bartle

Dr. Richard Bartle is a respected academic and author on the subject of virtual worlds. The Bartle test is named for him. See: Bartle on Wikipedia

Tamriel Infinium: Elder Scrolls Online’s mid-term report card

At the beginning of every year, I give the games that I am embedded in a letter grade centered around the four different player types featured in Dr. Richard Bartle‘s taxonomy. And at in the middle of the year, I like to see where things are so far.

Of course, I know that the paper that the taxonomy is based on is over 20 years old now, and the theories don’t apply 100% to MMORPGs. But I believe that there is enough of a connection between what people want from an MMORPG and the player types from Bartle’s paper that we can draw a connection.

The four different player types are Socializer, Achiever, Explorer, and Killer. For grades, I take a look at Elder Scrolls Online and ask, for instance, “What would an Achiever think of what ESO has done this year?” And then just as important, I ask, “What could be done to improve the game for the Achiever?” Of course, it really just boils down to my opinion, but I’d like to think I’ve been pretty good about putting myself in other people’s shoes in the past and looking at games from their perspectives.

Read more

The Daily Grind: What one thing should MMORPGs do to increase player retention?

Zubon at Kill Ten Rats recently spied a lovely tidbit over on Dr Richard Bartle’s blog. Bartle, I shouldn’t need to type, is considered one of the founding fathers of the MMORPG genre, having inspired through his research the infamous Bartle test. So it should be no surprise at all that he sees online worlds in everything: As his piece explains, he examined a document intended for advising universities on how to improve their student retention rates — and Bartle realized it read like an “MMO newbie-retention handbook.”

“A place where people can hang out between teaching events and make friends? Check. Organised groups led by experienced students that you can join? Check. A communication channel for students just like you? Check. A method of finding other people who are interested in the same things you are? Check. Fun tasks for people with different skills working together ? Check. Easy challenges with small rewards to get you into the swing of things? Check.”

It’s worth a quick read, especially for the cake joke, but I want to focus your attention on retention and stickiness specifically for the purposes of today’s Daily Grind. Do you agree that developers should be spending more time on retention? And what one thing should MMORPGs do to increase player retention?
Read more

The Daily Grind: Should MMORPGs levels be used for gating content?

Massively OP reader Sally Bowls recently pointed us to a blog post by Dr Richard Bartle about the leveling mechanic in RPGs — and how it’s not really about the character at all. Bartle writes,

“In role-playing games, levels are not only a mechanic for driving forward gameplay. They are a reflection in the game world of something the game world has no access to: the player’s self-image. When people play a content-heavy game, they improve at it; the point of levels is to recognise this in the game world. It’s not that your character is improving, it’s that you are improving; the character is merely going up a level to acknowledge that you, the player, are more experienced. If a designer understands this, then when a character goes up a level there doesn’t have to be much of a gameplay-relevant reward at all. […T]here’s no need to add new spells or access to new weapons or more health or anything else like that.”

Modern RPG developers, he argues, have forgotten all that, insisting on attaching tangible value to levels, from skills and gear to content locks, making the character more important than the player, thereby skewing world design. Don’t think it matters? It does: “If today’s RPGs flattened out their level curves more, we could have the open worlds we want without having either to gatekeep areas off using narrative or to level-up the game to fit the characters,” he argues.

What do you think? Should MMORPGs and RPGs gate content, skills, and wearables behind character levels, or should levels be merely a numerical representation of a player’s time and effort?

Read more

‘Father of MMORPGs’ Richard Bartle is publishing new books on the genre

“Father of MMORPGs” Dr. Richard Bartle, author of the pioneering research that spawned the Bartle test, is publishing two new books about our imperiled genre.

MMOs from the Inside Out: The History, Design, Fun, and Art of Massively-multiplayer Online Role-playing Games, the longer of the pair, will focus on MMORPG design.

