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I v C Follow Up – Responses and Thoughts

August 23, 2012

Dear Reader,

I’m very happy how the shared topic that I and several other bloggers took up has taken off a bit and begun to spread.  I’m planning a round-up later in the week of everyone I can find on topic, but please point them out to me here or via email if you think you’ve found one I might have missed (which is to say, not in my blogroll and does not link to me, which is how I can track back to see who’s joined in).

I’ve gotten a lot of corrective comments, and I wanted to take to the time to address those.  Some of them I agree with, some I disagree with, and some I simply can’t comment on from a lack of knowledge.

First, several people have suggested to me that EVE is in fact a collectivist game, not an individualistic one.  That may well be true.  I only know of EVE from Gevlon’s blog and a handful of posts by Rohan, so it may be that my source material is biased towards making it seem individualistic.  I really should have considered my source before I opened up with that, or, even better, should have just left EVE alone since I’ve never actually played it.  Thanks to everyone who pointed that out to me.

Secondly, I’m getting some flak, particularly on Reddit, about D3 not even being an MMO and not being designed with collectivism in mind regardless.  I disagree on both points.  First, simply breaking MMORPG down clearly indicates that it is an MMO.  It’s nonstandard, but so is Vindictus, another MMO about which I don’t think anyone would argue with the label.  By definition, an MMORPG must be massive, multiplayer, and online, and you must play the role of a character.  D3 clearly does all those things; that, alone, should define it as an MMO.  If we look at the “four pillars,” again, it fits.  There is character progression, exploration, combat, and story.  I’m not sure why people resist thinking that it’s an MMO, but that’s how and why I define it as such.  If you take issue, please let me know why, and I’d be happy to discuss it.  Don’t bury your comments on another site I only checked on a whim since I saw a lot of incoming links from it; come here and let’s have a conversation!  I’m always open to discussion.

As for whether’s it’s collectivist or individualistic, my impressions of the game up to level 60 – at which point I thankfully stopped – were heavily collectivist.  It downplayed competition amongst the group by giving individual loot.  It made grouping very easy, and the difficulty level increased a reasonable amount (by the time I got to later portions of the game, which was after a patch to correct earlier issues).  I found it MUCH easier to play in my group that to play solo.  Additionally, certain abilities and runes were group-based, making helping one another easier.  One comment suggested that grouping was more like “playing solo together.”  I can’t disagree more; if you attempted to “play solo” while in a party, either by moving away from your party or playing carelessly with the group, you were killed quickly.  It may be that this commentator played to the end very quickly and was ahead of the patches that helped remedy some of the problems, but that actually verifies my point.  The game has a collectivist design partly because the changes that were made were to increase collectivism, rewarding grouping rather than making mobs have too much hp or hit too hard.  At any rate, that’s why I feel the way I feel.  I always encourage comments, though, so I look forward to hearing some responses on that.

Guild Wars 2 has been brought up a lot, too.  I haven’t played it in any form, though, and since I hopped into TSW, my buddy and I decided to wait on it.  For that reason, I didn’t think it a good idea to discuss it, since I know next to nothing about it.  Syl, though, has an excellent post discussing GW2 that I recommend to everyone (as I do all the other posts).  See below for more.

Three very interesting points commentators made were about transient groups vs. permanent groups, eastern vs. western games, and about the developer’s attempts to build community.  Imakulata brought up that many of the features of WoW that I label as “individualistic” are also to improve transient grouping, whereas the smaller late-game play styles I call collectivist are also more permanent.  I think that’s an excellent point.  Additionally, Ophelie pointed out my Western-centric choice of games and wondered whether the same is true for Eastern games.  Lastly, ausj3w3l (I need a pronunciation key, I think) brought up the difference between the dev’s attempts to make a strong community and the players’ responses to those attempts.  Lord knows the WoW community is what is due to the players, but the devs chipped in a bit, too.  More and more, game communities are being developed before the games are even out; consider the Secret World’s Alternate Reality Game to get players interested before the game itself dropped.  I think all three are excellent dimensions through which to explore this topic, but I know too little about them to do it myself.  I highly encourage anyone who knows more about those to explore them and let me know!  It would be a great addition to the conversation we’re having.

