Many MMOs sacrifice “quality” with mechanics to keep you playing as long as possible, says ArenaNet

Wednesday, 20 June 2012 14:34 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

ArenaNet believes when a subscription MMO is more focused on making money by keeping players “chasing something in the game,” as long as possible, it not only ruins the experience but the fun as well.

According to Colin Johanson, lead content developer on Guild Wars 2, the prime motivation of many subscription MMOs “run the risk of sacrificing quality to get as much content,” into the game to fill up the players time.

“You get leveling systems that take insane amounts of grind to gain a level, loot drop systems that require doing a dungeon with a tiny chance the item you want can drop at the end, raid systems that need huge numbers of people online simultaneously to organize and play, thousands of wash/repeat item-collection or kill-mob quests or dailies with flavor text support, the best stat gear requiring crazy amounts of time to earn, etc,” he wrote.

Johanson said ArenaNet has tried to avoid this by basing development of Guild Wars 2 around fun instead.

“If we chose fun as our main metric for tracking success, can we flip the core paradigm and make design decisions based on what we’d like to play as game players?,” he asked. “Can we focus our time on making meaningful and impactful content, rather than filler content meant to draw out the experience? Can we make something so much fun you might want to play it multiple times because it’s fun, rather than making you do it because the game says you have to?

“If your key metric for success of your game is fun, how do you make content that fits that goal, and how do you know if you’re succeeding? It’s easy to tell if a subscription-based game is hitting its metric of success, you simply look at the number of subscriptions; fun is much harder to define. To accomplish this, we’ve had to fundamentally redefine our development process of content in Guild Wars 2 around this concept of fun, and it starts with asking a very simple question that surprisingly isn’t asked that often in game development: “Are you having fun?”

Early-on, content-related design decisions made for Guild Wars 2 revolved around how “fun” impacts the gameplay. Loot collection was used as just one example: the rarest items in the game are not more powerful than other items, therefore players do not need them to be “the best.”

“If our model was subscription based, we might be spending all this time racing to add as much filler content as possible to keep players chasing the carrot,” Johanson continued. “Instead, as content designers with the goal of creating fun, we get to spend this time refining our content and making it amazing.”

You can read the entire blog post through the link, where Johanson explains ArenaNet’s design philosophy a bit more.

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