“[It] speaks to the designers and players of MMOs, taking it as axiomatic that such games are inspirational and boundless forces for good. The aim of this book is to enthuse an up-coming generation of designers, to inspire and educate players and designers-to-be, and to reinvigorate those already working in the field who might be wondering if it’s still all worthwhile.”

MMOs from the Outside In: The Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games of Psychology, Law, Government, and Real Life will examine MMO research and educate readers on “how the world can change MMOs,” both for good and bad.

Read more

Tamriel Infinium: Elder Scrolls Online’s 2015 report card

I’ve never had a chance to do an annual “report card” like this for Elder Scrolls Online because I left the game by the time that the year-end report card came around last year. I’m glad to be an ESO player again for this 2015 edition, in which I will focus mostly on the additions to the game made this year. When appropriate, I might call on features from the game that have been in since the beginning, particularly when it comes to general concepts like exploration and PvP.

I like to grade MMORPGs based on the Bartle taxonomy designed by Dr. Richard Bartle to show the motivations of online gamers. Basically, the idea is that if designers keep the principles of the taxonomy in mind as they create a game, it will be well-rounded and attract and keep the maximum number of players. Using the taxonomy also divides the MMO playerbase into four simple but appropriate categories without giving any one group or subgroup undue levels of influence in a game.

Bartles’ categories are Socializer, Explorer, Killer, and Achiever. If you’d like to know where you stand, the original test on GamerDNA no longer exists, but you can find another version at 4You2Learn (our writers took it earlier this year!). I’ll explain each of the divisions as I award the grade.

Read more

Exploring ‘The Video Game Debate’: Moral panic and online griefing

Welcome back to our ongoing exploration of Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt’s book The Video Game Debate. As you can guess, the book itself focuses on games in general, not just MMOs and online games, so I was able to apply today’s chapter on moral panic to recent trending indie RPG Undertale. I’ve argued to educators that not only is there evidence that games can positively affect morals, but that part of Undertale’s charm is that we know we can do bad things yet are emotionally rewarded for acting in a peaceful manner. In fact, the game actively discourages you from committing violence by constantly trying to include you with its cast of characters.

Then someone on Reddit stepped into a conversation and asked, “What about all the griefing in sandbox games”? It’s a great question, and one addressed in this chapter.

Read more

Massively Overthinking: Let’s take the classic Bartle test

Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Online worlds researcher Dr. Richard Bartle didn’t actually write the Bartle test.

His original research explored, analyzed, and defined the four player archetypes — killer, socializer, achiever, and explorer — but the test based on that paper was created a few years later by Erwin Andreasen and Brandon Downey and named in his honor.

We’ve been talking a lot about Bartle’s ideas’ relevance to modern MMOs in the last month or two, so I thought it would be fun to ask the Massively OP staff and readers to take the test, share their results, and talk about what it all means in this week’s Massively Overthinking.

There are, of course, some caveats.

Read more

How Jedi ruined Star Wars Galaxies

Hope you’re not tired of hearing about Star Wars Galaxies because Raph “Holocron” Koster’s got SWG on the brain this week, and he’s answering reader questions at length. Earlier this week, he addressed the game’s PvP system, and in last night’s edition, he explains how the Jedi came to be jammed into SWG — and how they pretty much ruined everything.

Koster identifies the core problems with Jedi characters: “Everyone wants to be a Jedi. Jedi are rare during the original trilogy. Jedi are super powerful.” Maybe “everyone” is a stretch; that character in the pic above is my husband’s Jedi, not mine, since I never bothered to roll one. But there’s no question they inspire envy in everyone around them, and in the Rebellion Era setting, they should have been ultra-rare to boot. The early SWG team, Koster recalls, debated making Jedi NPCs-only, reducing their power, or picking a different time period to begin with. Each solution was rejected, and so Koster dreamed up the idea of a Diablo-inspired hardcore permadeath mode for Jedi, which was also rejected initially because ha-ha permadeath, right?

Read more