Radiance Gating

Merric, over at A Casual Stroll to Mordor, has a post up about the current LOTRO Radiance system.

Normally I would just leave a comment, but there are a few things he mentions that I want to elaborate on more. A lot more. And sorry, Merric, I’m going to pick apart your post here for awhile.

“Yes, they are a grind, but they do guarantee one thing:  that you will have enough Radiance to get through the encounter.”

This is only partly accurate. It doesn’t guarantee you have enough Radiance to get through the encounter. It only guarantees that you have enough Radiance to attempt the encounter. Without sufficient Radiance you are effectively unable to even attempt the encounter at all. It doesn’t guarantee anything. All it really accomplishes is limiting the accessibility to the encounters. You can have enough Radiance and still have bad gear in your other slots. You can have enough Radiance and still be a bad player. You can have enough Radiance and still “throw yourself against it over and over again” and fail.

Additionally, Radiance only tells you that you have enough Radiance. It doesn’t tell you whether you have enough of every other stat. If you have the right traits, use the right skills/rotation, and the countless other variables to consider. It is a very, very poor gating system. It isn’t meant to be a way for you to gauge the likelihood of your success (which is what you mean in your World of Warcraft comparison). It is more like a key that unlocks the content for you.

And that’s where I believe your comparisons and reasoning is wrong. “Well, coming from WarCraft where anyone could walk into any raid with any gear it there is no way to tell whether or not you are able to accomplish something in a dungeon.” Aside from the fact that WoW does have several ways to judge this – obvious and labeled tiers of content, item levels, and countless official and unofficial guides – Radiance Gating still doesn’t do this either. The only difference is that in WoW you can have, as you say, any gear, while in LOTRO you must have X amount of Radiance to simply enter the raid. After that, all bets are off. There were many nights that I watched our own kin throw themselves unsuccessfully at the Watcher for hours and hours and hours, multiple times. Why? Because Radiance was a key, not a gauge. It doesn’t help you complete the raid, it only makes it accessible to you.

“All of them have a continued possibility of a grind, of requiring a group, and of leading to an unsatisfactory solution; so I’ll stick with generalizations rather than declaring one as the panacea.”

Raid gating should require a group. A raid is nothing more than a really big group. All good game design is based on the concept of easing of the player into more complex mechanics by starting them off on less complex but similar mechanics. Requiring the player to enter into groups of 3 and then groups of 6, before exploring groups of 12 is just that – slowly introducing you to increased complexity. It’s good game design. Allowing you to jump immediately into raids creates an environment in which you will have an abundance of players who do not understand the mechanics, flow, and etiquette of grouping entering into the raid scene – which is your big gripe with World of Warcraft. Allowing a player to solo the game all the way up to raiding is bad design. Sure, it increases the number of players available to raid, but it decreases the quality of the those players because they’ve yet to experience and learn from prior grouping.

That said, I’m a huge opponent to forced grouping in just about every other aspect of the game. Especially, for example, low-level open world content (i.e. non-instance group quests). But that’s for other reasons. However, Raiding is the one mechanic that I actually agree having “forced grouping” being the gateway for. For the reasons stated above.

“First of all, I think that there should be some kind of grind to obtain radiance.  Why?  Because as much as we hate grinds, it does give us a feeling of accomplishment.”

That is a very, very hardcore gamer thing to say. I don’t think you can say you are looking at “LOTRO from a casual point of view” anymore, because that is not a casual point of view. I’m just going to leave it at that and end with saying that I think there’s something wrong with you if you hope that they’ll keep a mechanic you hate so that you can feel a sense of accomplishment for suffering through it. But I’m not a doctor.

“Whether it’s a deed, a trait, armor, or legacy; there needs to be a feeling that you earned your way into a dungeon.”

Why do you associate “grinding” into “earning”? Grinding isn’t about earning anything. Grinding is about sucking up all your time so you have to pay for another month of subscription costs. Grinding is about making the game as easy as possible for increased accessibility for everyone. Anyone can grind. It just takes time. Grinding is about how much of your time you are willing to invest into the game. And, also, you’ve already “earned” your way into the content through grinding – it is called levels 1 to 65, it is called Deed Farming, it is called Reputation Farming, it is called Gear Grinding, it is called LI Grinding. Adding yet another layer of grind on top of all of that is dumb. MMOs need to move away from the grind mechanic as the solution to everything and into more achievement based objectives. Instead of beating the boss 20 times, instead beat the boss in under a minute. Instead of killing 300 Orcs in the instance, instead clear the instance without lighting any torches that give you special buffs that make the instance easier. Increase the challenge, remove the time investment requirements. This is true in basically every other genre of video game except MMOs. MMOs remove the challenge but drastically increase the required time investment.

