The Daily Grind: What’s the biggest thing pushing you away from MMO progression content?

    
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Opposition.

Drama between raid groups. Drama within a raid group. Time commitment. Maybe even mechanical difficulty. There are a lot of things that can push someone away from the high end of progression in an MMO, and these things are true even among the people who are actually engaged in the content. Sure, maybe Troy is raiding and Christine isn’t, but it’s not like Troy magically gets a few extra hours in the day; he just chooses to spend that time differently from her.

Hence the phrasing of today’s question. Whether or not you’re engaged in high-end progression content, there’s something pushing you away from it, and the real question is whether or not it’s enough to push you all the way away. So what is the biggest thing pushing you away from MMO progression content? And on a related note, do you think it’s a problem that could be solved, or is it just a function of how the content is structured?

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!
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Fenrir Wolf

Well, Schmidt just a bit down the page there covered most of what I’d plan to say.

I’d add on the concept of forced content; where you cannot enjoy content unless you play it in a very specific way that the designers intended. That’s contrary to my sensibilities as both someone who’s played a lot of games and even worked on designing some. Granting players options to let them play how they want to is absolutely the right way to go.

“Welcome to DungeonLand! It’s a fun time, but you can only enter with a group of 15 people! And one of them’s going to be a sociopath who’s going to do a lot of herding, manipulating, and oh so much scapegoating whenever anything goes even slightly wrooong~! It’ll be toxic and stressful to anyone who doesn’t experience orgasmic joy over being openly manipulated like a puppet! Hello, introverts1 If you’re not okay with that, bugger off! No DungeonLand for you!”

The other aspect is the folly of balance. It never happens. It never works. It never does anything to help anyone or make anything better. All it does is wiggle numbers around so some classes feel more powerful some days, and others do on other days. And developers always choose to punch down rather than powering up.

That’s what creates a lot of the difficulty.

“Hey! I see you aren’t in a guild and that’s great, we value you! You’ve worked so hard on getting all you need to really finalise that concept character that plays so well for you despite all the odds. Yes, look at you, you look chuffed! Well, tomorrow we’re taking it ALL AWAY! It’s a new initiative to increase your fun by throwing constant and relentless adversity at you. We believe this bold new move will merit us a wider audience of gamers!”

I can think of so many ways to avoid this. Instead of just juggling numbers you could give players who feel underpowered more ways to feel useful and powerful. That’d work even in PvP.

Don’t nerf David’s Cage of Existential Torment that locks a player in place and does damage over time; instead, give an attack ability another class has the ability to shatter the cage or reduce its effectiveness. Allow players to balance themselves.

There’re probably lots of ways to do it.

The thing is, though? Anyone with an iota of common sense realises that balance hasn’t ever been used to actually balance anything in an MMO since the dawn of the genre. See, whenever a balance patch hits you have to grind to get the mats you need to fix everything.

In a guild, that’s easier, but it depletes the guild’s stores. And that’s the thing. It means that those in the guild have to keep grinding to keep their stores up in case a balance patch drops. This, of course, keeps them playing and paying a subscription or tempted by those loot boxes the developer will be ruthlessly shoving in their face every single day.

Balance is just a cynical means to keep people addicted. It never actually balanced anything, it never did. It only works because they pay careful, close attention to what the community is saying so that enough people feel good about the change in order to use peer pressure to silence the rest. Manipulation at its finest.

An MMO without any of that is an MMO I could love.

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Schmidt.Capela

For me:

1: Scheduling. Real life takes absolute precedence for me. As a result, I usually can’t guarantee that I will show up for scheduled play sessions. Atop that, I usually can’t guarantee more than half an hour of contiguous gameplay time, which means any group content I take part in — including the time needed to find or assemble the group — needs to fit in that half hour; this isn’t really compatible with group progression content.

2: Difficulty. I usually enjoy exceptionally hard content, but there’s one very big caveat: I only enjoy that for solo content. Failing due to another player’s blunder, as well as causing other people to fail due to my own blunders, are both excruciatingly frustrating for me. Thus, while I dearly love single player content as hard as it can be pushed without causing the game to be a commercial failure, I prefer any group content I take part in to be easy to the point success is guaranteed.

3: Herding cats. Some people thrive in coordinating other people, getting them all to understand the strategy and be on the same page during execution; as an introvert I’m the opposite. Put me in a situation where I need to organize and coordinate people and, while I can often do a passable job, it will tire me to such an extent I will be risking burnout after a single play session.

Due to that, if the game takes content or rewards I desire and lock them behind group-oriented progression content, chances are good I will avoid the game in the first place, and even if I do start playing the game I will likely leave as soon as I hit the point where I would need to join progression-oriented groups in order to progress my character.

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terminallynerdy

People. People more and more often are expecting that brand new players who have never done a raid / dungeon / instance / fight somehow know everything and exactly how it can play out.

I am a casual player. I tend to play by myself due to my odd times, schedule, and availability. When I join LFG systems or group finder systems I DREAD what I am going to deal with. Will people yell at me for not playing their way? I was playing a DISC Priest in BFA WoW for example, joined a Heroic (and Disc Priests can both DPS and Off Heal at the same time) and got kicked from the group because I joined as DPS and wasnt shadow. We were not even having issues, no one was dying, mobs were dying, ect. So now my priest is Shadow just so I can avoid future issues, but shadow is WAY more boring (push 3 buttons and just stand there). Honestly aint played WoW since.

I am getting into Destiny 2 and am DREADING dealing with LFG there too. I got a few people I know who play who might be ok with me stumbling a bit but I hear stories now that I am looking about people being kicked, toxic players, the works.

