WOO II An Exploration in Design - July 2012 - By Stoneghost: Dalaran

 

Woo II - boredom IS NOT fun

 

Boredom is not fun.

Since boredom is not fun, a game should not go out of its way to bore you. This does not mean that the game has to be spine tinglingly interesting at every moment. It means that the game should not specifically require players to take on activities that can be clearly identified as boring.

Certainly, one person's boredom is another person's excitement. But most people would agree that some aspects of the current game are not very interesting. For example:

Since we have to assume that the game designers abhor boredom ... after all, bored players leave the game and take their revenues with them ... these activities must somehow be wired into the structure of the current game design. But how they got there is not as important as getting rid of them in the NEXT game design.

To illustrate what I mean, here is how these examples are handled in the WOOII design. But please understand, the goal is not about these particular activities ... the goal is to make the game generally less boring.

Farming

In WOOII farms are formal structures that are housed within a Crafter's Holding instance. The crafter installs modules in the farm, and the module grow materials constantly, whether the player is online or not. The materials grow faster when the player (note: player, not character - as long as the account holder is active, his or her holdings are affected) IS online ... a way of encouraging presence ... but the player need not be in the Holding at the time. Certain skills in the Crafter Life Path speed up the growth of materials, and enhancements can be purchased to do the same. In general, the player's task is to monitor the growth of materials, harvest them when they are ready, and install new modules as needed. This still takes time, but not the hours and hours of grinding that farming requires in the current game. (It also makes Crafting the ideal life path for people ... parents are an example ... who want to have a character in the game but who do not want to spend large amounts of time online.)

Dungeon Repetition

In the current game a fully leveled player is too overpowered to play lower level dungeons for anything other than novelty value. The monsters die too easily, and the rewards are no longer useful.

The WOOII design includes releveling ... by which a character is reset to the level of any dungeon that he or she enters. This process brings the character's gear, skills and talents into line with the level of the dungeon and makes play challenging.

Because all dungeons at every level are now equally challenging, every dungeon can contribute equally to leveling. This means that a player can take a level 35 character, for example, to a level 18 dungeon and, with success, gather leveling achievements that will move the character towards level 36. Similarly, since gear and enhancements scale with level, any rewards from a low level dungeon will be useful at higher levels.

With all of the game's dungeons equally available, players have a large variety of choices as to where to raid. And variety is the enemy of boredom.

PvP Repetition

There are two main sources of frustration in battleground play. One is the presence of players who are not interested in the battleground but have come there to brawl with one another or to grind out honor points. The second is that even though most of the battlegrounds have a very small number of effective strategies, they must be played over and over again.

Parks and Houses

WOO II attempts to handle the first problem by providing casual PvPers and grinders with a new kind of venue, the Theme Park. These offer unlimited free-for-all PvP, good rewards, and a constant flow of leveling points in the Fighter Life Path. (Similarly, Raiders who want to get in a little action while waiting for a raid to begin can go to a Fun House. These offer PvE fights, good rewards, and a constant flow of leveling points in the Raider Life style.)

Raiders who want to try out PvP can play in a Theme Park, and Fighters who want to try out PvE can play in a Fun House. No one is kept out. Furthermore, these are designed as gathering places, with Crafter and NPC shops, banks, guild services, and reward redemption centers. Each faction has its own area in each venue, and room could be made for guilds or other organizations if desired. The Parks and Houses are intended to replace "major cities" as the primary gathering place for players when they are not actively playing the game ... but first and foremost, they are places to have "fun".

Battleground Progression

The second problem is a bit more complex. It occurs primarily because battlegrounds do not have the kind of progression arrangement that structures the current raiding and arena activities. Battlegrounds do not get more difficult as players improve ... they simply rotate ad infinitum.

WOOII sets up a progression for battlegrounds. Tier 1 battlegrounds are for novices. Tier 2 is for intermediate fighters, and tier 3 offers progressively more difficult strategic situations. Tier 4 battlegrounds are called "campaigns"; these last an hour or more, require strategic expertise and good communications, and are meant to give PvP players a high difficulty experience on a par with the top tier dungeons.

As the Player advances in battleground experience, his or her characters acquire rank and become eligible for play in the higher tiers. Boredom is reduced by providing a goal ... ranking and tiers ... and by providing a new kind of battleground experience at the highest level.

Boredom is not fun

This thought should be at the bottom of every design decision. The business must succeed ... and sooner or later, bored players will stop playing.