Tree of Life form should be capable of doing siege damage in battlegrounds.
I’m just sayin’.
Tree of Life form should be capable of doing siege damage in battlegrounds.
I’m just sayin’.
A commenter on one of my other sites (leave a link so I can credit you, I see your comments!) pointed me to Tobold’s most recent post, where he brings to light an exploit where goods from the Satchels of Helpful Goods can be used by level 19 characters, and how it’s having a bad impact on the 19 bracket in the EU. I’ve only played a few 19s in the past month in the US, and I didn’t notice anyone overwhelmingly powerful – all my losses were definitely due to getting outplayed – but this is one of those things which can cause big problems for a bracket until it’s fixed.
Blizzard has supposedly fixed the satchel so you can’t get these rewards anymore at low levels, but the gear still remains. Unbalancing? Yes. Likely to remain? Also yes, this doesn’t seem like something that’s easy to fix.
We’ll have to see how big an impact this has on the lower brackets.
Spoilers here for the DW fight.
Cynwise killed Deathwing tonight. I’d honestly thought it was something I’d either miss this expansion, or that it would be an end-of-xpac kind of kill. I thought it would be something I’d be trumpeting and going AW YEAH and TAKE THAT and PWND and /FLEX.
I’m not feeling any of those things. Oddly, I think it’s a hugely fun fight, epic in the right ways, with enough action cues to make me go AW YEAH while I was doing it. On to the ship! GO GO GO GO grab a parachute GO GO GO GO GO on to the next rock GO GO GO GO GO stop Deathwing before he blows up the world GO GO GO YOU LAGGARDS!
Matthew Rossi covered this feeling of epicosity well in Big Stakes and the End of an Expansion. It’s a good read, about how – story wise – this is a perfect ending to this expansion. I completely agree. I finally feel fulfilled with the story, engaged with it, my own characters place within it has solidified in a way that only happened once Arthas lay dead at my feet in Wrath. Cataclsym didn’t feel real to me until End Time and Dragon Soul.
But there’s a real difference here, too. With DS, my response to Deathwing’s death was, dang, that was cool. It was fun and fulfilling. It also took about 1 hour tonight, and we 1-shot bosses I’d never seen before in LFR.
With ICC, I sobbed when Arthas hit the ground. Months of frustration and learning to raid and trying to get the right group and Jesus why am I dying to Infest and all the rest culiminated into a cathartic outpouring of relief and joy.
These two experiences highlight, for me, the difference in hitting story-based goals versus hitting performance-based goals. Before LFR, they were intertwined. Now, I can experience reaching the story goal without also reaching the performance goal.
This is good, because my interest in actually pursuing normal raiding is pretty low. I’m probably not going to kill Deathwing on Normal, and I’m okay with that.
But it’s bad, because by removing the story-based incentive Blizzard also lessens the impact of (and motivation for) completing the raid on normal difficulty. I’m pretty sure that I’m done with Cataclsym at this point. I might level up a few alts, hang out with folks, but that dragon thing? Stick a fork in it. Done.
Is that really bad, though? I mean, if I was already drifting away (and let’s face it, I have been), is it better to go out with a great story and having fun? Or should the game try to keep me engaged, try to get that sense of real accomplishment out of hitting a raid goal?
I think, all in all, that just letting me go with a fun action-adventure that didn’t take all that long was probably the right thing for my long-term interest, if not my short term.
I’m done with Cataclysm. That’s strange to say, it feels strange to consider it that way, but it’s really true. I’ve won the xpac. I can go do something else now.
I have some minor gripes about some of the motifs and imagerly used in the end of the story arc, mostly with the “Age of Mortals” idea, but I don’t think I want to dwell on them tonight.
It’s a bittersweet thing when a story ends.
It really didn’t take very long to get Cynwise into LFR. I think I spent more time practicing at dummies trying to relearn the Demo rotation than I did gearing up, and my PvE set is slowly phasing out the PvP pieces.
And by slowly I mean like 2-4 pieces a day. Seriously, wtf, you know how long it takes to gear up for PvP? I’ve already got the 2pc bonus!
