Victory conditions and personal goals

This Tobold post contains a lot of straw, and while I don’t think he believes some of the things he wrote, I do wonder if others might look at things in such a way. Before I get to that however, let’s cover some basics.

There is a huge difference between victory conditions and personal goals. For something to be a victory condition, it must be acknowledged by those who participate in the competition; be it game-wide or a sub-culture. A personal goal is just that; something that you aim to accomplish that has little to no impact on anyone else.

For a simple example, let’s look at any team sporting event; everyone involved understands that whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins. You didn’t ‘win’ because you created the personal goal of never touching the ball and stood in the corner all game.

World firsts in raiding are a victory condition, because amongst top-tier raiding guilds it’s accepted that being ‘first’ is the goal. This victory condition is not diminished because there are also some casual raiding guilds that don’t aim for world firsts; the world-first crowd is a subset, but everyone in that subset knows the rules to the game.

In that subset, things like gearing up matter, so when a game sells raid-quality gear in its cash shop, for that subset the game is now P2W. That a different subset exists only to collect raid dresses to look pretty doesn’t matter to top guilds or how they view a game.

Tobold brings up LoL and buying champs/XP as a form of P2W, but there is no victory condition in LoL for reaching lvl 30 (end of tutorial) or collecting all the champs. Those can be personal goals, but winning games is the accepted victory condition (with an accompanying Victory/Defeat announcement at the end of the game). If Riot started selling ‘gold ammo’, or anything else that increased your chance to win a ranked game, LoL would be P2W. But Riot is smart, and knows very well that to the millions and millions playing, the game NOT being P2W is a massive draw.

When Wargaming.net announced WoT was no longer P2W, they did so because the accepted victory condition in that game was winning matches, and the cash-only gold ammo helped you win matches. Declaring that your personal goal is to just drive around in a tank looking at trees does not change WoT from a former P2W game; it just means you set a personal goal (that is likely to get you banned for not playing as intended and ruining the game for others) that was not effected by gold ammo. Neat, but irrelevant.

As to why Wargaming would make such an announcement? Look above; WoT is doing well, but it’s not at the level of LoL. Wargaming is also smart (and likely has plenty of data to back it up), and sees that being a P2W game hurts the bottom line more than it helps, hence the change and announcement.

There are plenty of games out that are blatant P2W (Atlantica Online is one example, along with dozens of iPhone games). One glance at what money gets you vs what the victory conditions are makes that clear. And for some, that is exactly what they are looking for. P2W is not a problem to be fixed; it’s just a different approach to gaming. For whatever reasons, some people enjoy competing in an environment where your wallet is a factor (note that even in something like AO, your wallet is not the ONLY factor, and player skill/decisions still matter).

Non-P2W subscription games in some ways are the opposite; here the factors are the amount of time you can play and your skill level. If you are something who is heavily time restricted but still wants to ‘win’, you will be annoyed by this model and find it ‘unfair’, much like someone who has time but isn’t willing or able to spend money in a P2W game will find that model ‘unfair’. And for some, playing in an unfair environment is an added challenge/bonus rather than a flaw; there are plenty of players who seek to make the most of their limited time in a sub-based game, or those who will push a P2W game as far as they can without spending a dime.

In summary, P2W exists and is just as valid a game/business model as non-P2W games. Much of the rage around the topic comes when a former non-P2W game changes its model, which IMO is very understandable, especially if you have invested a lot of time/effort into something. I do however find it silly that people will complain about P2W in a title that started out like that; you should have known what you were signing up for. The Oakland Athletics might bitch about the New York Yankees payroll, but at the end of the day the MLB rules are what they are, and both teams/owners know it. Don’t like it? Buy an NFL team and play in a league with a hard salary cap (subscription).

19 Responses to Victory conditions and personal goals

  1. Well said. His twisted approach to proclaiming LoL Pay2Win bothered me too.

  2. Jenks says:

    Any game that has items for sale isn’t worth my time. Determining if the items for sale make it “pay to win” isn’t even close to something I’d ever bother doing. In my mind, it’s like you’re walking up to a pile of dog shit and poking it with a stick, trying to determine if you want to step in it. I’ll stick to the little bit of clean sidewalk, at least while it still exists.

  3. I covered this with Tobold in an article entitled “Toys and Games“, which discusses the difference between a virtual world and the competitions you can have in it. He refused to acknowledge any such competitions (such as Server First Kill), claiming that nobody but the winners took part in them, or nobody knows exactly what the rules are, or everybody claims to have won because everybody has different personal win conditions. He still believes that. There are none so blind as those that will not see.

    On the subject of Free2Play, I note that there are other ways of monetizing those games without having to go the Pay2Win route.

  4. By the way, although I play WoT and don’t buy gold ammo with real cash (I _do_ buy it with credits earned in-game), I still consider it a Pay2Win game, because it is impossible to earn sufficient credits in-game to buy as much gold ammo as you would use in a game. If my average game only earns me enough credit to buy 2 gold shells and my opponent has 50 shells he bought from the cash store, he has bought a competitive advantage. Wargaming.net might do better to go that extra step and remove gold shells (and other such consumables) from the game (or make them only purchasable with in-game credits). I suspect most of their income is from selling garage and bunk slots. Or most of the level 10 players pay2win players, do you think?

    • SynCaine says:

      Not that familiar with WoT. Soon as I saw it had gold ammo, I pretty much wrote it off, but yea, the “no more P2W” announcement was more PR than in-game impact IMO.

      Not to mention the game still ‘punishes’ you for playing the tank you want without earning credits with gold (cash) tanks.

