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According to Raph Koster’s theory of fun, a game is fun if it has something for us to learn and master. The whole “you must have maxed out your character and know how to do the instance blindfolded before you are allowed to join my group” crowd are effectively saying – only do dungeons once you have completely mastered them. Therefore, are they saying that running dungeons should not be fun? 🙂

Really, the whole issue arises because Blizzard apparently made a design decision in the Wrath era to reward people for running dungeons that are well below their level of gear progression (you could be overgeared for a dungeon but the badges were still worth earning). That resulted in maxed out players running content that a gear progression model means they should have moved on from… resulting in very fast, safe (and I would imagine boring) runs. And THAT created an expectation amongst players that all of their runs should be so easy and profitable, so they were less pleased to get teammates at a gear level for which the dungeon would be an actual challenge.

The interesting question for me is why LotRO has less of a problem with this attitude, even though the skirmish mark system also allows players to get rewards for doing trivial content. I’m not going to ascribe this to the magical qualities of a “better community” (although LotRO players on average do seem more mature than the WoW crowd) – more likely it’s because the game is much less based around gear progression.

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4 Comments

  1. A couple of thoughts.

    First, I think WoW has disproven Koster’s Theory of Fun. Where Koster was saying fun is learning from challenges WoW has shown that this really is not what people want.

    Next if you do accept his theory that fun = something for us to learn and master then does that not vindicate the elitists? Why would watching someone else’s fumblings be fun after you yourself have mastered something? (I’m playing devil’s advocate here because personally I LOVE taking new players through dungeons).

    As for Lotro Rohan today suggests it has a kinder community because there’s virtually no pvp. I suspect that the commodification of dungeons in WoW is a factor too. In WoW people really do wait in a city for their queue to pop, instaport to the instance, run it in 45 mins, collect badges and re-queue. Someone turning a 45 min run into an hour run is impacting this quite strongly.

  2. I don’t think WoW has disproven the theory of fun so much as proven that players will log on and do stuff that isn’t fun in return for rewards. If a dungeon is fun, you might get players to do it even if the bosses dropped no loot. If it’s all about farming the badges, then it’s not fun – it’s a grind.

    As for doing a run with an unskilled player – arguably you get fun there because you need to take your own mastery to another level to compensate. I’ve just completed a Rift random dungeon run with a PuG. Good people, good fun, only two wipes in the whole run (one where we accidentally pulled three trash packs at once, one wipe on a boss) However, there were a couple of spots where the healer was getting a bit overwhelmed. As a DPS cleric, that required me to use my healing skills as well and suddenly I was moving up from “killing stuff as a shaman/inquisitor” to “doing as much shaman/inquisitor damage as possible while also using some of my GCD cycles to cast my justicar heals, so remember to use the life damage skills that power those heals up instead of my normal physical damage skills that do more DPS but don’t build the convictions I need” In other words – just because I’ve mastered playing with a group that are experienced and overgeared doesn’t mean I can’t still improve my skills by playing in a group that needs more from me.

  3. “I don’t think WoW has disproven the theory of fun so much as proven that players will log on and do stuff that isn’t fun in return for rewards.”

    But that’s the fun. Getting the rewards. No one holds a gun to people’s heads to make them play WoW.

    And yeah, I agree about the fun of pulling tricks out of the bag to cope with a tricky run.

  4. Getting rewards is fun if they enable you to do something later than is itself fun.

    Where Cata broke down for me was the loss of this ultimate carrot. Sure, I could get gear in heroic 5 mans. But if I reasonably expect that the subsequent raids will not be fun (and, given experience with WotLK raids and the tuning up of difficulty in Cata, this was a reasonable conclusion given the people I’d be playing with), then the heroic 5 man rewards lose their luster. They’re a dead end.


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