So, I’ve been thinking, a dangerous pastime. (I know.) And something has really been bugging me.
Why are there no crafted PvE sets at 85?
What purpose does not having craftable gear available serve at this point? When it’s possible to get (inappropriate) PvP gear crafted for you the moment you hit 85 that gives you access to nearly all heroic content, and when it’s trivial to PvP a few BGs to bump you into LFR, why are there no starter PvE sets for endgame? In what way does the implied progression of normals, 4.1 heroics, 4.2 heroics, 4.3 heroics, LFR, normal T13 make sense at this point in the expansion?
Actually, screw that question. Even early on, why was there never a set of 325 gear for tanks to start off with?
As much as people complain about PvP gear in PvE, and rightly so, there’s a certain unfairness in the criticism when the game stacks the gearing path against PvE players.
At this point in the expansion, fresh 85s are looking at a massive ilvl gap between what’s available at 84 and what’s available in current content. Think about it. You can either:
I picked Cynwise back up with an item level of… I want to say 362 or something like that. She was in full S9 Conquest, with a few S10 Honor pieces (trinkets and the like.) She had practially no PvE gear – the hideous crafted BoE belt with lots of hit was about itm.
In 4 nights of work, she’s up to 380 in 2pc LFR T13, with only 3 pieces of PvP gear left on her. That’s about as much PvP gear as I had when I raided ICC for 8 months.
And I sure as hell didn’t do it by running other dungeons – I swapped out most of my S9 Conquest gear with crafted S11 PvP gear to get my ilevel up to 371, then ran the End Time 5-mans twice and the Siege of Wyrmrest Temple on LFR twice. That’s it.
So here’s the thing. I could do this now because I’m playing DPS, and if my DPS is low because I’m in PvP gear it’s not going to instantly wipe the group.
This seems wrong. This is a separate issue from the cluster of fun that has been PvP gearing in Cataclysm – on that side of the house, PvP is getting screwed over by PvE design decisions. No, this is a different problem, a design decision to force people through an entire expansion of content that isn’t relevant at this point. The lack of a low-tier crafted PvE set:
Want more tanks and heals at the PvE endgame? Design the gear curve so that it’s possible to jump into current content as a new player or a new character without resorting to gear that’s wholy unsuited to the task.
For all my griping about PvP gearing during this expansion, I think the crafted gear at 85 has been an excellent addtion to the model.
But it amazes me that there still isn’t craftable starter PvE gear sets for level 85 toons.
In the context of dailies, Bashiok writes:
It’s not going to be a revolution or anything, don’t get me wrong, but I think it’ll at least feel better. No one likes being the guy on the assembly line putting the left index finger on the doll 250 times a day, 5 days a week. They might not mind it as much though if they’re paid $100k a year. Right?
Wow. I entirely get what Bashiok is saying here, don’t get me wrong, but since I’ve been talking about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation this is too good a topic to pass up.
One of the topics that I don’t think I hit hard enough in my piece On Merit Badges, Achievements, and Accomplishment is a curious psychological dichotomy: predictable extrinsic rewards reduce intrinsic motivation for performing interesting tasks, yet are pretty much the only way to get people to do really dull tasks.
I’m going to point people over to Chris Heckler’s presentation, Achievements Considered Harmful?, that Pradzha linked in the comments of my post, because it’s really topical and asks a lot of questions of the game industry that I don’t think there are good answers for yet. It’s full of a lot of warnings against pop behavioralism, which is generally good advice, and against drawing conclusions when there isn’t real solid data to support the theories proposed. If you can spare an hour for the actual presentation, do so, but if not at least look over the page and slides.
