Players as Content

I would think the trend of the last few years, at least in terms or big games, has been to have players be the actual content.  E-sports wouldn’t exist without this concept.

I make this akin to board games.  As much as I do enjoy your standard competitive games, I much prefer the cooperative ones.  Where Descent is a gold standard for miniature combat such as we see in D&D campaigns, I prefer something like Shadows of Brimstone where everyone at the table is working together.  Instead of trying to outwit a DM (who in 95% of cases knows every bit more of the game than anyone else), you are battling RNG.

Video games are similar in that regard. While there are certainly a lot of coop games, there are so many more competitive games out there.  The difference being that coop games focus on you working together to beat some computer code, and PvP games nearly always focused on defeating the other team (rather than say, achieve the goal faster than the other team).

That distinction is key, as a developer has to put in relatively minor content updates to keep people coming back.  (I won’t bother going into why F2P games have faster content cycles… that should be fairly obvious.)  Less content means less development costs, and a better MAU (monthly use).  In financial terms, it appears to be the best direction.

But then you get into the question of actual game design.  Not all competitive games are designed equally.  MOBAs seem simple, one where simply cloning another model should be an easy way to cash out.  See Infinite Crisis for an example of how that works.  The competitive nature of people is an adrenaline kick of being in the thick of things, having some feeling of control, having fun, winning, and then being able to show that you’ve won.  Each piece of that is important to the whole.

And game design impacts each piece of that puzzle.  Many developers focus on only one part, or perhaps only have skill in one part.  Some take an existing design and then try to insert another model, providing a more monstrous design that either source could achieve alone.

Which does get me back to a previous thought that Anthem would be so much better served without PvP.  BioWare has a horrible track record for that aspect of game design, and their majority player base is not in the game for that reason.

Also related, WoW’s BfA design of PvP everywhere.  Fair to say that BfA is not exactly winning accolades for that decision, and certainly not gaining players for it.  Seems rather to be much more news about the inability for design to balance PvP in relation to the fact that the entire game model is based on PvE.

Long story short, design a game is hard work.  Either coop or competitive is hard enough, and mixing both together is more than the sum of the parts.  People can’t complain that content is broken if it doesn’t exist in the first place.


6 thoughts on “Players as Content

  1. Interesting thought. Would WoW be a better more balanced game if they took all aspects of PvP out of the world and relegated it to instanced content only, where they could keep it fresh with affixes like zero gravity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Until BfA, I would have bet dollars to donuts that PvP was going to be removed from world content completely, and that they would double down on challenge runs in dungeons (e.g. find a way to apply it to older dungeons).

      Yet, here we are. Balancing troll racials that give a complete heal in 4 seconds, on a 90s cooldown. Seems like a giant waste of resources.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It is daunting enough to balance all of the class possibilities with all the potential Azerite choices, add in balancing around PvP? Virtually impossible to do.

        Liked by 2 people

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