Explorers are an elitist waste of money
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 November 2013, 7:00 am
I submit to you a theory: Explorers are an expensive, perpetually-unsatisfied group that are more profitable to ignore than to cater to their endless appetites for stuff that no one else cares about.

Explorers like to explore. It can be places or rules. In fact, I'd suggest that the key thing they seek to explore is not a place, but a rule. Consider a universe with instant teleportation to anywhere. In effect, everywhere is here, so therefore where is there to go? Nowhere. It is the rule set that makes it exploration. It is rules such as gravity that make it a meaningful experience to climb a mountain or look over a hill. In effect, the rules are the places.

Consider World of Warcraft before flying mounts. While it would seem that there were fewer places, there were, in fact, more. With the greater rule distance came more places to explore. To fly over on your mount is meaningless, but to figure out the oddities of terrain or the limits of tools such as flow fall or parachute cloaks, those meant something. The player had overcome an obstacle.

I'd add behavioral norms to this as well. We commonly move in certain patterns, moving from quest hub to quest hub along predictable routes. If, for some reason, we take a different route, then we may find something. The place itself may be nothing in particular, but breaking the rules on travel makes it seem like something more. Consider, for example, my delight at finding absolutely nothing in Icecrown. I found nothing hidden, in fact I went nowhere that I hadn't been before, but I used different rules.

Anyway, getting back to bashing explorers: places and rules are expensive. Most players want terrain that works smoothly. They don't want random holes in the ground that kill them. They want to have some clue to where they're going. It has to look pretty, or at least look like it is supposed to look the way it looks. Case in point: World of Wacraft looks like a weird cartoon, but it is supposed to look like that, but terrain textures should be consistent and not suddenly break halfway down the hill.

Rules are even more expensive. As cool as it must have been to discover it, it's probably better for raiding if throwing saronite bombs not rebuild the Lich King's platform (can you tell how long I've been out of the raiding scene?). Try doing bug testing and catching all that. You can't. Yet people will complain, and for good reason, if you don't.

Explorers make all of this harder. Other player types are more likely to leave these things alone. They see a wall and leave it at that. Only a weird person sees a wall and thinks, "I bet there's a way to walk straight up that." And then they go and do just that and someone's stuck figuring out how to fix it. That's the difficulty with explorers: they need rules to break. Maybe these are rules that you're supposed to break, such as wandering around on a ground mount, in which case they can be safely ignored as harmless lunatics. Maybe they're rules that you're not supposed to break, that crash servers or break encounters.

But let's get back to the places. It's not so bad just generating random terrain. Of course then explorers catch on and whine about it. So you give it the personal touch, creating places to find. But not be led to. Explorers hate if you act as if you expect them to find it, despite making it for them to find. Or you make it by accident and good luck producing those on a consistent basis without simultaneously destroying your game with low testing standards.

This is where the cost-effectiveness comes in.

Socializers can get by with a chat function. Or forgo that and have them use a third-party program so they can chat during your game that they pay for for no apparent reason. It's like printing money without the Secret Service hunting you down.

Killers are fine with a system that lets them kill each other. Some modicum of fairness may be needed. Or, sucker the achievers and socializers into being their prey and throw fairness out the window.

Achievers can be summed up with one concept: 0. Take anything in your game and count it. Stick a zero after it. You've just created content for an achiever.

Then there are the explorers. They need actual content. Maybe its a place that is hard to get to, or at least somewhere that people won't commonly go. It could have something novel about it. At the very least it needs to exist. Content is way more expensive than zeros, mindless slaughter, and talking.

But it gets worse. Achievers don't mind if everyone knows about something. They might even prefer it; they're trying to find things to achieve. Giving them a guide may even be something they want, so they can achieve more. Those explorers though, giving them anything more than a piece of paper and a pencil may be too much information. They want to wander blindly in the darkness and maybe stumble across something. The in-game guide that the achiever uses to more efficiently achieve is poisonous to the explorer, who, the more you tell them the less there is for them to explore. God forbid your game generate any sort of community that offers advice to anyone or else it's entirely out of your hands as a developer.

In this way explorers are elitist. They don't want the nice zeros and death that you made for everyone else. They want this expensive, customized content, just for them. And you can't really tell anyone about it, or else it won't be exploring anymore. They're basically virtual hipsters who are never happy unless they're talking about how they found something before it went all mainstream.

You might remember the statistics: only a few percent of players saw the original Naxx. The devs didn't like this much. No one was seeing their amazing work. Who sees the troll village? Few people. Not so many fly over it, and how much can they see from there anyway? People tend to tab out when flying anyway. I imagine just as many people saw Naxxramas floating in the sky, but that's hardly equal to fighting in it. Naxx was remade in an expansion and many more people saw it. I've heard that the troll village is also being tweaked, opened up, and so people will see it.
The unspoken implication, which I get to claim is there because I wrote it, is that it was better when people weren't seeing it, that it was better when getting there meant exploiting terrain glitches in Winterspring rather than following a quest line in Darkshore. For us explorers it was better. We had to figure out rules, and then break them, to be rewarded with something that has no apparent reason for its existence, except the remote chance that some explorer will break those rules and find it.

And then they got rid of the rules altogether with flying mounts. There are no hills if all dimensions are open to you. Alas, that was all back in another reality. I do miss it.



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