I’ll do a more detailed round up later in the week, but right now, here’s who I know has posted on Individualism and Collectivism.  It’s just a list now, but for the round up I’ll make it more like an annotated bibliography.  Please let me know if I’ve missed someone, and they’ll be added to the final round up.

Apple Cider Mage

Tobold

Klepscovic

Shintar

Rohan

Syl

Rimecat

Clockwork

I hope you enjoy!

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and malleable or argumentative from moment to moment)

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. August 23, 2012 8:36 am

    I’m behind on my reading this week, so only catching up slowly – but so far I’ve read some truly fantastic points of view on this matter, so thanks for bringing up such an interesting and complex topic! it sounds odd maybe, but I love how many bloggers took differently to this subject. well-delivered contrary views are food for much thought and interesting conclusions. cheers!

  2. August 23, 2012 8:48 am

    Gevlon is the least collectivist person on the face of the Earth, definitely a biased source, hahhaa.

  3. August 23, 2012 8:50 pm

    D3 is not an MMO, not even by your own criteria here. It’s not a persistent world and it’s certainly not massively anyway. Maybe we should all define the terms before setting out to disagree, heh. But I think traditionally an MMO isn’t merely a multiplayer game with alot of people. It’s the shared world, which includes shared resources, economies, and impacting the gameplay of others indirectly. For example, the gates of AQ back in the day is something unique to MMOs; also the first player to get a flying dragon mount indirectly spurs a race amongst others for the same goods, simultaneously. This will never happen in D3 is exactly like D1 and D2 in that regard, except that all characters are online only (not client side) and games can be easily opened to public without exiting. Do you consider D1 and D2 as MMOs?

    • August 23, 2012 11:17 pm

      First off, note my comment to Azuriel.
      Secondly, no. I wouldn’t. MMOs weren’t clearly defined at the time of D1 and D2, nor do I think they hit a critical mass like WoW has. Computer gaming was more niche back then.
      From your own definition, though, the existence of the AH on D3 makes a case for shared resources and economy as much as WoW does; there’s not a finite amount of anything, so “sharing” in and of itself begins to lose meaning, since anyone can have some of whatever it is. I think the impact, too, exists, in a more limited form – Cow Levels (or whatever it is in this game), first to 60s, first to Paragon 100s, achievements (which are definitely an economy of their own) – all those things affect other players.

      The AQ event, even, COULD be implemented. Since all the information is server side, as you point out, limited resources could be designed. I’m not saying its likely, of course, just making a point. AQ was how long after WoW’s release? Let’s wait the same amount of time for D3 then revisit.

      I look forward to your take on the matter, regardless! Thanks for the comment!

  4. August 23, 2012 9:08 pm

    Diablo does not, in fact, meet the “Massive” criteria, which is commonly defined as having a persistent world. There is no persistent world in Diablo 3 in which you can encounter other players; conversely, Vindictus does have at least a persistent lobby-esque world, even if all of the other action is instanced. More to the point, if one accepts Diablo 3 as an MMORPG then would Orcs Must Die! 2 not also be an MMO? Borderlands? All MOBA games? Team Fortress 2?

    And, perhaps more simply, Diablo 3 does not call itself an MMO.

    I may or may not write a post of my own addressing this, but just because a game like D3 may minimize competition between members, does not mean it is collectivist. I take that word/philosophy to mean you sacrifice personal gain for group gain, i.e. the Collective. If there is no enduring, cohesive group, then other players are simply tools to increase your own farming efficiency.

    • August 23, 2012 11:12 pm

      The persistence of the world being what defines “massively” makes little sense to me, though I don’t have a problem with adding that as a criteria of an MMO. Massively is about player base, about critical mass, which failing to meet makes an MMO perform poorly. D3 certainly had the critical mass(ively), so I don’t think that using that word in particular is much of an argument against D3.