The problem isn’t that the raids are gated. The problem is that Radiance is a really, really dumb way to do it. It’s grindy, it’s based on luck and chance, it doesn’t prepare you for raids in the slightest, and it limits player customization and itemization. I can’t find a valid advantage to Radiance gear from a player side. I can from a development side, but it’s more laziness than anything else. They don’t need to worry about balancing or itemization because they’ve forced you into a corner where everyone has the same gear. And things still aren’t balanced so it isn’t even working in that regard anyway.

Radiance, Gloom, Hope and Dread have all had a lot of problems since launch. They were originally designed as a tool for developers to easily tune the encounters based on how player’s grew statistically because they honestly didn’t know how powerful you’d become. Players having too easy a time with a boss? Up his Dread/Gloom counter. Too hard a time? Lower it. That was supposed to be the solution to balancing. It doesn’t work. Fun experiment and all, but it’s time to move on and either try something new or something that’s been proven to work before.

This is getting long-winded so my proposed solutions will be in the next post.

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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. First of all wow, so much angst against radiance.

    I just wanted to comment on this piece:

    That is a very, very hardcore gamer thing to say. I don’t think you can say you are looking at “LOTRO from a casual point of view” anymore, because that is not a casual point of view.

    I don’t think grinding = hardcore. The entire game is a type of grind. Leveling is a grind, deeding is a grind, crafting is a grind. It’s all repeating the same actions to increase XYZ level.

    Grinding is not a “hardcore” only curse and is something every player casual or not experiences and it does give a feeling of accomplishment. You feel good when you ding another level even if it took you 3 months to do it. Grinding can be casual.

    I believe what Merric was trying to discuss there is that you want to earn your radiance rather than it being handed to you. As in welcome to 65 here is the radiance you need to raid now go! He feels a challenge of some sort, a goal to work towards, is a good thing.

    • It isn’t the grinding part that is the hardcore viewpoint.

      It is the concept that I must do something I dislike in a game in order to feel a sense of accomplishment from it.

      Casuals play the game to have fun, if something isn’t fun they don’t do it anymore.

      Hardcore play the game for a sense of accomplishment, usually by doing things that are inherently not fun.

      Merric stated that the system needed “hated” grinding so that there was a sense of accomplishment. That is a very hardcore standpoint. You will never hear a true casual player say that the game needs more of something they admittedly dislike.

      • I believe you are confusing the definitions of Casual. In this case CStM is Casual in that they take their time getting to where they are going. They have lives outside of gaming and only play a very limited amount per week. I play more often than they do, and have more endgamish goals and I do not consider myself hardcore. I to things I don’t like all the time, that doesn’t make me hardcore. They are a means to an end and I know for a fact that you don’t have to be hardcore to trudge through bad parts to get to a goal.

        Also this is your blog so you can post what you like, but personally attacking someone due to their opinion is bad form.

      • Your entire perspective is based on the notion that you, yourself, are not a hardcore gamer. I would say your opinion regarding yourself is not indicative or a reflection of the more widespread and accepted description and definition of the type of gamer you perceive yourself to be. The basis for your assessment of Merric, and aCStM, is this perspective and opinion.

        I have a post dedicated to the misconception that amount of play time is a barometer to the definition of hardcore. Whether or not you, personally, consider yourself hardcore or not doesn’t mean you don’t appear that way in the eyes of others. For example, I don’t consider myself an asshole, yet here we are.

        If I said that I consider myself a hardcore gamer, and both you and Merric play at least twice as much as I do, what does that mean?

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  3. Hmm, actually I never said that I “hated” the system. In fact, I said that it has “advantages”.

    As far as that shot about a doctor? I don’t know what that was about, but it was a bit uncalled for just because you disagree with my post.

    • “Because as much as we hate grinds, it does give us a feeling of accomplishment.”

      I even have that quote in the post above.

  4. Ah, grinds yes; the system no. Because one could argue that all MMO’s are, are a continuous grind. I fail to see how a deed or anything else would be less of a grind. Killing mobs continuously = grind. Leveling a character = grind. Performing a lot of deeds = grind. Leveling reputation = grind.

    Perhaps you might be happy with another game?

    • The system I was referring to was grind. You implied that you hate grind, but then stated that you believed that a gating system requires it. It does not. I’m giving several examples of how the raid gating system could be adjusted to reduce the amount of perceived grind involved.