As you do so, think about that well-paid doll factory worker. It feels almost like a short story out of Russian literature, written by Chekov or Gogol – a worker is paid extremely well for the task of attaching the left index finger to the dolls, they are overjoyed at first, their family rises out of poverty. But as the months and then the years drag by, the worker becomes a shell of a human being, increasingly bitter and frustrated by the monotony of their role. The payment they receive becomes a trap. They have dreams about the right hand, about being able to attach the thumb instead of the index finger. The world changes around them, but still they go on, attaching doll fingers. This is important work, they are told, and the salary they receive indicates its importance. After years of toil, they finally rebel, only to find that putting the thumb on the right hand isn’t that much better after all.
Then they die in the snow in a doorway in St. Petersburg.
I’m pretty sure that’s how it ends.
Right. Moving on.
I’ll point out one last thing Heckler said, and then leave you to consider the doll factory worker, dailies, and your own motivations in peace.
In one of the funnier slides, he asks:
Why are you making games?
If you’re intentionally making dull games with variable ratio extrinsic motivators to separate people from their money, you have my pity.
If you’re making intrinsically interesting games and want to make them even better, be very careful with extrinsic motivators.
Is Blizzard making an interesting or a dull game when they focus on dailies to extend content? That’s the context of Bashiok’s response, by the way, I should have mentioned that:
It’s easy to design a better system than dailies, pump out infinite amounts of content, it’s just not feasible to pull off. Some people want to spend more time in the game than others, maybe even every day, and we want to make sure they have something to do. While we’d love for that to be fresh and unique content every time, it’s simply not feasible. Thus, dailies. Give people something to do each time they log in (if they choose to do so every day).
Dailies, as a way of extending content by providing something for people to do if they choose to log in every day, are by their nature repetitive and somewhat dull. They provide tangible, expected rewards for particpation, providing extrinsic motivation to log in. If that’s the case, however, then they also work against the intrisinc motivations we have for playing the game, which is needed for long-term enjoyment and fulfilment.
So, in light of all this, I think this question needs to be asked:
Should daiies be considered harmful?
Midwinter has always been a tough holiday for me; the failing light combined with the stress of making sure everything is in order for Christmas usually sends me into a spiral of mild depression. It’s been like this for years; I know it’s coming. Tonight is the longest night of the year.
This time of year is always surprisingly introspective for me – I say surprisingly because I’m usually busier than a beaver in a dam-building contest, yet somehow I find time to stand around and woolgather and think about things too much.
I’ve been thinking about what Hugh at MMO Melting Pot wrote when he wrote up my last post on motivation, where he points out that I’ve been going through a dark night of the soul with Warcraft lately. It’s interesting to have other people evaluate you and hit on things you didn’t realize about yourself. @Druidis4fite wondered how I have the emotional energy to get attached to so many toons, and I realized that I didn’t and that was part of the problem.
So now I’m thinking about the dark nights we go through.
Part of it is because of the phrase Hugh used. Part of it is Windsoar’s excellent post on depression and gaming.
And part of it is just sitting back and realizing that while I’ve been writing about gaming and Warcraft here on CFN, because of the one rule I have for CFN – fuck the inner editor, you hit publish no matter what – I’ve really been writing about me, about those issues affecting my life outside of the video game I play at night to unwind, that it’s all connected and if I’m open and honest then those problems will be right front and center.
The games we play are nothing but a canvas for us to draw the lives we’d like to lead on. A place where we create stories, where we submerge our outer identities for a time and become something … different. Better? Maybe.
I think this is the idea I was dancing around when I wrote On the Hero with a Thousand Faces.
Writing about my own motivations has been really freeing. Really, really freeing. Yes, it was looking at it in Warcraft, but in looking at why I’m motivated – or not – in this game, I started to see patterns, at work, at home, in my other hobbies. Places where the extrinsic motivations had demolished the intrinsic ones. Activities where those extrinsic rewards were the only reason to keep doing something.
I’ve gotten all tied up and twisted around. In Warcraft, at my job – there shouldn’t be any shame in admitting this. My motivations for doing things aren’t for personal enjoyment anymore. You can call it fun, you can call it self-actualization, you can call it whatever you like – but while you have to do things for extrinsic reasons, you can’t neglect those intrinsic reasons which made you do something in the first place.
