The Daily Grind: Would we all be better off without MMO wikis and guides?

    
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A few weeks ago, there was a supremely contentious thread on the MMORPG subreddit, one so contentious that the original poster deleted the thread and his account after being hassled and tone policed in the replies. Its title asserts that “nuking all forms of wikis/guides would actually improve” our genre. “I truly do think the MMO genre has an over reliance on these,” the post explains. “I actually sometimes find it hard to enjoy MMOs now because many of them are built with the knowledge in mind that players will know everything and everything will be found.”

“I really never-ever like using wikis or anything unless I absolutely have to. I feel like it ruins my experience and my journey. But it feels like more and more games are just embracing that, just accepting it as a fact. […] This seems to infect basically every game I have. All of these games advertise that you can build your character how you want, play how you want! But you really can’t, if you aren’t playing the most optimal builds of the latest patch you can go **** yourself. There is a vast world for exploration and discovery! But all games just tell you everything about the world anyways. The games advertise player-driven economies and an elaborate marketplace! Except that everybody knows the few best money-making methods. […] I know its not something feasible or something that could ever be done, but I feel like all of this min-max and “race to the end game” attitudes I’ve seen have sort of ruined the MMO genre. I can’t ever ‘experience’ a game. I can only ‘optimize’ it.”

I wish the OP hadn’t felt he had to delete it because his rationales are completely fair and the replies equating his argument to burning history books are dumb. This guy is right: Part of the joy of old MMORPGs was not knowing what the heck you were doing, and more importantly, being immersed in a world where most other people also didn’t know what the heck they were doing. And though even in the earliest MMOs like Ultima Online and EverQuest there were online databases and printable maps, it still felt really different from 2020, when a lot of people just won’t even do content at all without guides or optimized gearscores, as if they’re paralyzed, trained to not just play for playing’s sake.

I think there are really good examples on both ends of the “knowing too much is bad, actually” spectrum. I’m not a big fan of combat parsers, for example, despite having used them for years. Outside of a few specialized elite endgame and PvP cases, most of the time those parsers provide unnecessary and easily misused information to people who will without fail use their half-understanding of that information to be jerks to other people in content that really doesn’t require elitism. On the flip side, there’s something like a global auction hall and global pricing information, which as I just argued on Napyet’s podcast actually equalizes the playing field for newbies in a game economy and is therefore a net positive.

The downside here is that just recognizing that too much information can rob you of joy doesn’t actually solve the problem. We can’t actually delete all the wikis, and I don’t think he was proposing anyone try. He was simply lamenting that they’ve changed gaming, and not for the better.

Where do you stand – would we all be better off without MMO wikis and guides?

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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grendalor
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grendalor

It’s not susceptible to being changed, because it isn’t something that arises from, or is limited to, gaming.

The rise of the information era has greatly devalued “expertise of knowledge”, because knowledge is readily available to everyone who has some internet search facility. As a result of the availability of knowledge, the on-boarding of relevant knowledge is considered a baseline pre-requisite for *starting* any activity — that is, the process is now front-loaded in acquiring knowledge through the internet (wikis, guides, videos) prior to attempting to do the activity. Acquiring knowledge through doing is still present, but is mostly limited to the kind of intuitive knowledge that can only be readily obtained by means of doing an activity and can’t be learned through reading or observation. Essentially anything that can be learned through reading and explanation is done prior to attempting the activity.

This is taking place across the board, it isn’t limited to gaming. It’s also the case with cooking, any kind of craft, any kind of athletic ability or workout — essentially any kind of activity in which knowledge of the thing plays any significant role. That knowledge is now expected to be acquired prior to the doing of the thing, precisely because it is available in a way that it never previously was.

