Saturday, April 17, 2010

Complexity -- Getting Nearer to the Root of the Problem

So, I really don't think it takes any rocket science to understand that the pathways in Wizard101 are very straightforward . . . and this is probably a good thing in the end, but I must admit that there are moments when it feels too straight. There are moments when I wish the complexity was just a tad bit more.

There was a time when the game didn't have that little yellow arrow on the bottom that guided you through. The moment that little yellow helper friend hit the game, was the moment the game became a ton easier and a ton less about exploration . . . and that's completely ok with a lot of the playerbase. And truth be known, if I'm given a choice between arrow or no arrow, I'm going to choose arrow. Haha! If given the choice of being hand-fed grapes while reclining on a chair or plucking them off the vine myself, I'd probably choose being hand-fed grapes.

BUT, truth be known, I don't think this game was originally built with the quest arrow in mind. It wasn't there at the release of the game and it wasn't even there at the release of Dragonspyre. Our original world wasn't meant to be completed with a quest arrow. I feel that in a game like this, there should be moments where you think to yourself, I'm LOST! And then overcoming that challenge is where the reward is.

How do you overcome the challenge of being lost? Some people run to fansites like this searching for the answers. Some people turn to their friends list. Some people try to understand it themselves and get back on track. Any way you overcome it is perfectly great by me, but to really be immersed in something, I would argue that there need to be challenges that simulate real life. Real life is not a straight path. In real life we don't have a yellow arrow leading us to success.

So with that, I now present a couple graphics I created a few months ago and never published.

1- The root of the problem as illustrated by Dragonspyre:

2- How Dragonspyre should have looked:

Why would I say that? DRAGONSPYRE IS THE FINAL CHALLENGE OF THE ORIGINAL GAME! I'm saying "original game" in this case because as we know, Wizard101 is going to probably continue inheriting new layers to it over the next few years. Many new stories and sub-plots will continue to be added to the game, and we know that Malistaire will probably make a return to the game somehow, but Dragonspyre will always be that original final world. End game.

"End game" should be the ultimate challenge in any game. Dragonspyre should have had more complexity to it. There should have been times when I was journeying on multiple paths trying to unlock one or two final zones. Getting to Dragonspyre academy should have been more complex. In essence it should have been a "keyed" zone where I needed to find world keys that lay before me in many (or at least a few) different directions. Being stuck and lost would have

1- Led to more of a sense of accomplishment when you became unstuck and found your way.
2- Increased the need to rely on your friends to help you.
3- Increased dependence on fansites.
4- Increased brainpower! Brainpower is GOOD! THINKING IS AWESOME!

UNFORTUNATELY, you know that we would have also heard a lot of whining. Just like in real life when your kids say, "feed me grapes, daddy," and I say, ". . . go get them yourself," there's a lot of whining. No one likes whining . . . unless it's a rewarding occupation.

Now there is a point when the complexity is just ridiculous . . . example, in Everquest (sorry I always go to Everquest for examples) there was an "end game" zone that required you to collect fragments from nine different worlds (taking up nine different slots in your bank and backpack), take a raid group in to fight mini-bosses throughout the world to get 1 important piece of the puzzle, then do a two-group instance to get another key component, and finally complete a full 72 person raid to get the final key to open up the end zone in the game. Anyone that ever completed the "Vex Thal key" in Everquest within the first few years of its release would tell you that it was one of the most grueling experience in an MMO they've ever undertaken. That amount of complexity is WAAAAAYY too much for Wizard101. I would never in a million years suggest that kind of insanity for Wizard101. NEVER EVER NEVER.

But, is it too much to ask for a little more complexity in world layout and construction?

do they all have to look like this?

It's too formulaic at this point. Even Grizzleheim is too formulaic and that was a good scratch at attempting some additional complexity. The boss fights in "end game" Grizzleheim are much more complex than Dragonspyre.

End of the day though, you can't go back and change the way things went down and the way things are in the game. They would never ever never redesign Dragonspyre. It's done. It's completed product. It's out the door.

But there are hopes for the future, right? What do you think? Do you think Celestia and the worlds beyond should keep to the three zones beyond three zones, step by step by step quest progression leading you through to the end, or do you think these worlds should bring more complexity and more challenges? Do you think there should be more quests in Celestia where the quest arrow is completely disabled?

From my point of view, hands down, if they don't add some new degree of complexity to the world, the heavily grandmaster playerbase is going to finish this thing in a few days and be bored again.

Happy Dueling!


Kevin BattleBlood said...

Instant gratification, my friend...that is the current era :(

I can't agree more with you on having hopes that KingsIsle incorporates some new dimensions to progressing through the storyline in their upcoming expansion. I say add in more riddles like Krokotopia had, but don't introduce them to every player in the same fashion and order. That way, it provokes more thought processing and less Wiki-ing. Maybe create scavenger hunt puzzles like the contest held in Wizard101Central, and use a massive table of questions to be randomly given to players for them to solve.