      • Steamponse says:

        Gold ammo for credits was a past change. They announcement they made recently is more likely referring to the complete removal of it. Of course I will see it when I believe it,

  5. bhagpuss says:

    Anyone who tries arguing with Tobold on his own blog needs to set their own win conditions, that’s for sure.

    Doesn’t” For something to be a victory condition, it must be acknowledged by those who participate in the competition” and “That a different subset exists only to collect raid dresses to look pretty doesn’t matter to top guilds or how they view a game” add up to a set of different victory conditions for different subsets, though? Each subset may believe it’s set is the only one that matters but all the others may be unimpressed.

    MMOs, be they “theme-park” or “sandbox” are really much more like parks or recreation grounds, where a whole lot of individuals and groups who really have very little in common and even less interest in each other come to engage in a whole range of activities most of which barely register on any of the others. There may be some very serious team-games going on with very clear win conditions, but at the same time there are mothers pushing the toddlers on the swings, couples making out on the grass and a brass band playing in the bandstand. All any of them really cares about the others is that they keep to their part of the park and don’t get in each other’s way.

    • Rammstein says:

      “Anyone who tries arguing with Tobold on his own blog needs to set their own win conditions, that’s for sure.”

      quoted for truth

      …”add up to a set of different victory conditions for different subsets, though? ”

      Yes, it certainly does. In this definition, a personal goal is a condition for a subset of 1 person, a victory condition is a condition for a subset that is larger than 1 person. There is no other difference; however, it’s a pretty freaking important difference for a social animal such as man. The concepts and institutions in real life defined largely by this measure of “social buy-in” include basically everything important in daily life, politics, money, behavior, etc. Different subsets use different victory conditions just like different groups of people use different currencies, religions, etc. The fact that different subsets aren’t necessarily impressed by other subsets’ institutions, while true, functions as a red herring in your comment. The currency of my country isn’t legal tender in most other countries, this is true; but what of it? The exchange rate of currency IRL is agreed upon by financial institutions, while less quantatitive factors such as social status aren’t exchangeable nor so easily measured, but if you believe they don’t exist, I have a bridge to sell you (in any countries’ legal tender you care to pay me in)

      “There may be some very serious team-games going on with very clear win conditions, but at the same time there are mothers pushing the toddlers on the swings, couples making out on the grass and a brass band playing in the bandstand.”

      All that is indeed true, yet there are still clear pay2win MMO’s, those MMO’s in which the game developers have put artificial barriers and cash aids to achieving every one of the above goals, gold ammo for the team games, gold swings for the mothers of toddlers, gold makeup and fragrances for the couples on the grass, and golden-brass band instruments for the golden band playing in the goldstand. There are other MMOs in which only some of these golden fripperies are available–so pay2win is defined by shades of gray, usually, which is why it’s a bit tough for some bloggers to understand.

  6. carson63000 says:

    Pretty good definition of victory conditions and personal goals!

    You can certainly extend “there is no victory condition in LoL for reaching lvl 30 (end of tutorial)” across most or even all games. I often hear people saying that selling XP boosters in MMOs is pay2win. But when was the last time that hitting level cap in any MMO was ever considered to be “winning”? Far, far more often we’ll say “the game begins at level cap!”, not that you’ve won the game when you reach the cap.

    • Steamponse says:

      Good point. XP boosts really only exist to appease people who are time poor and money rich, so they can “catch up” to the time rich. Though of course because of the way they are usually implemented they end up being used to greatest effect by those who are both time rich and money rich.

    • Gavin says:

      XP boosters are similar to travel conveniences. They reduce the time needed to reach level cap.

    • SynCaine says:

      For the most part, yes. In a game like Atlantica however, the grind to max level (200 now?) is brutal, so without XP boosters you are either not likely to make it (can’t help your guild fully) or have a sub-par gaming experience (repeating lots of content while others didn’t). It’s not P2W, but something closer to Pay-to-fix-the-game. Still bad IMO.

    • Matt says:

      XP boosts are the same idea though, of paying to skip a portion of the game, as buyable raid gear. If the leveling up game is fun then why would anyone pay to skip it? If it is so intolerable that people will pay to skip it then why does it exist?

  7. qyte says:

    Both LoL and WoT are not exactly MMO PERSISTENT WORLD games.
    They have very clear win conditions since they are only pvp games, you therefore cannot make examples out of them and apply those to the whole genre since as far as i am concerned there are not mmo games at all. They are a genre of their own.

    As for xp boosters my general feeling is that one cannot have a persistent world mmo alongside an item shop because the general experience must not vary from player to player, they are a part of that world and must live though the same difficulties, so having some taking shortcuts on levelling or travelling, some taking shortcuts to gearing, some taking shortcuts on whatever part of the game they struggle on, they slowly become spoiled and want to have shortcuts and conviniences on everything and undermine the initial experience the game tried to offer.

    On top of that the developers will need to please that spoiled convinience and we will have a spiral effect that will throw the game completely off.
    Furthermore i just cannot trust a game company that not only has no problem with removing any cap on money spent but they indulge it. Excuse me but having players spend 50$ or more a month is not healthy gaming (not that spending 10 hours daily is, but at least the devs in that case were not doing everything in their power to push the players towards that).

    I am not against the business model in general but there is no good/exceptional example of it regarding a virtual world mmo.

    • Ephemeron says:

      “Excuse me but having players spend 50$ or more a month is not healthy gaming…”

      Tell that to Games Workshop and Wizards of the Coast.

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