Monday, August 23, 2010

The Warcraft Project

Alright, so I renounced my anti-WoW vows in the name of science. I decided to return, just for a few hours to reroll and analyze what kind of experience I would have. For the purposes of this experiment, I played 2 sessions, about 60 minutes each.

Session 1

Human Warrior, Elwynn Forest.

For the first session, I went for 100% achiever. I enabled InstaQuest text, quest tracking and about a half a dozen map addons and doodads that basically make questing easier than Blizzard could have possibly wanted it in the first place. My focus? Leveling speed and accomplishing as many quests as possible in as short time as possible.

To be honest, I don't really remember much about it. Just that I was always in a hurry, always impatient, and desperately trying to decimate as many groups of ten forest critters as possible. I wiped a few times (mostly when trying to run through merloc areas. I had a few heroic moments fending off prolific numbers of the blasted creatures, which made me feel good whenever I managed to actually survive.

There were a few other players wandering around, but for the most part, I was too busy to interact with them. They were in my way.

Alright, Stage 2. I wanted a bit of cooldown time, so I slept on it, gave it 24 hours before starting my next roll.

Session 2

Night Elf Druid, Teldrassil

Ok, so for this 60 minute experiment, I decided to change my attitude to 100% explorer. And what happened really surprised me.

I actually watched the intro video in full, and the first thing I did was disable all quest-related helpers (quests text gradually faded onto the page). Map addons, everything off. Then I cranked up all of the environmental effects, all music (on constant loop) and ambient sounds, pet noises, everything.

And for the first 2 seconds, it bothered me. It was like jumping into cold water, with all my familiar addons gone, and the very first quest I accepted, I had to impatiently wait for each line of text to fade is ponderous way onto the page. But I made myself read every word. It was actually really nice, because I don't think I have ever read the quest text of the Night Elf starting area before. And I quickly got used to it (seriously, not much to adjust to).

Before I got to slaying boars in the name of nature, I decided to check out my surroundings in full, and for the first time in years (on WoW), I looked UP. At the SKY. I looked at the mammoth trees, and the canopy miles ahead, and all the textures up there filtering the sunlight. All the junk that the developers made up there, that I have never even glanced at before. There were little blue glowing spirits floating around everywhere, and for a moment it was kind of stunning (cartoony or not, I did feel a little bit like I was in a "world").

And so I began my adventures. In the beginning, I racked up quite a few quests, and it was getting hard to keep track of them all (without my addOn crutches). So I started inviting the other people that had started there to join a group and adventure together. Which was a bit of a disappointment. I invited about 6 people that were running around doing the same quests I had, and every one of the declined immediately. Almost as if it was an annoyance, an unwanted misquito flitting near their ear while they were trying to quest. They all turned the invitations down without saying a single word.

Well, that was a bit discouraging, because they were all doing what I HAD been doing with my Human Warrior. Ignoring everything except the quest at hand, even if grouping would (A) get the quest done faster, and (B) be infinitely more fun. Oh well. I quickly abandoned that front, and continued my meanderings around the forest in solitude.

I did have a bit of fun with one particular quest chain. (I was ignoring the item/exp rewards, and just completing a quest solely if I felt like it). There's a guy named Iverron, who has been bitten by this nasty little spider matriarch, and he's dying. So I run back to his girlfriend, in the attitude of exclaiming,

"Your man is lying poisoned out in the forest about 20 seconds away from here, we should go save him!" And she being the standard NPC, replied with dialogue along the lines of,

"Well, if by 'we' you're really trying to say 'you', then go ahead. But first, I need you to complete a random fetch quest to collect ingredients for the antidote".

And with a sigh, I went off to harvest flowers and grass and the like. Well, we made the potion, and I fed it to Iverron, who celebrated by... giving me his PANTS. Yes, the exact same pair of pants that he happened to have equipped was the quest reward. As if to say,

"No don't worry about me, I'll be fine in a minute thanks to you. Go on without me, but before you go, please take my pants. I want you to have them now. Use them well..."

After a few more story-driven romps through the woodland, I had my very first player interaction. One of the robot druids I had seen and invited earlier also happened to be at the spider cave I was trying to infiltrate. And at one point we both targeted the same spider, and wrathed the living scrud out of it. At first it was kind of one of those awkward moments, like when you both reach for something and find each other holding hands. But we laughed it off, gave each other a buff and wished one another good luck. I'm really glad because I was starting to think that everyone in the zone was a mindless leveling drone who would not stop to say a word to you unless it was a quest.

I had a few more adventures, collected a nice fatty spider egg that was simply spewing quest glitter as if to say, "LOOK AT ME I AM A QUEST OBJECTIVE... NO YOU FOOL, I'M OVER HERE!" I was also a bit baffled at the drop rate for spider legs, which surpassingly was much less than 8 per spider. And there were quite a few who despite using poison debuffs in battle, yielded no venom sack. Generally, though, my adventures were... fun! I enjoyed it.


So, what did I take from this? Being an explorer was ridiculously more fun for me. I remembered so much more, and I logged out at the end of my hour with a much greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I learned a lot more about the world, and I'll remember the name of that player who I met, "Roas" for a while now.

With the same amount of time, I did technically accomplish a lot more in Session 1,
Session 1 - 1 Hour, about halfway to level 9. Several dozen quests completed
Session 2 - 1 Hour, barely dinged level 5, only completed a few of the available quests.

But I would take Session 2 any day. I was just so much more worth the time I put into it. So by no means is this a real study, but I think I learned a bit from it. Perhaps the way to make play more meaningful is not to add increasingly epic quests. Maybe not to add MORE quests. But if we change how leveling or questing is done, and invite people to interact with each other, I think people will come away with a better overall experience.

Anyways, draw what conclusions you may.


Nils said...

Wonderful experiment and with the result that I wished for *smile*.

The pants!!

That is what I call an immersion breaking moment :(
At least it is quite funny :)

Nick Carraway said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick Carraway said...

It really did kind of shock me though. I don't think very many people at all play it for the experience.

And that's not really a bad thing, but just think about the richer, deeper experience everyone could be having if they just play it a little differently! (Not that my conclusion would be the same as everyone else's in this experiment, but I think there certainly players like me out there)

Now how do we make an MMO that is meant to be played that way? WoW is definitely not designed that way, but even in WoW you can still do it. Imagine an MMO that actually focuses on and promotes it!