Friday, January 28, 2011


Earlier this week I spoke of an epic failure of mine. Sad to say that I have not since logged into my Priest out of fear of being recognized. The time will come again, someday, when I'll give it another go.

I've had other thoughts lately, all of which I suppose can be applied to real life or to any of the games we play, including WoW.

According to Webster's, definition 2b, the most well known and applicable definition SUCCEED is:

"to attain a desired object or end".

While SUCCESS is: (2a) "degree or measure of succeeding" and (3) "one that succeeds".

As with all words in every language, the exact definition can evolve over time, can be used in a "slang" context, thereby changing the meaning of the word all together. And sometimes, generally accepted definitions of words are created within certain societies that sometimes describe a general concept or lead us to a particular way of thinking. Such is the problem with the word success, and I think I know why.

Possible Definitions
If you were to tell me that you succeeded in the Cho'gall fight last night that could actually carry with it more than one meaning. How? It's entirely dependent on the goals of the raiders, a group of individuals coming together with the same purpose and often the same definition of success. For most raiders, success means actually killing the boss. But are there some people who view getting the boss down to 20% or 10% a success? Maybe. I'm not saying that raiders generally see 10% as success, but I'm also saying it's possible.

What if I were to tell you that a 10M raiding group was filled with 8-year olds, and that group came within 10% of downing Cho'gall? For them, being so young and inexperienced, 10% could be a success if that is how they, as individuals who formed this 10-man raiding group, defined it. So in the end, you can have two very plausable success stories, and each was dependent on stated individual and group goals.

RL Examples
Let's step back into the real world for a moment. Nothing bothers me more than the "generally accepted American definition of success". That is, wealthy, good home, nice car, great job with power and influence, blah, blah, blah. It's a definition handed out by social pressures, contrived and accepted by the masses, but subject to individual life circumstances. The boy raised by filthy rich parents who's hopes and dreams lie in the potential of said boy to grow up and become a US Senator, success is defined by the parents as US Senator, but we must, if we believe in freedom of conscience and choice, to allow the boy to have his own definition of success. What if all this young man wants is a 50K/year job, a nice family he can spend weekends at the park with, and a car that doesn't require a personal driver. We must allow him to define his own success, right?

Fight Design
Back to WoW. We love to judge, whether it's to say WoW is great or WoW sucks or whatever, we define the success of the devs by our individual expectations of the game. Sometimes we allow others to shape our definition of what is a successful 5-man dungeon design, or a successful 10/25-man raid fight design. We believe that there is some rule book out in the nethersphere that says that a "tank and spank" fight can't be a successful fight design. Successful by who's standards? If the devs' goal was to create a tank and spank (Patchwork), then they were successful in creating the fight they wanted. The other side of the equation, the player, can formulate his/her own opinion based on what they believe to be a successful fight, but those opinions come from expectation, or somewhere else that I can't fully explain. After all, where a mass opinion originates is often hard to trace back to its genesis.

If a raid group is having trouble with a particular fight, where the first night they achieve 75%, the next 65%, the next 50%, a raid leader may try to motivate their group by saying that "progress is success...we'll get 'em down soon". Still, in the back of the raid group's minds they know that they weren't successful? Why? Because people who raid come into it with a shared goal, one that each member holds individually, but shares as a goal in common that success = Boss Dead.

General Stuff
What is a successful crafter? Someone who maxes their profession and learns every, single recipe in the game? Or maybe that person believes that success is crafting items that he/she can sell for obscene profits in trade or on the AH. Success for some is maxing gold per character, being the wealthiest player in WoW history. Still success for others is achieving the all-ambiguous "fun" during whatever playtime they have that day.

Success must be individual, it can never be forced upon anyone. People may choose to accept the expectations of their raid leader, thereby defining success the same way as everyone else who has accepted the same expectations, and that's good because that means that everyone is working to a common goal - the same goal. Some are weak minded, and believe that another person's definition of success should be their own because it's more noble or above their own. For those people, you get what you deserve.

Do you like how questing works nowadays? You go to a hub, you get 3 quests: #1 = Kill, #2 = Gather, #3 = Bandage/Strengthen. Over and over and over this pattern repeats, for 85 levels until you just want to die. Then you hit 85 and you do dailies, the same quests over and over and over. Is this successful quest design? Perhaps, depends on who you ask. I'm sure Blizzard loves the quest design that has people do the same stuff over and over and over for incremental rewards, it keeps people playing and paying after all. Do some player criticize it? Absolutely. For those players, it's not successful game design because it doesn't meet their expectations.

WoW a Success?
For as much as I enjoy reading blogs of people who discuss game design, I'm convinced, by all the things I've read, that there is no perfect design because we, the players and payers of these games, have varying expectations and goals, interests and attitudes. Like Syl wrote, I kinda accept WoW for what it is, knowing it doesn't attain success in every aspect, according to my expectations. I'm sure Blizzard considers WoW a success as a whole, as evidenced by their subscription numbers. ATVI defines success by net revenue and % increases, not by raid design or questing design or 5-man design. The player doesn't care about their net income or whether they're paying a dividend this year, they just want to have "fun".

Captain Obvious?
Is what I've said just too obvious and redundant? Or maybe I'm deranged and don't understand how society works? Perhaps I'm just an idiot who needs a new brain? Or maybe I'm right and need to allow other people to define their own success in WoW. Success for my 8-year old boy is killing a Pali in a battleground, mostly because they stink like last week's dinner, while for others it's being the first to kill all raid bosses on 25M Heroic. Either way, I must allow for others to define success AND reject anyone's expectations of me. I don't want someone telling me that questing is a failure feature if I truly believe it's a success.

Oddly enough there are many things about life and the universe where I believe in truths and absolutes, but gaming is not one of those. If you provide a compelling argument and give me the chance to experience something for myself, like the LK fight, then I have the right to agree or disagree whether that fight was a success. But don't tell me I'm an idiot or I'm inexperienced and don't understand what success is. I define success myself, for myself, and I believe all others should do the same.

Groups of people rising up in protest against the establishment moves the powerful to change their minds...sometimes. For that group who finds success in changing how a game is made, good for you. But consider this, there are some out there who were content with how it was, who found the prior product a success. I guess in the end everyone can't win, everyone can't be happy, everyone can't achieve the success they define for themselves. Someone will always want to change their mind, to take away what they love, to distort your own expectations and make you feel that your success isn't as good as theirs.

On the other hand, there are many who are charismatic enough, convincing enough, and skilled enough to draw people towards a definition of success that they define, ultimately being shared by the whole. It's what happens when you raid. It's what makes the game fun for ME, when I share a goal of success with 9 or 24 others and we can share in the exhilaration of downing that one boss in that one raid that took forever to kill. We succedded, and the success was ours!


Syl said...

A very interesting post, Gronthe. :)
And I believe the sky is the limit when it comes to people defining their own goals and success in life, and in WoW too. we all play the game in different ways, look for different things, value different achievements. there's nothing wrong with that.
the only ones I have a problem with are those who are trying to tell others what goals they should have and look down on others.
If we don't have freedom anymore even in our MMOs, what do we have?

and I still think you should log back to your priest asap. everyone has a rough time healing in Cata at first and imo you deserve to give yourself a lot more chance than just that once. :)

Gronthe said...

@ Syl: I did log in the other day, but chickened out and PvP'd instead. Fear, it's a killer. But I'll try again.

Reala said...

As you've ascertained, success is completely objective. For me, the name of the game isn't success, it's happiness. We wiped endlessly on the easy-as-pie Atramedes last night, at one point I was laughing so much that my nose ran. Great success.