Purple Pixel People

| Monday, November 14, 2011
On Friday masterlooter suggested
There are players that like to raid (read: defeat difficult encounters with many other players), and there are players that want purple pixels.
I'm sure he didn't mean it as a dichotomy for the overall population, but for the population that raids. In other words, some people raid to raid and some people raid for loot. Even then, it's a bit of a stark divide. I raided because I enjoyed it, but I definitely liked the loot as well. I know that my preferences are not universal, but I think that the particular trait, being able to enjoy both an activity and the reward from it, is universal, or fairly close. People can enjoy raiding and enjoy getting loot and may raid partially for loot and partially for the experience.

In fact, I think these are linked, and that's the root of the problem with easymode raids. Despite my absurd claim that loot has intrinsic value based on the number attached to it, it doesn't. Loot is relative. Relatively relative.

Gear rewards have two parts: the gear (tool) and reward (reward). Higher stats make me better able to play and are a useful tool when attempting to kill internet dragons. But the loot itself, regardless of the stats, has a reward aspect to it, which is derived from the experience. The loot is a symbol of the experience. For example, getting Thunderfury was effectively useless as a tool because by the time I got it it was a couple expansions behind and was more useful to a different class anyway. But as a symbolic reward, it was tied to many experiences. It drew from my early days in MC and the status of such a weapon back then. It symbolized the time I had spent farming MC in BC and LK. It symbolized a social effort to get the raid members I needed and to find the materials as well. Also it just looks awesome.

From that we can see that the gear reward is not a matter of the stats or power of the item, but of the meaning it carries for the player. Certain tier pieces in BC symbolized having struggling and succeeded to kill a tricky boss. These days the stats would be laughable, but the symbolic meaning is still there.

Over time this meaning has become ingrained in the item system. Higher level gear came from higher level raids which required more perseverance, more struggle, more skill (please don't argue this last one, it never gets anywhere). With this pattern firmly established, it would be easy to see how the connection could get reversed. Gear, carrying the symbolic meaning of some achievement, could substitute for the achievement. To a limited degree this can work, with badges giving that tier piece that never dropped or in my case, going back later to get the badass sword that shamans could not use. If an experience gave loot, then it is not unreasonable to think that the loot implies the experience. Loot can become fun.

That connection relies on the loot, the reward, being linked most strongly to the specific experience. There can be side links, such as the badge system, but the reward should primarily invoke the main experience, such as killing a particular boss.

That connection can be distorted or broken if the reward changes sources. If a chest piece started off coming from a very hard raid, we'd link it to that raid. If much easier content began to give that reward, then the link changes. This is not necessarily a bad thing. That easier content could be a lot of fun, in which case the reward switches the link from challenge to fun. For some that is better, for some it is worse, but objectively we can't say that the item is degraded. However, if the easier content is not fun, then the reward switches the link from challenge to drudgery. In that case, the item is degraded.

So to get back to the Purple Pixel People, there may be people who are attracted to purple or big numbers, but they are a minority. Most people are instead attracted to the symbolism of the items and how they evoke an experience, maybe fun, maybe challenging, maybe social. The reward is a means to an end, the end being the experience. This can happen directly, with the reward-as-tool allowing them to confront and overcome the challenge. It can happen indirectly, with the reward giving them the image of one who has overcome the challenge, like putting on a uniform to appear authoritative, or lacy underwear to appear pretty. Not that I am suggesting that I or any other raiders, former or present, do or have done that.

There is also status. Good gear confers, or is hoped by the player to confer, status. "Look at this gear and know that I am a badass." This works as long as the gear is primarily linked to something badass, such as killing something badass. If the gear is instead linked to spending ten hours a day watching My Little Pony (before the remake of it), then even if it could also be gotten from a world-first Sargeras kill, it wouldn't confer much status.

Maybe I haven't quite convinced you, so I'm going to make you an offer. I'm running an MMO and if you want, I can give you a full suit of Awesomeslayer Armor which has +tenbajillion^7 attack damage power. Do you want it? Let me assure you, this armor is way better than anything else out there. Do you want it? Better question: Do you even care? Probably not. The armor has no link to anything, no symbolic meaning and no clear usefulness, given that for all you know my MMO was made up on the spot to prove a point. What if I said that it has a particularly purple shade of purple text? No? Okay.

In conclusion, Purple Pixel People are an irrelevant minority that are not protected under anti-discrimination laws so I can safely say that. If people appear to want epics, it is because they want epic experiences. It is because they want content. That does not mean it is content that showers them with loot. In fact, a loot shower may be counter-productive, as well as dangerous if we were to imagine the literal scenario.

6 comments:

Kring said...

> So to get back to the Purple Pixel People, there
> may be people who are attracted to purple or big
> numbers, but they are a minority.

Are you sure about that? I think you're unnecessary rude towards people who raid for loot. There are different usages for loot then standing on a mailbox. Take a look at "Timmy, Johnny, and Spike", the "Bartle types" of Magic: The Gathering.

http://www.wizards.com/magic/magazine/article.aspx?x=mtgcom/daily/mr11b

Now, if you're a "Johnny" and play WoW you need as much gear as possible. Because creating an awesome gear-set is what motivates you. Those are the people who create stuff like unhittable sets for rogues to tank stuff, in extreme.

I definitely see myself as Johnny in M:TG. And I always preferred playing with Simulationcraft and Wowhead over raiding itself. Raiding was just the source of gear and the way to test your new "creation".

Getting an item that increases my dps by 1 in Simulationcraft was way more awesome for me then killing a farm boss for the 12th time.

