Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Friday, August 31, 2012


Yesterday, the venerable Tobold Stoutfoot held forth on why Guild Wars 2 is a better game than The Secret World. After quoting Bronte:
... the ugly truth is self-evident: The Secret World has failed to garner the following that it frankly deserved.
Tobold has this to say:
I'm baffled. How exactly does a game "deserve" a following?
The same way a high quality, but poorly performing television show "deserves" a larger following, Meneer Stoutfoot. Shows like Firefly, Fringe, and even Star Trek never garnered the following they deserved (note these are all Sci-Fi shows) and were canceled. (OK, Fringe is on for another 13 episodes, so it can have a 100-ep. syndication package.) Is that a reflection on their quality? I say no, it is a reflection on their marketability. Shows like Survivor, American Idol, and Keeping Up With the Kardashians are not better simply because they have huge ratings. Why make the same assumption about video games based on sales figures?

My good friend, Victor Stillwater, chimes in on Tobold's comments with my actual Quote of the Day:
I like vacuums, they suck, kind of like the argument that GW2 is better than TSW simply because it sold more... because that argument assumes that all of mankind lives in some kind of non-complex vacuum of ignorance and disconnect about a variety of issues...
Tobold's unwavering faith in Homo economicus is sadly misplaced, I fear. As much as I love Economics, not every model in the Dismal Science is equally valid. Sure, in theory, everyone acts rationally given the information available to them. However, in practice, people are not necessarily given all the information required to make a good choice. And especially in relation to art and entertainment, personal preference is highly subjective, as are the choices people make. For instance, you see far more people flocking to a rock concert than to an opera or symphony, despite similar costs. But you'd be hard pressed to say that rock and roll is better than classical music, and frankly, the converse is true, as well.

There is, of course, a certain hauteur in claiming that one's own preference is superior because it is the road less traveled. Opera goers can pat themselves on the back at their refined tastes, while the rabble attend that rock concert; both groups forgetting all the while that at its inception, opera was the rock concert—the popular music of the time. And like classic rock from our youth vs. the "noise" of today, we only remember the good songs, having forgotten the forgettable.

Is GW2 better than TSW? They're different in many ways, but alike in some key ones. TSW is definitely more niche (not a four-letter word), just as the horror and sci-fi genres are of limited appeal to readers and TV watchers. I like them both. I like that TSW doesn't treat me like a child. Ragnar Tornquist and his dev team expect more of me as a player. That creates an extra investment in some but is a turn-off for others.

GW2 is more relaxing. I jump in and find something to do. I can explore, do a DE or a heart quest, toss a keg in PvP, whatever. I don't log in to a laundry list of quests driving me to achieve. I like that, too. And it's bright and cheery.

I like playing both GW2 and TSW. They are my current main games. Economics could be termed Choice-ology, since it is the study of the choices we make in the face of scarcity. Given my scarcity of time and resources, I am choosing to forgo Mists of Pandaria.

So let me end with one last quote, this one from Tim, another commenter on Tobold's post:
There are enough gamers out there with different tastes that we ought to be applauding the development of niche games, not reinforcing the fallacious notion that There Can Be Only One MMO.


  1. I was with you right up until you include Fringe on the list of high quality TV shows that deserved a greater following... :-p

    1. I have frequently seen Fringe referred to as a show not getting the ratings it "deserves." I never got into it, which is one of the reasons I included it.

  2. Cancelled both our TSW accounts today. I will go back if and when it goes F2P or I have a dead spot in my MMO schedule (hard to imagine). I really like TSW but the combat gives me RSI (the pain has already receded to nothing from a week of GW2) and the setting is too bleak to want to spend a long time with. I wish the people who did the dialog and cut scenes for TSW had done the same for GW2 though - GW2 is very, very bland in that respect by comparison.

    Tobold often uses that economic argument, which I haven't heard expressed without irony since I was at school. He's very much a scientist, not an artist, I think. He's also a game-player in more than one sense of the expression. Oddly enough it was someone very like him who first introduced me to AD&D. from which everything else followed.

    1. I definitely agree on the cut scenes front. GW2's scenes are incredibly dull. After SWTOR and TSW, they're just blah.

    2. I am curious, what are you doing differently in GW2 from what you did in TSW that caused your RSI to diminish? I find them to be similar in terms of combat button mashing.

