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Motivation and Satisfaction

July 21, 2011

Dear Reader,

There’s been a lot of turmoil in our little sphere regarding the overall satisfaction WoW’s brought us.  It occurred to me earlier this week when discussing the different motivations for balance that looking at motivation may give us a glimpse into why certain people are happy and others are not.  So as a thought experiment, I’m decided to review different reasons that players play and examine how recent game changes may have affected those players satisfaction.

Of course, everyone plays for a diverse set of reasons, so no one of these will explain why people are feeling exactly as their feeling.  I hope, though, that by examining our motivations, we can see what changes would need to be made (or unmade) to improve the overall state of the game.  When you think I’ve made a misstep, dear reader (and I’m sure I will, since I have only my own perspectives to go on), please jump in and let me know where and how.

1: Challenge
Some players play for the challenge the game provides.  Whether it be PvE or PvP, the players enjoy the struggle to succeed, the learning curve of battles or bosses, and the experimentation with mechanics.  This player wants to see and experience the content, but isn’t as interested in actually winning, beyond just getting to see the next boss.

These players will have mixed reactions to the newer content, but I believe most casual players will be dissatisfied.  As has been pointed out by another blogger (though naturally I don’t remember who – at least this time it was about a month ago I think I saw it), most of the playing (you know, it may have been Gevlon, actually, in one of his rare thoughts I agree with) is either overly easy or overly difficult.  To ensure that the maximum number of players are able to raid, they’ve made the entry bosses “easily puggable” (according to Blizz).  The later bosses, though, require more dedication, perhaps more than the player can give.

While that speaks mostly from the PvE standpoint, most of these observations are true for PvP as well.  With the introduction of rated BGs, players who have more time will find a greater challenge, as their ratings will go up, and they will be paired with more skilled teams.  Players with less time will not have that opportunity and will flail around wildly between teams far too hard for them or far too easy.  Neither presents a real challenge, though, so they will be dissatisfied.

Thus, players that are after challenge will be satisfied or dissatisfied in direct proportion to the amount of time they have.  If they can’t dedicate themselves too much to the content, then it will seen to easy, too unchallenging, and they’ll be happy.  Those with more time will find more satisfaction as they are able to see all of the later bosses and work on heroic content, as well.

2: Success

Slightly different from wanting a challenge, players who are after success want to down bosses.  They’re not after loot, achievements, or valor points (that’s our next category); they simply want the thrill of killing the bad guys, be they scripted bosses or other faction players.  These players will find more satisfaction than players simply seeking a challenge because they will be able to, whether in PvP or PvE, find success every week.  Whether they’re downing nerfed T11 bosses or killing the new bosses, they will be finding success in PvE, and when PvPers are matched with scrub teams, they’ll find their success that way.  Both might be frustrated if they hit a content or rating wall, but there’s still other bosses to go kill to find success, so they’ll be more satisfied overall.

3: Accumulation

Some players’ main reason for playing is to get stuff.  Whether it’s gold, gear, achievements, valor points, HKs, or ratings, they want more and more of something.  These players will probably be very satisfied with the game.  Gear is easier than ever to get, Blizz having made multiple routes through which to get it.  More and more achievements are being added, so there’s more routes to follow for achievement points.  More opportunities are available for valor points, too (at least since the hotfix making normal T11 bosses give them), and there’s many, many ways to make money in the game.  The only group that may find dissatisfaction here is the PvPers, because there were several shenanigans with honor points around reset time, and not much has been done overall to  provide more routes to earn the points.

4: Interaction with others

Players who are looking for a chance to socialize with friends should be very happy with the recent changes.  The addition of battle.net groupings provides more and more opportunities to play with your friends, regardless of what servers they’re on.  So players looking to play with their friends should be very satisfied.

On the other hand, players looking to play with others, perhaps strangers, are likely to be very dissatisfied with the state of the game.  The in-game community is more impatient, rude, arrogant, and coarse than very before, and the penalty molehill (it’s clearly NOT a penalty volcano since it never explodes and buries villages of trolls, griefers, or general douches under searing lava) does little to curb their behavior.

