Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Not a Friday

Syncaine points out that it isn't a Friday, so I can't completely disagree with what he writes. Fortunately I fully agree with the paragraph in which he says:
On top of that, one would think that as you get older, you get a little smarter, and so things that challenged you as a teen are pretty easy for you now (non-twitch of course), yet somehow in addition to a reduction in time, we also need a reduction in thinking? That we can’t handle social situations? That we can’t grasp the concept of not everyone being the hero? At what point did getting older turn into becoming an oversensitive baby who needs a trophy just for showing up? That sounds a lot more like becoming a child than growing up.
I fully agree. I would prefer my games to require more thinking, more strategy, more maturity. And that having "twitch" as the only sort of challenge in a game turns me off, which is exactly why I quit World of Warcraft.

But where I don't agree with is that time requirement is a suitable challenge. Recently Syncaine is praising long games like Everquest simply for being long, and bashes Facebook games for being short. Well, I played Everquest a decade ago for over a year, and while it sure was "hard" in the sense of punishing and frustrating, I never considered Everquest a challenging game in the sense of needing a high IQ to play it successfully. For example I still remember camping the Mammoth Cloak for my druid. That took 16 hours (over several sessions). And the "challenge" was to sit in a cave where a mob respawned every 23 minutes, and kill that mob over and over until the rare cloak finally dropped. The intellectual challenge of that is zero. You can fill 2,000 hours of gameplay with stuff like that, but that doesn't make the game any good.

I think it is consistent to demand more intellectual challenge from a game, but still to reject the model in which "challenging" is equal to "time-consuming". World of Warcraft would not be a better game if you simply doubled the xp requirement per level and halved all the loot drop probabilities. It would only be a longer game. If you wanted to make WoW more intellectually challenging, you would need to replace scripted encounters by random encounters, forcing players to think on their feet and come up with strategies of their own instead of strategies from YouTube. You would need to design talent trees and combat abilities in a way that every choice has advantages and disadvantages to consider, instead of creating a system with a mathematical optimum talent build and spell rotation which is identical for every encounter. There are lots of ways to make games more intellectually challenging, the current batch just isn't there yet.

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