A Game Master is You!

The general rule of thumb goes that no matter how creative MMO devs may be, players will eventually trump them tenfold.  It’s simply a matter of time, manpower and a human desire to strike out in new directions.

MMOs that constrict players to a narrow path and deny them tools to be creative are games that are inherently frustrating.  Besides, as Jurassic Park taught us, nature and people-eating dinosaurs will eventually find a way to get off the tour and start a bit of mayhem.

This is why many of us tend to create our own content in games, even when the tools to do so are few.  We get bored of the tour, and we want to take control of our own destiny.  We sit down and fashion odd goals that are light-years away from what the devs intended, and then go about doing them just because.  Maybe they seem pointless, but I’d argue that many human endeavors are undertaken just because they’re challenging, not because there’s any substantive end reward.

Lately I’ve seen a number of bloggers create their own “challenges” in their games, which typically involve altering the way they play or placing self-imposed restrictions on what they can or cannot do.  I guess it’s different when you tell you that you can’t do something instead of a dev saying it (maybe it’s easier to submit to your own authority, you schitzo loonie?).

For example, Ysharros spent a week playing LOTRO without doing a single quest as an “Iron Woman” challenge.  In this case, she intentionally cut herself off from content in order to level in an older, more traditional way (grinding mobs), and to see if there was any merit or fun to that.  In another example, one of the guys at LOTRO Reporter set himself a goal of finishing each and every quest in the Shire, along with every deed, before moving on.  That’s something most of us would never do, since we’re typically focused on leveling up and moving on, so by changing the focus of the character, the game experience is altered.

I think sometimes we need to do this, especially in games we’ve been playing for a while.  We need to intentionally pry ourselves away from the most optimal, efficient method of advancement and construct for ourselves a different method of play, if only to see the game in a new light and break us of potentially dull habits.

Have you ever created a challenge like this for yourself?

24 thoughts on “A Game Master is You!

  1. Scopique August 30, 2010 / 10:17 am

    I like to complete all quests in an area before moving on, but sometimes that’s stymied by design (sandbox titles like Fallen Earth blow that right out of the water).

  2. B.J. Keeton August 30, 2010 / 10:21 am

    That’s kind of the way I’ve approached WAR lately. I’ve avoided doing any of the quests other than RvR quests, and I’ve just done a few scenarios, but most of my time has been spent in Warbands raiding keeps and battlefield objectives.

    And I’ve had an inordinate amount of fun doing that. It makes me wonder a lot about the theme-park nature of MMOs and how the community, if given the opportunity, can make the game far more than the devs might have intended.

  3. Ysharros August 30, 2010 / 10:26 am

    Everyone assumes all I did was grind mobs! I actually didn’t grind any mobs that weren’t grey — ie not for xp.

    Bah. Seems a little pointless.

  4. Cedia August 30, 2010 / 10:33 am

    Roleplay.

  5. Buhallin August 30, 2010 / 10:33 am

    The closest I get personally is with character specific personalities that focus on a particular aspect. Crafters as much as anything, usually. In DAOC I had a 700+ weaponsmith who was level 2. Unfortunately the game’s “You need high level stuff to craft!” eventually beat him down and I dropped it, but I enjoyed it immensely.

    While I don’t do it myself, but I have huge respect for any MMO player who chooses to play permadeath.

  6. Aillas August 30, 2010 / 10:34 am

    In Guild Wars, I like to finish every mission with the bonus (i.e. get Protector titles in every campaign), across multiple chars, just because I like the “completeness”. I also like to get all primary profession skills (plus elite skills).

    In LoTRO I had some fun soloing the various crafting quests, approximately at level (plus/minus a level or two). A few were tricky to do at level – I had to use racial abilities and do a quick hit and run after getting the drop/trophy.

    I guess these are the same level of restriction described in the post. I just like to see the content and take it easy sometimes, so I’m not always cranking through quests.

  7. elleseven August 30, 2010 / 10:37 am

    I’ve levelled my hunter in WoW from 10-74 doing battlegrounds. The only time I even attempt a quest is when I’m waiting for a battle to queue. You do need an alt with money to fund buying new spells, but with all the honor I’m half way getting the level 80 pvp set already.

  8. Syp August 30, 2010 / 10:54 am

    @ Ysh – Aww… I didn’t mean it in a bad way. But that’s the impression I got.

  9. Ysharros August 30, 2010 / 11:21 am

    @Syp — hah, I know. It’s the impression everyone got, which means I didn’t do a good enough job describing what I was doing.

    Given that I spouted almost 10k words, you’d think I could have done better!

    If I’m narked, it’s mostly at myself.

    Roof guy is here (looooong leaky story…)!

  10. Tesh August 30, 2010 / 11:46 am

    I’m trying to help BBB with a new in-game event in the spirit of his “Raid for the Cure” of last year. There’s a lot of fun brainstorming going on about how to make player-driven game events fun, and some very cool ideas.

    As a heavy Explorer, I almost always get more out of self-directed or even community events than I do out of following the golden thread of dev-inspired insipidness.

    I do think that devs need to have some sort of default “on rails” experience for those who just don’t want to direct themselves, but there really is a lot of room to let players actually play, and not just be along for the ride. Really, if we can’t just do our own thing in these MMO things, what hope is there of doing so in any games? One solid reason to play with other people in the first place is because of the variety.

