Measuring Depth in MMOs

Discussion in 'MMO Design and Virtual Worlds' started by Ripo, Apr 20, 2009.

  1. Ripo

    Ripo New Member

    I've been thinking about this topic for awhile now. I've come to two problems and I'd like to hear people's input on this. But first let me explain some things.

    For now I am only concerned about PvE content(PvP is easier to understand fortunately.) A lot of the challenges in MMO are no doubt very superficial. They are not very challenging at all, just time consuming. Either that or dependent on gear or other types of mechanical growth(which I don't factor into the equation.) Now it isn't outrageous to say most(if not all) MMOs are pretty simple as games(outside PvP at least). Still, I would like to be able to compare them to each other and other simple games(like JRPGs.)

    I am comparing the distance between good players and bad players vs the most difficult challenges in the game. This is usually the endgame raids or big named monsters.

    My two problems are:

    1) Concerning large groups of players at once: (15-40, maybe less required)

    I've seen that in a big group of players there are usually two to four players actually doing an activity that could be considered difficult. The rest could be terrible players in terms of game's depth, but they are given their one option from their leader(or co-leaders). This means bad players can excel at this game without ever learning its depth. The distance between good and bad players has been shortened hasn't it? Or are these players more like NPCs in a RTS - should they even count since they are no longer making decisions as a player?


    2) It is very common for challenges to fall to "farming" status. Chance of failure drops to almost 0. At this point the only way to compare players(or rather: group of players) to each other is how effectively they kill the target. This is usually measured by how long they take to down it. Certainly this could give room for skill to grow, but isn't it like adding a new rule to the game? Could you really say "MMO-X has lots of room for skillgrowth" when we are really playing MMO-X with a player-made rule attached?
     
  2. nifboy

    nifboy Member

    Wait, are we talking about depth or difficulty? Because the answer to both your problems are to create obscenely difficult encounters that only groups of the top 1% of players can beat only half the time (i.e. Sunwell Plateau in WoW).

    I suppose the mere existence of a "top 1%" would be a measure of "depth", but my next question is, is that something really worth pursuing?
     
  3. Trevor

    Trevor Member

    Is it proper to think in terms of difficulty rather than interest? I'd define a deep game as one I can play for a long time and continue learning new ways to play it, rather than just needing to hone a small skillset gradually, or even worse, just stay at a 'sweet spot' where I get get the most reward for the least risk... As RPGs invariably encourage.
     
  4. Ekulair

    Ekulair New Member

    Personally, depth in a MMO's PvE content is almost nonexistent. One facet of depth, to me, is an encounter that the average geared group will have the exact same difficulty with as the super geared lifeless gods of raiding, who are more used to powering through things with their superior gear.

    Things that come close to this are the original Hakkar encounter in WoW's Zul'Gurub, where you had to coordinate killing of a certain mob, getting a debuff, not curing it, and having it on at the right time. This was later changed so groups could just power through him without the debuff.

    Another facet of depth is that, in terms of PvE, the game is inherently solvable, and usually quite easily. Bosses run on timers, abilities have cooldowns and rotations, and there is always a way you can simply script out your maximum damage and just tag along autocasting. The only breaks are when something extra has to happen, like a global stun or something needs to be clicked; yet even these can be accounted for, as they are on a set timer and in a set place, and can be scripted for to have the minimal impact. Depth requires that this entire ability to solve every encounter does not exist.

    These two facets are, to me, two of the major factors of depth in a MMO's PvE content.

    To me, the two examples you gave are more increasing difficulty while sacrificing depth. When only a group of your raid actually needs to pay attention, you have dropped the depth of your encounter towards that "autocast and /afk" state. When the encounter has been solved and practiced, it has become entirely scripted out and the entire group can go to sleep while fighting with a properly constructed script. Both are examples of lesser depth in the end, even though on the surface an encounter might seem to have a lot of "stuff" going on.
     
  5. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    I would say you've got entirely the wrong understanding of what an MMO even is.

    I always like to think of them as giant animated chatrooms with their own built-in activites, and other fun stuff. Anyway, if you're going to consider difficulty, the only useful quantity to measure is 'time taken'. That is, the games are innately designed to never halt player progression... there's always something more for you to do, and if noone logged off or quit, they'd all eventually accomplish it all.

