This is part of an ongoing series of articles on Player Types in AAA MMOs aimed at the American and European market, such as EverQuest®, Dark Age of Camelot®, World of Warcraft®, Lord of the Rings Online®, Eve Online®, Warhammer Online®, etc. My first goal over the next few months is to develop a comprehensive list and description of unique player types. To accomplish this I will need your input and observations.
I recently revisited World of Warcraft® (WOW) latest expansion Wrath to see how the gave has evolved. I initially noticed that the player vs. environment (pve) portion of WOW has become more focused, with quest hubs linked by flight paths, and quest locations usually just a couple minutes away from the hub. When a character has completed most of the quests at one hub, the character is given a quest to go to a different hub. I leveled one of my avatars from 70 to 80 just doing quests. At the level cap of 80 there were over 250 quests that avatar had not done. In effect the new WOW continent, Northrend, introduced in Wrath has become more of a theme park game than WOW’s older content.
More and more Massives have this type of gameplay. In Star Wars Galaxy it is called Theme Parks, In World of WarCraft it is called Quest Hubs, in WarHammer Online it is called Chapters. What they have in common is that a player goes to a location, does some or all of the quests provided and is rewarded with not only experience and loot but also some advancement of the game’s storyline.
To participate in this Tourist-style of behavior does not require much effort on the part of a player. Additionally, by its nature it can be done in short game sessions. I have noticed it makes players less involved with the game world, as they assume a quest will guide them to anything important.
Back in vanilla EverQuest there was a zone with two sphinxes on different sides of the zone. I spent hours with my guild trying to figure out why these sphinxes were there, and to get a response from them. To this day I don’t know if they were broken or we just did not figure them out. A Tourist-style player might make note of the sphinxes but not interact with them, waiting for a quest to send the player back to the sphinx.
Build a theme park and tourists will come. At first I tried to make a real world analogy between Massive Theme Parks and guided tours, and failed. In a Massive once a player is directed to an attraction/quest s/he must still take action to participate/complete it. I finally found my real world analogy with live-aboard dive cruises. On a live-aboard a diver is taken to a destination, then briefed on the dive by a dive master.
In a massive a player is directed to a destination, then given instructions on what to do (quest). After completing a dive (30-60 minutes) a diver is rewarded with a hot cookie and a warm towel. After completing a quest (15-30 minutes) a player is rewarded with experience and loot. Perhaps a better term than simply tourist, would be Adventure Tourist to define this new player type.
Although I have identified a real-world analogue of Tourist-guy I am not as confident that Tourist-guy is a unique Player Type. When you look at who participates in end-game raids in WoW, you can find all four of the Bartle 4-axis model Player Types. Explorers may raid to see the content, Achievers may raid to beat the content, Socializers may raid because the nature of raids leaves plenty of time down time to talk and, Killers may raid to acquire a piece of gear. So, just observing some players participate in Tourist-style behavior does not make it a unique Player Type.
From EverQuest to Dark Age of Camelot to vanilla World of Warcraft to the latest WoW expansion Northrend quests and how they are presented have naturally evolved. It is easy to see how the current Quest hubs or Attractions have come about. That is, they may have come about through a natural progression of game design and not in response to player needs.
All the unique Player Types I have identified I can find on the Bartle 4-axis model. Raid-guy is an Achiever-Socializer, Duel-guy is a Killer-Achiever, and so on. I can’t place Tourist-guy on Bartle’s model, which makes me uncomfortable.
Looking at the WoW expansion Northrend quests with the Bartle 4-axis model we find that leveling up is easier in Northrend through quests, which should make it less satisfying for Achievers, as their leveling achievements are trivialized. Quests are much easier to find in Northrend, making it less satisfying for Explorers. Quests are mostly solo-able in Northrend, making it less satisfying to Socializers. These changes do not affect Player Killer types.
One could simply say that Tourist-guy is playing the game as intended or designed. Another way to look at it is that Tourist-guy is simply a beginning player of Massives, and doesn’t yet have the experience to play in a different manner. I think a key here is that Quest Hubs, Attractions, and Chapters, are essentially solo games within a Massive. One way of looking at WarHammer Online’s Public Quests is that it allows one to solo a group quest. Another data point is the recurrent WoW forum complaint that some quests require groups to complete. Emergent game design has created a Massive solo game with other people around.
It could be that Tourist-guy is not really playing a Massive so his Player Type does not fit into our conventional thinking.
This ties in to an observation I had about WoW end-game five-man content. First this 5-man content has been redesigned in Northrend. Where previously each mini-encounter in a dungeon required communication between group members, in Northrend it does not. It is not unusual to use the in game looking-for-group function, get auto-invited into a group of four other players, run a dungeon in 30-45 minutes and never talk to your group-mates. I have observed this same behavior in 10 and 25 man end-game raids. And by not communication, I mean not even "congrats" when someone gets gear upgrade. So again Tourist-guy is playing a solo game with other people around.
I write to help clarify my thinking. In this case I can see I was wrong. What I had been calling Tourist-guy is actually Solo-guy. The problem with getting to know Solo-guy is that he doesn’t talk, (except maybe a little on the forums) you must infer that he is there. But rethinking my observations I can make a case I have seen Solo-guy in all aspects of game-play. Now I can fit Solo-guy into the Bartle 4-axis model. Solo-guy’s socialization is practically zero, and he may partake of any of the other Player Types. So Solo-Guy could be a solo-achiever-explorer, or a solo-killer-achiever, etc., etc. From what little I have read about Star Wars the Old Republic it appears that it may be aimed at Solo-Guy.
Having come to the conclusion that Solo-Guy is a unique Player type that leads me to identify another similar Player Type, Dual-Guy. Dual-Guy is typically a husband-wife, bf-gf, father-son team, which treats a Massive as a two-player cooperative game.
Furthermore, I can now see that Tourist-Guy is actually Story-guy. Since the game story is typically embedded into quests, Story-guy has strong motivation to finish all quests, and Quest Centers and the like ensure that Story-Guy does not miss any of the story.
So what are your observations about Solo-guy? And how do we begin quantifying him?