Saturday, February 14, 2015

Chores, Feeling "Forced" and "Nothing to do"

I saw this excellent post by Torvald on the WoW forums. It's long, and a little hard to excerpt, but it's well worth your time.

Essentially, Torvald says that a lot of people on the forums are complaining about "having 'nothing to do' and the sense of being forced to spend all your time in garrisons doing garrison chores." But this isn't actually true, as he goes on to list the many, many activities available in current WoW. And he's right. Objectively, there are more activities available in Warlords than in any of the past versions.

So what then accounts for the general feeling of malaise? Torvald theorizes that the first few minutes of gaming session set the tone for the remainder of the session. Spending the first 15 minutes when you log in on garrison maintenance drains the player of energy, and that pushes them to log out instead of continuing on with a more fun activity.

So why then do players insist on doing those chores first? Torvald offers this explanation:
People hate the sense that a reward dangled right in front of them will be lost permanently if they fail to act. The Garrison chores are a perfect example of this. Anytime you fail to act, you give up a reward. The reward is sitting right in front of you, requiring you to do nothing more than interact with it to pick it up (mine nodes, herb garden, work orders). The more accessible a reward is to your initial log-in point, the more you will feel like the "right" way to play is to engage with it. Not doing the task to get the reward makes you feel like you're stupidly giving up a gain, and no one likes to feel as if they're playing the game "wrong." So you feel compelled mentally to engage that content. [Emphasis mine.]
He offers some suggestions about how WoW can go about remedying this. The post is a lot longer that what I've summarized, and contains some other interesting ideas. It's worth reading.

I think that in a lot of ways Torvald is right. I don't play WoW often these days, but whenever I do play, I ignore my garrison completely and jump straight into whatever activity I really want to do.


  1. What stops the players from doing their Garrison chores AFTER playing, before logging off?

  2. @Gevlon It's a cultural / social situation. "Do your chores before going out to play!", so many people do the tedious work before engaging in the activities they enjoy. Also, it may also be a legacy of WoW's prior history when the "chores" were the endgame outside of raiding / pvp.

  3. @Gevlon, Torvald says it's partly mental. The reward is right there, right in front of you. If you left it for later, there's a chance that you will not get around to it, and you'll miss out.

    As well, for the follower missions, there is timing involved. If you start them later, they finish later, which might cause issues with starting the next set of missons. Also, since some of them are short, you'll miss out on those rewards that you'd get if the mission finished before you were done playing.

  4. It's the same thing as dailies, if you ask me. Blizz moved the bitching about "dailies" into bitching about Garrisons, particularly if you are a crafter.

    Garrisons are semi-required if you want to specialize in certain aspects of WoW, just like dailies were in previous editions. That turns Garrisons into more of a chore than something simply fun to do.

    There's another aspect to Garrisons and/or dailies that I think might be missed on some people, and that is how people were brought up to approach tasks.

    "Eat your dinner and then you can have dessert."

    "Do the hard thing first and get it out of the way, then you can go do the fun things."

    "Homework first, THEN you can go play."

    "No video games, I want you OUTSIDE while it's daylight! THEN you can come in and play some video games!"

    Do any of those sound familiar?

    If you were raised a certain way --not exactly a Puritan way, since Puritans don't believe in ANY fun-- then you dealt with this uncomfortable truth. You were supposed to get the things you HAD to do out of the way FIRST, then you could go do everything else.

    That translates into doing the things you felt you HAD to do in WoW first, such was dailies, Garrisons, or the Daily Heroic 5-man (back in Wrath days). Well, once you get done with all of those "must do" things, how much time is left for other things? If you're like me and have limited time, spending time doing the "must do" things severely detracts from time left over doing other things.

    In SWTOR, for example, I look at my typical allotted time (about an hour or so), and can fit in either one Flashpoint, a planetary Heroic or two, or an hour's worth of questing and/or crafting/missions. I'd like to run more Flashpoints, but I simply don't have the time to run them much these days.

    Translate that into WoW, and throwing a "must do even though you really would want to do something else" on top of the pile, and I can see how people get annoyed.

    Getting people out of the "must do the busy/hard/work thing first" routine is key, but dangling carrots in front of people encourages that behavior. Of course, NOT dangling something means that people will pretty much ignore that aspect of the game.

  5. I'd like to propose an alternate theory.

    When I started WoW, my first MMORPG, and was leveling I vastly enjoyed the concept of progress being made on each play session. Every time I played I gained power (levels), wealth (money), and new items (usually gear). That sense of forward motion, of gain from my actions, is very important. I would play whenever I wanted, and even take a week or two off, and when I returned it felt like I picked up exactly where I left off. This even continued into raiding, as we were in the ICC lull at the time. This was a paradigm change from local RTS or TBS games, and embodied the state persistence that we all love so much.

    Each new expansion, and every patch since, changed that dynamic for me. Both patches and expansions bring massive inflation, which means wealth (in money) degrades over time. Patches bring new gear, so any power gains only last for a few months before becoming obsolete, which means that power, too, degrades over time. Even achievements of any sort follow this dynamic; official achieves are not tied to a specific level, so players can come back later to overpower them, degrading their meaning over time, and unofficial achievements degrade due to their link to wealth and power (saving up enough money to purchase an expensive mount is affected by inflation; collecting enough mounts to get the special-achieve-mount is affected by new mounts added to the game).

    As a result it feels that all gains in modern MMORPGs slowly degrade over time, which makes playing feel more like a maintenance task (must keep ahead of the degradation), and creates a feeling of agitation when you take a day or two away. Maintenance tasks are not exciting, and they don't represent any sort of net gain for the maintainer, and so people think of them as chores especially when they're tied to time. What we need is progression that does not degrade, but that's only achievable (that I can see) by removing "catch-up" mechanisms, which I doubt WoW is ever going to do. It's just too intent on becoming a lobby-based FPS.