What this means is that the actual *doing* of an activity has become about the execution of it — and perfecting that execution. It isn’t about learning the how-to-do, but perfecting the doing through practice and repetition. It isn’t so much about discovery, per se, as it is about honing execution. Granted, that does involve *some* discovery of more efficient/effective means of execution that one learns through prolonged repetition, and it does also involve the learning of some intuitive things about an activity that can only be learned by repetitive doing, but for the most part it is about honing the efficiency and effectiveness of the execution, and not about learning what the heck you are doing to begin with.

Because this is a broader change in the society as a whole that has come about as a part of the rise of the information age, its impact on gaming is unavoidable and inevitable. In fact, in my observation the only people who even notice such a thing as being an issue are people who are older and experienced the world prior to the rise of the information age or the much smaller number of younger people who nevertheless have experienced games that were designed in ways that people found acceptable prior to the rise of ubiquitous comprehensive information availability.

This is one of those things that has more or less permanently changed in life. There really isn’t any way around it, because it isn’t specifically a gaming issue — it impacts all activities in life.

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Robert Mann

Only if those developing the games could manage to make things descriptive enough to allow players to complete at the least most of the content without jumping through hoops and spamming global chat… but it still wouldn’t go away.

I think a more realistic approach is the removal of in game map markings and such. Descriptions, varied maps that you can select from, and other forms of noting that X is at Y all work wonderfully, and have been around for decades. The online stuff can be a good backup for when you just can’t figure something out as it is written (happens a fair bit) but the direct guidance is nothing more or less than mindless.

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Neurotic

I agree that it’s a bit much. I think part of the problem is that wikis and so on are seen as early stage marketing tools — a hot front page listing ‘all’ of your game’s features and classes in the guise of a guide to those things is now essential. The next problem is that if the game doesn’t do that well, the wiki ends up remaining undercooked and poorly maintained, taking up space and wasting everyone’s time.

Vaeris
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Vaeris

Started with Ultima Online. We did fine without the information overload back then. If it went away now I’d be fine. Wouldn’t bother me a bit. Failure doesn’t paralyze me nor do I consider it a waste of time. Some of my best gaming experiences were learning dungeons in Asheron’s Call.

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R'nageo

I’d be happy if there was a general consensus of withholding the guide for a week or two after patch release. That way those of us that enjoy trying to figure things out on our own (and don’t enjoy playing on PTRs) could, while the guide would be available soon enough for everyone to use. I don’t mind a good guide out there, I just hate having to spoil everything for myself on the PTR if I want to try and figure things on my own before they are everywhere and you are expected to know things.

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Bruno Brito

No. Information is merely a consequence of tech-minded individuals. Not everyone play the same, and a lot of people find fun to break down a game to theorycraft.

It also depends on the people playing. I’m pretty casual, but i like to be efficient. So, i actually like information to be disclosed.

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Schmidt.Capela

I very much prefer to have good guides because I don’t merely play a game I enjoy; I reverse-engineer its mechanics, narrative, etc. Good guides shorten a lot the time I would need to spend experimenting with the game in order to be as knowledgeable about it as I want.

BTW, if you want to organically figure out how to beat a piece of multiplayer content I’m certainly not the kind of player you want in your group. I consider it common courtesy to know every last bit of information needed to ensure a successful, hassle-free trek through any group content I play, and even tend to have the strategies ready for copying and pasting in easily digested chunks.

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EmberStar

Yes, that would make you one of the kinds of players that are the reason why I tend to play solo, or in offline singleplayer when possible. If I have time to play Ark, I want to spend the time playing Ark. Smash some rocks, build a dino pen. I don’t want to have to spend five hours every session doing *homework* before someone I’ve never met in real life judges me worthy to punch a dodo.

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Schmidt.Capela

What you consider “homework” I consider part of the fun. Figuring out how the game works, how everything comes together, for me is just as fun as playing the game even when I’m using outside resources to do so instead of actually playing the game.