Since guilds have, for good reasons or not, become more and more insular communities, people who are looking to meet others are more and more likely to run into foul little beasts, since many guilds run solely within their guilds.  Thus, players will be satisfied based on whether they want to play with their friends and have enough of them to avoid the pit of fiends that is LFD or whether their daily excursions involve meeting said fiends in the dark alley of Zul’Gurub.

5: Pride

Players who play to show off are going to be rather dissatisfied with recent changes.  Since the old bosses are easier than ever to down, many of the “rare” achievements that were had are going to become more and more commonplace.  On those same lines, the gateway bosses into the Firelands are supposedly easily puggable, so no great feats of heroism will be happening there to impress themselves with.  As more and more people have more and more achievements, less and less bragging can take place.  We’ve already seen a storm of angry players who didn’t want to see the T11 bosses nerfed like they were.  I’m sure some had perfectly legitimate arguments, but for many others, it came down to pride.  It’s harder to feel superior when the fellow next to you in Org with a 341 GS has the same achievements you do.

6: Killing Time

Players who play to kill time should be very satisfied with this patch.  There’s more ways than ever to kill time.  The new dailies certainly make for a lot of dead seconds, as does the act of Valor capping, achievement hunting, farming, or any other traditional time-killing activity.  Since most of those have already been covered, there’s not much else to say in this topic.

7: Habit

Players who play out of habit are always going to be dissatisfied with change, as change is the antithesis of habit.  While they’ll keep playing, of course, they’ll be unhappy with most changes Blizzard makes, since it “always” makes the game easier, less like Vanilla (or BC or Wrath), and it forces them to update their behaviors by learning new class information or the like.  Habitual players just want to be left to play in peace without any world changing … uh … changes, so they will probably be pretty dissatisfied with the current state of the game.

Looking over this, I see a lot of areas for satisfaction, a lot more than I expected to find, to be honest.  It may be, of course, that I’ve simply misinterpreted something, but if I haven’t, I wonder what it says about the all the complaints we see, that they may only be coming from a smaller group than we’d imagined.

It also may say a lot about the type of player who blogs, since I would think that those who blogged were mostly after a challenge, with a few success seekers or accumulators thrown in.  Maybe as parts of the blogging community are aging, they (we) have less time and are finding ourselves more dissatisfied with the game, which has less to do with the game than the amount of time we have.  Maybe some of us are moving from challenge seekers to habitual players.

Of course, each of us possesses each of these motivations to differing degrees, and I’m sure the percentage make-up of our motivations is what decides our overall satisfaction.  I am – or I used to be; I’m not sure anymore – primarily a challenge seeker.  Success was probably secondary, followed by interaction with others and accumulation (and maybe a bit of pride, too, to be fair.  I still sometimes link my Earth, Wind, and Fire (25 man) achievement when others start an achievement 1-upping contest.  As far as I know, only 24 other people on the server have it, and none of them are in my guild.  Or was that on a different server?).

Now, I fear it may be more habitual, which might explain my griping.  I’m certainly trying to move back to challenge with my 10×85 … uh… challenge (I really need to be thinking ahead in these sentences).  We’ll see if it can pull me back.

Off the topic of motivation (but not entirely), I started doing my dailies again, since my wife began them.  Apparently you can now get into the second tier after just one day.  I thought Blizz usually waited a patch to slap hard workers in the face, but I guess not anymore.  Ah, well.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (who values playing with wife more than avoiding doing dailies)

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2011 5:28 pm

    Stubborn,
    Keep in mind the dissatisfaction you read or hear tends to come from minority groups. This is often the case when reading posted material on the net. Most of the writers are passionate about a singularity portion of the game they enjoy. Instead of branching out and trying different aspects, they focus and get upset when things don’t go their way. Thusly, they have a need to vent out their frustration and writing is an easy way to do it. I am not by any means saying they are wrong, but, if you look at the overall figures for WoW, every time a new release for MMO’s comes out, they loose players…for a time. But by and large, because WoW has modeled the mmo as a theme park where there is something for everyone, they still hit the top of the charts. I tend to ignore rants unless I wish for entertainment. The fact is, there is a ton that the game itself offers, but it won’t always be what everyone wants.

