The Balance Between Challenge and Rewards

You should be reading Spinks.  The most recent post about Wildstar difficulty has me thinking….

I wrote about it in the difficulty curve post from last week but as a reminder, Wildstar has a rather ridiculous skill wall at the tail end of progress.  Getting to the first dungeon is an OK challenge, no facerolling.  Dungeons will kill you, repeatedly until you learn to avoid the red and interrupt.  Then level 50 hits and you hit a mountain of challenges.  Design for the 1% gets you 1% after all.  And we’ve seen Carbine pull back from that strategy.

So until the most recent patch, where attunement requirements were reduced to semi-sane levels (just need to complete, not complete in under X time), people were indeed faced with two choices.  1) spend the time to repeat content until you get what you want and 2) spent the time gaining the skill to do 1).  There are more players in 2) than in 1), that’s a given.

I’ll compare to WoW for a second, as it seems to be a decent baseline of easy-mode.  There is ZERO skill requirement for 2) on anything LFR and below.  Normal raids are more about paying attention than anything else.  Heroic raids… different matter, depending on your gear set.  Wildstar doesn’t have anything close to the LFR skill plateau, so there will always be time spent learning the skill.  No one playing Wildstar has ever played a LAS-active combat-NoTab-interrupt heavy MMO before.

Then there’s the time sink (attunement) to even get to the time sink (raids).  Let’s say everything is peachy and you complete a successful run on the first try.  There’s a solid 20 hours of attunement progress (not content, since you’ve likely already done it before jut not on hard mode) before you get to raids.  And that 20 hours requires X amount of time to get the skill to start it.

This reminds me a lot of ESO and their original VR system.  You got to 50, realized you only completed 30% of the game and had to repeat content/grind for another 60% to get to the end game, in a rather higher difficulty setting too.  Zenimax was smart enough to remove that after 2 months and VRs are going away completely before end of calendar.

All of this is taking about time, not even the rewards. If I’m going to spend 20 hours doing something, I’d like some progress to show for it.  Wildstar today, has crafted gear that’s on par or better than some raid drops and nearly all the attunement progress you could hope to get.  So it’s 20 hours with nothing to show for it.

I’m in Diablo3 right now.  It’s a loot pinata and there’s a certain challenge to it.  Even if I don’t get an upgrade in a session, I will get horizontal progress for Paragon levels.  I’ll get more gems, gold, crafting materials.  I get something if not a direct power increment.  Rift and EQ both have alternate advancement buckets, so that there’s some progress even at max level.  It’s well done in my opinion, adding some customization and benefits for continual play.  FF14 allows you to run another class on the same character.  Marvel Heroes lets you swap heroes in-game, using the same inventory/boosts.

It’s not about always giving away new cars ever turn of the road or a shower of purples.  You do need some indication of progress, some piece of the carrot on that stick that somehow convinces you “just one more turn”.  That the 20 hour attunement, or the 4 nights of wiping on a single boss is good use of your time.

4 thoughts on “The Balance Between Challenge and Rewards

  1. I never wanted hardmode for hardmode’s sake, but ever since WoW gave us easy modes that were just there to – more or less – spectate content, I’ve wanted to dial back a bit from there. I do agree that we need a certain level of accessibility that gets butts in the seats of end game content, but I hate the idea of removing the challenge entirely. I like what overcoming challenge does for a game and its community, and though there is definitely a short leap before challenge becomes unreasonable, I’d rather have something slightly too hard than not hard at all.


    • There’s certainly a soft spot in the middle, or at least presenting people with the option of difficulties.

      I think alot to XCOM when I think of difficulty. The harder modes, in particular Ironman, didn’t provide any intrinsic rewards other than the sense of pride of accomplishment. That said, you could play on “easier” mode, still with a bunch of variant rule sets. Find what fits your fancy and experience the content.

      MMOs that stuff the needle too much to one side or the other seem to miss the point. An all you can eat buffet has people gorging and leaving. A 16 course meal has people leave for the bar after plate 5.

      Maybe once people realize that the players are the content of MMOs, then we can see some changes.


  2. Pingback: Link Dead Radio: Servers, Stories and other Stuff | Healing the masses

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