I don’t hold others to the same standard as I hold myself to, BTW. I tend to be fairly tolerant as long as the other players aren’t being obtuse on purpose or otherwise intentionally wasting my time

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Brazen Bondar

The answer to this question is dependent on what preferred game style the player has. When I am new in a game I prefer to try quests and progressing out on my own, without reference to a wiki. But I have a hard and fast rule…if I’ve failed a mission six consecutive time without any forward progress then –> wiki! I do that because, I’m in the game to have fun. Period. And my time is short. If it gets to the point where something is blocking my ability to have fun, then I’m going to eliminate the obstacle however I can. This is particularly true with obscure puzzles. Also, in fights, sometimes I cannot see the circles on the ground or warnings that I’m about to experience insta-death. But looking at the wiki or a how to video, I can find things I actually didn’t see when I was in-game.

If wikis bother a person…then they shouldn’t read them. But leave them alone for those of us who use them, even if it’s only occasionally.

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Greaterdivinity

*Looks at PoE*

*Looks at the hundreds/thousands of wiki pages needed to actually understand the mechanics that aren’t explained in any clear way in-game*

*Glances at Warframe*

…nope. Not until developer design their games so that they can be understood without an Encyclopedia Britannica’s worth of Wiki pages to do the job for them.

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EmberStar

Chicken, or egg? Is having a wiki a result of a game being poorly explained, or does having a wiki give devs license to *make* it poorly explained? I wonder sometimes. If Warframe’s devs couldn’t rely on the wiki to explain all their strange, forgotten, half finished and non-intuitive design… would they make it better? Add actual in-game tutorials? Flesh out the codex and lore? Or would it be the same confusing mess it is now, but without any explanation anywhere?

I know that for Warframe specifically, there are people on their forums that argue viciously *against* any attempt to add better tutorials, streamline mechanics, or anything else. “Just go read the wiki. The devs shouldn’t be doing that stuff, because wiki. They should be making what *I* want, which is hardcore endgame content so elite that only I can finish it!” (The last part isn’t *actually* a quote, but it’s openly implied in a lot of those posts.)

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Greaterdivinity

Egg. Wiki’s exist to fill gaps in knowledge that are not provided in-game. These arcane, obtuse, inaccessible bits of information were there to begin with, the wiki’s just allowed for that information to become more accessible.

I’ll say that their continued existence likely contributes to companies leaning on it like a crutch, but they usually pop into existence to fill holes that the game doesn’t provide.

And I know those types well. I see them in PoE specifically (What? Stats should be more straightforward? No, go look up the unique item wiki, navigate to the 4 specific sub-wiki pages that explain each of the mechanics, navigate to the half-dozen specific links within those pages to understand those, and then there’s an unrelated skill tree node you need to check as well without any indication. THAT IS EASY, SCRUB.) but that mentality hardly seems depressingly common.

The gatekeeping that fandoms engage in never makes a lick of sense to me.

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Schmidt.Capela

Wiki’s exist to fill gaps in knowledge that are not provided in-game.

Nope. Wikis exist due to a combination of some people having a drive to find and catalog every bit of information available about subjects they enjoy, and sharing that information nowadays being easy and cheap/free.

It’s why wikis usually include information that is useless from a gameplay perspective (e.g., lore), and why they exist even for games (and other kinds of media) where the extra knowledge brings no advantage.

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Greaterdivinity

Filling in gaping lore holes is still filling a gap in knowledge not provided in-game. It doesn’t have to be advantageous.

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Schmidt.Capela

The thing is, you don’t need any knowledge gaps to exist in order for wikis to appear. You just need enough people who like organizing and sharing the information among the audience.

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Bryan Correll

MMO makers have always had the habit of not giving sufficient information through official sources (unless you wanted to buy what the ancients referred to as a “Strategy Guide,”) and proto-wikis arose to meet these needs. Have things gone too far? Probably. The “one right way” of doing anything is an annoying problem with a lot of communities. But it’s really a moot discussion since the djinn ain’t going back in the bottle.