    The question then becomes, to look at who *actually* accomplished a given task, and how quickly they did it.

    All of your questions sort of have a WoW frame of mind behind them. Which is to say, being primarily an ffxi player myself, they don't make sense. In ffxi a small group of good players really was better than the "correct" size of bad players (there are a few specific counterexamples, but in general...). And, "farming" status doesn't really exist in ffxi... gear doesn't get exponentially more powerful as you earn more of it, so there was never this concept that you could kill something a few times and suddenly it was easy.

    But, I digress... FFXI made this time distinction really, really obvious to everyone. The easiest way to see it is to look at the xp system. If you die, you lose xp, and if you kill things really fast, you earn "chains", and get bonus xp. The xp itself is not actually a reward for anything... everyone gets some xp, constantly... the reward for good play was the chaining, and the punishment for poor play was you would die and need to spend an hour earning back the xp you lost. So, it's actually really, really easy to see good and bad players just by viewing their rough xp/hour rates.

    WoW does have similar traits (you lose gold instead of xp for death, but it serves the same function... make you spend time farming), but they're far less obvious to other players most of the time.
     
  6. Ripo

    Ripo New Member

    This is a ridiculous thing to say. Your explanation is even worse and I think I will ignore it for both our sakes. MMORPGs are videogames. Time taken is not how one measures depth alone. Deep games only take longer because you need more time practicing and learning them. Any other time being wasted grinding is just superficial anyway.


    I have all MMORPGs in mind, FFXI and WoW included. I've actually played much more FFXI than I have WoW. The difference exists, but doesn't matter. I can say for certain there isn't an unique frame of mind I have for one game or the other... that is something you might want to check for yourself. Seems like a terribly inconsistent way to compare games within the same genre. Or even all videogames. You might go and make the mistake of calling one of them chatrooms instead.

    FFXI does have farming status. FFXI does have the wargaming-player-nonplayer relationship I mentioned. Both problems fit perfectly when trying to measure FFXI's depth. I know this because I've tried it.

    Whether you grow with gear at the same extent as WoW doesn't really make much of a difference(much like level cap doesn't either.) You just end up beating challenges earlier without more superficial barriers. This is the case in FFXI, but not entirely so. In some instances gear does have a big enough effect to matter a great deal. A good example is the Kraken Club + Souleater + Blood Weapon combo. It turns many of the big challenges into simple walks in the park. Bigger weapons or better armors(attack speed+, damage/accuracy+) like Ridil also have a similar effects on other "zerg" tactics(which comes down to just hitting things until they die, but on cocaine.)

    So FFXI may have less superficial challenge, but does that mean it has more actual challenge? Absolute Virtue is unbeatable at the moment and Pandemonium Warden is currently the toughest challenge, but seems to come down more to resource burning. Everything else has been on farming status for years or days after they've been introduced in the case of new content.

    Now the rest of your post about xp loss/armor repairs and that junk is pretty off-topic. I think you are trying to get at is that better players can kill with less members and quickly... but asked how that effects depth in the OP. Isn't that just adding a new rule to the game?


    To the other posts: I am not really asking how to make a deeper MMORPG. That seems pretty obvious: a better battle system. My troubles are only in measuring the depth of current ones. They will all rank pretty low no doubt, but I still would like to see where they stand at least compared to each other or offline games which play similar.
     
  7. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    I disagree... heehee.

    You misunderstood me, I didn't mean time taken was a measure of depth. I meant time taken was the way to measure player skill vs. content difficulty. You said that already, but what I meant is you should start with that definition... pointing out that "chance of failure has gone to 0" once the boss is on farm seems like it can skipped over, since you can amount that to "time spent until first kill achieved", and then you don't need the seperate post-farm efficiency category... it's just all efficiency. The crazy-hard stuff like Sunwell/AV whatever seems mostly irrelevant... almost noone sees it, and both require grinding more than skill as people in this thread seem to agree on. If you want to make a judgement about the game in general, something basic seems a better solution... gaining xp is a very basic activity that everyone engages in with varying levels of success, so I merely suggested it as a good starting point.

    Once you're past that.... it's a different question whether difficulty equates will with depth, but I thought that was your hypothesis in the first place.

