The definition and design of fun (analysis and suggestions)

(Baelzhebub) #1

I was thinking about this a while ago, after the last Q&A.
8.2 looks promising in terms of fun, however hopefully my analysis will inspire WoW to become even better in the future.

Of course we know, there are two types of fun in a game:
content and reward.

What is fun about content?
Whether you experiment in a sandbox, experience a story, play with friends or try a challenge. Those game-types have one thing in common: They are unpredictable!

A sandbox gameplay offers best unpredictability, if you combine randomness with different kinds of gameplay.
The timeless isle had lots of gameplay variation with these events. Because these events spawned rarely, the content was not done in a day and was everyday a little different. However, after a few weeks, players found the most efficient way in farming frogs.
The current Island Expedition do vary in terms of mobs and interactive objects. However the gameplay is always the same.
I hope Mechagon will combine both these aspects well. The Island Expeditions however, could use RNG-varying objective goals (find certain items, kill certain rares, burn enemy ship, capture enemy team, kill a boss that spawns after reaching azerite limit, fight your way back to your ship after reaching azerite limit, …).

The story in an RPG is tailored around your character.
The first time you play it, the plot is new and at best, unpredictable.
By playing the same story on a different character, you may experience it from a different perspective. Not necessarily by having options e.g. by choosing a side (it is however a great addition in BfA), the way how you identify as a character and how the quest story fits it may be enough.
Legion was the best expansion in terms of character storytelling. Not necessarily because every class got its own story. It were the little things: Your artifact appearances, hidden weapon effects (and voices), NPCs commenting your class achievements, the order halls as a special place, etc…

A challenge always has an unpredictable outcome - if and how you win or loose.
The best content in WoW in terms of challenge are instances and PvP. The world content, on the other hand, is not challenging.
Since scaling tech was introduced, it sould offer new possibilities in terms of balancing the word content.
Why not add 3 difficulties to leveling and world endgame:

  • normal is as it is now. You would not be able to complete quests you accepted on higher difficulties.
  • heroic gives more and better rewards. You would not be able to complete quests you accepted on mythic difficulty.
  • mythic difficulty offers best rewards. However, any enemy with reasonable respawn time will be locked to your character/group on tag. Other players won’t do any damage. No help from outside.

Playing with other players is unpredictable by nature. Whether it is a random group or a guild with players who “improvise”.
World content is mostly solo content, with the exception of elites and world bosses. Difficulty scaling as mentioned above would encourage group gameplay in the world. But it could go further than that:

  • Difficulty and rewards could also scale with the group size of 1-5 players.

What is fun about rewards?
People complain all the time about RNG when it comes to rewards. Unpredictability seems not to be fun in this case.
Instead, the fun thing about rewards is progression: Getting BiS gear, earning collectibles and achievements, earning reputation, etc…
This means reward is only fun, if you gain something. Killing a boss and receiving useless loot is not rewarding. However this reward is supposed to be the main motivation to keep playing the same content.

A reward needs predictability, a linear progression with a goal, that you can be sure of getting closer each day. Like reputation or a currency. RNG on the other hand, is a good supplement to keep playing when the linear progression is done.
But it only works in combination of both, to avoid boredom as well as frustration.
E.g. Island expeditions are more fun, if you want the albatross as reward. You may even get some RNG mounts on the way and still have a reason to play them for more.
For gear it could work like this:

  • If you would get default gear with currency and RNG drops as well, you may be done with it at some point.
  • However there could be special gear, with interesting traits/effects (but not a higher ilvl!), that only drops with RNG, like legendaries, set-items, azerite gear, etc.
  • Even if you would be well equipped with ilvl, you would have a reason to keep playing, but it would be a bonus just to customize the playstyle.

I think, the reason many players think WoW is not fun anymore may be because the games tends to make content predictable and rewards unpredictable, while RNG in terms of content and rewards often stands on its own instead of a supplement to gameplay-variation or linear progression.

I for my part, still enjoy WoW for what it is and even if it could become better, I hope it keeps going either way.