Any job worth doing is worth doing well.
Any job with acceptable compensation (be it monetary, spiritual, emotional or other) is worth doing.
Any job I take on will have acceptable compensation. (I don’t intentionally commit myself to things that I know I will hate doing and gain no form of reward from.)
So, by the transitive property, any job I take on is worth doing well.
If you live your life by these simple rules, it is possible that you might have a job that sucks, but you should never suck at your job. If you find yourself being terrible at your job, you either need to find a way to be better at it or find a job that is a better fit. By knowingly, willingly being terrible at your job, you are choosing to make your own life worse and having a negative impact on everyone you interact with. Conversely, by doing your job well, you will have a positive impact on the people you interact with, and that, in turn, has a chance of making you feel that your job doesn’t suck.
Last month, being forced to buy something at Best Buy before a gift certificate reward expired and finding nothing for the both of us, the wife let me buy Red Dead Redemption.
One thing that always kept me from playing the Grand Theft Auto games is that I don’t generally like to play the bad guy. But RDR’s John Marston is a man with a troubled past as an outlaw who has tried getting out of the life and getting on a more law abiding path. John’s job is to track down his old gang-mates and bring them to justice, a job he only undertakes because his family is being held hostage.
This game is beautiful, not only in its graphics but also in its overall design. The story unfolds so well that unless you are purposefully trying to break the system and color way outside the lines it all feels natural. Well, mostly, but I won’t go into that now. I want to talk more about this game because it was so good, so well crafted. There were even two scenes in the game that broke my heart. For now, let me just say that I absolutely loved playing through this game, and look forward to continuing to play the single player for challenges/achievements and the multi player aspects as well.
I’d recommend this game to just about anyone.
Communications and status updates were easy problems, relatively. Especially compared with the mine field of the reward structure. The next element I want to look at is content gating.
Many games implement areas where only one group can enter. Or two groups, or five groups, etc. When the designers put a cap on the number of people that can enter, it allows them to more reasonably design content. If group size is 5 and you limit the dungeon to a single group, you can make content and then test it with varying groups of 5 characters much more easily than trying to design content to scale in challenge as the number of people increases. Something that is challenging for a group of 5 might be trivial to a group of 10. Of course, a formal group structure isn’t required for this, as the number of players within an instance can be maintained by the instance itself. You could even place a UI element called “People in Instance” that would provide you a list of the players in the instance for easy selection and pinning to your UI.
After a long look, it actually seems that the main benefit of groups to content gating is actually in getting people who intend to play together into the same instance do they can play together. Getting around this winds up being overly complicated with solutions like having one player enter the instance and then inviting each other player to join him. That first player being designated the instance “leader”, a job he will pass off to someone else if he quits playing. Then you have issues of players wipes, when everyone gets killed. How does the game keep track of who belongs to this instance? Is it because you have a dead body in there to recover? If you get frustrated and log off for the night, is the group now permanently down a player because you left your body in the instance so the game holds your place? Again, it looks like if you wished to remove the group mechanic from the game, like with reward sharing, you wind up needing to examine the entire game from the ground up and make changes all over in places where the group mechanic was either planned on or taken for granted.
Now that communications and combat status updates are out of the way, what else does a group provide? Loot! Or, more generically, reward sharing.
Personally, one aspect of design I’m eager to change is level based progression, but that’s a separate issue. Reward sharing actually comes in two forms. The first I’m going to call inherent. These rewards are things like experience points or deed flags where simple membership in the group (and proximity to the event in most games) garners you a share. The main reason for this sort of structure is to prevent exclusion of “support classes” from rewards. If your group is fighting a group of monsters and you are the healer and during the entire kill of one of them you cast no spells, the group structure ensures you get a share. Obviously, more complicated “cast spell on person who fought” award trees could work most of the time, but I specified “cast no spells” for a reason. You are a vital part of the group, they need you, but it just so happens that for sixty seconds during one fight no one was hurt enough to require healing, so you didn’t. I suppose you could get even more complicated and add to the award tree anyone who cast a spell on someone who engages the monster within the last X minutes, but that could easily bog down the system with keeping track. A better solution is actually to remove rewards from the act of defeating a monster, at least for experience and move it to quests/tasks. A number of games, most notably World of Warcraft, have already begun moving in this direction where grinding experience points fighting monsters is far less rewarding that fighting monsters that contribute to a quest that will yield a large chunk of experience as a reward. Even though, group membership is still used to assign the quest flag (the kill of a rat for a “kill ten rats” quest).
At this point, we could start looking into different methods of awarding flags, such as the award being an area effect so that any player character within range gets the flag whether they contributed or not. Each of them valid, and each can be done, but every method, even grouping, has exploitable elements, so the issue becomes which exploitability are you more comfortable with and to begin looking into ways to combat it -like logging out people who are AFK too long and trying to eliminate users who “macro”. Of course, the main reason some people don’t participate in combat is because combat design around things like the holy trinity (tank/healer/dps) encourage it, but that is a separate issue.
Its beginning to look like the current design of the reward structure, how players progress, and how combat functions in many MMOs (primarily the Diku style ones) are very dependent on the group structure and trying to remove that group element is going to require thinking the whole thing over from the ground up.