Bean Counters

So once again, Gevlon accidentally makes a compelling argument in the midst of a pompous rant:

“Work ethic”, “hamstering”, “completionalism”: I don’t have a good name for this skill, but I’m completely sure it exists. The lack of it provides the lazy bum, and we all know the good feeling of  “Well done!”. The ancient hunter who went out hunting when he wasn’t hungry had better chance of survival than the guy who started hunting when he was starving. The guy who felt fun from watching his pot filling up with beans had much better chances during winter than the guy who foraged just for today. We are descendants of hard working people and we inherited the genes that give the fun feeling when we see our stockpiles filling. The traditional MMO use this form of fun. […]

Now let’s analyze the glorious rise and then the shameful stagnation and fall of WoW. Vanilla WoW was a pure “hard working” game. Your progress depended on how much and how effectively you worked. There were action in the game, but due to the GCD and cast times, it demanded dexterity that vast majority of people easily had. Of course you had to understand the game, but for non-retards it wasn’t a challenge. So you could concentrate on one form of skill: “hard working”.

People completely wrongfully assume that WoW beaten EverQuest because it was “less grindy” or because it had smaller death penalty. No. It won because EverQuest had forced grouping, making the game mixed “hard working”-“social skills”. WoW was pure “hard working” until the endgame, where raid organization needed social skills which did not belong to the game. No wonder everyone referred it as “the organizational nightmare”.

As someone who still has a Light of Elune in his paladin‘s bags, I really enjoy the bean counter metaphor. It is a concept I was musing on while playing hour 37 of The Witcher. Why was I looting every house and making several trips across town to the one vendor I know will buy damn near everything in my bags? The gold is undoubtedly superfluous at this point, especially as I now how enough ingredients and in-game knowledge to steam-roll whatever is coming my way. Then I peeled one more layer down, and wondered why gaining experience points was still fun, when The Witcher is likely my 75th+ RPG. If gaining XP is fun, then why am I not just playing Xenogears forever? It was with that thought in mind that I commented a rebuttal to Gevlon:

The “shameful stagnation and fall of WoW” has nothing to do with undermining the hardworking element, which is alive and well even now; it has everything to do with the natural reduction in the novelty of the experience.

The guy having fun “watching his pot filling up with beans” will NOT have fun filling up an infinitely large pot. There has to be an end-point – the reward of a survived winter – in order for the fun of collecting beans to be realized. Those beans also meant he could relax in his tent instead of scrounging around in the snow. The guy would have less fun filling up a pot with beans as a slave, even if the survival benefit of a full pot is the same. Why? For this guy knows that, as a slave, his task is never-ending.

As Morhaime has commented, the WoW market is saturated: there are more ex-WoW players than WoW players. The people who enjoy hardworking in games have picked up WoW, enjoyed it for many winters, and are now moving on to pick beans in new fields. It has nothing to do with anything WoW has or hasn’t done. Frequent gear resets, at most, act as more frequent winters. After so many winters in one place, it is time to move on regardless of whatever other claims of quality the game has. The novelty of gathering beans fade, and slave-like, rote gathering sets in.

In any case, a WoW that was simply building on vanilla for the last seven years would still experience a “shameful stagnation and fall.” Unlike sports/chess/etc, which have the benefits of tens of thousands of years of iteration, there will always be better, more novel iterations of videogames on the horizon.

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Posted on October 6, 2011, in Commentary and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. > Frequent gear resets, at most, act as more
    > frequent winters. After so many winters in
    > one place,

    Actually, starting with WotLK WoW did not only have more frequent winters but also much milder winters. You didn’t need any beans to survive those more frequently mild winters because it was always easy to recover thanks to the emblems vendors selling cheap beans.

    And Catas concept, making beans more time consuming to obtain which aren’t needed anyway to survive the more frequent, mild winter, wasn’t really the solution. :)

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    • As a bean-minded individual, Wrath was worlds better than the TBC famine that afflicted non-25m raiders. There were BoJs and a dungeon set in heroics, but if you happened to pick the Recommended servers as a new player, you ended up stuck in a low-pop ghost town that had barely any heroic runs being made. There simply is no room in any reasonable person’s life for a game, in 2011, that you boot up for 2-3 hours and be literally incapable of playing.

      I’m open to the argument that Wrath took it too far – in a way forcing the birth of the GearScore movement simply because no one could tell how many beans people really had collected – but unlike other people I will never dismiss the golden age of the Single Player MMO. I ran four to five 15-20 minute heroics a day for months on end and all my alts were raid-ready with 4pc tier bonuses. And it felt good. In Cata, you hit the JP wall damn quick, and get VP at such a glacial rate (nevermind what the heroics used to be like) that getting DDR-ready on multiple alts is out of the question, and pointless besides.

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  2. I still think that it’s a bit aberrant to expect gamers to commit to a single game for a period of years. Naturally the novelty wears off. That’s OK, you just go get a new game. Dragging games into the hundreds and thousands of hours needed to fuel an MMO obsession isn’t doing game design any favors.

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    • I 100% agree, and absolutely would say that there are game design decisions that make a game better in the long-run that make them worse in the short-run, and vice versa.

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