Monday, June 30, 2014

Subsystem Depth

I was thinking over how I currently play MMOs, and how I used to play MMOs. I noticed a small and unusual pattern.

Back in Vanilla, I used to PvP. Not a whole lot, and not with any great degree of skill. But I did battlegrounds and eventually got Knight-Captain rank in the old PvP system [1]. Then in later expansions, Blizzard expanded on PvP, adding ratings, PvP gear, arena teams, etc. PvP used to be pretty shallow, and Blizzard made it deeper. I tried the new system for a little bit, but ultimately my response was to stop playing PvP.

Before Mists, I used to collect minipets. Again, not hardcore, but I liked trying to get minipets and seeing my collection expand. Then Blizzard added Pet Battles, a deep system that greatly expanded gameplay around minipets. I tried Pet Battles for a little bit, but ultimately my response was to stop bothering with minipets.

In WoW, I used to craft a bit. I got my professions to max, and liked collecting recipes. FFXIV has a much deeper and more complex crafting system. I tried the FFXIV crafting system for a little bit, but ultimately my response is not to touch crafting at all.

I'm not sure if there are other examples (perhaps Challenge Mode dungeons, or maybe Galactic Starfighter in SWTOR). But in each case, the developers added depth to the subsystem, made it a more interesting and deeper experience. But my response to that increased depth was to stop bothering with that subsystem, even if I enjoyed it before.

Paradoxically, as more developer effort was put into all these different facets of the game, the "area" of the game that I participated in grew smaller and smaller.

I would say that adding depth also increased the barrier to participation at a decent level for these subsystems. My focus was on raiding and PvE, and I was perfectly happy to play with these other shallow subsytems. To PvP a little bit, to collect a few minipets, to craft a little bit. In the current game, all I do is the raiding and PvE, and that is a lesser experience than it was before.

Of course, the flip side is that for people who want to focus on PvP, or on Pet Battles, or on crafting, the new deep subsystems are a lot more fun for them.

Is it better for an MMO to have several equally deep facets, or is it better to have one or two deep facets and several shallow ones?

1. I maintain that I stopped at Knight-Captain because it was clearly the best named rank for paladins.


  1. I think many deep systems are the way to go as I recently posted here:

  2. Not everyone prefers the same system to be deep.

    Raiding too did get deeper and more complex if you compare vanilla 40 man tank and spank fights with he tons of different sizes and difficulties of raids we have today.

    I think by focusing more and more on raiding (which was a huge mistake, IMHO) they were forced to improve the other systems too to not loose the non-raiders (which are the majority of player).

    Would you be willing to sacrifice the depth in your preferred system (raiding) in exchange for all subsystems being less deep?

  3. I did the same thing with pets and crafting as you did. I simply couldn't bring myself to collect pets when it suddenly became popular, and crafting in WoW is now almost pointless except for selling mats on the AH for moggers.

    I'll be honest in that PvP is the only thing keeping me in WoW, and it's the very basic "run random BGs" variety. No arenas. No rated BGs. No wargames. Just the old fashioned "queue-em-up" style of BGs. But the "Horde wins everything but AV and IoC" in random BGs is really wearing on me too.

  4. It's better for a game to have multiple different paths that are near-equally fulfilling.

    The typical complaint about MMOs, especially WoW, is that once you reach the endgame you only have one real thing to do: raid.

    But with them building so many different deep systems, they have a lot of different ways for players to have their own "endgame". For example, Mists has it's own "raid" challenge for pet battles, for those who love that kind of thing! And it rewards you for completing it appropriately for pet battles.

  5. "Before Mists, I used to collect minipets. Again, not hardcore, but I liked trying to get minipets and seeing my collection expand. Then Blizzard added Pet Battles, a deep system that greatly expanded gameplay around minipets."

    Same thing happened to me. I had collected 200 pets as I recall prior to MoP, enjoyed chasing some of them down. Got the shiny achievement.

    Then Blizzard added another 300+ pets and it felt like "why bother?"

    I didn't have a serious interest in pets specifically, I just found it interesting to make that number big. I felt it worthwhile to chase after 2-3 new pets per patch or whatever but when another 300 entered the scene...

  6. It is not weird. I also have the same attitude...I think the difference is that something is very optional and you chose to do it for fun and also is not so popular among other players.

    When a system is created around it then it suddenly become popular and is less optional/fluff.

  7. Pets and mounts their is just so many that I find it hard to care about new ones.

    Pvp titles i went for knight on my Paladin because I did not like knight-captain:) However I did get commander on my warlock(for the mounts). In that case I did calculate that another 6 weeks of high play time in wow and spending almost all that time pvp'ing would be enough to scrape up 1 more rank but I decided I would rather not.

    But i have been fairly off pvp for the last couple of years, I don't like losing a lot and unless I put in enough effort that I can actually carry the pug alliance team to a degree that is all thats going to happen.