Midwinter is supposed to be a time of rebirth, of trying new things, of getting rid of the debris and flotsam from the previous year and starting over. Of finding that sweet joy of doing something you want to do, instead of doing something that needs to be done just to get something else.
Or maybe Midwinter is a time of taking a lot of naps. I’m not sure.
I do know, though, that I’m not done with the story of the young woman pictured above. Not yet.
I picked her back up, shouldered aside the bad memories long enough to craft her some new gear, respeced her to Demonology, and am relearning how to play that spec in the new 5-mans.
It’s new, it’s interesting, it’s a nice diversion. It’s not quite as much fun as tanking, but it’s still fun. It’s nice to run with my guildies again. She’s not back – not by a long shot – but I can at least say that I’ve had fun on my warlock recently.
We shall see how this turns out.
I went to pick up some patches for my son’s Cub Scout uniform a few weeks ago at the regional BSA Council store. I walked into a drab, non-descript building and stood there staring at walls of patches and badges and belt loops and beads for about 5 minutes before I was able to get the attention of someone working there. I, thankfully, had a list.
While I was standing there, I was partly overcome by memories of doing something similar with my own father, more than three decades ago. I remember, very clearly, the air of ritual around awarding merit badges; the presentation to the pack, the semi-formal recognition of accomplishment, the handing over of the patch or belt loop, the handshake, the salute, the applause. You start out with a few things, but the more involved you get, the more your uniform reflected that involvement. You walked around with your resume.
I said I was partly overcome by memory, which is true.
The other part of me, though, was struck by the incredible variety in the system of accomplishments that Cub Scouts/Boy Scouts presents, and how clever it all was psychologically. Much like a military officer accumulating fruit salad on his uniform, there’s a physical representation of accomplishment that the BSA presents to young men while trying to motivate them to do things. It starts off simple – beads for attendance – and over ten years grows into massive community service projects to satisfy the requirements of the Order of the Arrow. Along the way there are hundreds of small rewards for participation and accomplishment.
I stood there looking at a wall of Achievement Points.
I try to focus on extrinsic motivations on CBM – those rewards and goals outside of ourselves which drive us to do things. Extrinsic motivations are easy to spot, and can be used as a guide towards mass behavior: i.e. if players want the most Honor Points/Minute to get the latest gear, and Tol Barad rewards it through win-trading, then players will collaborate to win-trade TB. Extrinsic motivations drive a lot of what we choose to do with our leisure time, and WoW provides a surfeit of those motivations. Gear, both in power and appearance. Achievements. Achivement points, which is related but different. Pets. Mounts. Titles. Reputations. Even just having characters of given types and levels. Gold. Status symbols.
And then there are social motivations: being in a good guild, gaining the respect of your server or raid team, being an authority on something, hell, being a successful blogger.
Extrinsic motivations don’t have to be public; they just have to be outside of you. And they’re not bad! Just because a motivation is outside of you doesn’t make it somehow invalid. You want to be rewarded for your work and effort, no matter if it’s a “good job” or a belt loop or a digital dragon your avatar gets to ride around on or a promotion or a diploma or staying out of jail or even a gorram paycheck. This is important to remember; extrinsic isn’t bad.
But it’s only one facet of motivation.
Intrinsic motivations are those drives which are self-generated. You do something because you find it fun, or personally rewarding. You do it because you enjoy it. You’ll stay up late doing something not because you’re told to do it, but because you’re driven to do it. And there’s an element of intrinsic motivation in pretty much everything we do.
It’s relatively easy to sit back and look at Warcraft with the gear grind and cheesy points and go, this is all extrinsic motivation, and surely, MMO players are rats in a maze, pushing pellets until their prizes show up. And that’s not picking on MMO players, really. I look at all those Merit Badges, and wonder how many Boy Scouts started out just like my son did, saying I’m going to get them all, and how many of them actually work towards that goal, and how many actually do it.
(They don’t have an Over 9000 merit badge. I checked).