    And I can say for certain that the players of each game in general have different mindsets, just from chatting with people and reading forums. Your original post seemed to match with what I normally hear from WoW players more than other MMOs, but maybe that's my mistake.

    It makes a difference in playstyle. The mindset in WoW is literally that you beat a boss and actively strive to put him on farm, and then kill him every week to collect more gear. I'm not saying people don't do that in ffxi... but there was never this feeling that it was the only/correct way to play... even in your examples, it's great that you kraken Kirin to death... but you don't earn krakens *from* Kirin in the first place, so while it's a cool novelty, it doesn't impose quite that same "doing X a lot makes X easier" mentality.

    I dunno... I wasn't really trying to advicate ffxi as "better" than WoW with my previous post at all, just saying it has a different reward structure... That said, I have personally spent years of my life farming both Kirin and Illidan, and ffxi usually did strike me as harder.

    As I usually describe it... WoW keeps the player on an even keel, you tend to be guaranteed that if you put in X hours/night, you get a steady increase of xp/gold/items/whatever. There are boss drops that might occasionally break that rule for certain guilds, but in general in holds. FFXI, on the other hand, you coudl invest hours upon hours and get nothing (bad drop in a BC, deaths while xping), etc... but it made the successes seem a lot better. I can say, without a doubt, that my CoP mission static was the most fun I've ever had in a videogame. (And, in the early days CoP missions were often significantly harder than HNMs, another reason I don't like end-game as the basis of the discussion... noone was killing Ouryu with dead weight in their group back before the nerfs)

    No, that's my point... I think it's already a rule of the game. It's a fairly important one, too... it's just implicit to the way the game works, rather than explicitly stated to the player.
     
  8. Ripo

    Ripo New Member

    Some CoP battles were harder, but I would still say encounters like Pandemonium Warden sit at the top. I don't discount them entirely, but they do limit players to a smaller party(HNM with 6 vs CoP4-2 with 6, level cap or not) and they have been nerfed. Something like Omega/Ultima fight still stands to challenge players... but... we are getting a bit off-topic.

    There was a misunderstanding because only really one thing in your post sticks out as important to this discussions. Let us just drop the chaff. You say it isn't adding a rule to judge players through kill speed and party size.

    I am having trouble seeing how it isn't. There is no point system or something like that and you are only clocked in a few situations. It is only outside the game players are judged this way and never within it do you get are sort effect from this efficiency.

    Also I wonder how much of kill speed has to do with dealing damage which in FFXI comes down to gear and merits.
     
  9. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    It depends what you define as success. Many people, especially in WoW would say obtaining gear is success... you beat boss X, so you can obtain items Y, which make you powerful enough to fight boss Z. Repeat. Plus, the bosses only have a set percent chance to drop a given item, so you need to kill them many times. Plus, you're doing this simultaneously with 20 different bosses each week, or whatever, so it's worthwhile to kill them quickly (even for no better reason than to make sure you don't fail to have time to even attempt the last one...)

    So, performing well in end-game is almost by definition an effort to kill as many bosses as possible, as quickly as possible.

    Because merit points are earned by killing monsters... and the faster you kill the monsters, the more points you get. And since merits are often the best way strengthen a character at end-game, merit point speed becomes the limiting factor instead of WoW's drop chances...

    Too many nerfs to compare. I mean, obviously the original PW was harder than the original CoP battles (people actually accomplished the latter...). I haven't personally attempted the new AV or PW... but from what I've read online people seem to generally agree that they're jokes now. I wouldn't be surprised if the nerfed versions are much easier than the original CoP fights.

    SE sort of did that with everything, though... I mean, Salvage was damn near impossible when they released that, and now it's not that big a deal either.
     
  10. Ripo

    Ripo New Member

    Sounds like entirely superficial challenges here. Both gaining merits and drop rates. This is exactly what I am trying to skim off here to see how deep these games are.

    I guess it would, but doesn't the game decide that? You kill monster, you succeed.

    Also Salvage wasn't impossible ever. That is a gross overstatement.
     
