I woke up this morning feeling guilty, because it’s only just beginning to register how selfishness about solo play really has altered the gaming landscape forever.
Back when Warlords launched, I was the person who made a lot of noise over how frustrating it was that to get there you had to do the same quest chain through Tanaan, over and over again. Because Blizzard do listen to their audience, that won’t happen in Legion. Except this morning, as I woke up and as Jeremy went to bed? He let his frustration at this decision show. It is a salutatory reminder that not only are designers human, but they have feelings too, and this isn’t just a game to them. Instead it is a complex and often disregarded set of variables that are lost in the clamour of making things easier and providing player convenience. In a turbulent period of my life? This simple statement has struck a nerve. Was it an intentional admission of frustration? Of course it is, this is a public messaging platform, and everything that appears on it is for a reason.
Why say this now, I find myself asking, and I think I can hazard some answers.
If all you want to do is sell a product, you’ll often say literally anything to get people to sign up. You just have to look at the last week in UK politics to understand the consequences that can have. However, inevitably, if your desire is to retain customers long-term, for every brilliant and forward thinking concept there will be a price to pay. Those who enjoy the shock of the new will soon get bored and demand more, and the way to prevent this is, like it or not, to shorten process. Its the same concept that allows Theme Parks to sell you a time slot on a ride thus completely avoiding queues, for an extra amount of money. It is the idea that if you’re a Season Ticket holder you’ll save money if you’re going to a place more than X times a month, when the reality often ends up with you never having time, but forgetting to cancel the direct debit.
Both sides are to blame for the march of convenience, but it is only when you awaken one day or go to bed one night and grasp the true meaning of your actions that the stupidity of the whole thing becomes blinding apparent. It is just pixels. It is just a job. Does it matter that you feel you have to compromise your own soul to make it work? If it does, then that’s the time to consider your actions before moving forward, and maybe by this comment, Jeremy hopes that some of us might do just that. In fairness I’m already here, but what this little nugget did this morning was reinforce the point for me: change will often never come with an alternative. Going back to the past, however beautiful it might seem, is really never an answer that lasts the scrutiny of time.
Like it or not, forward is the best way.
Legion, at least for me, is becoming a metaphor for how gaming is changing, and that players and designers alike may have to readjust their outlooks on what matters. One could argue that you’d not need to skip content if it were attractive enough to just keep running ad infinium, but I’d say to Jeremy that he’s missing a vital point. This isn’t about people not wanting to play what you designed, it’s why they need to run it again that you’re not factoring into the equation. There will be two distinct groups of players this time around, more than there has been than at any point in the lifespan of this game. The new players will do it at least once, maybe more, but the raiders who need every alt at max to keep their team alive or the guys who want alts prepped for 5 mans or for gold making will never pay more than lip service to your efforts. The way you design End Game, effectively, DEMANDS that content can be skippable, when every second counts.
So in effect, you are making a rod for your own back with the knowledge that to continue the lifespan of this title, there has to be the ‘cheat’ built in. One would then argue that if you can design your content to be so utterly compelling that people will consciously play it to be immersed? That’s a solution that won’t be diminished either over time or via repetition. It would become the in-game equivalent of me watching the Wrathgate cinematic over and over again, which I do, because it evokes a sense of unique time and place. Maybe this is what should be the consideration going forward. Entering a situation with the mindset ‘well this is going to become optional content, but let’s make it as brilliant as possible regardless’ is what should happen. Going into something knowing that by its very function it would be ignored over time is ultimately the better mindset to begin with. After that, pushing for that not to be the case should be something to consider for the future.
Whatever happens in the next three months, people won’t be happy. That’s just a given now, accepted norm that has to be factored into the equation. I for one intend to try and make it as small a part as possible, mostly on the back of the understanding that enjoyment is only really truly gained when you’re open to the possibility. I cannot help but feel sorry for Mr Feasel for the admission, but deep down know that when you get the chance to sit in the big chair, sometimes the outcome isn’t a happy one, and it is only the joy of gaming’s Big Red Reset Button that allows people the ability to keep playing. Sometimes, you don’t need repetition after a hard day, you just wanna play your way, and that’s what the shortcuts give some. It’s in their hands to dictate, and not the designers.
It is a depressing fact that sometimes, people need to cheat to move forward.