Hitting rocks to build success

For me the simplest measure of how much you liked a game is how long you played it. I think there is certainly value in a great 10 hour experience, but IMO no matter how great that 10 hours was, a game you spend 100+ hours with is the better game. Even if you disagree on that, I think we can all agree that if you’re a dev for an MMO, you certainly want your players playing for 100+ hours instead of 10.

Right now in the group I’m playing ARK with, there are people who have 2000+ hours spent with the game, which besides being INSANE on a personal playtime level, is an amazing compliment to the longevity of the game and its ability to entertain someone long-term. ARK isn’t an MMO, but if it was, I think it would be a fairly successful one just based on how well it retains people and the amount of time you can spend with its content.

And ARK, besides being RUST+Dinos, is basically a crafting/gathering simulator. Sure, there are other things you do like PvE (kill dinos), PvP (kill players), and PvB (bashing bases), but those activities occupy a minority of your time compared to hitting rocks/trees/bushes, and making stuff from the gains of said rocks/trees/bushes. You build a base to protect your stuff and craft more stuff, and dinos enhance your gathering or ability to protect your stuff from others. In short, given the popularity of not just ARK but games like it, a TON of people love gathering/crafting, and love it enough to do it for a LONG time.

Now the critical part is the motivation behind those basic activities. Much like few if any find mining in EVE thrilling, so many do it because the ‘why’ is worthwhile, not the ‘how’. The same is true for ARK; hitting a rock isn’t thrilling, but what you can eventually make from hitting that rock is very worthwhile, so you hit that rock, and the rock next to it, and the next thousand rocks after that. It also helps that gathering in ARK can both be relaxing in its simplicity (running a low risk, familiar gathering cycle), and occasionally more of an adventure if you go far out into hostile territory with a valuable dino along with you.

What I find absolutely insane about the MMO genre is that, despite these obvious examples of player wants, few if any MMOs cater to this crowd well. Sure, EVE has its mining, and FFXIV might be the best example with its gathering/crafting roles and all of the additional gameplay options related to them, but what about everyone else? Why is gathering/crafting such a footnote and total mess in games like WoW? Why hasn’t someone made ARK, The MMO already? ARK itself is close, but clearly the design intent is to sell the product and allow players to play on various servers, which is a slight but very important difference from playing/paying for an MMO service.

The market is there, by the millions who are willing to play for a long time, and it’s crazy that not only do we not have a full-on crafting/gathering focused MMO (ATitD is the closest, but in all honesty is a pretty poor product overall when compared to the gameplay and features of RUST/ARK), but that so many current MMOs minimize this aspect of the game or outright neglect it. We keep talking about MMOs today lacking longevity, perhaps if we looked at what players DO spend a lot of time doing in other genres, we might be able to return to a time when MMOs lasted longer than a month or so of content consumption.

About SynCaine

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

9 Responses to Hitting rocks to build success

  1. Phedre says:

    Fallen Earth is for the most part about gathering and crafting. Vanguard was also for a big part about gathering and crafting. Both great games in which I gathered and crafted for many many hours. I still do so in Fallen Earth. But it didn’t pull in the big crowds. Maybe because they were/are not fully marketed as such. Or maybe because those game got bad reviews because the combat was not WOW. I don’t know. Maybe ARK has the sauce right, or maybe it works better because that is all it is?

    • SynCaine says:

      I played a decent amount of FE around the time it came out, and while crafting was an aspect, it wasn’t the focus from what I remember. FE was still a ‘do quests’ MMO, just in a wasteland that wasn’t as memorable or entertaining as Fallout.

      I think your last line gets at more of my point though; MMOs have had crafting to certain degrees, but its almost never been THE POINT that everything else (including combat and quests) is built around, which seems odd/bad when you see how many and how much people enjoy games that are ‘craft first, other stuff after’.

  2. Whorhay says:

    I think a big reason this kind of thing hasn’t really caught on in MMO terms is because the game world would very rapidly become striped down to the bare dirt and kept that way as stuff respawned. Games like this work well with the relatively tiny numbers of players that can fit on a server but once it scales up there are simply too many people collecting stuff. You can try to balance it by making the world larger but you quickly get to a point where it’s too server hardware intensive and player density becomes an issue.

    • SynCaine says:

      I think the tech issue is valid, although I think games like EVE have shown just how far this stuff has come. Plus I think you don’t need a crazy amount of people, as even 1000 on a server would feel massive if done right. I think the total structures thing could also be handled with decay systems and such.

  3. Mikrakov says:

    No, you’ve got it all wrong Syn, clearly previous MMOs have failed because they didn’t have enough voice acting and epic quests. MMO players don’t want long term goals and being able to steadily work towards things. (end sarcasm)

  4. Saate says:

    The ‘Hitting Rocks’ concept is definitely a big part of what motivates me to find and play certain games. If a game does it right it becomes almost a meditative relaxation exercise when you’ve got the right kind of rock to hit. Clash does that for me at the moment with my champ2 sniping.

    For some types of people I think it can also be a lot more about the rock hitting journey than about what you get at the end. A good example of this was all the crazy achievement-related stuff I did in vanilla WoW, prior to achievements existing in the game. Stuff like maxing unused reputations where literally all the reward you get for tens of hours of work (sometimes lots more) was that ‘the bar looked full’.

    Back then there werent visible online profiles or reputation counters or rep titles either. So the only person who got to see pseudo-achievements like that that was you unless you screenshotted and posted it somewhere. I think, for me, those ‘just because it can be done’ no-reward type of achievements were actually the ones I enjoyed the most too. Hitting rocks indeed :)

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  6. Griddlebone says:

    I really hope you keep blogging about your thoughts on ARK, just because I’m interested to see if you reach a wall of grind v action at some point. Especially since, unlike EVE, ARK is really good at making sure the horrible, soul crushing grind for endgame items requires just enough involvement that you can’t alt tab and watch it happen. Still love it and eat it up, but some things are just the worst.

    How many people are you playing with, what server ruleset are you on and is it an official or unofficial server? Only asking because the game is (profoundly) different even with very basic stat and item availability changes, and it’ll put your experience into more perspective.

    In any case, though, the EVE rule of not flying what you can’t afford to lose is really big in ARK as well. I would seriously suggest holding off on any valuable or time consuming tames until you can at least build a (fully enclosed and roofed) dino pen out of stone.

    Also, if you actually do get into it, I’d really suggest looking into different character stat allocation guides – some of them are more useful than you might think (crafting speed is 100% trash, though). One thing the ARK devs do which I really like is that they limit hard data about the game, so really do your research before trusting the “common knowledge” of the players in server chat. Most people in the game are absolute morons or don’t read patchnotes.

    Final also, the wiki is also often wrong – especially about obscure mechanics. Occasionally it’s very wrong. Ark-survival and the subreddit usually have more reliably tested info.

    • SynCaine says:

      Good stuff all around.

      Playing on an official PvP server, EU 183, though we may be moving (playing with 5-6 others right now). So far my biggest tame was a 108 anklyo (10hrs or so, didn’t use kibble), which was promptly killed two days later in a raid. Really hurt, because he was awesome at farming metal. He was in a stone pen, we had plans to upgrade it to metal but got raided before we got the chance.

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