Raid or Breed

Going to attempt to tie the previous two posts together, to hopefully reach some sort of conclusion. It might work…

The Sims Social is just as good, or even better as The Sims in short play sessions. Empires & Allies is better than Hearts of Iron III under the same conditions, short play sessions. – Tobold

The best meal I can buy comes from a certain restaurant near me. It’s somewhat pricey, but it’s always great and the menu changes weekly based on what products are available locally. The meal usually takes about two hours, a bit longer if we do extra drinks and desert.

McDonalds is near the bottom on my ‘favorite meal’ list.

If you set a meal time limit of 5 minutes, and put the condition that I have to remain in the car, McDonalds might make the top 10 (albeit still at the bottom of the list), and certainly beats the restaurant above since, well, 5 minutes and in the car makes eating there impossible.

That does not mean the actual food quality of McDonalds has improved. It’s still garbage. But put enough limiters on the options and to a starving man horrible food is still better than death.

So if you are a ‘starving’ gamer, and you only have 5 minutes to play, maybe Facebook games are exactly what do it for you.

But how many people out there are actually, really starving? Certainly not the billions McDonalds has served, right? That 5 minute, cheap meal is the easy way out. Yes, long-term it’s killing you, yes it’s not actually ‘good’, but hey, 5 minutes and cheap! And for the twits, 5 minutes is bordering on TL/DR anyway. McDonalds makes its money not from starving people without options, but from twits who are too lazy or plan life too poorly to have time for a real meal.

And just like it would be insane for me to walk into McDonalds and expect a top-quality meal, it would be equally insane for me to walk into said restaurant and expect the meal in 5 minutes and ordered from my car.

McDonald players are flooding my MMO restaurant.

The point is not to turn Farmville into EVE, but to keep EVE as EVE (or whatever MMO you want to use as an example). It’s to keep the millions who were happily playing WoW playing WoW, rather than slowly leaving because WotLK/Cata came along and turned a semi-casual game into derpville. The notion that ‘dumbing-down’ always equates to more players is, finally, being proven wrong, be it with the Wii or with WoW.

This is even crazier when you consider the core business model of an MMO, which is to hook someone in and get them to come back over and over, months on end. And as that snowball grows, the community gets tighter, more ‘player content’ is produced, and, well, 2005 WoW happens. EVE continues to happen. AC-DT continues to be the highest-populated AC1 server. Etc.

The quick cash-grab of Farmville/McDonalds is NOT the MMO model. It’s something, and it works, and it has its audience, but it’s NOT the MMO model.

You either make Farmville for the parent with 10 kids and 5 minutes, or you make an MMO that retains people for years. YOU CAN’T HAVE BOTH.

Just like you can’t be a parent with 10 kids and 5 minutes and really get into raiding. Raid or breed. YOU CAN’T HAVE BOTH.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in EVE Online, MMO design, Rant, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Raid or Breed

  1. Straw Fellow says:

    But what if you breed a raid team…?

    Insane suggestions aside, when I think of casual gaming I think of Bejeweled or Plants vs. Zombies. Not Farmville.

    Allow me to use your metaphor for a moment to show how I see it:

    The restaurant would invest in their patrons by creating a nice atmosphere, using (presumably) healthy products for a premium price. McDonald’s invests little more past the food being tasty and it being cheap (in comparison). Sure, McDonald’s may get more people in the door and may make more money that the restaurant, but it will never be in the same class as the restaurant if only because its concern for its patrons only extends to the bottom line. McDonald’s food will kill you if you eat enough of it, just as Farmville will kill yo- err…kill your interest in gaming.

    Still wouldn’t put it past Farmville to mug you at gunpoint though.

    • SynCaine says:

      Bejeweled (or Tetris originally) are good examples of quality games that don’t require raid-level time commitments (in one session anyway).

      Tough to link-spam and RMT-up Bejeweled though, hence its not in Zynga’s wheelhouse.

      Plus it’s possible to lose in Bejeweled, and others can see your score. Twits don’t like things that point out their mediocrity.

  2. Adam says:

    The other possibility is that people could quit treating their kids like they are an mmo.

    Your kids don’t level up faster if you “powerlevel” with them, constantly hovering over them and making every moment of theirs meaningful.

    Play a videogame and let your kids have some autonomy?

  3. Syl says:

    “The notion that ‘dumbing-down’ always equates to more players is, finally, being proven wrong,”

    Is it? I am not sure, although I’d love to agree. :)
    otherwise I really enjoyed this – also you picking up the fast food analogy (which I have funny enough picked up today myself). guess it explains why I avoid McD & Co. like rabies when I do the same for MMOs.

    and I second what Adam said too; it’s not strictly speaking “either – or” like that. having less time is still also about how you want to handle that less time or what you expect from it. alternatively you might be able to gain time in areas you didn’t consider.

  4. John Andrew says:

    I like your restaurant analogy, but I think people who create fine dining experiences often are people who care primarily about creating fine dining experiences and who simply hope that they can do so while simultaneously making a living.

    I doubt the big companies are ever going to stop compromising their product in favor of easy money. What we need more of are indie companies who have a vision and are willing to play it out even if they could make more money by doing otherwise.

  5. Phedre says:

    Good restaurant vs McDonalds is not the issue. McDonalds is here to stay and people like going there. Even I visit it twice a year and remember why I don’t do it more often. But normally I go to the good restaurant or I won’t eat out at all.