      I find Tobold to be fairly even-minded. However, every once in a while I have to call shenanigans on his theories.

      I haven't experienced enough of the cutscenes in GW2 to make a judgement, but I think the cutscenes in TSW are definitely underrated. They're very well acted, both from an animation standpoint and the voices. Better than SWTOR, though the interactivity of SWTOR's cutscenes impacted their rhythm and flow.

    3. Unless I missed something (entirely possible) TSW has no auto-attack. I was constantly hammering keys.

      GW2 has a lovely auto-attack and most of the skills are either on cast timers or cooldowns of a second or more. In some fights I barely press any keys at all and even in the most hectic battles I never have to spam anything. The pet also does a lot of the work - often while soloing I just set the pet on, hit auto-attack and watch.

      That's as a ranger - can't speak for any of the other classes 'cos I've pretty much played a Char ranger for 98% of all the time I've played GW2, beta and live.

  3. This is pretty much exactly what I was thinking as I read Tobold's post, but lacked the braincells to articulate today. Thankyou for responding so clearly and well -- now I don't have to.

    The notion that "a million customers can't be wrong!" is an indicator of objective quality is just wrong. "More successful" != "better".

    1. And how many times have we shared something we adore with a friend who's reaction is less than enthusiastic?

      Thank you for your kind words.

  4. I'd say Victor nailed it with that quote. Nice points all around.

  5. You bastard. You quoted me without telling me!

    Now people will think I'm a Tobold hater when I'm clearly just annoyed with his viewpoint and stressed with studying for exams and my inability to absorb data and my addled, easily distracted disposition.

    Of course, that also proves a point since my growing popularity (infamy?) will never take into account other variables in play and will simply assume that I'm a dick for responding to Tobold in a particular manner. :)


    1. Those who make that assumption read more into your statement than is there. :) It is very pointedly about the argument, not about Tobold himself.

      And much like the garbage left at the curb for the trash guys to pick up in the U.S., the comments you leave all over the net are free game. :P At least I credited you instead of saying "some yay-hoo over on Tobold's blog."


    2. hahaha. I know. I was kidding about the quoting me business. :) I'm actually pleased as punch. :D

  6. Ranking MMOs based purely on popularity leads straight to the McDonald's analogy. Besides that, if we are really going to rate them that way then Runescape (or perhaps some Asian MMO I've never heard of) would have to be considered the "best MMO." Runescape is a fine game, but how many of us would really consider it objectively be the overall "best" MMO that's ever been created?

    I have a lot of respect for the visibility that Tobold has garnered without resorting to trolling the internet, and I envy his productivity. However, he's also one of the last general MMO bloggers I would look to for guidance on what games I might enjoy.

    1. Oh that's definitely true on my part. He usually doesn't like the same games I do. Though I think he likes GW2. :)

  7. Every game has its audience - just like very blog does. :) sadly, MMOs are capital ventures though and it's not good enough just to do 'good'. otherwise we'd never even have such discussions, all MMOs would be here to stay for those to enjoy who want to. so, from that PoV Tobold is right in stating that economy is power - but I agree with you that it says more about marketability than quality. in TSW's case I've already commented myself that due to it being such a niche and also Funcom clearly ga-ga in choosing their business model, it won't last more than 3 months until they have to go F2P. that was my prediction and quite likely I won't be so wrong.

    theme is not nothing to be underestimated. the majority of MMO players are not fans of dark and bleak with zombies. if you attempt such a game anyway, be aware of the risk.

    1. We cancelled both out TSW accounts yesterday. I don't have time to play it enough to justify the sub (already subbed to SOE's Access pass) while I'm playing GW2 and Mrs Bhagpuss just never took to it, despite being the one who wanted to try it in the first place.

      In both "reasons for leaving" forms we included the unremittingly bleak, depressing settings and subject matter. There's nowhere near enough conspiracy and far too much horror. It was sold as "everything is true" but it turned out to be "everything is much worse than you ever imagined".

      I love the quality of the writing and the wonderful detail and art direction and I don't actively dislike the setting, but all horror all the time is just wearing and not much fun in the long run. Needs a lot more light to go with all that shade.

    2. I agree that the grimdark is a little much to take for long. I love the combat system, but you're right. There is no auto-attack in TSW. GW2's auto-attack actually is taking some getting used to, after both SWTOR and TSW have not had one.