I think this idea is a bit dangerous and perhaps too complex for Wizard101, but it would be interesting to see Celestia function based off of choices. For example, one quest could be completed and turned in to two or more NPCs, and the main quest line would change based on who you pick. Surely eliminates a fast sprouting of guides within a few days after releasing the expansion.

Silverheart said...

I run around with the arrow off because i don't like to quest. :D i get lost a lot it is really fun i found a way through all of DS by walking

Heather Emeraldflame said...

I completely agree with your conclusion, Friendly.
And it's funny that you post this today. I have been thinking a lot along the same lines. Also, this morning I took this gamer psychology test on Gamer idea if you ever did that. But mine came up EASK. I had a good feeling it would be this type of result, even without yet knowing what kind of result I could get as I took it.
The first thing I always do when I go into an area, even now when I have all the areas in the game memorized, is to "scout: the areas. Before I ever even talk to the NPC I am supposed to I always go and activate all teleporters, find all the reagents and treasure boxes in the area(especially those silver those!)I really make a full trip all the way around, AND THEN I go talk to the NPC. I also think this is why collecting reagents has never really bothered me much...I like to just wander around.

So, I am hoping, like you seem to be, that Celestia will offer a little more complexity, and a lot more to explore. I wouldn't mind at all if the arrow wasn't there...that is what maps are for, right? It seems that many people really don't understand maps very well these days though.

Like you said, though, they would probably never make this game TOO complex. It will never be as ridiculous as Everquest or any of those type games because, really, the target audience of W101 are not hardcore gamers.But I do think most people who play this game do like a puzzle here and there, as well as figuring things out on their own, or together as a group.

So, yeah, I'd be fine having more quests that don't give you arrows, cause I am sure I will explore the heck out of Celestia when it's first released...another area for me to wander in...I can't wait! :)

Evan said...

I remember when quest helper came out, I hated it, it took out the challenge of the game, And it took away a lot of the fun parts of the games.... well. looking at your map, running a few steps, looking at your map again, going backwards because you made a wrong turn, anyways xD I don't use quest helper, it does take the fun out of the game, you just have to follow it instead of going all different zig zaggy super long ways lol :D

Stephen Deathshard said...

Friendly, how do you get open chat. i use crowns.

Edward said...

Nicely put my friend, I to hate the little yellow arrow :)

I think the game, was better fun back then!

Amber RosePetal said...

Wow. Thank you! Someone finally get's what i've been saying for the past few months!!

Autumn Ashsword said...

I abuse the quest helper. I think I've solved maybe two quests without it, and it made me miserable. But I also believe that if you took it away, the game would be more challenging, and more fun.
Anyway, I was wondering if you could help me find a robe, Friendly. (: Recently I was cleaning out my inventory or backpack or whatever when i realized I accidently sold my most favorite robe ever. *gosh I sound like a W101 NPC >:C* It was a Storm robe and it had to be at least a Level 15+ or 20+, because I was level 24. I can't recall what it was called for the life of me, but i know it had a really long cape with a storm insignia thingy on it. I have some pictures of me wearing the robe if they will help. I would appreciate it sooo much if you could help me find the robe! :D

TheNiceIceWizard said...

Hmmm... I'm going to challenge myself to quest WITHOUT the quest helper... it does seem like it'd be ALOT harder. Thanks Friendly! Nice post. Really liked it!

Matthew said...

autumn could it be the Maker's Vestment? I don't have a female image of it to reference, but it has plenty of storm symbols on it.

If you want a look at it see here:

From my knowledge, it drops from Krokenkahmen, Prince Aka Karanahn, Prince Manu Nirini, and Taskmaster Djal. It could drop from others but these are who i know of

DeathRaven490 said...

you know, I never thought of it, but now that you mention it, dragonspyre DID need to be more complex, but they made getting to malistare a tad harder

-Cody Shodowstrider

PS you sort of missed our meeting, just tell me a time that suits you but it cant be early in the morning cause i got school plus sleep

Anonymous said...

You make some very good points, Friendly, and have inspired me not to use the quest helper when Celestia comes out. I greatly enjoy such a challenge as this, generally in the format of creating my own personal reagent runs. In KI's defense, however, I will say that the quest helper was most likely an attempt to further gear the game towards younger players, as it came out before the game became such an immense success. I will also say that the formulaic format of Dragonsypre is certainly not a format KI is sticking with, or Grizzleheim would have been much easier. The most prominent example of this is the fact that you are never told to challenge Jotun's brothers seperate from him. Also keep in mind that Dragonspyre is extraordinarily difficult in other ways that speperate the dynanics of gameplay there from any other of the worlds.

Heather Emeraldflame said...

@Autumn: I would just about bet that it was the Widow's Dandy Robe, which drops from Black Widow at Knight's Court. I have it on my second Storm wizard, Danielle Thunderblade. It can also be bought in the bazaar.