  11. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    By whose definition... it's no more superficial than collecting gear in WoW. There are entire segments of the ffxi player population that skip traditional "end-game" entirely, and just collect merit points. That's because it's really, really fun, and there's a lot of complexity involved in maximizing your payoff. Heck, one of the most important skills (like, actual player skill) in ffxi is "pulling"... the act of effectively lining up monsters for your party to kill so that they never have to run too far to chain, never have the monster reach them too early and kill someone, never have something respawn on top of them, etc...

    It's not needed during early levels in ffxi, it never exists in WoW, and it's a completely non-artificial activity that clearly seperated good players and bad players.

    But, that's specifically not what the game says. The game actually says "you earn Aegis and Shadow mantle, you succeed", until then there's another goal to accomplish... MMOs certainly don't end when some particular monster dies... or they'd be out of players at this point.

    I didn't say strictly impossible... but the very first version they released was pretty damn insane. Half the classes just got to sit out because nothing but mnks were useful on the first floor. So, if you didn't have the right ls setup... game over right there. If you could actually enter, half the time you just get to give up halfway through because the wrong cells dropped. Make it past that, and you lost when all your healers got brainjacked at the same time

    I mean, I ran a Salvage LS in the early days, and we did actually kill some of the bosses... but I couldn't believe how much harder it was than any other single event in the entire game back in those days, (I mean, events like "dynamis" as a whole... of course, DL, AV, Vrtra, etc were specifically harder)... post-nerf was like night and day.
     
  12. pictish

    pictish Member

    Ripo, in the OP your two big concerns were about the roles people played in large parties, and how eventually bosses just need to be grinded forever and that doesn't really show any skill. Well, the MMO I have by far the most experience with (an embarassing 10,000~ hours) is Ragnarok Online, and in that game it is really obvious if someone is good at the game for some classes. With other classes, all you can see is if they are rich or not, like in most MMOs. To explain why, it isn't necessary to understand how the classes work, just to understand how RO's PvE is different from WoW's.

    In RO, the reason it's very obvious if someone is good or not is because it does not use the WoW format of levelling, which I am now spotting in a lot of MMOs. In WoW, my understanding is that you get quests to kill X of a local monster or get X of a local monster's drops, turn it in to get a big exp flood and repeat. Monsters lower level than you cease to give good exp. Monsters higher level than you have a huge myriad of advantages over you besides just level. Their attacks get a higher multiplier, your attacks deal less, statuses last less time and so on. Even if you could theoretically kill a monster out of your range, monster exp isn't very good so you're better just doing the quests.

    In RO, monsters are not artificially hard. They have set totals of hit/dodge needed, their attacks do a set amount of damage, your defenses have a set % reduction against any monster. So if you build really well and have good gear, you can fight things that're 'too tough' for you, and get exp faster (no quests in RO! Monsters are actually worth exp though.).

    There are a lot of nuances to this and things I've not mentioned, but the basic principle is there. In WoW, you are being told exactly what to kill, and some very artificial mechanics are stopping you from fighting anything else. In RO, you are given the tools to choose to fight anything, any time, with any party set up. What might take unskilled players a party of 5-12 people (12 being the upper limit for any RO party) may be done by a skilled 1-4 people, depending partially on stat and gear differences, but also largely on skill.

    This also lets people express another type of skill - to be able to tell what to fight. Some people will fight a super simple high exp:hp ratio monster forever. Others will come up with crazy levelling methods in very specific areas, with lots of creative ideas, and level fast that way.

    Of course, in reality, a lot of the time you just get high DPS classes taking their damage stat high (say a mage) then standing behind a maxed out tank who is tanking the toughest possible monster that mage can kill and the mage getting a hugely disproportionate amount of exp for their skill/level.

    But to me, it still beats doing a forced chain of quests forever!

    Also, on the issue of party sizes, in RO with a max of 12 people in party, and all bosses being doable with 12 people, means that there is rarely a party where people will not all have to express their skill by carrying a lot of the weight of the party. Except for clowns.

    Claytus, RE: 'MMOs' are chatrooms', the best description of RO I ever heard was that it was not a MMORPG, but a MSPCCI. That is, a Massively Single Player Cutesy Chat Interface (due to the ease of soloing for insane exp given enough money/gear with many classes, and vast majority of players sitting in town wearing novelty headgears chatting.)
     