Of course, serious raiders do everything to get the best available gear. But for Johnny this is not just a tool, this is the goal in itself.

(From the link above)
> For example, let's say Johnny builds a new deck
> that has a neat but difficult way to win. He
> plays ten games and manages to get his deck to
> do its thing - once. Johnny walks away happy.

A Johnny doesn't need a server-first raid. He's happy if he kills the end boss once. What he really strives for is topping the healing meter while ending a fight with 90% mana. Because his strange mana regen build worked!

masterlooter said...

You all ready knew I was going to largely disagree with this post.

I still see much evidience that the Purple Pixel People are not an irrelevant minority. Not trying to jab this into you too much, but my point of view is comming from recent experience (I still play WoW), while yours is coming from theory.

If players want experience tied to their rewards, why do they do things they've done a dozen or more times all ready AND supposedly dislike (farming heroic 5 mans ad infinitum) to get the next iteration of purple gear, instead of trying to have more experiences (get into more raids)? There's no epic experience in the 25th Heroic Deadmines run - just more gear (rather points for gear). The experince happened back in January when the instances were brand new. Going back in them in November is just farming pixels, not experiencing content.

If reward is linked to experience, why are there Firelands trash runs (and before that Sunwell, etc)? A crappy experience for the sake of more purple.

A great number of players have still not experienced all of Tier 11 content. At least on the two servers I frequently play on, Firelands trash runs are much more common than Tier 11 runs. If players wanted experiences over gear, it would be opposite (anecdotal I know.)

Gear stopped being related to experience the day they patched in the Badge system. Now you can get gear via something you've all ready experienced, or you can try something new. Guess which path *most* players take?

I still stand by my previous comment. WotLK raiding was popular not because of good raid design. It did not give a better experience, or tell a better story than it's predecessors (save for maybe Ulduar - which had the lowest turnout). WotLK raiding was so huge because it gave (relatively) easy access to purple pixels.

Inversely, that's why Cataclysm raiding is labeled as "bad". It's harder for Purple Pixel People to get epix.

Klepsacovic said...

@Kring: Are you after the gear or a goal which exists relative to content? The unhittable rogue wasn't getting gear for the sake of gear, but gear as a means to a goal, the goal being the ability to do something unusual.

@masterlooter: I suppose we can just go back and forth on this, but I maintain that the gear is a proxy for an experience. That effect is weakened if gear is too easy to get, so that eventually the gear is meaningless. This is not theory, this is my own experience. I got some strong gear from raiding in BC and LK, but in LK and even more so in Cata, my gear was coming, not from overcoming challenges, but from farming something trivial. Eventually the gear was no longer linked to the challenge, but to the trivial grind. That's when the bubble burst and I stopped caring about gear.

I found this still held when I recently tried WoW again. At some point I found myself getting gear and seeing no point to the gear. I still had a lot of better gear I could get, and probably without a ton more effort, but it was meaningless, coming from just another easy run.

Beside that aspect, there is the human desire for advancement. We level up and grind rep. We get better gear. So in that context, we do want better gear, but not because it is better gear, but because at some point, it is the last means of advancement. Offer them content and they will go for the content, and have more fun doing it.

Then there is the social pressure. People don't like wiping and gear is a means to reducing the chances of wiping. Again, the gear is wanted, but not for its own sake, but as a means to an end.

Kring said...

> Are you after the gear or a goal which exists
> relative to content? The unhittable rogue wasn't
> getting gear for the sake of gear, but gear as a
> means to a goal, the goal being the ability to
> do something unusual.

Gear as a goal. But the goal must not even be to achieve something unusual within game mechanics. It can be something like collecting a block set when there was no reason for a block set. Because it was sufficient to tank a heroic and fun.

It's basically a kind of optimization but not for the sake of beating content but for the sake of optimizing itself.

I think this group isn't served well by WoW because the amazing gear to do fun things requires you to raid. (Of course you're free to be a Johny and a raider which is fine, but not every Johny is a raider.) This is a group who loves every "purple shower" because it expands their toolbox.

Injera said...

"Beside that aspect, there is the human desire for advancement. We level up and grind rep. We get better gear. So in that context, we do want better gear, but not because it is better gear, but because at some point, it is the last means of advancement. Offer them content and they will go for the content, and have more fun doing it."

Yeah, I think you're absolutely right that gear is just a subset of advancement.
I think that most people who play MMORPG's are looking for a combination of both that and content. If you have content without advancement not many players will participate in it, but pure advancement is boring too. One thing that I find interesting is that the actual advancement can be somewhat arbitrary or meaningless and still attract participants- look at what achievements did in WoW to revive content for many players.

I find it odd how these things interact to motivate me personally. I started in BC and never had a desire to became exalted with the Timbermaw until the achievement came into the game, at which point I did. But why? There are plenty of achievements I could get that would be easier, so it's not about accumulating arbitrary points. Somehow, that change made it an interesting goal for me to try to get, and I have no idea why. Maybe I was in search of a goal, and the achievement "legitimized" it in some way that self-motivation couldn't? Maybe there was some subconscious social aspect involved (people can see the achievement?) I really don't know.

Shintar said...

I don't know how many Purple Pixel People there really are, but my own experiences have been similar to yours. I've stopped raiding and pretty much doing dungeons as well, simply because the gear you get from them has no meaning anymore. However, that doesn't mean that I don't care about gear at all, i.e. when they made 10s and 25s drop the same stuff, my motivation to run 25s took a big hit even though I generally enjoyed the "epicness" of the larger groups.

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