Here's a picture of it, if this helps:

M.W.S said...

More challenging! We all expect more!

SorionHex said...

I kinda don't agree with you on the part that it should be Point A - Point B. For one children play this, complexity doesn't bode well with Children. And then there's the fact that this is downhill. Mallistaire's scrambling to get his spell working and you need to rush your way straight to his lair. You know exactly where it is, and you know exactly what to do to get to it. The next world, Celestia, I would LOVE for the complexity though. Examples being, find so and so person in town who knows how to build a ship. And then you go to the town, and voila you find like 20 people spread out. And you have to ask them all if they know how to build a ship and so on until you find them. That gives you a bit more fun or it could backfire and make it tedious. I say take the chance though.

SorionHex said...

Sorry the beginning has bad grammar. What I meant was that I think DragonSpyre is perfect being Point A to Point B, and being independently possible to complete except for Mallistaire's Lair. I think Mallistaire's lair btw, was a good attempt at being complex. You just walk in and have no instructions, just find Mallistaire.

Anonymous said...

Hey friendly.
I know this has got nothing to do with the post but i just got the code for the fog unicorn but i dont know where to redeem it. Can you please tell me. Thanks.

Mike said...

I agree, I remember the time when there was no arrow as well. And i loved it. I sill turn it off a lot of the time and don't even open map. just for the exploration of it. But also, I kind of like the arrow it makes it a lot easier. I am with you friendly, rather have my grapes fed to me in a lounge chair then pick 'em right off the vine :)

stingite said...

@KBB: I loved "choose your own adventure" book back when I was a kid. I think kids would love this aspect in the game as well! I don't think it would be dangerous as long as it was executed correctly, but that's the trick.

@silverheart: awesome.

@Heather: agreed!

@Evan: Yup. Sometimes that little yellow arrow just doesn't lead you in the right spot. Mooshu is particularly buggy.

@Stephen: Your parents have to enable it on the website in the options for your account. (unless you're an adult . . . then you know, you enable it yourself . . . ;))

@Edward: word.

@Amber: :)

@Autumn: If you don't find it after looking in all the places my readers suggested, check ironhawk's krokotopia guides on Central.

@Niceice: you'll have to let me know how it goes!

@Matthew: you rock!

@DeathRaven: yeah, LOL, I thought about our meeting about 4 hours too late. :/

@anon: VERY well stated. You write so well, that I think you should start a blog if you haven't started one already!

@Heather: thanks for helping!

@MWS: yes! more complex!

@Sorion: I LOVE that you disagree with me. hehe. thank you so much for you point of view. You're wrong though. LOL. Jk. I love that you pick up on the urgency in the story line. For me it was all about Dragonspyre being in ruins and I need to have some hardcore training for their ghosts.

@at anonx2: You go to the website and log in. On the menu on the left there is an option to "redeem card or code." enter it in an the website and the next time you log in, you'll have a cool gift icon you can click to claim your gift.

@Mike: yup, if they dangle the grapes right above my mouth, I will gladly be hand-fed grapes. I plan on playing Celestia through at least twice (probably 6 times or more). One of those times, I will probably turn off the quest arrow.

Olivia Ashbringer said...

I disagree about W101 needing more complexity. Lol, but then again, I'm not a hardcore gamer.

I picked up playing MMO's because my husband plays them, and I wanted us to be able to do them together. I'm just a casual gamer, and I absolutely HATED WoW because I was so lost all the time, and I could never do anything on my own because I had no idea where anything was half the time.

But this game is meant for children, and it's meant to be simple and straightforward, and that's what I love about it. If I get lost, there's the arrow there to help me. I never have to panic because I'm in the wrong place and hordes of creatures are going to start attacking me until I die. And I love the fact that even a simple player like myself can make it to Grandmaster.

The only thing I would change in this game is the "Defeat 4/6/8/10/12 of these creatures and come back to me" quests. I die a little inside every time I kill 12 of something, and as soon as I turn in that quest I get the second quest of "Defeat these same creatures until they drop this object."

Maybe Celestia will bring the change you're looking for, but I'll still be happy that it's only one world out of seven that I have to deal with it in.

Oran Starbane said...

I've never used that arrow. I was able to level up 50 with my first character without it.

timma said...

I absolutely agree with what you've posted. As you read through the W101 message board and other forums, I see so many requests that would result in making the game easier. I would actually like to see the game more complex. Easier does not equal more fun. In fact, given limited content, easier means people finish faster and continually gripe about lack of content. Rather than a continual push for more content, perhaps more challenging content is the answer. I think Vault of Ice is one good example of this in W101. The quest arrow points only at the final quest. You have to explore a bit to find the other bosses and solve some puzzles at the end of each battle. Granted, it's easy now since I've done it multiple times, but I would love to see more things like this in Celestia -- on a grander scale though like you've illustrated.