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Is there such a thing as too much?

December 1, 2012

Dear Reader,

Happy December!

I’ve been pondering a question recently with regards to Pandaria’s endgame.  I’ve been keeping in touch with a lot of my old friends, and something I see repeated a lot is the idea that “there’s just so much to do!” once you get to 90.  Indeed, that certainly seems true.  They’ve added activity after activity to make the game more appealing to a broader audience, and I think Blizz has done so very successfully.  Still, recently I’ve been asking myself “Is there such a thing as too much?”

I won’t begin to recreate the list of endgame activities that’s I’ve come up with or that others have generated; we all know how many there are.  When, though, do those start to be overwhelming?  From my position, every time I play, I make a choice of what to do, which slams the door on many other activities.  It creates a form of decision paralysis, where with the limited time I have I can do a little of everything, a medium amount of a few things, or a lot of one thing.  I’ve been cycling between those, but they each have drawbacks.  If I do a little of everything, I don’t get a meaningful dose, enough to really feel like I’m progressing or achieving.  If I do a medium amount of  a few things, it means I’m not doing any of those other things I enjoy.  If I’m doing a lot of one thing, I get the deep immersion and progression I like, but at the cost of everything else.

This all may be why I haven’t done anything yet, really.  I’ve done some dailies, some pet battles, got to 90, found some scrolls, found some treasures, but I haven’t committed to any one activity, nor do I have any motivation  to (though really I have decided I want to raid, but the core of this post came before that one, and writing the core of this post pushed me to get off the lunchbox and decide).  But, as Bruce Lee said, “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”

Now this isn’t a post about my many personal angsts.  It’s about game design; it’s a genuine question: is there such a thing as too much?  Using the theme park metaphor, let’s consider two options.  Would you prefer to spend a day at a theme park where you can ride every ride at least once, or one that has a lot more attractions than you have time for in a single day?  It turns out that most of us feel like we want the greater number of options, so we can do as we choose, but research suggests we don’t handle more options very well.

In an oft-quoted piece of decision-making research, students were first given two choices: to attend a lecture of a person who they’re interested in or to spend the night in the library studying.  It was pretty easy for the students to decide to go to the lecture.  However, when a third option was given: the lecture, the library, or going to a concert of a band they enjoy, far more students – the majority – decided to just spend the time in the library studying.  Adding an extra option made it less likely that they’d actually go do something.

I wonder if this isn’t a danger of “kitchen sink design” (to use Koster’s term).  If we throw too much into a game, it not only potentially makes the game’s core feel muddled (something I feel like Blizz has done an excellent job at avoiding, I might add – each of their little sub-games feels very in line with the whole), but also makes players feel more paralysis when trying to decide what to do.  Maybe the constant expansion of the game to bring in a larger and larger audience is precisely what’s shrinking the audience.  If I can’t decide whether I want to pet battle, raid, or do dailies, maybe I’ll just go play DayZ, where all I have to decide to do is survive.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and too much)

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. December 1, 2012 9:55 am

    That’s, in a sense, kind of funny. Seems to me that Blizzard is throwing in a kind of horizontal progression, in that one can choose to do various things from a pool of many options.

    And WoW players, used to focused and deep vertical progression, might be finding it challenging to adapt to, or are reluctant to change their playstyle?

    • December 1, 2012 12:38 pm

      Speaking for my segment of the playerbase only (heroic raiders):

      Yes, it’s very difficult to go from needing to raid and do some dungeons per week to maximize our vertical character progression to having to do dailies, conquest cap, and valor cap (spending 2+ hours a day seven days a week in ADDITION to raiding) to maximize our vertical character progression.

      Especially when your guild was founded for people with limited playing time in the first place, it really sucked. The grind was insane near the start.

      And now, all I have to do is…nothing. I don’t even need the gear from Shieldwall. So I’m gone from “HOLY SHIT THIS IS CRAZY SO MUCH I HAVE TO DO” to “Well, back to Cata except I need to do a few more dungeons each week for valor cap.”

      Which, frankly, I’m happy with, because I can do other stuff (scenarios, challenge modes, achievements, even try pet battles perhaps) or even *gasp* play other games that I enjoy playing between raids.

