World of Warcraft

A Needed Lesson in Game Design: Burden of Optimal Play

wow7 - A Needed Lesson in Game Design: Burden of Optimal Play
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There's a great article I always refer to in regards to the Burden of Optimal Play, you can check the full article
Grinding and the Burden of Optimal Play - A Needed Lesson in Game Design: Burden of Optimal Play


here but when it comes to this game, it feels like this concept is being catastrophically botched in WoW and is causing a lot of the issues.

Some key quotes from that article

Players will tend to make the choices that lead most directly and surely to victory. If you set up a goal that players care about, you should expect them to try to reach it as efficiently as possible. If the most efficient way to win (i.e. optimal play) is a pain in the ass, then you’re asking players to accept a worse experience in exchange for victory, and that’s a crappy way to treat your players.

The Burden of Optimal Play suggests a guideline for game designers: if you want the player to have fun, then the most effective path to victory should also be the most fun. Playing well should never result in a worse experience.

Keep in mind that it’s not necessarily repetition that’s bad. (Most great games are repetitive in one way or another.) Rather, the problem is mindless repetition.

That can mean a few things, it could mean doing something completely annoying that increases dps or falling for a trap like the developer who wrote the article did which is making his easier levels more rewarding than they should be, thus breaking the game loop. Fixing it meant rebalancing the rewards so players would move to the hardest level they could handle and not have to go back to the easy ones. You can see how this starts to relate to WoW now.

WoW has a habit of not letting you move out of the easier levels. When players that get World First kills like Method have to farm islands which are far below the level of difficulty they're playing at. Why? Why can't Mythic bosses just shower you with so much AP you never even needed islands? Or any player who's pushing +22-24 keys but has to do dailies and assaults because even though they are magnitudes easier, they still give rewards not obtainable through harder content.

WoW never quite gets it. Another example is how Horrific Visions work great but then just break. Once you 5 mask them, and then next week it gets even easier, the week after that it gets even easier. But you still need to clear them for each vessel. Up until you clear your 5 masks, they're a great system, after that, it went downhill. It becomes just a boring chore because the difficulty can only go down so they aren't engaging anymore. And they reward sockets, which are very powerful. You can't get that item that adds a socket to gear from any other place, but the gameplay loop of 8.3 visions.

That one is particularly sad because they almost nailed the challenging solo content that you can make more challenging for more rewards, but it just breaks and you still have to do non-challenging content to access it in the first place.

Essences. On paper they have ranks based on difficulty but not really. Because you can't just do the hardest content and you'll get essences bam done, you had to get them from their own thing. And re-get them, but that's another story. Rank 3 doesn't actually require you to do anything difficult for any essence, it just takes time. Not usually actual physical game time, work in game, just mostly waiting time for the next week or day to tick over.

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And this is the issue, they insert in "content" that doesn't have even remotely a level of difficulty that keeps the player engaged enough not to be required to watch a tv show while playing to not get insanely bored. But they make it give rewards that are relevant for the highest levels of difficulty (like +24 keys) but can't actually be obtained from anything of that level of difficulty. And this is how you create Burden of Optimal Play traps like: Do you want sockets on all your gear? Farm Visions from easy content and stomp through Horrific Visions at a lower difficulty than when you cleared them because the cloak sanity protection increased. There's no other way of obtaining that extra power.

A good example of a system that does NOT break the Burden of Optimal play is gear from Emissary quests. Because there's no need to go back to that level of non-difficulty once you have gear from a higher difficulty. That's a system that works, and doesn't cause issues.

If you read any post around here it's like "don't go minmaxing your character and you'll be fine" and that's exactly what the Burden of Optimal Play is, it's about minmaxing your character and what exactly that entails. Which generally this expansion, especially 8.3 is doing content at too easy of a difficulty level. That's the main issue with stuff like dailies, that they require no thought. They're boring because they are not remotely challenging for the people who are looking to min-max their character with full sockets. They're just fly around, click thing, kill mob that has no hope of killing you unless you afk for 2 minutes while fighting it.

Mind you this is not a BfA only problem. In Legion, the most effective way to gain AP was doing a lower level Maw of Souls over and over again. It's oversights like that that often create the Burden of Optimal Play.

Okay but what's the answer then? TL:DR? – Don't reward lower difficulty content with better or exclusive things than more difficult content, so that people don't have to go backwards to content that now feels like a chore because it doesn't engage the player. Adjustable difficulty, increasing rewards. It's a formula that works. It encourages people to move forward. If you have to make daily single player content, make it have a scalable difficulty that you can play with. Imagine going to do your dailies and actually having to pay attention to the game whatsoever. Or if that is too much development work to make challenging outdoor content, make it like an option, you can get your daily resource (like Coalescing Visions) by either doing all the dailies OR doing an M+ OR doing an arena or two, etc. But IMPORTANTLY, it's pick one, you shouldn't be able to stack them because that makes it worse since the optimal route becomes doing it all.

The point is, even if they want to keep you logging in with some daily task and reward, insert all your playtime investors jokes here, it doesn't have to suck as much. It can be more engaging by giving you an appropriate task that actually engages you. Maybe even the task you logged in to play in the first place. That's how you design a good game, it's a game that reinforces you doing things that are fun. Not one that rewards you for doing the most boring part repeatedly.

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