Skill in a Multiplayer Game

Posted: December 1, 2007 by Xeavn in Character Development, General Game Concepts, Out of Character
Tags: , ,

I am sure that anyone who has played a massive multiplayer online game has at one point in time ended up in a group with someone who played the game horribly. It may have just been an off night for them, or perhaps they didn’t know what they should be doing, or they were wearing the wrong gear, or just maybe they did not have the skill to play well.

I want to take a look at something that in the past I have overlooked. Player skill level. MMOG’s are not like your typical first person shooter, or even a real time strategy game where sheer dexterity, reaction speed, and quickness will often determine how good the player is. At the same point in time skill does make a difference in how well a player does. How quickly I can react to a situation that is going bad, and correctly heal the right person can make the difference between the group wiping, and narrowly surviving.

It is my opinion that how well a player plays, can be broken down into a few different categories. Character gears and spells, knowledge of the game, and player skill are the three areas I see as affecting how well a person plays. The first area, character gear and spells is completely based inside the game. Gear can be changed and spells can be upgraded. The longer a player spends playing the more likely they are to collect spell upgrades, and better gear. In fact it is quite possible in most MMORPG’s to have a couple different sets of gear that can be swapped in and out to meet the demands of the fight.

Knowledge of the game is an area that encompasses a lot of different things. This can be everything from knowing exactly how power over time works, to understanding the best casting rotation for your class, or even what the best armor to wear in a boss fight is. While knowledge of the game will vary quite a bit from player to player, it is perhaps one of the easiest things to correct. Players who don’t know what spells they should be casting, can be taught. If you aren’t sure what gear is the best to wear in a fight, you can usually ask someone who does. My point is that there are a lot of knowledgeable players in the game and on the forums, and if you really want to learn about the game, the information is available.

Which brings us to the last and most interesting of the categories, player skill. While I do believe that players can get better at a game over time, this is probably the hardest category to ‘upgrade’. As I raid more, and group more, I have learned exactly were on my hot bars certain spells reside. I have even reorganized the hot bars to be able to click spells off quicker. There is however a limit to how fast I can react even when I am really awake and paying attention. This gets worse yet if I am tired and sleepy.

If I am honest with myself, I have to admit that no matter how well I play, chances are there is going to be someone more skilled at any given game. In fact, I don’t even have to look very far if I am playing with family. My brother has been more skilled at every game we have played since about age 8. It isn’t so much that I am really bad, but he is just really good. At the same point in time, there isn’t a game that I can’t soundly beat my wife at. She didn’t grow up playing on computers and video games, and so when she plays any game, she often has to struggle in order to get the hang of the controls.

The question I then ask myself is, “What do you do when you meet someone like this in your favorite MMO?” What if this person is a member of your guild? Well for some power guilds it would be pretty straight forward, boot the person if they can’t maintain a certain skill level. I think for the rest of us, who aren’t trying to be in the most exclusive, top end guilds the question is a little more difficult though. On one hand, it is hard to group with someone who is really just bad at a game, it can make the instance run that much tougher. What if they are the tank, or the only healer? It can be a recipe for disaster.

At the same point in time, it is hard to not look at the other side of the coin. What if I am the bad player? Sure at the moment, I am pretty young, and quick, but I don’t plan to suddenly stop playing computer and video games when I get older or slower. That might be a while off for most people, but you might be surprised how quick that can change due to something like a bad car wreck.

I obviously can not pass on any great revelation on this topic, or tell you how less skilled players should be treated. It is up to each individual to decide how they will respond to this kind of player, but for me, I will attempt to be more considerate and understanding when finding myself in a group with that monk who can’t hold hate, or that priest who is slow on the heals.

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Comments
  1. Illuminator says:

    What can be done is K.I.S.S. In EQ2, my warden alt has no less than 13 buffs to cast every time she dies. I see people getting lost and growing lethargic in that degree of detail overload.

  2. Kendricke says:

    I was just thinking about that last night, Illuminator. Is there any reason I need to recast group buffs? It’s not as if there’s any reason I won’t be casting them the moment I stand up again. So it just becomes an issue of time and hassle at that point.

    I would personally treat group buffs (specifically priest group buffs) as “auras” which are simply on or off. Basically, the idea is that if I’m standing, my selected auras/group buffs are in effect automatically.

    Is it dumbing down the game? I dont’ think so. I find little in the way of “skill” involved in recasting buffs. Only in the rare instance that I’m being debuffed (which itself is annoying) or after I’ve been resurrected during a fight does it even matter which order I cast the buffs in.

    I want my actions to matter more. I want to be able to react to shifting battles and use spells and abilities in a way that reflects my abilities as a player. Recasting a dozen or more spells every time I die isn’t what I’d call “skillful”…or even fun.

  3. Illuminator says:

    I’m 100% in favor of the concept of auras. And even combat stances, permanent single-target buffs, etc. don’t need to be dropped after death. Look at the LoN loot card effects like the lightning hands, that’s how it should be done.

    And on the last note, I’m always worried about fun, more so than any other aspect of any game. I wouldn’t say half the things I say about gaming, if I didn’t put a premium on the time I spend in front of the PC in pursuit of fun.

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