Sunday, April 27, 2008

Players Play Elves Because...

I was reading this thing at MMOG Nation about the races and classes people choose in the Standard EQ and WoW-like MMOs and its interesting and there's all these smart folks talking over there and everything.

But I'm gonna write my thing over here so I can fix my crappy writing up and go off on my own tangents and add junk to it as I think about it without getting yelled at or making a mess heh.

'Cause I think things are lot more complicated than folks consciously think they are, even though we all sorta know what we're doing unconsciously, or non-verbally, or something.

I see a lot of people saying the same kinda "elves are the most popular with the players" stuff I see over there, and it always sorta bugged me, 'cause I know there's lots of other reasons the numbers turn out the way they do, just from examining the reasons I've chosen this and that in the games that I've played.

Somebody might assign Zero (or practically Zero) Value to how their character looks, and choose a race and class for purely mechanical reasons.

Maybe a character of that race has some kind of technical advantage over the other races, a racial superpower that's really great or racial powers that stack really well with class powers or maybe they just have better stats than everybody else for a particular class, whatever, everybody knows all that junk.

And maybe, with all the other game mechanic elements being equal, there's some kind of mechanical advantage to a race's starter zone or newbie yard (or whatever you wanna call it) too, better monster spawns, better loot tables, more quests, more entertaining quests, less running around because everything is closer together, or organized better, quicker access to instant-travel thingies or a mailbox for twinking and an auction house, maybe an area is starved for a certain kind of resource and you wanna be certain kind of crafter.

Mechanically, the most played areas have the best spoiler site stuff, too, so that's sorta a self-perpetuating thing there, especially, if a game is really annoying with the "figure-it-out-by-Chaos-Theory-stuff" and folks need spoiler sites for it heh.

All the other stuff perpetuates itself to some degree too, because a lot of us play with our pals, y'know, so we'll all sorta tend to get dragged into the most advantageous races and classes in a game, usually, as the players figure 'em out.

And I'm sure some people do assign a Zero Value to Looks and Feel, and 100% to Game Mechanics, when they make their Race and Class choices, 'cause I've played games where there's only one starting area and every race was so ugly and unappealing that it didn't matter to me at all which kind of blob I was, and it was definitely all about the numbers baby ahaha.

And there's people with no taste, too.

And then there's folks that don't assign a Zero Value to Looks and Feel.

And its the same kind of super-complicated thing all over again, they may choose a race because they like how it looks, or they may hate the way it looks the least, or they may choose a race because they like the way their newbie yard looks 'cause it helps them get their mind off of a shitty day at work and it has good music.

There's things that are stupid looking in a good and endearing way, and things that are just stupid looking, too, heh.

If you like to play humans, but you just can't stand the way the humans look in a certain game (I dunno maybe they remind you of somebody you hate or you hate the way they're animated when they run or something) and you refuse to play one, that doesn't mean you like the next best thing the "best" on your list, or that you even like the next best thing at all, y'know?

Maybe you hate a certain kind of mount, maybe you want a certain kind of house (in a game that has houses), maybe you would normally like the way a race looks but you hate the style of the way they look in the game you're playing, or you hate the style of their armor and stuff.

And then there's folks that pick the most unpopular race just because they value being unique more than they value all the other stuff they gotta assign values to in a game when making the decision on what to play.

Or maybe they pick the most unpopular race that isn't totally stupid looking like the Trolls in WoW are and that's why those wanna-be-unique guys all end up as gross-ass little cutesy Gnomes ahaha.

I'm just kidding I've played plenty of Gnomes man don't get yer widgets in a bunch.

And that kinda brings me to a third layer, where there's folks that choose a race because they want to play that race, and they don't care how they look, and they don't care about game mechanics, they just want to be elves to be elves, 'cause they have a love of elves from some other place outside the game, maybe they played an elf in some other game they played before, or they just like 'em from books and the movies or something.

And that weird neither-looks-nor-mechanics thing applies to the starter area too, maybe they want to be from the shire and not bree, regardless of game mechanics and looks, because they love the shire from the books.

Or they love the elven woods, and even though the woods in this game sucks, its better than the having your eyeballs dried out by the desert heh.

And then there's a social layer.

Maybe they may choose whatever they end up choosing because they want a less crowded starting area, or a less lonely one (hmm, that's kinda mechanical and kinda social).

Or they might not want to play an elf because they don't want to be made fun of, y'know, peer pressure type stuff, "omfg you made a night elf priest?!" heh.

And then there's the way you get dragged around by yer real life buddies or yer online buddies or whatever the heck too, y'know, maybe all yer pals were elves in the last game you guys played, and you'd rather be a orc but even though they'll be nice and try 'em with you they won't stick with orcs.

You can't tell me that nothing like that's ever happened to you I mean c'mon seriously that "democracy" thingie can really suck sometimes ahaha.

Or maybe you're one of those dudes that likes the culture of the folks who tend to play orcs and ogres (and not necessarily the culture of orcs and ogres) and you don't care about anything else that much.

