Is there such a thing as too much?
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.
Stubborn (and too much)