People. People are horrible as a group. A person can be nice, but people? Yikes.

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Fenrir Wolf

I think it’s more due to how the forced nature of MMOs and the potential for advancement (where one has control over other sapient beings and feels superior to them) are together a trait that attracts sociopathic types and encourages them to live up to the nastiest aspects that their personality has to offer. The systems actually make sociopaths very successful.

If the other players didn’t require a group, the sociopaths in question wouldn’t be able to use toxic, manipulative tactics to control them. Sociopaths can only make people suffer in a game if the game forces players to interact regularly with such bad actors in order to proceed.

I think this is less of a facet of people and more to do with how MMOs are designed in general. MMOs are often designed to benefit sociopaths above all others.

The kind of person who wants to be at the top, in control, in power, where they can show off, feel superior, and wield their herd just fits in with what these MMO systems are designed for. Consider if you could go into a dungeon and it would just scale to however many people you had with you. You wouldn’t need to add others and invite the sociopathic element.

See, the problem is is that extraverted people are commonly affiliative and seem to love being manipulated, those manipulations will stress out introverted players and leave them feeling unsettled. This is what causes the toxic environment, as many affiliative personalities are simply waiting to enable someone with a commanding personality who’ll helpfully and eagerly inform them of what they should be doing and thinking.

So if you join a party and it has a sociopath and two affiliative enablers, you’re in for a bad time. Honestly, I’d rather an introvert telling the affiliatives what to do and think, we don’t like being in control but we aren’t destructive, which usually means we’re best suited for the job.

I can’t even fault the affiliatives, really. MMOs are just designed to work with these facets of human nature. I often get the vibe that MMOs are designed for and by sociopaths, with sociopaths in mind.

If you remove forced grouping, you can just meet people and group organically. If someone is toxic you can kick them out as you don’t necessarily need that person to bolster your numbers. This defangs the sociopath and removes their power, allowing the introverts and the affiliative extraverts to have a good time without a manipulative, corruptive influence present.

MMOs have always been about social engineering, and it’s social engineering to bring out the worst of humanity in order to profit. I think maybe they could perhaps stop doing that.

Even the affiliative enablers will benefit as eventually one of them will be used as the patsy, the fall guy, the dope for the sociopath’s mistakes. Then another. Then another…

And the guild leader is always in the right, right up until it’s your turn—so to speak.

Remove forced grouping and you remove all of that. People can actually be excellent to one another and enjoy one another’s company again without everything being an exceptionally toxic hierarchy.

Footnote: Oh my, I just thought of the perfect way to explain this to those who might not be aware of this facet of humanity (though they probably ought to be). Have you ever seen the Lilo & Stitch movie and TV show? Mertle and her friends. Mertle is the sociopath, her two friends are the affiliative enablers.

Yes, people are absolutely like this. And if you get Mertle and her friends in a party, you’re in for a bad time.

Edit: I’m tired. I mixed up agentic and affiliatives. I’m bad about words that start with the same letter that are used in the same context. The extraverts are affiliative in this case, and the sociopaths are agentic. Sorry I got those the wrong way around, I apologsie for any confusion that caused.

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Dug From The Earth

Nearly all progression content doesnt do one simple thing:

Respect My Time.

Because of that, I often feel like its work rather than entertainment. Often, its not even the progression content thats to blame here. Sometimes its everything leading UP to being able to DO the progression content. IE: FF14.

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Koshelkin

I can’t see myself putting the time into it nowadays honestly but as far as I am aware there are alot of good options of available ranging from casual to hardcore. FFXIV has metric tons of dungeon content and there are still smaller games delivering new stuff on a regular basis(e.g. Lotro). I do think the most important thing about this whole grouping thing is the social aspect, though. Doesn’t matter if it’s a raid, dungeon or PvP, if you do it with a group of people you like, it can be one of gaming’s best experiences.

Dantos
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Dantos

Commitment to a set time to play is my biggest problem. Anything I cant pug and have a chance to clear after a few attempts if people are on their game generally puts me off.

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Mallus

Elitists, RNG loot, waiting for tank/healer replacements when they quit a raid, unbalanced pvp (gear or teams), equipment becoming obsolete soon after you get it, story progression that requires raids (see above for tanks/healers leaving raids), crappy useless crafting gear etc.

xpsync
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xpsync

The next expansion.

smuggler-in-a-yt
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smuggler-in-a-yt

These days I have a Venn of four circles – things I want to do, things I have to do, people I want to interact with, and people I have to interact with.

It creates a number of interesting diagrams. Needless to say, the goal is always to keep “wants” and “needs” interaction to a minimum. Want me to be more interested in “progression” content? Get the wants aligned.

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IronSalamander8 .

I have no idea who actually likes raiding. I’ve done it, I’ve done it a lot over the years; I was a tank in EQ, the main tank in SWTOR, raid healer in WoW (Wrath mostly), and I’ve run LFRs in WoW on my warlock to get quests done and LFR is a different beast from ‘real’ raiding so it feels more like a large LFD and less like an actual raid since I don’t really need to learn the mechanics.

I’ve seen ludicrous levels of drama in our WoW and SWTOR guilds over raiding, seen friendships broken up over it, people shamed for not going, and other silliness. Getting 10+ people on the same page at the same time is already rough but add in the need to listen, farm mats for pots and such, and all that drama and it’s a headache you just don’t need. The mix of time investment, drama, organization, and all the other associated issues makes it a hot mess.

Raiding reminds me of when I used to smoke; “I love this!” as I cough and wheeze. It’s an attempt to justify what has become compulsive for many. One thing I will argue that modern WoW does that I like is that I can get decent enough gear from just playing the game and doing stuff.