Frustrated players
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 31 January 2013, 11:01 am
I was reading various game blogs on my newsreader today, and came across two very different pieces of news. One is that Wizardry Online is out, Stropp has first impressions, and I was thinking "bad idea" on just about every feature he described: Possible permadeath with free-for-all PvP? Bad idea! Random stats you have a tiny chance of getting really good ones if you just reroll a lot? Bad idea! Alts being locked out of quests your main already did? Bad idea!  The other big news was that in World of Warcraft: "To encourage Raid Finder groups to persevere, each time an Raid Finder group wipes on a boss fight all players in the group receives a stacking buff that increases health, damage dealt, and healing done by 5% (up to a maximum of 10 stacks). This buff is cleared once the boss has been killed."

In other words, SOE releases a game which appears designed to frustrate players, presumably in the hope that frustrated players keep playing in some sort of "I'll win this next time!" rage. And Blizzard releases a feature that makes repeated failure significantly less likely, presumably in the assumption that frustrated players quit games.

I do think that both players motivated by failure and players only motivated by success exist. But I would think that most players have a certain degree of frustration resistance, below which they keep calm and carry on, but which once breached turns frustration into a rage-quit. I also think that the frustration resistance is a function of what alternatives you have. It is a bit like working in a frustrating job: Many people continue because they think they can't easily find another job, but if job prospects rise, they quit their jobs more easily. When I started playing MMORPGs, there wasn't much choice, unless you went for something rather niche there only was UO, EQ, or AC. People endured a LOT of frustration in Everquest, level loss, total gear loss, etc., because they felt there wasn't much of an alternative. They endured being ganked in UO until Trammel came for the same reason. Today there are so many similar MMORPGs out there that switching to a different one is a lot more viable. And in consequence games don't get away with the same degree of punishment any more.

While you won't necessarily notice from the reaction of the hardcore-friendly blogosphere, I do think that Wizardry Online will be a flop, and the LFR changes will be quite popular. In a future WoW patch the 5% bonus per wipe will become available for some subset of guild raids as well. The buff seems ideally designed to lessen frustration in players that aren't all that frustration-resistant any more. It works out as some sort of difficulty dial, where a less good group can still succeed by simply persevering. That is a win-win for the players that couldn't have done it without the buff as well as for Blizzard that can keep those players from quitting. Assuming that players in the majority are not masochists and would rather like to eventually succeed than to repeatedly fail appears like a safe bet to me.
Tobold's Blog

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