    The issue is that too many good restaurants are changing their way of working. They removed the wine list. Added burgers on the menu. Added a take away area near the entrance. And they started to bring the main course with the appetizers.

    New places open up in town, but they all seem to have the same crappy menu and service. I have to go out of town to find the few nice ones that are still open. But it seems less people are making the drive out.

  6. bhagpuss says:

    Good post. I don’t think the problem starts with “twits”, though.

    McDonald players aren’t flooding your MMO restaurant because they’re done with their McDonalds game and want to turn yours into one too. The owners of your 2-hour restaurant game have spotted the hugely larger numbers going into the McDonalds game across the virtual street and want some of that. So they’re changing their menu to try and tempt those McDonalds players in.

    Of course, once the McDonalds players give the two-hour restaurant game a try and find it still takes them much longer to get served and fed than in McDonalds, the ones who quite like the food but just would like to get it faster tell the manager what needs to change to get them back as regular customers, and since the owners still want the increased sales they do their best to make that happen.

    Meanwhile, the old customers who liked the two-hour restaurant the way it was, don’t much like all the loud, brash new diners that are always in such a hurry. They complain too, but there are a lot fewer of them and the owners know they won’t make as much money catering to them, so their complaints go unanswered.

    The old customers either have to learn to eat faster or find another restaurant a long way from a McDonalds, where they still do things the old, slow way.

    Have we beaten this analogy to death yet?

    • SynCaine says:

      To death? Naw, we are only halfway through.

      Phase two is when the owner discovers that no matter how hard he tries to be like McDonalds, he falls short in the eyes of those customers (or they move on to the next fad anyway), while he has already lost the original base that made him what he is today.

      The place across the street, the one that did not get lured into trying to be like McDs, is still going strong (just not billions-served strong).

    • Drew says:

      This exchange here between Bhagpuss and you, SynCaine, is a better version of the original analogy, IMO. The restaurants [MMOs] holding to their “fine dining principles” [not going for quick cash] are very few and far between at this point.

      • Anjin says:

        Drew says exactly what I wanted to. Telling people that they have bad or incorrect taste in games is futile (as well as insulting). We need to hold developers accountable for racing to the lowest common denominator in their attempt to capture the casual dollar.

  7. Serpentine Logic says:

    I play Eve precisely *because* it fits in well with a busy, kid-filled schedule.

    No, I don’t get to go on hours-long roams through hostile space, but I do get enough time to start manufacturing jobs, list ship equipment for sale, run planetary material processing and sneak in some blueprint research – all things that I kick off and let finish long after I have logged off for the night.

    And then, once a week or so, I get enough time to buy a stupidly expensive ship and get in fights until it explodes.

    Some actions in-game scale up with the time put into it; others do not, and those are the activities I am increasingly concentrating my limited time on.

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  9. Rementra says:

    “Raid or breed. YOU CAN’T HAVE BOTH.”

    Well duh, it’s obvious that raiding is intended primarily for those who can’t get laid. That particular fact of life hasn’t changed at all since EQ1 days!

    Hell, that applies to non-casual video games in general. Being able to beat Super Mario in record time or kill unnerfed Arthas is not really a trait that can impress or attract a potential partner, so whatever furtive action raiders manage to grab happens *in spite* of their gaming skills, not because of it.

    Hardcore sex or hardcore raids. YOU CAN’T HAVE BOTH.

  10. Tobold says:

    You aren’t qualified to judge Facebook games, as you played them even less than Eurogamer played Darkfall. Are you actually still playing ANYTHING online? It appears to me you aren’t even playing the games you say are good, like Everquest or Darkfall or EVE. How could anybody take seriously a games pundit who isn’t playing anything?

    • Anti-Stupidity League says:

      Yeah, that’s right. Lord of the Rings can’t be your favorite book if you haven’t read it in the last 5 years or so. You can’t like Magic: the Gathering if you’re not actively playing it right at this moment. You must absolutely hate Ultima Underworld as it’s been years since you last played it.

      Listen to Tobold – wise are his words.

  11. Ephemeron says:

    Throughout the vast majority of human history, gaming has always been a casual activity. People played games – be they physical, intellectual, or games of pure chance – when they had the spare time and desire to do so, and when the gaming session was over, that was it.

    Nobody farmed thousands of card decks in order to build a perfect poker hand, performed elaborate month-long takeovers to capture Illinois Street in Monopoly, or held chariot races where the winner was determined by the end of the year. The extended hardcore game where results are achieved over multiple game sessions is an extremely novel anomaly that did not occur until D&D and other tabletop RPGs emerged.

    Similarly, the “serious hardcore gamer” lifestyle and mentality is also a relative novelty. People always treated games as “just a game”; the sole exception to this was those for whom playing was a way to make a living – professional sportsmen, gladiators, card sharks and others for whom games were a (serious) business.

    So no, casuals aren’t invading your precious games. They’re simply reclaiming the territory that has belonged to them for the last 6000 years (minus the last few decades when the hardcore videogamer squatters moved in). And since they have the strength of numbers and the power of money on their side, their victory is pretty much inevitable.

    Your only two viable options at this point are to either join them, or to turn gaming into your second (first?) job. Better start learning Korean and polishing your micromanagement skills…

  12. Alexander says:

    You are right. I totally agree with you, Ephemeron.

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