Rants tag

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

Friday, December 6, 2013

They Changed It, Now It Sucks

I endeavor to point out that games I used to play were fun, even if I don't think they are any more. But I have ranted about changes or disappointments in games, even here on this blog. I try to temper that with the acknowledgment that things I don't like about MMOs comprise my own opinion of the genre and not fact, as some people are wont to do.
I'd say you lose the right to call a game bad after it's entertained you for 100 hours. Or 1000. ~ Chris, Game by Night
Chris over at Game by Night wrote a post questioning the attitudes of many gamers toward games they used to play. Specifically, those gamers who are now full of negativity toward games they once enjoyed. Tobold answered, giving his opinion that these negative-nellies are making excuses, rationalizing why they left, blaming the game instead of themselves.
We are unable to admit that falling out of love with the game might be our fault. ~ Tobold Stoutfoot, Tobold's Blog
While I agree that there is often an excess of rage rants by former players, Chris' perplexity and Tobold's glib response oversimplify the situation, when there is indeed plenty of blame to go around.

MMOs, especially long-running ones like World of Warcraft or EverQuest II, are not like single player games like Mass Effect or Grand Theft Auto. I might like Mass Effect, but I might think ME3 sucks. (In reality, I have no opinion on the matter.) Maybe the gameplay is too different, or the developers introduced characters or storylines I don't like. No one really questions the validity of an opinion that a franchise has decayed—though they may disagree.
There is a thin line between love and hate.
MMOs don't generally have sequels, they have expansions. But in many ways, expansions create a different game than the original "Vanilla" version, and as time goes on, incremental changes may become drastic. Changes to character progression, talent/ability systems, etc., may eventually prove too much to tolerate, and the player stops playing the game. Simple boredom with a game doesn't engender the impassioned "The game sucks now!" that Tobold claims it does. I should think that only someone still passionate about a certain version of their favorite MMOs would rage so completely about changes to them. If they claim that the game always sucked after playing for those hundreds of hours Chris mentions, that's a different story, and he certainly has a point in that case.
Ducklings and Design Debates
In human-computer interaction, there is a phenomenon called the Baby Duck Syndrome, that condition under which people resist changes to interfaces even if the new interfaces are measurably more efficient. For instance, I am currently typing using a demonstrably inefficient 135-year-old keyboard design, even though there is a debatably more efficient design available to me right now. Why? Because it's what I am used to. Another is the "ribbon" introduced into MS Office with the 2007 edition, a design element I deal with on a regular basis in the software I train, despite it taking up a substantial bit of real estate on the laptop monitors we are required to use.
It seems that with every MMO design change, there are winners and losers. Those who feel the change is an improvement, and those who feel it interferes with or destroys their enjoyment of the game. Unfortunately, unlike those people who were still able to play Dungeons and Dragons using earlier editions of source-books when newer, revised, rule sets came out, MMO players have few legitimate venues for playing earlier versions of their favorite game.

So while they may reach histrionic levels in their rage against games they once loved, be sympathetic to such forlorn players. You never know when the game company will make a change that will break the game for you, sometimes literally. There, but for the grace of the devs, go you.


  1. There is certainly a mixture of different aspects that make us quit games. a while ago now, I wrote an article on why players leave games, and I found that it usually takes three sources of change - it's me, it's the game, it's the people (my social environment). and I still believe that the last point, the social circle, has the biggest impact of them all. we accept a lot of (bad) changes in games and we accept our own boredom/routine, as long as there's friends around to play with.

    1. Yes the social aspect is something I didn't touch on. I'm guessing that's another thing that influences rage, playing long past when we otherwise would have quit, due to social "obligations." I'll bet that causes a lot of SNAP when the player finally does quit.

  2. First, the QWERTY vs. Dvorak keyboard layout thing is a myth that was debunked years ago: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1069950 There are barely any efficiency gains to be made, and QWERTY basically works about the best you can expect any layout to work. But, you have a point where people who are used to one system are slow to adapt to another.

    One thing to remember about change is that people who are happy about it are a lot less likely to take to the forums than people who hate the change. That's why you mostly see disgruntled people talking about changes. The people who are happy are just playing the damn thing.

    What causes people to fall so violently out of love with a game? My personal theory is that it's a slow process, and it takes the cliché "straw that broke the camel's back" to open the flood gates. Maybe you start getting bored with the combat, then your friends leave, then you've suffered through yet another gear reset with an expansion. Then the nerf for your favorite class comes down the pipe, and THAT'S IT MOFOS! YOU DONE IT NOW! /RAAAAAAAAAAGEQUIT! But, the reality is that this was building up over time, it was just easier to ignore the other irritants before.

    1. Hah, see my comment to Syl above. I agree that it's often like a snapped rubber band.

      As for the keyboard layouts, I know it's questionable, that's why I used the word "debatable." :)

    2. Chris appears to be wearing his Polyanna wig and there's nothing wrong with that. A positive attitude and willingness to see the good in everything rather than can get you far.

      Tobold is probably just being Tobold, equating popularity with quality as he's done many times before. It's always a useful stance if you want to get an argument going.

      What's really going on when former players begin to disrespect MMOs they previously played for prolonged periods is, naturally, as complex as any other human reaction to the passage of time and the concomitant changes of circumstance. Outside of a well-funded, suitably-qualified, multi-disciplined research project it's unlikely that we'll get much insight on what's behind the observable phenomenon.

      I do mildly object to Chris's assertion that having participated in an activity that entertained you for a prolonged period of time removes your "right" to re-evaluate the experience at a later stage. Are we supposed to go through life forever praising things we once enjoyed *because* we once enjoyed them? Isn't it valuable to analyze what there was about the experience that once thrilled you and why it thrills you no longer.

      Then, of course, as you rightly point out, the current version of the experience is radically different from the old. Even if we continue to praise the former, why should we obligated to do the same for the lattter? I love Superman comics from the 1960s through the 1980s. I *might* love the current ones (don't know, stopped reading them in the early '90s) but why should I? Different writers, different artists, different aesthetics. Why should someone who loved WoW in 2005-6 not find it distasteful or disappointing now?

      Enough. This is the kind of discussion better carried out in pub, not in a comment thread...

    3. Hehe, like a discussion of politics. :) You got the main thrust of my post, though. MMOs change over time, unlike offline games which are frozen in amber. It's certainly possible that I have changed as a player, but that doesn't preclude the possibility that a given game has also changed to become something I don't want to play. The key in both cases is to realize that it is a change of opinion on my part, not an objective deterioration of the game.