Or maybe you play an orc 'cause you just can't stand the people who tend to play elves and it ain't got nothing to do with liking the people who play orcs heh.

Or maybe all the hot chicks and people pretending to be hot chicks tend to play a certain thing, and you wanna surround yourself with Things That Might Be Hot Chicks heh.

That's why I did two years in French Class and ended up learning more Spanish than French 'cause I sat next to this totally hot spanish model chick ahaha.

Same kinda stuff with classes, where folks might play a support class just because there aren't enough people doing it and they always want to be able to find a group, or they may decide that being able to solo in a certain way is the most important thing, and it may have nothing at all to do with anything else.

Maybe you want "cred" with the folks playing the game so you pick the most annoying class to play so people will say "whoah that dude is hardcore" or something ahaha.

Maybe you choose a class for mechanical reasons that isn't as simple as how well they can solo, or how valuable they are in a group, I mean, maybe you don't want to play a warrior because they have to run up to all the monsters they fight and you can't just be lazy and use ranged attacks to bring everything to you heh.

I mean, its pretty complex, I think we all actually know all this stuff, and we assign different values to it all depending on our particular mood and interests on any given day, and then we add it all up and bliggie blam, we're a Human Paladin again, ugh! ahaha.

I think this also has an element where the numbers are influenced by previous gaming experience too.

A game could come out with really awesome looking Trolls, with all the mechanical things and everything else being equal among the races, and that might make more people want to play trolls in other games, later on, y'know?

Or that people won't play warriors in a new game because they had terrible dps in EQ1, or horrible armor repair costs in LotRO, even if they don't have all those problems in a the latest game they're playing heh.

There's that Brand Loyalty thingie tied into that particular thing too, where people say stuff to me like, "I always player a Ranger, that's my class in all these games," because Warriors in the first game they played really sucked, and then they got locked into "always playing a Ranger" or whatever heh.

Or "I always play a tank, because my guild needed one in the first game I played, and now I'm stuck with this crap just 'cause nobody else knows how to do it right in a group," ahaha.

And then there's a whole 'nother level of complexity to this when you look at the choices folks make over time, like what do they tend to make for their second "twink" characters, and why do they do that, and what they end up spending the most time playing might be due to the fact that its easier to solo with this one kind of guy 'cause the friends that they group with are hardly ever around, but they would prefer to play their group-oriented character, if they could, and junk like that.

And then there's a whole 'nother level of complexity on top of all that where its actually the interests of the developers that decide and shape how good any particular race and class is fleshed out and how appealing it is mechanically and visually and all that to the players.

I have a super hard time coming up with Fresh and Interesting Cowboy Stories, for example.

Do you really think a guy that's great at designing Elf stuff is gonna be just as great at designing Orc stuff?

I think that determines what I'd pick more than anything, 'cause it influences everything else.

Y'know, I'll always put my money on playing whatever the guy in charge of the all the changes to a game plays heh.

Or better yet, whatever his wife plays, if there's one of those involved ahaha.

That's not necessarily the boss of the place, y'know, I mean, just look at what those guys did to the Brad and his poor-ass sucky Ranger in EQ AHAHA.

Meanwhile the rest of us are all out there running five hundred miles an hour and teleporting all over the place and Quad Kiting with our Druids!


Anyways, its all super-complicated like that, y'know?

I don't think anything is really decided, even though all of this stuff does tend to feed back on itself and bias us as players in certain ways toward the things we're presented with in the future, you can still make players change their opinions about all these things by presenting them with better options, or with different balances and arrangements of the all the things that they're going to need to assign values to somewhere in the backs of their minds.

Not that I mean to be negative about what you guys are talking about in any way, you all got different points from anything I've really been talking about.

Studying stuff like this might tell you something about WoW, places you could improve it, maybe (and maybe you'd just make things worse by screwing up whatever equilibrium the players had managed to find in it heh), and maybe the gaming history of the people who play it, but there isn't anything about class and race choice that's written in stone, even if you DO make some kinda game that's almost exactly like WoW, y'know?

Really I'm just glad I don't see anybody saying anything like "might as well get rid of gnomes because hardly anyone plays them," like folks in SWG talk about stuff sometimes.

That's some seriously HORRIBLE backwards logic where you are really just looking for excuses not to get smarter heh.

At least you guys are going forwards ahaha.

Y'know, all of these things I've talked about are influenced by things that you can make all sorts of changes to that would make the results come out in totally different ways.

P.S. My first character in Everquest 1 was a Dark Elf Necromancer, not because I like Dark Elves and Necromancers but because I asked the buddy who had convinced me to play it with him "What race and classes do you know the least about?" so he wouldn't be able to bug me all the time with all his know-it-all I-was-in-beta Making Plans For Nigel crap heh.

And I've had to quit playing certain characters 'cause they nerfed something like "kiting" out of a game too.

And me and my buddies have played Warrior-types in more than one game that was really laggy just because Warriors are the most lag resistant characters ahaha.

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