      The persistent world argument, though, I agree holds a lot of merit, and I’ll admit I hadn’t considered that as a defining factor. However, I’m going to reach for some relativity here and bring up shifting trends. I don’t think anyone would argue that Neverwinter Nights was an MMO. However, there were many persistent world servers out there. They were available online. You played a role. The four pillars were included. But none of the servers reached such a critical mass that one might have called it an MMO. Then again, at the time, the genre was still looking for definition. I wasn’t even aware such games existed, though I had heard of UO and had played in some MUDs.

      I think the trend is shifting again. There’s been plenty of buzz about the future of MMOs, about budget, scale, and playerbase. I fully acknowledge that the following suggestion benefits me more than you, but let’s come back in 10 years and see what D3 is later defined as. We may not have a word for it yet. UO, after all, probably didn’t call itself an MMO, either.

      As for the list of games you mentioned, I only played 1 of them: Borderlands. And I played it later than most, after a Steam Sale. I would argue, though, that none of those have a massive enough playerbase to be called MMOs, which uses that term more appropriately than the persistent world argument.

      Regardless, I like the persistent world thought, and it certainly cuts a clear line that divides these games from those. It’s something to think about. Is your alternative getting mixed into my grunge?

      Thanks for the comment!

    • August 24, 2012 8:06 am

      I’m not sure you hit it on this one. D3 is an ARPG per Blizzard and I tend to agree with that definition. Sticking to the narrow word Massively, and ignoring persistence which is likely more important but out of scope, the only area in D3 that qualifies is the AH. Even there you will never actually ‘see’ another person, only the results of that person’s activity which could just as easily be a Blizzard bot that is seeding items. And, no, I’m not saying they do that, only that the player has no way of knowing who, or what, placed the item barring real-world contact with the poster.

      As much as people complain about them in WoW, Rift, and (at least when I played) SW:ToR the hub cities provide that feeling of a massive world. Consider the converse in WoW, the fairly consistent complaint that the world is empty when you leave Org or SW. We are judging the first M by the second M (multi-player), and applying a qualifier that the multi-player component is concurrent and visible to the entire community within range of system resolution. D3, by design, does not have this as you will never see more than 3 other players.

    • August 24, 2012 9:15 am

      I feel like this conversation is veering off course and heading into semantics. Yes, if we qualify the meaning of words they can mean this or that, but the point is to look at the words themselves. You say you won’t ever see more than 3 other players, but that’s not entirely accurate. You won’t see more than 3 at a time, but that’s not really the same thing, is it? You can play WoW, too, and only see 3 people (or less) at a time. Try going to Desolace.

      I agree that the persistent world argument is much stronger, and I don’t think I have much of a response to it. I’ll think about it for a while, and if I come up with something, I’ll post on it, and if I don’t, well, then by then someone else will be talking about more interesting topics and everyone will have forgotten anyway (;

      Thanks for the comment!

    • August 24, 2012 9:35 am

      Actually, that was my point on the hub cities and the complaint that the rest of the world is empty. I’ve been working on Lore Master and most of the zones are vacant. The world doesn’t feel massive because it’s just me.

      Ultimately though you are correct and this is semantics; something to be discussed as a separate topic.

    • August 24, 2012 10:58 am

      I wonder if WoW’s slowly becoming more like Vindictus: a central town where people gather and instanced zones in which you quest with your party (or alone). If that is the trend, then I’d again argue we’re moving towards a new genre, something that’s no longer “massive,” and again I’d call for us to revisit D3 in the far future and see what it’s called. I think there’s good arguments on both sides for it being and not being an MMO, but then what kind of creature is it?

      Thanks for the comment!

  5. Bernard permalink
    August 23, 2012 9:55 pm

    I would also have to disagree with Diablo 3 being collectivist.

