during Cataclysm because I was bored and wanted to experience the fluidity of WoW combat, but I knew it wasn’t going to last. Two months, mild entertainment, no hard feelings. Done. Got my money’s worth.

If you got nothing invested in GW2 lore, disapprove of the control/support/damage trinity and the explore/wander time-based grind mechanic and don’t like DEs, jumping puzzles, dungeons, WvW, PvP – then… why keep playing?

On that note, I’m going to repost my thoughts on “grinding” from an earlier post, which I’m sure barely anyone read, because it was a wall of text regarding A Tale in the Desert:

On “Grinding”

I believe there is no such thing as “grind” as long as you are aware of your own feelings and reactions and honest with yourself.

1) Are you taking any pleasure in the -present- activity you are doing? (Not looking forward to what you’ll feel when you reach the end, but actively, what you’re doing, do you like it?)

If you’re neutral, or just tolerating it, that’s a warning sign. Do ask yourself if the long-term gain will be worth it or if you might regret it later. And be on the lookout for emotional progress to…

Actively loathing is bad. Stop, stop now, before it’s too late and you ruin the activity for yourself for good. Take a break, go do something else. Come back only when you can honestly answer yes to the question, being neutral isn’t good enough once you’ve ever started hating the activity before.

2) Whenever you start feeling bored with the repetition, even though you do think the activity still has its positive sides, stop and do something else. Don’t ever try to ‘work’ through it or push yourself through a bad spot. It doesn’t work. Burnout lurks behind that self-rationalizing corner. It’s a game, it’s not meant to be a chore or an obligation.

CoH: More WoW Every Day

Overheard on Massively comments regarding soloing, grouping and single-player gaming in an MMO:

“I’ve tried games with more forced group content like City of Heroes and I’ve felt bad when I simply have to bail out in the middle of the mission because of that thing called real life.”

– vandalprime

Wow. Just wow. (Or WoW as the case might be.)

However did City of Heroes (the pioneer of sidekicking, dynamic scaling mobs to group size, and player-controlled difficulty levels) manage to get this kind of reputation?

Granted, the same commenter finds soloing in Guild Wars with Heroes and Henchmen as having a difficulty level beyond challenging to becoming an inappropriate solo solution (which I heartily disagree with)… but yeah, perception is subjective, I just find it incredible that CoH has started taking on a solo-unfriendly flavor. I wonder why.

Oh, and the reason for my silence over the last few days. I’ve been playing my way steadily through the First Ward zone. Solo.

Faceplanted a couple times in the first mission while trying to attempt +1,  x2 player difficulty.

Discovered an out-of-the-box SO’ed Titan Weapons/Electricity brute at level 22 was still squishy as the multitude of mobs had fairly high accuracy and was landing too many hits and wearing down the health bar, despite part of the damage being resisted.

Decided convenience and flow to be the better part of valor and tweaked down the mobs by 2 level shifts to -1,  x2 player difficulty. (I wanted more mobs, no point playing with AoE cones if you’re facing the three standard minions or 1Lt + 1 minion solo.) Which worked just fine as an appropriate level of challenge.

Not much to say about most of the arcs. The first few were somewhat fractured, in a ‘what kind of voice are these contacts speaking in?’ kind of way. Some voodoo lady using a lot of faux Southern ‘gumbo’ terms, some insane possessed guy obsessed with watercolors (ok, so he’s insane, he’s not supposed to make any sense), an annoying Resistance member using their favorite barely decipherable slang (ok, at least this one is consistent with the lore), etc. So I was just grinding (word use intentional) my way through them, not expecting much revelation until having gotten past their arcs. But there was a decent amount of steady drip feed of info, so it was okay.

There were some neat new-ish story telling gimmicks that the mission designers appeared to be playing with. They were able to have NPCs pause and speak strings of text with a delay, appear and disappear, etc. so it was like an in-game cutscene without an actual cutscene. Good storytelling tools – if only they’d move them over to the Mission Architect some time.

I generally enjoyed the Katie Douglas arc. This one had more tie-ins back to Praetoria and the Seer 1381 story arcs. And Katie spoke in a conversationally understandable voice. One minor nitpick was the suspension of disbelief and willingness to go along with the story required. A portion of it hinged on forcing your character to be possessed – which in roleplaying terms, is ‘god-moding,’ controlling what some other player’s character is doing. I intentionally chose the most vanilla hero with vanilla helpful motivations to go through First Ward, since I was afraid these things would happen – it was jarring when trying to play a villainous loyalist, the last time I tried, I think I broke the arc because I went kill-happy on a faction, and the contact after that praised me for trying to make peace with them (“Whuh? I just left a trail of carnage through that entire mission?!”)

Then I got shoved back into schizophrenic territory with nary a pause as Katie tossed me with nary a word of explanation to a blind Native American medicine man called Makwa to help him do some mystical things regarding spirits. Hang on, I thought we were on the trail of finding out more about Praetoria and the seers and so on… Why am I digging up seven bits of grave dirt and lighting seven censers, and soul snaring seven spirits?

Blind Makwa’s arc, by the by, is the most eregious in terms of lousy gameplay due to mission design. Story-wise, it sounds very poetic to do seven things per mission. Repeatedly clicking on seven world glowies is skirting very closely to a kill ten rats quest. Then I got to the next mission to find out that I had to fight my way through a generic apartment building and light seven censers (click seven glowies again.) I quit for the night.

The next play session, I got through that one. Had a decent, if story disconnected, time raiding some previously unmentioned magician’s mansion for magic artifacts. And then I got told to use a temp power on seven mobs. That only come out at night. AAARGH. It was bright daylight. So I flew leisurely to the store vendor to sell and unload crap. Then I flew over to the trainer to train. And I flew back to the graveyard to wait for the night mobs. Still daylight.