Patches, belt loops, pins, beads. It’s easy to dismiss chasing after them as a child’s pursuit of shiny baubles. I don’t think anyone who really looks at motivation ever thinks that’s all there is to it – competition, accomplishment, learning, social pressure all factor into why the merit badge system works – but it’s awfuly easy to be dismissive of something solely because it has physical rewards, even though those rewards aren’t really the point.
Achievements, mounts, first kills, titles. It’s even easier to dismiss a system that relies entirely upon virtual assets for rewards than a physical one.
When does an extrinsic motivation go bad?
I mean, I have a spotty track record when talking about achievement points and merit badges alike – part of me enjoys the chase, the triumph of completing something difficult, and of having something to show for it. And in the same breath, I can complain about how this doesn’t really matter, this isn’t a real indication of skill, the difficulty of an achievement is variable relative to your environment, these systems are in place to compel people to spend more time in game, etc. etc..
So there’s something going on there. Rewards have to mean something to be valuable, and therefore, effective. I find the same extrinsic motivations both compelling and repulsive in a short span of time. Like, in seconds, I can change my tune.
Look at Cynderblock – I will trot out that she killed the Whale Shark on a regular enough basis that it’s obviously something I’m proud of. It’s so outrageous, so in-your-face that she’s got an achievement that most 85s don’t, that she particpated in the kill of something with 9.6 million hit points at level 19, that it’s become my canonical example of why you shouldn’t set limits on what you think you can and can’t do in a video game.
But it wasn’t really all that hard. I lucked into a group who was killing him, and I just tried to survive. It’s not like I kited the beast for 30 hours trying to kill it. I showed up and dodged mobs in Vash’jir for about an hour.
If you were to ask me what my proudest moment with ‘block is, it’s getting the Ambassador title. Not because it was terribly hard – just a lot of questing – but because it was hard but fun. I did it with friends, I did it solo, I also did it because it was absurd and broke limits – but even though it’s easier to get now, that title (extrinsic motivation) also let me see all the Horde starting zones before Cataclysm (intrinsic motivation). That I also got to collect cool gear (extrinsic) that marked this character as unique (also extrinsic) didn’t hurt.
It doesn’t bother me in the slightest that Cataclysm made the Ambassador title much, much easier to get for level 19 twinks. So what? I got what I wanted out of it.
Extrinsic motivations can often be enough to get us to do things. They can make us do things that are good for ourselves, which enrich us, drive us to try things we hadn’t considered. They can also keep us out of trouble.
But if you lack the intrinsic motivation, then you won’t value the accomplishments that go with those extrinsic rewards. If you’re just working for a paycheck, eventually the work will burn you out.
If you’re just grinding reps and not enjoying it – well, you’re going to burn out too.
Oh hai, Cynwulf. Grats there on hitting 85. I know it took you over a year to make it to 85, and you’re Cyn’s … second toon … to max level, and you started off at 80, but hey, grats, man.
You don’t seem happy, dude. What’s up with that? Now you get to gear up, get phat lewts, go raiding, see some new bgs…
What? What’s that you say?
You want a nap?
What the hell kind of DK are you, anyways?
Getting to level 85 isn’t, all things considered, an unusual accomplishment, or even a terribly difficult one. (Especially since he was level 80 when the expansion started!)
But for both of my 85s – yes, I really only have two, I know I’m slow – I really had trouble motivating myself to do it. I took my time on Cynwise because, while I wanted to play the endgame, I wasn’t in any rush. I think if I wasn’t a PvP blogger, and BfG, TP and TB weren’t off-limits to < 85 toons, I would have taken even longer to do it. It was like, there’s so much to see, why rush it? I spent a lot of time in the lowbie zones when Cata launched, to be honest.
Eventually I did rush it, though, and pushed through to start seeing the new stuff. I didn’t regret it, precisely, but in retrospect I didn’t have a lot of intrinsic motivations for doing it. I wanted to play Arena with friends, that was really about it, but when the task of keeping my gear up to date became burdensome, I ditched the endgame pretty damn quickly and went back to twinking.