  13. Logo

    Logo Well-Known Member

    That's not entirely fair towards WoW, in WoW you can grab quests that are 'too hard' for you and complete them with skill instead of levels. Likewise a skilled player can AoE pull for faster xp/quest completion.
     
  14. pictish

    pictish Member

    Cool, like I said I'm not 100% familiar with WoW. I'm just not a fan of this system whereby monsters higher/lower level than you gain some kind of magic shield where skills and damage are less effective. It can only be shutting down opportunities for players to prove they are skilled by killing higher level monster that're hard by virtue of simply being higher level.

    Higher level monsters can have better skills, higher damage, faster movespeed or whatever - why bother with this level based shielding? Presumably it's to prevent people getting tanked against monsters they have no business being able to kill, but I'm sure there are others ways to program around that.
     
  15. Claytus

    Claytus Well-Known Member

    In WoW they did it to avoid having to code exact stats for every monster. That is, regarding some basic things like evasion. If a monster is the same level as you, you have a 1% chance to miss... a level above you, 5% chance to miss... and it goes up from there (those numbers are probably wrong, but you get the point). What that means, is that a monster's "stats" consists of a single number... it's level (not really, damage and defense and a couple other things are unique to monster type, but they have nowhere near the amount of different numbers that a player has). It just increases performance of their servers to have to deal with less unique information.

    In FFXI they did it because certain numbers are relative. That is, xp gained per monster never changes in FFXI... if they monster is the same level as you, you earn exactly 100 xp, regardless of what your level currently is. That means that in order to create monster variety... that is, not every monster should be exactly the same power level when at the same actual level, they had to put in some stat modifiers... basically a monster just gets +10% to all it's stats for every level above the player it is (also not an accurate number), so that they could create, say, really weak lvl56 rabbits that are balanced against lvl56 players, and not let every lvl45 player go kill high level rabbits for a massive xp bonus instead of killing the manticores that they're supposed to be fighting.
     
  16. Disc-OH!

    Disc-OH! New Member

    Pict, RO has some really nice quests for exp, sure you dont have 300 quests at your disposal but its a generally less expansive game than WoW. (Just some of the servers really suck and leave them out cause they are hosted by shiney.)

    Secondly if you want to level quickly and aren't playing a SinX/Sniper/wizard you idle in a party in thors.

    Lastly WoW isnt so much based soley on quests exp as it is on being in a certain area for 5 or so levels then moving on as soon as your level allows you to jump to the next optimal spot. A good player on WoW can hit 60 in like a day or two if memory serves.
     
  17. pictish

    pictish Member

    Yeah yeah Disc-OH, I wasn't saying RO is well executed (I am aware of thors!) just that I prefer the freedom players are given in what they fight compared to the very common 'can't even touch things higher level than you' mechanic.

    I mean, I thought it went without saying that WoW is far superior to RO? I'm not saying RO is great, just the system whereby a couple of creative/skilled players can level at low levels in a high level dungeon is pretty cool when a lot of MMOs seem to run a system of dictating what you have to fight.

    Edit: Claytus, yeah, it's clearly an important mechanic in the games it's being used in. Just sayin' you can go without that mechanic and create a lot of monsters who are uniquely difficult. This lets people work out ways to fight them at whatever level, and can be pretty interesting! It'd just help if along with this freedom, an extra mechanic could be added to stop what Disc-OH is talking about, where one dungeon is sickeningly good exp and easy to farm, and everyone sits just inside the dungeon leeching from the classes that best solo there.
     
  18. polyopulis

    polyopulis New Member

    WoW cannot afford to be very deep because that will scare away lots of people. the game, for the most part, appeals to the lowest common denominator. the average player isn't very skilled. if you start introducing depth, the game gets harder. if the game gets harder, less skilled players will not be able to play it and they quit.
    there is some depth in the game but that is all in raiding and in PvP. both of which take an incredible amount of grind to get to.
     
  19. Ellestar

    Ellestar New Member

    IMHO there is no depth at all. Raid content is effectively a quest minigame with a single solution, and with the extra item grind requirments. Level/quest grind can't have any depth either.
    Well, i guess it's better to say that it has a depth of 1 - since computer plays the same way all the time and never tries to counter player's tactics, you need only one effective tactics. With that, you solve the task forever, there is no more depth.
     

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