    • December 3, 2012 2:36 pm

      I think you’ve made a very good point about training here; Blizz has trained us to think almost only vertically. Now we’re given tons of horizontal options, and a lot of the player base responded with vertical thinking, that EVERYTHING had to get done ASAP.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. December 1, 2012 12:34 pm

    I think they should have gated the dailies like they gated the raid releases.

    For example, week one, only Tillers/Klaxxi available. Everyone’s leveling anyway and people who level like crazy are probably prepping for raids, meaning they’re spamming heroic dungeons anyway and have plenty to do.

    Week two, Cloud Serpent/Anglers open.

    Week three, Golden Lotus opens.

    Week seven, August Celestials/Shado-Pan open (so even if you were revered with GL before now, you couldn’t do them).

    Would have reduced stress on a lot of raiders and meant that you could miss a few days of dailies without “falling behind” as well.

    • December 3, 2012 2:37 pm

      Yes, I think this would have made a ton of sense. That gives people a solid, staggered start to each group, allowing them also to finish in a staggered way and not feel so overwhelmed. Well-devised!

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. December 2, 2012 12:33 am

    The problem is that people think it’s some kind of race to get everything done! There is so much to do so that people don’t get bored I think, and if you try to do dailies all the time you get burnt out. I haven’t even levelled my cooking, nor am I exalted with the Anglers, which is interesting since I love cooking and fishing. However, because I raid, I feel like I have pressure to get revered with August Celestials, Golden Lotus and Klaxxi and so I worked on those first. The others, I thought I could do when I ran out of dailies to do when I was exalted.

    I haven’t even gotten to finish all the scenarios yet, I’m so busy. But pet battles is my new love and I can’t help but keep doing them, every spare moment I have.

    Hope you don’t get burnt out!

    • December 3, 2012 2:40 pm

      Yes, the mentality that everything is required – the “Should be” mentality is very damaging to the players and, thus, the game. I think I’ve conquered that (for good or bad), so I can do dailies when I want and not when I don’t want without feeling I “should be” doing them, but I would expect that people in hard-mode raiding progression guilds don’t get a chance to think that way as their social pressures and expectations are much greater.

      I, too, am enjoying the pet battling quite a lot, though I’ve slowed down a bit – that 20-25 slogfest you warned me about has started to weary me. I can’t imagine getting more than 1 really solid team that high, but I doubt beating the level 25 Masters will be so easy. Where do you stand? Have you knocked down the Pandarian masters or the new Darkmoon fellow?

    • December 3, 2012 9:56 pm

      I have! Those new elemental masters are hard, but the Darkmoon one is easy. Which I think is fair since I have to pay a coin to play against him! I want my money’s worth!

  4. December 2, 2012 10:52 pm

    I definitely felt overwhelmed by the options the new expansion presented, so I made a very deliberate effort to slow down and pursue whatever happened to capture my interest. That meant that I took longer than usual to reach endgame, which was frustrating in a way because I wanted to do that stuff too, and my ego was making me uncomfortable any time I noticed how behind the curve I was… but overall I’m glad I didn’t let progression obsession get in the way of my enjoyment of the game.

    I personally don’t think the core game feels muddled these days. It’s clear to me that the core game is daily quests, but the other niche features like pet battles and raiding are great for the minority of players that enjoy those. ;)

    • December 3, 2012 2:42 pm

      I completely agree about the core game feeling unified; I think the devs at Blizz have done a wonderful job at keeping every mini-game very much in the spirit of WoW and incorporating well into the artistry and gameplay (with varying levels of success, yes, but overall very well). I know what you mean about ego, too; I’ve never been carried much before, but getting into the new xpac late and leveling slowly at a pace I enjoyed has certainly put me in a position in my guild to be carried by better geared and more Pandaria-experienced players. It’s uncomfortable, to say the least.

      Thanks for the comment!

  5. Cain permalink
    December 4, 2012 8:10 am

    I felt a little overwhelmed at first, because I was trying to do everything. But as I finished stuff I have had less I “have” to do. I still feel like there is so much that I want to do, but don’t have time to, but I’ve started just prioritizing one thing over another. I really wanted to find the lost treasures so I spent a lot of time doing that. Now I’ve started spending some time doing a few dailies on an alt. I’ve been running the old content that I love to do on multiple toons again. Soon I hope to have time to do some pet battles, but so far that’s been I can do it later.

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