A year later, and I decided to push Cynwulf – who I’d made into a semi-respectable level 84 twink – into the endgame. Not because I wanted to play him, but rather because I wanted to just be done with him. Like, enough already, either be at endgame where I can gear you up to play in Cata, or just skip it and move on. Stop hanging over my head as an unfinished project. Nagging guilt and a desire to be free of it (intrinsic) pushed him over the top, not the promise of new gear or new abilities (extrinsic). Unfortunately, because there aren’t really a lot of extrinsic motivations that are grabbing me with him right now, I’m just shelving him until later.
The value of an accomplishment is going to vary according to your motivations and desires in it. It’s also going to depend upon your environment, your social setting, and your support structure. For some, reaching 85 is a major accomplishment, the goal they’ve been working towards for months. (First hitting 80 at Wrath for me was like this, holy crap, it was amazing. Then I was totally lost and adrift). For others, it’s all in a few days work, and they’re off to do it again – maybe this time beating their previous record.
You’re very dependent upon other people to succeed – in WoW, in life, it’s all the same. If you’re in the right raid team, you’re going to find that you can accomplish a lot more than if you’re in one where you don’t mesh, where they’re not as good players, where they’re not as driven, where they don’t sabotage themselves. This isn’t rocket science, but it’s amazing how we can collectively forget how much we depend on those around us when weighing our own individual accomplishments. Achievements (in WoW and in life) are as much about being in the right place in the right time with the right people as they are about having the skill to pull them off.
I was thinking about this when I took the picture at the very beginning of this article. That’s my son’s belt, he has the Horseback Riding belt loop. I never got that when I was a scout. I never even came close – I was a child of the city and suburbs, but even then I never had the desire to become a mongolian horse-archer or knight-errant. Even when I became obsessed with Fantasy literature and medieval history, I never really wanted to be a horseman.
My son loves horses. He’s been like this since he was a toddler, so we figured out a way to get him riding lessons years ago. This Horseback Riding belt loop was trivial for him. Like, it was barely even a warmup for his regular lesson. But for me, and most everyone else in his pack, it’s really, really hard. It’s one of those activities that takes a lot of planning, learning, and work. You have to get over your fear of the unknown, and fear of really large animals. You have to get up there on the horse and do it.
And that can be a big obstacle if you don’t really want to do it.
Extrinsic motivation can get you to do something, and you might enjoy it and keep doing it. Intrinsic motivation will make you do something even if there are no extrinsic rewards.
I don’t know about you, but this is starting to shed light on my behavior in Cataclysm.
That’s what this comes back to, doesn’t it? In some ways that’s the central theme of this entire blog, of this crazy experiment which I started because I needed an unfettered place to write in. When the extrinsic motivations get taken away, what do I really enjoy doing? What do I find personally fulfilling?
I want, so very much, to be able to pick up my warlock again, to find that visceral joy in playing her. But that search for joy gets tangled up in all kinds of extrinsic motivations, motivations which trample on that simple desire. Achievements get in the way. Gear gets in the way. I can’t deny that. Those things which are supposed to motivate me to log in and play her? They aren’t working. If anything, they’re causing me to retreat further and further away from her. Tol Barad? No thank you. Firelands dailies? No fucking way. Rep grinds for a shoulder enchant? Er, only if it’s a grind I’ve never done before, and only for a twink, because, really. Really? Really. Do we need to do that again?
The benefit to this has been a period of wild experimentation. I don’t know what’s going to work, so I try whole bunch of stuff and see what sticks. I enjoy tanking and healing, who knew? I think I’m playing a warrior now, or maybe a druid or a shaman or a mage, but that’s all good. I’m making it work.
But the downside has been distance from the reward system, of looking at it as a system and not as something valuable in and of itself, which lessens its value. To me. Not to others. Value is personal.
I remember when those merit badges meant something to me. It was, mostly, a good time. There were frustrating parts about the system, there was jealousy and competition, but there was also a desire to do good deeds, and to do well while doing those deeds.
That’s not a bad thing. That’s how people grow. That’s how people develop.
That’s how people find what they love.