    The entire game from 1-60 (+100 Paragon) can be played solo. Depending on the skills (or lack) or your team, it may be more efficient to do so as their mere presence makes the game harder.

    • August 23, 2012 11:20 pm

      First, please note my comment in response to Azuriel.

      Secondly, one can play Arkham Horror, a notably collectivist board game, alone, too. To re-use Samus’s metaphor from earlier (which was used against me), just because a room has a bunch of chairs facing the front doesn’t mean you have to (He (or she!) did a better job using the metaphor than I have). The point, though, is that just because you CAN do something alone doesn’t prevent it from being collectivist; it just means you’re an individualist working within a system designed for other purposes.
      Thanks for the comment!

  6. August 24, 2012 12:42 am

    haha just call me Eri.. j3w3l is just one of those names that’s followed me around from when 1337 speak was all the rage… so a long time now

    It is hard to describe the link between player and developer in terms of creating a sense of collectivism. It is a very precarious link although I think when people have a plethora of options it more often then not leads to an individualistic approach to gaming.
    Contrary to that when the “content is limited we see the community making up there own fun.. that is as long as they have the tools to do it.
    Of course there are many ways to promote social gaming but whether or not they would even be enjoyed by the general population is a different matter.

    I think gw2 will be great in a way in that it isn’t inhibiting people from grouping based on level or quest line, communities will become closer nit but i don’t think it encourages broadening your view outside of your own collective

    Also, I don’t think d3 was an mmo either.. but I think many in the genre barely qualify anyway

    • August 24, 2012 9:16 am

      I think you make a good point there. I wonder, too, if more “niche” games don’t have a stronger community because it’s smaller. Most collectivist theory says that groups larger than a certain size (I’ve heard as small as about 22) have a very hard time being collectivist. Perhaps smaller games – games like Glitch – have a better shot at it. Unfortunately, I don’t have as much experience with those types of games, so it’s hard for me to comment.

      Still, I think that’s an excellent point. Thanks for the comment!

  7. August 24, 2012 7:08 am

    I don’t know about D3. I can see where you are coming from, but I don’t really think it has enough of a community to really be either individualist or collectivist. The best I can say is that Blizzard did a great job of balancing both solo and group play so that people who like grouping feel that it is beneficial to them and people who solo don’t feel disadvantaged. But group play isn’t necessarily collectivist — there’s no real sense that the group has an identity or that players are ever required to put the good of the group above their individual goals.

    • August 24, 2012 9:09 am

      This gets back to the point Imakulata brought up about transient vs. permanent groups. It may be my personal experience, which was to play with the same 4 people all the way through – is informing my perception of the game. I certainly agree that a more transient nature to games increases the individualist experience, whereas more permanent groups would more likely lead to – though not guarantee – a collectivist experience.

      Thanks for the comment!

  8. Kishmet permalink
    August 28, 2012 2:54 pm

    I thnk what you say about D3 (all i will really comment about here as it’s the only thing that could get through readng before having to skim the rest) fits in a certain perspective. Why I dont thnk it’s an MMo is the fact that the actual parts where it’s suppossed to feel massive are so small (grouping) or abstract (real money house) to me seeing that lots of people buy and sell thngs on the auctonhouse does not make the game massive it makes they could be bots for all I know (OK the chat n general mght indcate they are not), but then again only having spontaneous contact with others through that kind of medium is why I really hate modern MMO’s past WoW because what they do in those is called nstancing which is even worse in D3. So that’s why I dont personally view t as an MMO.

    • August 29, 2012 2:27 pm

      Yeah I understand the resistance to it, and I think the abstract nature of the massiveness and the lack of a permanent world both make pretty good arguments as to why it’s not. But it’s something else, then, and I suspect we’re defining a new genre around these multiplayer lobby-style games that we just don’t have a name for yet. Only time will tell.
      Thanks for the post!

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  1. If individualism is king in MMOs, why do I get the best ‘highs’ from a good group? « Welcome to Spinksville!

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