And then I gave up and alt-tabbed out to write this post while waiting for night.

Now, it’s finally night. Back to the game.

Edit 5 minutes later: One of the NPCs I was supposed to escort to an objective died to ambushes. Or rather, running head on into every single mob there was as I was trying to get him to approach the objective. Broke the mission. Objective unclickable.

Autocompleted it in disgust. Am apparently not the only one a little put off by First Ward’s mission design.

CoH: Temporarily Bad Design

Like a bad traffic wreck, I am drawn to lurking on the City of Heroes boards reading the usual I HATE ITRIALS/I ❤ ITRIALS LRN 2 PLAY NOOB thread that pops up per Incarnate trial launched.

By now, the only people still with the willpower to protest are the biggest alarmists, which unfortunately, do not help the case of the sad minority that isn’t terribly fond of the trials. Especially with the forum stalwarts shouting them down. I lost the determination to protest there long ago, it’s fairly pointless, only the wallet vote seems to work.

I did find this exchange amusing, and telling…

Alarmist Protesting the Mag Trial Stridently: “The problem is its the ONLY trial that unlocks hybrid, so your forced to do it. So no matter how muich you dislike it, you have to do it. That is BAD game design.” (sic)

Rational Guy Replying: “This one, however, I’ll give you. Encouraging us to run the new content is one thing, but to a point, it just being new content is enough to encourage us to run it. I’m sure this approach makes sense when viewed from the other end of some grand two-year plan with five separate AIXP-granting trials in the rotation, and maybe a few solo arcs that let players earn it too (HINT HINT, devs), but right now, with just the one? It’s temporary bad design, but still bad design.”

I concur.

I quit City of Heroes when the devs decided to release just the BAF and LAM trials with no solo or small group option for Incarnate progress. Mostly because I didn’t want to feel obligated to -have- to repeatedly grind the BAF and LAM in order to unlock Incarnate power.

When I came back with Dark Astoria, there was a variety of trials – about 6-7 of them – AND a solo/small group option. Presumably, somewhere in the grand plan, this was the foreseen result. It was fairly painless to finally get one character Incarnated because of:

a) variety – there wasn’t a need to repeatedly grind the same damn trial over and over

b) ease – practically everyone else was level shifted to a power level that could breeze past the trials

c) the alternate option – any time I got pissed off about the trials, I could retreat into soloing Dark Astoria, and still feel like I was getting somewhere

With the Magisterium trial, I’m missing a, b and c. No other trial unlocks the hybrid slot. Fail on variety. There surely isn’t a solo/small team option yet (it is terribly flawed design to have to *cough* “encourage” your players to raid because there’s no other alternative.) And as for ease, definitely not there yet either.

I got on two attempts of the trial today. Most of it was breezed past. Phase 1: kill 250 IDF went fine. Phase 2: Kill 3 AVs in some order went by more or less fine. I was somewhat concerned that no one bothered to explain the mechanics of the AVs. There seemed to have been some kind of “Marked for Death” targeting that no one bothered to dodge, and either healed or rezzed through it. It seemed sad that someone just memorized “Okay, kill S, P and C in this order.” Phase 3 went fine, Black Swan’s portals were easy to target and taken down quite quickly with not too much need for coordination.

And then phase 4 went to hell as Tyrant stubbornly refused to die. The real reason remains unknown. All manner of theories from “the light wells need to go down faster” “people need to stop dying, it’s healing him the most” “we don’t have enough DPS” “not enough debuffs” were tossed about the league. Probably all of them.

In fact, I felt really sorry for anything squishy. My IO’ed willpower stalker had a very fast recharging heal, and I was popping it every “air crackles” because I still got hit for 1/3 of my hp even as I jumped out the instant I saw the red letters. I found it quite survivable as I didn’t stay in the ground targeted effect after that, but I’m going to guess someone with less hp and less resistance and no self-heal might not find it so easy.

What I didn’t find so easy was staying out of the way of Tyrant slamming his fist on the ground for an AoE. He kept wiggling about, not respecting any taunting tank positioning, so I was constantly trying to reposition to his back or his flank. My stalker has pretty high AoE defense, so I doubt I got hit that often on the whole. When I did get hit, about half the time I ate ~1000 damage and survived and backed away to self-heal, and half the time I fell over as 2000 damage just wiped my health bar with no chance to react. Some blasters were complaining about the fist AoE, I have no idea how horrible it must have been on a blaster.

I was on a dual blades stalker though, so for all I know I was gimping the league by toting around a highly resistable damage type, on an AV that is effectively +6 to everyone. My assassin’s strike was hitting for about 143 damage. No idea how that compares to the damage others put out.

And really, I don’t see how a league who started off with a not-so-ideal team composition have any chance of rectifying this with good strategy. There are no inspiration vendors within the trial. The thing is timed. I don’t think any temp powers work besides the Quills power. It just strikes me as rather unfair and badly designed, to the point that you’ll be encouraging the players to do one of two things.

1) Sit around for a long time cherry picking the league’s composition (including lots of debuffs) or… and people are already doing this…

2) Farm the MAG trial by just doing the easy parts and then quitting rather than waste time attempting to defeat Tyrant.

I suppose that is -the- alternate option?

To let players pick the difficulty of the “ultimate” trial by giving them a way out to farm hybrid xp, and then keeping Tyrant difficult for those who want a difficult challenge? (Plus extra badges for even more insane difficulty challenges.)

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I might just settle for rolling my eyes.

Presumably in another six months, all this will be a moot point as players move past the current level of power, develop an effective strategy that is slowly taught to pretty much everyone doing the trials on a server, a variety of trials and possibly even a solo/small group option will arise for this Hybrid slot. Same as before.

But come on, is that really a valid defense for temporarily bad game design? Just keep waiting?