  11. mbp August 30, 2010 / 2:58 pm

    Best example I ever heard of players creating their own challenge was players who figured out you could get all the way to the level cap without leaving the tutorial zone of Guild Wars. You actually have to level up the mobs by letting them kill you repeatedly so you can get XP when you eventually kill them. It takes hundreds of hours. ArenaNet were so impressed that they created a special title “Legendary Defender of Ascalon” for it: http://wiki.guildwars.com/wiki/Legendary_Defender_of_Ascalon

  12. Anjin August 30, 2010 / 3:01 pm

    I did something like that last year in WoW. I leveled up two characters along side one another, but one on each continent. I wanted to see how far I could level by focusing one character on Kalimdor and one on the Eastern Kingdoms. It was a great way to get off the “Golden Path” I had established with earlier characters. And I had to look a little deeper to find quests I’d overlooked in the past.

  13. Dblade August 30, 2010 / 4:21 pm

    I think I’m the reverse of this. To me, setting your own goals like that is just playing the game the same way, but much more wastefully. You can’t set goals that are different enough.

    Every MMO boils down to killing mobs and leveling up, and you can’t change those fundamental rules. A lot of this kind of play is like playing baseball, but using a stick instead of a bat and hopping on one leg to each base instead of running. After awhile it gets pointless.

  14. Ysharros August 30, 2010 / 5:07 pm

    “Every MMO boils down to killing mobs and leveling up, and you can’t change those fundamental rules.”

    Only if you assume that’s the basic reason for playing and that no other reason is worthwhile. For many, the levelling can be (and often is) incidental rather than the primary focus.

    People *do* play these games for different reasons and with different aims in mind, even if the majority play them only one way.

    (Apols if I sound confrontational – not my intent. Not enough sleep. Am trying to make a genuine point but too tired to tell if it’s working. :P)

  15. Tizlor August 30, 2010 / 7:06 pm

    The Nuzlocke challenge in various Pokemon games.

  16. Syl August 30, 2010 / 7:10 pm

    I’ve actually stopped using the worldmap in WoW when I realized that I didnt even experience ‘traveling’ the way it should feel in wotlk. all this fast flying from point A to B all the time without ever noticing the beautiful scenery around you and where you actually are – so I returned to my good old sabertooth and started to navigate by terrain and minimap only. I actually love it. 🙂

  17. Klepsacovic August 30, 2010 / 7:47 pm

    I leveled my rogue to 80 without changing my hearth from Isle of Quel’Danas. I almost felt bad the day I finally switched to Dalaran, which was more than a few days after hitting 80.

    At times I’ve refused to use a flying mount, instead attempting to navigate the land, which is many cases isn’t really designed to be run on.

  18. Zed August 30, 2010 / 7:52 pm

    There is a whole variant subculture for the Diablo series which embraced taking on additional challenges in the form of roleplaying handicaps. There are entire websites dedicated in whole or in part to these sorts of exploits, including Realms Beyond (http://realmsbeyond.net/). I’ve enjoyed these sorts of challenges for many years, not just for the Diablo series but also for other games, most lately including Guild Wars and Sword of the Stars (a great 4X game).

    There’s something really compelling about the challenge of (for instance) completing the Guild Wars Prophecies campaign with a team of nudists, playing with no armour and starter weapons, and limited access to non-Prophecies skills from other GW campaigns.

  19. Keli August 31, 2010 / 4:57 am

    I am currently running a Lotro Immersion Project – essentially perma death, no swift travel or ports etc, must rest regularly blah blah – full details and blog at http://keli.wordpress.com/

  20. Chordian August 31, 2010 / 6:30 am

    I loved removing “Fog of War” in EQ2 maps, uncovering as much of the zones as possible. The newer maps in EQ2 no longer use this and although they are of course much better, I still miss the old “Fog of War” maps.

  21. Dewclaw September 2, 2010 / 2:31 am

    I just logged out of WoW after spending about 3 hours taking screen shots of my character with what I’d decided was her Companion Cube (actually, it was a “Mobile Databank” that didn’t manage to de-spawn at the end of a quest). I found it’s presence comforting, and after my leveling pal logged out, I spent the following hours flying around with my companion cube, visiting points of interest – the entrances to three raid instances, an aerial tour of the player city hub, the various Dragon Aspects, scenic locations, sentimental locations, anything I could think of.

    Toward the end, if I moved in an odd way and my cube disappeared, my heart would skip a beat as I tried to figure out whether it had de-spawned, or gotten stuck somewhere, or drifted under some terrain. Each time, my cube would drift slowly back to my side from wherever it had gotten caught. I remained logged into the game for about half an hour after finishing taking the pictures I’d had in mind, just enjoying a comfortable silence with my spinning cube floating at my side. I suspect it leaped into the nearest fire the moment I logged… but I’ve got my screen shots, and some of the most silly and entertaining memories I’ve managed to experience in the last year.

  22. Khaz September 8, 2010 / 2:45 am

    I am playing a LM as pacifist in Lotro – never killing a mob. I got to the early 20’s with all the quests that were even remotely possible as a solo pacifist done, and i found myself repeating the shrew quest at the spring festival for 50xp a time(you only stun them!)

    They added xp to the repeatable innleague quests in the summer, so theoretically i could have got to 50 that way, and i’m sure a Full fellowship of pacifists could do a lot better – but there really arent that many of us!

    So i revised my goal to no living thing, which really just boils down to ‘the dead’.
    This allowed me to carry on, and i’m now nearly lvl30 and all the luverly crafting/rep quests – though no xp for deeds anymore is a real setback

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