The Daily Grind: How much MMO game info should be hidden from the players?


A blog post on The Psychology of Video Games blog a few weeks ago seems relevant to our interests: It explores the “pleasure paradox,” which basically suggests that humans crave certainty, but once we get it, we’re bored. Experiments showed that subjects “said they would prefer to be less uncertain, but the results show that their happiness would have been diminished” if they actually were. We like a good mystery!

Consequently, author Jamie Madigan argues, games should take advantage of this human quirk – say, by rewarding us based on some hidden modifier but not telling us what we did to earn it.

In a weird way, that’s something ancient MMORPGs did by accident: Information was so obfuscated that playing was as much trial and error as anything, and game mechanics were an unintentional mystery. And something like, oh, websites publishing every single mage spell combo in Asheron’s Call? It killed the magic. So does every elitist in your group spamming DPS meters in chat in the modern era.

How much MMO game info should be hidden from the players? And is the “pleasure paradox” the reason?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:

In general, I’m all for more information. What I would prefer to see hidden however, or rather not included at all, is an aggregate number based on the player’s equipment (i.e. gearscore). In every game this creates a class system (and worse, an incorrect “meta”) and players who don’t meet a certain criteria are excluded from content that they could otherwise complete even at a lower gearscore. Sure, the content will be more challenging but far from impossible. Instead, we usually end up playing consent only when we’ve far outgeared/outleveled it and it being mind numbingly easy rather then even the slightest bit challenging. I hate this. I’d rather people group together and realize on their own that they are or aren’t ready for content and accordingly adjust. Outside of content, this also creates groups of only the strongest players who, in PvP focused games, tend to crush everyone else as they only congregate in these groups.


Lack of information is just frustrating to me. Let me tell you an example. Pre-change FFXIV! You have the secondary stats there. You don’t know how effective they are. So, you have 1000 crit rating, how high percentage is that? 10%? 20%? 50%? Not only that, but you also have a damage multiplier built into it that also increases with the same stat.

As for accuracy, it’s different for basically every single encounter. It sucks. That’s a reason why I don’t even like having accuracy as a stat to begin with. It’s a dead stat after you’ve reached 100% accuracy, so either it should be impossible to reach 100%, which would just drastically increase the value of accuracy gear, or you should provide more information, or make the system more understandable.

Then there’s determination, which is basically increase damage by x% which… yeah, sounds as interesting as it is. But even then, you can’t see a percentage increase, only numbers that just look nice, and you either have to test the numbers, have someone else test them for you, or just go with your gut feeling and hope your dps or healing is good enough.

So, I mentioned pre-change FFXIV. The change was to accuracy. They either thought like me or got too many complaints and just trashed the system. Instead they now have a stat called direct hit rating which is basically to get mini-crits. It also seems to have a different scaling than crit rating, which means it can potentially be a more effective stat to get, or just a completely pointless stat that just adds more RNG.

Some people truly enjoy looking for those numbers, but for the majority, they’d rather just want to know how everything interacts so they can actually use it effectively.

Sally Bowls

I think the inaccuracy of the title reflects the problem: the question seems to be about what is not told to the players. Unless the MMO is irrelevantly small, the players are going to know the info eventually. ( With data mining, perhaps before launch.) So in a lot of cases, the question is whether the dev wants to accurately publish info in advance, or force the players to spend extra time to, perhaps inaccurately, determine the information. “Hidden” is not an option, merely how much trouble it is going to require.


Eh, forewarned is forearmed. Better to know what I’ll be getting into so I know whether or not I want to be part of it.

The only exception would apply to the game’s plot. Its not as enjoyable if I know how it ends.

Andrew Ross
Andrew Ross

“And something like, oh, websites publishing every single mage spell combo in Asheron’s Call? It killed the magic. ” – Bree getting literal there, as revealing the spells in AC affected the spell economy, a system that increased the damage of spells that were used less often. Firebolt 5 was so overused that Turbine had to create a second one to help it maintain appropriate damage for its level.

On topic, I agree that less is more. I’m a min-maxer, but I kind of hate myself for it. I’ll avoid it for fun at times, but when I know my build is 100 dps lower than it could be, it’s hard to keep having fun when I’m in a group, especially if anyone in that group also knows my build’s sub-optimal. I know, it’s just with me, but that’s how it goes.

Kickstarter Donor

I think its imperative that a developer give enough information to players so they can make informed decisions on the paths they want to take in the game. A bad example of this would be BDO. A good example of this would be something like FFXI.

Withholding some information is fine to keep the players on their toes, but when you are withholding so much information that players are literally guessing at what does what that is a sad day.

Teh Beardling

I feel all information should be hidden within the game. at least that doesnt have to do with how to play the game. knowing all the mechanics of fights and min/maxing killed alot of the “adventure” feeling of mmos. it also killed any originality with character builds. no longer can you play what you want in groups. you gotta take these talents and have these set bonuses. it sucks and is boring. having things hidden also helps foster community because you actively NEED the communities help.

Robert Basler

Originally Miranda showed every single stat in the UI. I removed most of them because I wanted to remove certainty of “what was best” so that people might try what sounded fun to them rather than the one thing that was numerically optimal. I have a tool that generates a list of every possible unit in the game, sortable by “best” for a few criteria, so I keep an eye on it. With enough people eventually all the stat info will come out anyway on websites via testing or (less likely in my case) data miners, and why ruin their fun?


“Game info” is such a wide-ranging term!

I personally prefer it when we’re given “just enough” information. So, with quests for example, I like being told where to go in the actual dialogue and I like being able to refer to that dialogue, but I don’t like markers giving me the exact information.

Likewise with the game’s mechanics. I think early LotRO got this spot on. I can see my stats and I can see a combat log, but no DPS or threat meters. It meant that combat was much more about intuition than it was raw numbers. This was further backed up by the game’s design and having 6 distinct roles, not just the trinity, so raw threat or dps was never the deciding factor, it was how you played your class as a whole.

To state it more succinctly, I like certainty in my toolbox (skills, stats etc) and uncertainty in my content. That allows me to apply what I know (my character) to an unknown problem (the content).


Hmm. Well, how about the unpleasurable paradox? Just a few months ago we found out that Bungie was throttling XP to entice players to the D2 cash shop. This was deliberate information not offered. The information only came to light when intelligent gamers checked the math after seeing their progression slow.

So, why wouldn’t we assume that Activision, EA, and others have done this in subtle more obscure ways in the past and simply kept that information to themselves?

Jamie Madigan might be right, but IMO, it is irrelevant when devs abuse their authority. So, now I don’t want any mysteries. You don’t have to hit me over the head with details in game, but you’re damn right I want to see relevant details in patch notes. If it affects game play, it needs to be accessible info. Let that be the “pleasure paradox”.