Hi Alex! New fan here :3
I’ve been reading up on the “learning from your past” posts and I was with you all the way until hitting a snag on the Ennui post. What made sense was the premise: “when things become too familiar your engagement will begin to decay”, but then you ascribed the change in the player impossible for the designer to surprise because of natural decay, which I think undermines the power of the principles you had just outlined.MMO’s have evolved to give a lot of power to the player to choose the level and duration of challenge engaged in, tailoring the ideal experience for everyone. In theory this makes sense, maybe we really can please everyone right? You can play whenever you want, with what challenge you want, for as long as you want!But doesn’t this also undermine pacing and tuning if the player generally chooses their ideal environment? Be it easy or hard, it should in theory end up creating routine and familiarity if the designer can’t influence the session to have appropriate variety in pacing and tuning to surprise the player.– So is Ennui actually the result of the absence/misuse of pacing and tuning?– Or is it only inevitable as long as things remain or become predictable?– If it’s about how predictable things become how do you avoid predictability without things becoming emergent or overly complex/convoluted?Cheers,Legacy
I really appreciate the depth of thought you’ve put into these insightful questions.
At the heart, game design is like a magic show or stage performance. With the right order of tricks, you captivate your audience’s interest. The first bite is delicious. The next? Intriguing. The third bite might be a bit flat compared to the first two, but you work your way back up to the quality of the first, oscillating up and down in intensity, till you reach the strength of the climax!
Then the crowd goes home happy and delighted. But what if you had a series of magic shows? Starting at 10a, ending at 6p. The first few will be GREAT. Full strength. The next few might be just as good. By the end… you’re really tired of magic tricks. You’re hungry for something else.
Now let’s say a master planner created the event – with fantastic pacing and a delightful alternation between performance styles. You might be able to go all day! But add a second day… a third… eventually, you will lose your interest in the medium. This is ennui.
Ennui is a survival instinct, built into humanity at a biological level, to keep pushing our intellectual curiosity. In some people, it kicks in fast – others? less quickly. Some people are even content to watch the save TV series on loop for weeks at a time! But in most cases, it’s just a matter of time.
MMOs get a boost by the nature of their games being periodic in nature – play for a while, cap out, play less but more intensely – lull in new content, new expansion surge, etc. However, it can’t go on forever. This goes beyond the mastery of the craftsmanship itself. Eventually, the human mind catches up – and for some, the MMO becomes the bar you hang out with your friends. Sure, the drinks are the same and the walls a little grimier than the last week – but its your place and your friends are there.
Anyways, you probably get the point. No one parties forever – and those that do need to keep escalating the stake to get the same high they used to get. Games are the same way – eventually the appeal of a fresh source of interest kicks in and overtakes the present familiarity.
So the better you execute, the more time you buy – and sometimes what you build UNDERNEATH the game outlasts the game itself – but no game alone sustains you forever.