One of the problems that the developers have been working on lately is to make sure that non-participants or “slackers” don’t get rewarded in Public Quests. In the original version of the Public Quests, which started out with an arbitrary threshold of acceptable spell casting or DPS, too many AFK players were getting chest drops, at least in the eyes of other players, who expressed their concerns to developers.
For Dev Gninja, this was an unacceptable situation that needed to be rectified. He was mad about it. So back to the drawing board he went, increasing the threshold yet again in the metric that records participation. The result? Storm Gorge PQs are not rewarding the people who are giving their fair share — probably not the outcome he expected.
A lot of development time was focused on being punitive to — most likely– a small minority of people who wanted something for nothing.
By punishing the wrongdoers, the game is broken for the honest majority that wants to participate and get rewarded in the PQs.
There are two problems with this, as I see it. First, it is very difficult for a computer-generated metric to really measure participation in a group activity. At first glance, it would seem an easy task to measure how much each person in the instance was casting spells, whether they be direct DPS or support. Just write a little code that measures that, insert some kind of baseline, and only allow those people who show sufficient effort a reward. But obviously it’s not that simple. One reason for the difficulty in getting such detection code to work is that these are humans playing, not computers. The variation in play styles and individual responses to the encounter make a simple measurement ineffective — a much more complex measurement is required. The metric they designed clearly can’t take lag into account, making even the hardest-working player experiencing lag into a “slacker.” Some spells don’t seem to carry the same weight as others. All of these factors make for a very difficult set of data to analyze and react to. Clearly, it’s not really working as intended at the moment.
The second issue, even assuming that the first can be solved, is that designing for the “cheaters”, if you will, should not be the focus of any design project. It’s clear that the focus shifted from designing a fun encounter to trying to catch people taking advantage of a group activity. The question to ask is: does it really matter if someone finds a way to cheat the system? How does it really negatively impact the community? Granted, if there are no mechanisms for insuring participation, with the result that everyone can stand around and be killed and then get a prize, of course that is unacceptable. But by designing a minimum participation metric for individuals, and then leaving it alone, you ensure the majority of players stay honest and don’t break what you designed in the first place. Yes, people will take advantage, but so what? By making it the driving issue behind the design, it’s clear that the end result is unhappy players and a broken Storm Gorge public quest.
It is nice to think that a developer can write code that can measure to a true extent player participation in a group activity. In practice, it seems that it is a lot harder than the development team expected. By making cheating more of a non-issue, development time could be better spent improving the game in positive ways that reward the majority of the active player base, rather than working on punishing the naughty few that don’t want to work for a reward.
Tags: public quests
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