The Fun Quotient

Tobold’s post quite nicely explained why our little group is looking outside of WoW for group fun.  Frankly, there is nothing in the world that is particularly fun for a group to do.  Even if the mobs weren’t trivial, XP is diluted in a group (versus bolstered in other games) and if you want to enjoy the actual quest content, you can’t increase your level of challenge by playing in red zones since you can’t get the quests!

Several of the commenters somewhat snarkily chided that somehow that viewpoint is tainted if one of your reasons for saying WoW no longer lets people play together is “lower efficiency.”  What is lost in the discussion is what efficiency really means.

On its face, most people assume that “efficiency” means simply the shortest path (time-wise) to the level cap.  Personally, I think that’s too narrow.  In my mind, that’s only looking at one narrow aspect of the entire picture.

A better measure is the amount of reward you receive from participating in group activity– whether that is gold, xp, loot or unquantifiable fun– in a given play session.  The unstated denominator in all of these things is time.  The fun quotient.

When you add time or proportionately reduce your numerator, the fun quotient decreases and the overall entertainment experience is diminished.  Its in that sense that it becomes “inefficient.”  Its suboptimal entertainment measured against the potential you know is there.  Its worse in a game where alt-itis is rampant since its likely that you may have experienced the content more than one time on different characters.

Its gets more complicated when you start adding in the impact of “group generated” rewards– the fun stuff that people bring to the mix extrinsic to the game itself– conversation, jokes, humorous mistakes and yes, the sense of a shared experience that is unique to that group. Even if its a well known encounter or challenge, your group attempt(s), successful or otherwise, are still unique.  These group benefits (and detriments) can add to and substract from the numerator in the fun quotient.

How we perceive the value of rewards is measured against what we had to invest to get them– time, mostly.  Even the other things we “invest” in them are still just proxies for time (even consumable items from a cash shop, the cash is still a proxy for RL time).  In our MMOs the progression element (whether level, gear or otherwise) is almost universally the main reason we play.

We ding therefore we are.  Anything that slows down the ding (in the broadest sense) without adding something else to the mix (recognizing that is entirely subjective) frankly makes the process less fun than it could be alone and hence less efficient from a “fun” perspective.  A lower fun quotient than soloing.

WoW grouping for open world content suffers from all of these ills.  XP is diluted, so time to ding is extended.  The challenge of fights is completely trivialized since there really is no open world group content.  Collection quests in a group multiply the time it takes to complete them.  Finally, mobs may be killed so quickly that a group experiences increased downtime waiting for them to respawn and all of these aspects feedback on themselves as well further exacerbating the problem.

At some point, the additional time to gain meaningful progression or the diminution of the challenge in gameplay simply becomes much less fun per session in a group.  Lower efficiency in the broadest sense, means less fun.  Azeroth in a group just isn’t that much any more.

At this point in WoW’s evolution, I often wonder why it isn’t a local client or individually instanced world with a global chat server and matchmaking lobby much more like Guildwars or DDO.

4 thoughts on “The Fun Quotient”

  1. What you say is probably broadly true, but there are people (who I have met in-game in EQ2, for example) who will switch off every kind of xp they are permitted to switch off so that their characters do not progress at all.

    I’m not entirely sure what those people get out of playing, but I’m convinced that at least some people don’t factor “progression” into their assessment of whether they are having fun at all.

    I also contend that a not insignificant number of people will do almost any given thing even though they actively dislike doing it, and that MMOs have a disproportionately high number of such people. For some people, *not* having fun seems to be weirdly satisfying.

    I’d hate to analyse my own reasons for having spent the majority of my waking, non-working hours over the last decade playing MMOs. Suffice it to say that “having fun” has never figured very largely as a motivator in any aspect of my life since I was a small child.

    I purely do like to see my character progress, though. That works for me every time.

    1. Well, in the abstract, “progression” and “fun” can be construed very broadly.

      Indeed, the ability to turn of XP was a major consideration for our group since we have wildly different play budgets. Some can reliably found online most nights while others can barely manage a few hours on the weekend.

      “Progression” and “fun” in that context is measured by collective group progress. If some one gets too far ahead or too undergeared then it prevents or inhibits at-level group play. So for us, being able to consciously moderate on in favor of the other raises the overall fun factor and reinforces group progression.

      Consider the different approach to crafting between WoW and EQ2 now. Gathering in WoW force feeds you XP now. Turning off XP is inconvenient and actually costs you gold (albeit an increasingly trivial amount) to turn off.

      In EQ2, harvesting and crafting are separate games. A time-limited player is unlikely to pursue them while a time-rich player can indulge and not leave his colleagues behind.

      As to enjoying not having fun… Many MMO players do seem to be masochists from one perspective. But for every MMO masochist out there, I’ll show you an explorer/achiever simply trying to get to places and do things few others have sought too. That’s a rare (and perhaps alien) form of fun and progression but fun and progression in a sense nonetheless.

  2. I suspect that Potshot and I, who tend to play the most, will make the most of having gone to Gold level accounts by moving the experience to 100% AA experience during the week.

    We won’t creep ahead in levels and will be mighty in our AA talents.

    That will satisfy both the need for progress and the need to keep the group together.

  3. “At this point in WoW’s evolution, I often wonder why it isn’t a local client or individually instanced world with a global chat server and matchmaking lobby much more like Guildwars or DDO. ”

    This was exactly my feelings after many of the changes that happened during WotLK. But then, WoW has always had a problem in making non-raid/dungeon/PvP grouping in any way appealing or useful for most people. That has always been the cause of people not knowing their class roles in groups, etc. I never really understood why Blizzard never ‘got’ what was wrong and just kept making it worse until we’re at the point of today, where the world is just a lobby you dink around by yourself in while you wait for the Auto-LFG teleport.

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