More musings about gaming goals

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Whether I play MMORPGs, ARPGs or Looter Shooters, I like having goals to work towards. A mix of both short-term and long-term ones works best for me.

Especially the latter two genres need such goals to keep me engaged because, let’s face it, the gameplay loop these games provide stays pretty much the same no matter how long you play them. Not that I mind, if I didn’t like those kinds of gameplay I wouldn’t play them to begin with. Still, having no carrot dangling in front of me makes me less inclined to log in sooner rather than later.

There seem to be two kinds of design philosophy regarding how players can work towards such goals.

The first one is a system of total randomness. All we can do here is play the game to the best of our abilities, because doing any specific thing doesn’t increase – or decrease – the chances of achieving our respective goal. Path of Exile is a good example of this. Any mob can drop every existing item up to its level, so it doesn’t matter in the slightest which mobs you kill as long as they’re strong enough. The only way to increase your chances of getting a certain unique item, for example, is killing more mobs in less time.

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Another unique I didn’t want (Wrapped Mitts, in the center)

The upside of this is that you can opt out of doing stuff you don’t like to do. Hate a particular map? Run it only once, then never again. There is not a single item in the game that drops only there. In theory this also provides for more gameplay variety since you don’t feel compelled to kill the same boss over and over to maximize your chances of getting what you want.

In my opinion this is a pretty big downside at the same time though because, whatever you do, the chances of getting the exact item you want are abysmally low. Hence, if you’d like to play a build that needs a couple specific uniques to make it work you pretty much have to trade with other players, which of course feels much less rewarding than finding the stuff yourself. Also, playing the game only rarely feels like working towards a specific goal, because, well, you just can’t. I love PoE, but if I could change one thing it’d probably be this.

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Rhino on guard duty, protected by a coat of Iron Skin

Warframe marks the exact opposite of the spectrum: to accomplish specific goals you have to do very specific things.

Frames are the best example. For each frame you need its blueprint, which you can just buy for credits at any time, and three manufactured components. Those require various crafting resources and also the corresponding blueprints. A quick research revealed that, for most frames, the latter are all dropped by planet-bosses. What surprised me a bit is the fact that every boss has its own associated frame which it drops all three blueprints for. For example, all component-blueprints for the Rhino frame, which I wanted to unlock first, are exclusively dropped by – wait for it – Jackal. Oh my…

I’d already gotten one of the three blueprints when I beat him the first time though, so all I needed were the other two. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? Well, randomness is random, and I needed to run the mission another 18 times until the third and last blueprint finally decided to drop.

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About to unleash Rhino Stomp (Hulk Smash was copyrighted I guess)

Fortunately I knew by then how to beat the guy quickly, so the bossfight itself wasn’t too big of a nuisance anymore, and you know what? I didn’t mind running the same mission over and over, because, as I said in the beginning, the gameplay loop is always the same anyway. I kill stuff and loot all the things while running towards the objective, then I fulfill that and move to extraction. Rinse and repeat.

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Best to look at these like a flip-book

Would the gameplay be more varied if those blueprints could drop anywhere? Possibly. But I’d definitely feel much less purposeful while playing, and chances are I still wouldn’t have completed my Rhino yet – which I love, by the way, in case you haven’t noticed.

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I’m pretty sure you have though

Lakisa is also playing Warframe now, so naturally we did it all again to unlock Rhino for her too. Once more it took quite a lot of runs, and I still didn’t mind at all.

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My work here is done

So yeah, if given the choice I’d always favour a system that lets me work towards my goals in a target-oriented way. It might result in a somewhat monotonous, maybe even tedious playstyle for a while, but I’m much more motivated when I have a specific purpose, and I also love achieving those goals myself instead of just trading for the stuff I want.

What about you?

3 Replies to “More musings about gaming goals”

  1. I’m with you — I prefer to be able to do specific things for specific things. Even if it means doing those specific things again and again. I like that different goals send you into different parts of the world or to different activities. When it’s more PoE style I find people just gravitate to the most efficient method and stick to that forever anyway.

    Add to that the far lesser degree of player agency and just no. (Although having said that, I do quite like PoE anyway.)

    Also though?
    “Well, randomness is random, and I needed to run the mission another 18 times until the third and last blueprint finally decided to drop.”

    Ouch! Although with the frame blueprints one part is always less common than the others. I think normally the systems blueprint, but don’t quote me on that. It’s a good day though when you start running for a new frame and get the systems (or whichever the rare piece was) early on though, that’s for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m more of a variety fan, so I’m good with PoE or Warframe or any style really. Far more important to me is autonomy and the necessity of goal/time required ratio.

    Autonomy in that I want to have a feeling that I can influence this goal obtaining, that it is under my control, and not overly affected by other players.

    In PoE, the more mobs I kill, the more the chances of something dropping, which is a kind of influence. Preferably crafted or using the more recent league means of narrowing down desirable RNG rolls reduces some of the out-of-control factor. Warframe’s power creep which supports solo obtaining of goals (with multiple players just shortening your runs or increasing the odds of receiving a desired thing) is also a big deal for me. I really dreaded the having-to-rely-on-or-interact-with-other-players aspect of picking up an Ignis Wraith blueprint. It was a relatively painless if bungling interaction where I suffered through figuring out the trade interface for the first time and the benevolent player offering the blueprint had to suffer through my ineptitude, but I very much could have done without that coercion to interact and would have preferred an alternate means of obtainment.

    Then there’s the interwined relationship between how necessary is this goal for game progression and how long is it going to take me? If it’s not necessary and just a bonus or lateral option, I’m good with long term grinds. Relic grinding for Prime Warframes would fall under this for me. If I need this much gear to be this tall to meet a threshold for other goals and it’s going to be a months long affair, then that game is probably going to get dropped in favor of other games with better designed objectives.

    Then again, sometimes it’s fun to have no goals, or more like, ad libbed short term goals formed only during that play session and dropped right after. Log on, see what’s going on, ok, that looks interesting, do that, done.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. @Naithin – Yeah, the Systems blueprint was the elusive one, at least for Rhino. I had to do only 7 or 8 runs total for Frost though, so it all evens out I guess.

    @Jeromai – Warframe’s trading system isn’t very intuitive, I agree. The fact that I need to spend another Forma to be able to even do it at all in our own Dojo irks me a bit too.
    PoE’s trading also takes getting used to, but by now I think it’s pretty efficient and painless. Still prefer finding stuff myself though. 🙂

    Like

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