    I continue to experiment with different projects because the game itself provides unique and varied challenges. I enjoy challenges and the ability to immerse myself within the game. For myself, I recently tried new professions and serious pvp progression. On top of that, I challenged myself to write on my blog more along the lines of incorporating story based writing to go along with what happens in game.

    I think my point is, while I don’t enjoy every aspect of the game, I enjoy enough of several different aspects that I am still held into wanting to play it. Anyways, just my two coppers on the post. Overall, though very interesting reading for the day. Have a good one out there!

    • July 21, 2011 7:11 pm

      Yes, I think you’re quite right about that, and I think really listing and evaluating during the writing of this post helped me realize that, too. Your theme park analogy is quite good, actually, and since I already used a casino, I might do a post looking at the game through that lens. I also agree that diversifying the game experience helps to continue to enjoy it. The only problem I’m finding with that is some true old schoolers (I was just pre BC, but several of my friends are beta players) are just worn out from everything. Some of that’s because they rush (that’d make a good post, too), and some because they play all day every day (metaphorically), but either way, they’re just getting bored. I wonder what to suggest to them?

      Thanks for the comment and post fodder!

  2. July 21, 2011 8:40 pm

    Well,
    I hate to say it, but have them take a break? I did that for a year and worked on a different mmo. It gave me insight to mmo mechanics and made me a better player. See, during Wrath I was really burned out and needed to walk away. I went and played Age of Conan for a year straight. It was fun but the game was dieing off by that point. What it did do is make me a better pvp’er, reacting quicker and moving around more. I recommend people doing a short stint on a different mmo from time to time. It freshens things up.

    One of the things I have noticed though, is those who concentrate solely on end content never take the time to just enjoy the game. It becomes a professional eSport. When this happens, a lot of just enjoying what the game offers dies away. The other thing I think has been helpful is I am an altiholic with no intention to rush fast to any given level. It bothers some people, but others understand. Finally, and I know for some it sounds a little dorky, but try role-playing for a bit. Immerse one’s self into the character rather than have the character as a vehicle to strictly overcome challenges. That is a very hard thing to do, especially on non rp servers. Even then, everyone is trying to be a tragic hero at that point. It can be tedious. What I did on my own blog is not necessarily become an RPer but an immersion player. I began asking myself motivations and back story. Why did I choose the character I chose and what are their goals? When doing that, I got a whole new fresh start and perspective. This allowed me to pick and choose what I wanted to do.

    In that instance I took on the mantle of a dwarven hunter. I began writing about him and posting screenshots in the writing. It allowed me to immerse myself back in the game rather than be there strictly for rep/titles/achievements. Those are a means to an end. That method isn’t for anyone, especially the analytical crowd that break down every action for it’s worth or advantage. This is OK. For them, I say start fresh, from the bottom up. The key is to try a class or spec they have never done before and make it work.

    Again though, if end content is all they are after, they will be hard pressed one way or another. These are just a few suggestions. One last thing, sometimes it is time to freshen up by changing guilds altogether. That is a scary concept for some. It can also create possible hurt feelings amongst long time comrades. It is a risk, but at times, it needs to be done. Faction changes are also an option.

    Finally, maybe it’s just time to hang it up. Remember Pink Pigtailed Inn? She enjoyed her time in the game, but finally decided it was time to retire from the game. Send the farewells and simply retire after the long time adventure. This isn’t bad. Think of all the times in stories, where in the end, a peaceful quiet living is what the real goal was for the heroes. Again, my simple musings is all.

    And as always, it’s refreshing to converse with you. I enjoy your posts even if I don’t always have much to say.

