Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Tourist: A New Player Type

Welcome to my blog. I will be discussing “A” list Massives 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. Today I will be focusing on a new player type I call “The Tourist”.

We should all be familiar with the Bartle Player Types: Achievers, Explorers, Socializers, and Player Killers. Bartle was and is a good place to start a discussion about player types. However, Bartle’s paper is now over ten years old. Massives have undergone many changes, and perhaps more importantly, the Massive player base has expanded from under 100,000 in 1997 to 18,000,000+ in 2008. In 1997 we can categorize the player base as primarily early adaptors and the games themselves as “sand-box games”. Currently the player base is much more diverse and a new type of Massive has emerged, the “theme park” game.

I recently revisited World of Warcraft® (WOW) latest expansion Wrath to see how it 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.

What is interesting is that the four Bartle player types do not predict this. Leveling up is easier in Northrend, 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 Explorers. Quests are mostly solo-able in Northrend, making it less satisfying to Socializers. These changes do not affect Player Killer types. The reception for this expansion has been very positive, yet it does not appear to cater to the needs of the four Bartle player types.

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.

The Tourist

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.

The reason we care that a new player type has emerged is quite simply to help us make better games. We can design in features to appeal to the Adventure Tourist player. Conversely, if we are designing a Niche game and don’t plan to appeal to the Adventure Tourist player it lets us know what features we can safely leave out.

Our goal should be to acquire knowledge of specific player types and their representation within the total population pool. More on this in my next Blog, revisiting the Bartle Player types.

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