Only lazy sissy noobs want a challenge

| Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Tesh tweeted this twixt today and two Tagen past.
If you sorted out the butchered grammar and theft of German, you'll find that what I was trying to say, before being captivated by alliteration, is that Tesh sent a tweet that said the following:

"There's something deeply ironic in players whining that #WoW is too easy, but they want challenge handed to them on a golden platter."

Challenge is not in a vacuum, nor is it desired as such.

First off, players may not want challenges as much as they want things that other people will fail at. These serve the dual purposes of sorting and superiority mechanisms. They assist people in forming tribes and feeling superior to the people in the other tribes.

Second, they may want challenges, but they want challenges that they can brag about. This is when obscurity and balance come into play. First off, the challenge cannot be obscure. Imagine trying to brag about something in a game to somehow who has never played a videogame before. See how the audience needs context and a sense of the scale of the challenge? So saying "I soloed X" piece of content, if few people have done that content, or only did it at much higher levels, or anything else that would prevent them from recognizing the challenge and how it has been overcome, with be ineffective.

Balance matters as well. If I beat the challenge and so did you, then we should each be above the same benchmark of performance. If I beat it and you don't, it means I am above and you are below. Imagine if the challenge was not balance, so that my paladin can beat the supposed challenge with ease, while your hunter has to be played perfectly to beat it. Now the challenge is non-existent for me, while for you it is hard to brag about, because for any non-hunter, it seems trivial. Sometimes there can be a "as a hunter" modifier, but those are not perfect. Then there is the scenario in which it is hard for a paladin and harder for a hunter, so in theory both of us can brag, but I can't brag around you because of the imbalance.

Then there is the issue of whether it is even worth trying. This is a progression problem. I could seek out challenges on my own. So I go out and as a level 20 I decide to solo Ulduman. It won't work, no matter how awesome I am. When can I come back and expect a challenge? Am I supposed to come back every couple levels and bash my head against the wall until I have beaten it? When I cannot yet beat it, do I need more practice or more levels? Notice how none of that was about challenge itself, instead the activity described was merely frustrating repetitive failure, with a high possibility of the impossibility of success.

Maybe I could construct challenge more easily, or maybe conveniently is the better word, by leveling up to where I need to be (oops, how am I determining this? I guess I'll be lazy and try quest color), and then taking off gear, retrying each time I succeed, until I fail, at which point I will define one piece of gear higher to be the point of challenge. That sounds like a pretty stupid idea to me.

There's nothing contradictory about wanting challenge "handed to you on a silver platter." It is sensible. It is a way of knowing if an activity can be expected to be challenging and therefore worth doing for the challenge-seeker, or whether it should be bypassed. Being directed to the challenges does not remove challenge derived from the search, since there is none, only time-wasting repetition that gets in the way of the desired content: challenge.

So in fact the true contradiction is Tesh's, with his dislike of time-wasting, pointless content gates, and his apparent belief that we're supposed to be wandering the world hoping to stumble across a challenge, without any "silver platters."

Finally, beside all that, if a game is meant to be challenging, it is my assumption, and probably that of most gamers, that it will readily provide challenge, rather than an amalgam of NPCs, mechanics, levels, and loot, which will, under certain circumstances and when combined in certain ways, yield a challenge. That would be like if TOR marketed itself a story-driven MMO, and then turned out to be a reskin of SWG, a sandbox, and we were told "go find your own stories!" Actually that could work, so maybe I picked a bad example. How about a box of scissors that you need a pair of scissors to open? Even worse, and totally non-analogous, but I like the imagery.


Michael said...

>First off, players may not want challenges as much as they want things that other people will fail at.

This always makes me sad. Some of the people in my guild are like this. We're moderately well progressed, but we're not the top guild on our server. Those people in my guild have pushed to transfer to another server where we would be the top guild.

I truly don't understand why people need to feel better than other people to have fun, instead of simply striving for excellence on their own.

Probably one of the most fun and challenging games I've played recently are the Portal games. Lots and lots of other players have played them also, and that actually _adds_ to the enjoyment of the game, because now you're in the community of portal fans, and can get the in-jokes and proclaim how the cake is a lie.

Why does WoW work the other way?

Tesh said...

Klepsacovic said...

@Michael: In solo games, your skill has no effect on me. If you're bad, you won't make me wipe. You play on easy and I can still play on hard. Everyone can have their own bubble and piece of virtual reality.

You might find this post helpful. It has graphs.

@Tesh: Neat idea. But it seems strange to have to actively resist the game to find a challenge.

Tesh said...


I maintain that "challenge" is based on player "skill", though, and that's a sufficiently variable variable that personal initiative has to be a component. We should challenge ourselves rather than wait to be challenged. It's that passivity that strikes me as curiously lazy. Wanting to be pushed is not the same as pushing yourself, and devs can't possibly address everyone's needs. Players have to shoulder some of the responsibility of making playing fun.

Christopher said...

It seems to me that the same group of people who complain about the game being too easy also complain about how bad everybody else is at it. Just a heads up to the bad-haters out there (Gevlon) - needing to feel better than everyone else makes you incredibly tedious to share a game with. The people who are actually really good don't act this way, so if you want to impress us with your leet skillz, start off by shutting your damn mouth! /rant

Klepsacovic said...

@Tesh: Obviously players have to take some action. I don't expect us to have portals from Stormwind to Challenge Land. But we seem to disagree on whether Challenge Land should be created by the devs or whether there should simply be Land and players have to figure out how to make it challenging.

@Christopher: "needing to feel better than everyone else makes you incredibly tedious to share a game with"
See, their strategy is working!

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