    • July 25, 2011 10:16 am

      Quite right, they need to take a break. We’ve taken breaks, actually, to DDO, Conan, Lord of the Rings, and Rift. None of them stuck, so we ended up back with WoW each time. Each time, though, it was a little more reluctantly, and right now there’s a dearth of new MMOs out there (at least until Star Wars).

      I agree with you about character immersion. I’ve tried to be more or less like the characters I play in-game. My paladin never kills critters, for example, whereas my warlock would. I also heard that in Star Wars (this is from Penny Arcade), you’ll think more about who your character is as a person in the first 10 levels than in the entirety of WoW. That appeals to me, so we’ll see.

      For the record, I’m not feeling too burned out, but more displaced. My buddy is, though we revitalized him over the weekend by going for (and him getting) our achievement mounts. We’ll see what happens now that he’s got his, though. I’m sure he’ll help us get ours (the others of us are only 1 away, ones we bungled individually, but after that, I mean. If he doesn’t get to start raiding again soon, it may be bad news. More in today’s post.

  3. July 22, 2011 7:56 am

    Thorough and thought-provoking writeup!
    This, so much:

    “..Thus, players that are after challenge will be satisfied or dissatisfied in direct proportion to the amount of time they have.”

    The time factor is so essential for all the other aspects and the great crux for the designers to satisfy everyone. if they base the game on too high time reqs, they dissatify more casual approach; vice versa, many players will find challenges unfulfilling if they don’t require longer periods of time and effort. not that time is in any way the only factor for challenge – but when it comes to rewards it’s an issue if you can acquire them too fast. that’s just how it is.

    • July 25, 2011 10:22 am

      You’re quite right about that. Time is key for everything in a game. WoW’s done a good job diversifying what you can do with your time (from just PvE / PvP to achievments, collecting, exploring, and the like), but it seems that the newest expansion did little to expand on that other than archaeology, which basically everyone considers a drag (though I did like a fool level it to 525 anyway).

      While I fully acknowledge that I may be in the minority about this, when I see PvP server ganking defenses, all I can think of is how my time is being wasted. I know I’m on a PvP server, but I followed people there, so I’m not there by choice. When I have 30 minutes in which to do my dailies and I’m being griefed constantly, I get more upset than I should because I know that means I won’t get my dailies done. I won’t get into the whole MMO Melting Pot v. WoW Insider thing, but I know how I feel about griefing and those who do it, and I strongly dislike Blizz’s response to it. While this may seem disconnected from the time issue, it’s not, and Blizz doesn’t see that. At some level, if we all pay the same amount to play, those with the least amount of time deserve the greatest reward for their time, and griefing directly prevents that. That’s just my opinion, though, and I realize there are many others.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. Gaia permalink
    July 22, 2011 8:45 am

    “It also may say a lot about the type of player who blogs, since I would think that those who blogged were mostly after a challenge, with a few success seekers or accumulators thrown in. Maybe as parts of the blogging community are aging, they (we) have less time and are finding ourselves more dissatisfied with the game, which has less to do with the game than the amount of time we have. Maybe some of us are moving from challenge seekers to habitual players.”

    Take this paragraph and go back and combine it with your various discussions and insights into the importance of balance in life.

    I would say that for the most part, the motivators that you have listed here are less like an amusement park and more like what I would call the Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs for our virtual selves. To some degree or another, everyone is motivated in part by all of these things. The people who lack the sense of proportion, perspective, or restraint to keep these desires balanced with realistic expectations of accomplishment are the ones who most often find dissatisfaction.

    Two things contribute to these failed expectations in my opinion. The player base, especially the ones who have been playing the longest and are more likely to be the most vocal, are getting older. After six years, most of the people who started playing WoW in college when they had loads of free time have transitioned into the post-education world of adults and jobs and responsibilities. At the same time, there is now more content and activities and “achievements” being put into the game that appeal to one or more of the motivators that you have listed above. Being frustrated at our inability to continue living up to our own expectations and internalized self image for ourselves is, I think, what fuels so much of what you see being projected out into communities like the WoW-Blogoshpere.