  8. Your post doesn't contain a single logical argument. Why would a rational person who likes American Idol more than Fringe and finds that they run both at the same time and his VCR is broken not rationally watch American Idol instead of Fringe?

    Your argument boils down to "I like Fringe more than American Idol, so I am right, and everybody else is wrong". Sorry, real life doesn't work like that. I would not want to live in a fascist state run by you telling me what TV shows I have to watch or what games I have to play, because YOU decided they were "better". I have already experienced European state TV showing boring stuff that was supposed to be "good for you", until they got steamrolled by private TV showing the stuff people actually wanted to see.

    1. Thank you for responding, Tobold. However, I never said I liked Fringe better than American Idol. Nor did I say that classic Supply and Demand shouldn't dictate markets, whether in television or video games. Of course a rational person seeks to maximize utility.

      However, "lots of people bought GW2, therefore it must be good" is a logical fallacy, "argumentum ad populum," to be exact. The inherent quality of a piece of art or entertainment is highly subjective. As was pointed out in another comment, McDonald's sells unbelievable numbers of hamburgers. However, that doesn't mean that McDonalds' burgers are superior filet mignon, or even other hamburgers, only that their utility to cost ratio is often higher.

      Is "Twilight" or "Shades of Grey" great literature simply because it is popular? The only thing that can be said is that it's popular. The argument ends there without going into personal opinion.

      I personally am glad I don't live in some fascist state where only the most popular forms of entertainment are available. If so, we'd all be stuck playing WoW, or worse, CoD.

    2. Wow. That's some reply (Tobold's, not yours). I wouldn't know where to begin with that. There's no real comeback to someone who actually believes that "popular = good". It's a conversational dead end.

    3. their utility to cost ratio is often higher

      Exactly. People eat at McDonalds because they don't have the time or money for a filet mignon. People listen to Britney Spears because they don't want to learn about classical music. And people play Guild Wars 2 because they don't want to do complicated puzzles and try to get into a weird horror scenario. These are all completely rational decisions, and there is no reason to claim that these prove that the homo economicus doesn't exist.

      I am sure a lot of people prefer Guild Wars 2 because it doesn't cost a monthly subscription fee. But overall the reason is that for most people the utility to cost ratio of Guild Wars 2 is better than the utility to cost ratio of The Secret world. Now strip some words out of that phrase and you get "Guild Wars 2 is better than The Secret World". Condensed, sure, but not wrong.

    4. Actually, .... no

      By your standards, Guild wars 2 is more CONVENIENT than TSW, not better. Saying something is better also considers that the quality is higher, which is not the case almost all of the examples you mention.

      The fact that people can't be arsed to cook a decent meal, or read a book or engage their brains but prefer to veg out in front of the tv and eat trash doesn't mean that said trash is better or that tv is the best way to spend your time.

      Eating at McDonalds is more cost-efficient and with less hassle, but definitely not better to a home cooked meal. And after all, the saying "you get exactly what you pay for" is in 99% of the cases true.

      But hey, if convenience and time-efficiency is what you go for, instead of quality, who am I to judge?

    5. Tobold, if you had read completely your own Wikipedia link, which I also linked, you'd see that smarter men than either of us in the field of economics have disputed the existence of homo economicus in the real world, mostly because it does not account for missing information (yes, "bounded rationality" attempts to account for this) nor impulsivity (short-term vs. long-term utility). But that is a broader question I feel somewhat beyond the scope of this discussion.

      As has been pointed out by many others in the comments, "more convenient" or "more popular" doesn't automatically equate to "better." I also believe you misspoke when you referred to the utility-to-cost ratio of GW2 as "better" than that of TSW. A more proper term would be "higher," but then that would ruin your argument that you can simply take some words out of the sentence and it still be true.

      People's *tastes* change as they become more educated and/or wealthy. But most people reach only a limited level of education or wealth. That is why more people (still looking to maximize utility-to-cost) shop at Walmart than Neiman Marcus (in the U.S.). Yet no one in their right mind would claim that the clothing at the discount retailer is of higher quality than the high-end department store.

      Please remember that at no time did I argue the TSW is *better* than GW2. It would be just as silly to say WoW is better than EVE (or every other MMO) because millions more play it. My argument, like Tim's, is that there is room for both in the pantheon of games.