Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Put Dispenser Here!

Having not had a lecture for ITB016 yet this week and requiring an additional 2 blog posts before submission tomorrow, I thought I might discuss something that has been on my mind lately that has affected my gaming experience to a slight degree. As it is to do slightly with gaming Demographics and not completely with games Design (and the next lecture), consider this an off topic personal post with a focus on more psychological aspects of games design. While I don't like making these blog posts too opinionated or focused around my experiences or beliefs, I do think a reflection on personal gaming experiences would assist in my Games Design ability.

I used to be (and still am to a slight degree) a hardcore FPS gamer. Not being a fan of Counter-Strike, I was left with the Unreal Tournament's and Quake's of earlier years which I personally had more fun with. Although I loved strategy games (Red Alert, Dark Reign, Warcraft 3), sometimes even to death (Total Annihilation) I would still consider myself to be a better FPS action gamer than anything else. I would play against bots, online with friends and randoms and then eventually with friends I knew. If I could highlight any section of my gaming 'career', it would have to be the LANs I had with friends back during high school.

Below: The result of an ancient battle between friends.

During this time, I would never get annoyed or frustrated with the concept of death in these games. Getting 'fragged' so to speak was something that just happened, sometimes completely unavoidable. Spawning, rearming and getting back into the fight was nothing to be worried about. It was a part of the game and would not even make me blink or recognize as a 'negative' factor.

Then along came a game called World of Warcraft. At first, WoW was quite alien to me. Having played Diablo and other RPGs in the past, I was uncertain of WoW's unnatural MMO style of interaction and felt awkward with both the various chat (socializing) and combat (hit buttons to perform abilities) method of control. I started as an Undead Warlock, having no idea what anything was anyway. It was both fun and frustrating, bordering on addiction, but not quite at a level to absorb me completely, mainly because of several gameplay flaws and imbalances which I believe I have mentioned previously. Soon enough though, I leveled to around level 20 and headed off to Hillsbrad Foothills....

... where I was promptly ganked* (while picking a herb). One shotted to be more accurate, by some weird looking dude of skull level who simply appeared out of nowhere. "That's odd," was my first reaction, as I had never died so quickly before or to something that just simply appears. Having ran back to my corpse and started moving on it wasn't long until it happened again. And again. And again. It took me awhile to realize I had become a victim of 'corpse camping', where higher level players will attack and kill lower level players simply for the joy of irritating them. This is more formally known as 'World PvP' or Player Vs Player combat in an open environment. I eventually ended up doing some small scale PvP myself (though I usually attacked higher levels), and eventually upon hitting 70 (on two characters) really only PvP anyway (though in fair instanced scenarios), but by god, getting ganked and corpse camped repeatedly was the most frustrating game experience I have ever had.

Below: WoW PvP - Warsong Gulch and being corpse camped by a bastard.

But hang on! Death in games where you can simply come back to life were not supposed to irritate me. Why did they now? The answer was simple. Time. WoW is the sort of game that you unfortunately have to give copious amounts of time towards to get anywhere, especially leveling. You create an avatar which, through time (and effort) personifies your existence and reasons for playing the game in the first place. Whether this be through gear, or role or reputation, you cannot achieve any without time, and without them you are simply nobody. Time, or more particularly the wasting of time, and even more particularly the wasting of it by someone else, with the inability to do anything about it to your 'character' is incredibly annoying.

Below: Dying in TF2 shouldn't be irritating (it happens), but sometimes it is...

So, when I returned back to FPS gaming after giving WoW a much needed break, I noticed that I was (and still do) get angry or a little annoyed when I die in FPS games. This never used to happen, especially considering the inconsequential factors of FPS games and the little time requirements. So why was I getting angry over something that really did not matter?

Having read an article about MUD's by Richard Bartle, I was intrigued about the section explaining the 'Killer' sterotype of people who play MMORPGs (the other three were Explorers, Achievers and Socializers). To be fair, everyone apparently has varying levels of degrees of these types of gaming styles which, while I won't explain in depth here, I found I mainly related to the 'Killer' type. What was interesting though is that it discussed an egotistical attachment to a player's character, that when disrupted or threatened (i.e. killed) creates varying levels of anger, resentment and even helplessness (explaining the sickening feeling when you are getting ganked). What I seemed to have done was transfer over this egotistical attachment of my character to competitive FPS games, which was ridiculous as I only ever played those games for fun (not to win or be victorious).

So, after a very long winded post, what does all this information mean from a games design perspective? In my opinion, it means that gaming should not really be viewed on an individual game level, rather more universally. Games, ideas, play styles, beliefs and even (in my case) views on games and gaming aspects can and will be transfered and even be stimulated/evolved from other gaming material in popular culture. Reasons for why certain aspects of games do and don't work can stem directly from similar aspects in other games, and feelings gamers get from exploring particular content can be similarly expressed in other games of the same nature. Understanding the demographic 'level' that the general public is currently engaged in and catering games design around that will be an important aspect to the success of future games.

Below: UT Online - Winning: as fun as losing

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