    I would still maintain though that the majority of the player base falls into the blissfully content and “never been happier” collection of folks who have holed up into our insular social groups in-game who can’t understand why the nomadic tribes of PuG participants and flash-in-the-pan “we want it all now!!!” guilds are having so much trouble reconciling what they are trying to get out of the game with how much available time they have.

    On a mostly unrelated but deeply connected issue: I have an increasingly negative personal reaction to the long standing misconception that heroic mode raiding requires any more time out of an individuals schedule than anything else in the game. I currently get to spend about 11-14 hours a week logged into the game. I spend 9-9/12 hours of that raiding and the rest doing stuff to get support my raiding. There are guilds out there who spend even less time than I do who are also pushing heroic content. Those people have simply realized that they have a very limited amount of time, prioritized their efforts toward the one thing that they have decided makes them happy, and then found enough like minded people to allow them to get what they want out of the game.

    As another example, people who try and do things like level archaeology in the first couple of weeks of the expansion and then complain about what a miserable experience it was just confuse me. It is sort of like me deciding that I want to move to Appalachia and be a coal miner for 20 years and then complaining afterwords that it was miserable and gave me black lung. Just because blizzard puts an achievement in the game that says “hit yourself over the head with an iron bar 100 times” with a bonus feat of strength for skull fractures doesn’t mean that you’re required to participate. Personally, I tried Archaeology for ~100 skill points and decided that my time was too important to me for that and went back to running around Stormwind clubbing rats with my staff.

    Blech (again)… One day I will figure out how to write blog posts on my own blog and stop clogging up other’s comment boxes…

    • July 25, 2011 10:35 am

      Excellent observation. Our motivations in a Maslow pyramid (or Volcano if you work for Blizzard) makes a lot of sense to me; in fact, though I know nothing about graphics, I may just try to design one myself and upload an image of it. Great idea!

      I think a lot of what you say ties back to Psynister’s three legged stool idea, that our relationship with WoW is propped up safely on multiple ideas. Each person’s are a little different, and some people have more than others, but for me, I’d say I like WoW due to my social group (which you mention as a “never been happier” factor, my blog, and the actual content. When any one of those fails (like my wife is out of town for a month or one of my buddies’ interest is waning) or I’m disappointed in the new content (I don’t like the Zul’s, but the raids may be great; I don’t know), then the overall enjoyment gets shaky (as a two-legged stool).

      As for hard modes, I certainly agree that you don’t have to be hardcore to do hard modes, but I feel that the more time you have to raid, the more likely downing a hard mode boss is. If you’re blissfully in a secure social group who work hard and are good raiders, then that’s excellent, and I envy you. I’m not, and I haven’t ever been for more than a short while, which is one of the themes of my blog: wandering homeless. I’ve briefly experienced some of this, and it’s been quite nice, so I completely agree with your point, but I just haven’t been there for a long while, so from my point of view anything takes a lot of time. More in today’s blog post about that.

  5. July 23, 2011 4:50 pm

    Interesting analysis, but you’re missing one of my own major motivations: adventure! Immersion, killing internet dragons, or whatever you want to call it.

    On the plus side of this aspect, Blizzard is still constantly coming up with new ideas and refining their techniques for world-building and storytelling, so while raiding the last tier for example I found plenty of amazing voice acting to entertain me and interesting mechanics to marvel at.

    On the negative side, WoW is becoming more and more “gamey”, with its achievements and mysterious points appearing out of nowhere, difficulty switches for instances and raids, and so on and so forth.

    I do think the latter outweighs the former somewhat.

    • July 25, 2011 10:39 am

      You’re absolutely right, and I feel like kicking myself for it, since it’s really one of the three pillars of MMO – exploration (and thus the adventure that goes along with it). You’re also right that Blizzard is trying to innovate on this, sometimes successfully, sometimes less so. The recent Thrall story line was magnificient and revealing, the exact type of adventurous story telling we should see more of. Unfortunately they ended it almost immediately instead of having the Fire Element of Thrall’s soul be taken by Ragnaros or something so we’d have to resuce him. Thanks for the comment!

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