      I also believe you are diluting the definition of grind by arguing that all aspects of the game are, in a sense, a grind. While that can be true, it isn’t necessarily. Grind is defined by repetitive tasks that are generally non-entertaining. When the game forces the player to repeat the same actions or content several times for minimal advancement.

      For example, my first potential system for gating system is to tie it to a deed that requires you complete all of the 3 and 6 man content once. This would not be perceived as a grind, because you aren’t repeating the same content over and over again. The second potential system I proposed can still be considered a grind, and I even state that is one of the negatives, but it allows the player more choice in what they choose to do. Choice reduces the perceived grind.

      My stance is that the idea of required grind is a hardcore gamer standpoint. Your position is that grind is not just a necessary evil that we must put up with, but a requirement for enjoyable progression. In fact, you said that a raid gating system needs grind so the players can feel a sense of accomplishment.

      As to your second question, I do find more enjoyment in many other games. I’m not sure how that is relevant to anything we’ve been discussing here. It’s a cop-out question. It implies that the flaw does not line within the game, but within the person playing it. It shifts responsibility of enjoyment from the product to the consumer. That isn’t to say every player will find enjoyment in every game. But it’s arrogant to suggest that if a player has a problem with a game, that it is the fault of the player and no flaw lies within the game itself.

      • I am not sure how familiar you are with Demand Theory in economics, but your definition of hardcore, and my definition of hardcore very much parallels the idea of utility. The measurement of hardcore is not quantitative. It is purely qualitative. You have your opinion of what hardcore is and only you can measure that. It is futile and impracticable to impose that measurement upon someone else. There are general guidelines for what the definitions are, but they mean different things to different people. If I eat a slice of pie I get 3 utils of enjoyment from it. You eat a piece of pie and you get 5 utils of enjoyment from it. Who enjoyed it more? NO WAY TO KNOW. It is purely subjective. The only person who knows what their util is worth is themselves. Everyone had different tastes and preferences. The same applies to playing a game. I get 3 utils for running a skirmish, you get 1 util. I consider myself 4 units of casual, you 6 units. Who is more casual. It’s all qualitative and can only be measured in opinions. As for what people will put up with, they will “grind” until the point of their marginal utility of “grinding” equals their marginal cost of “grinding.” So they will in essence grind until the perceived benefit/enjoyment of grinding that one more radiance piece or deed, or whatever, is equal to the time they spent doing it. Any more and they will be behaving irrationally.

        So in essence:

        Casual/Hardcore is subjective and only the individual can quantify it to himself. Outside opinions are merely that, opinions, and these opinions are usually based of of their own utility.

        Man I love economics. Makes things so simple, well, sometimes. 😀

      • I will agree that the casual/hardcore divide is subjective and open to personal interpretation, I disagree with the notion that the label is limited to the perspective of the individual in question.

        How you are perceived is not limited to your own personal perspective of yourself. Outside opinion is actually the true barometer of one’s characteristic definitions, in this case – hardcore or casual.

        The Demand Theory only applies if you subscribe to a very specific and oft disagreed upon definition of hardcore and casual. That the difference between a hardcore gamer and casual gamer is something that is based on a measurement of gaming. That at some point a gamer can cross an imaginary threshold of time investment and change from a casual gamer to a hardcore one.

        I do not subscribe to this definition because it is completely open to personal interpretation and the line between hardcore and casual is at best blurry and at worst non-existent. Instead I view the difference between a hardcore gamer and a casual gamer by the reasons they play a game, not the amount of time they invest in them. Demanding a sense of accomplishment over fun is a hardcore gamer reasoning.

        By the evidence presented to me, and my experience in both gaming and the games industry, both you and Merric are definitively and squarely in the camp of hardcore gamers. Whether or not he or you choose to acknowledge or believe that is your prerogative. I have given several examples and reasons why I came to this conclusion and explained myself as thoroughly as possible. If you disagree, I suggest you bring forth evidence to counter other than implying that you play the game less frequently than other, more hardcore gamers.

        A quick question; why do the two of you view my assessment of you as being hardcore gamers as an insult?

  5. Oh, I don’t think of it as an insult. I just don’t agree with your opinion. Hardcore/casual, it really makes no difference to me. I acknowledge that I do have hardcore tendencies at times. But my interpretation of hardcore is not the same as yours. If I were to fully define my play style based on my interpretations it would be more casually hardcore. I love games with a passion (hardcore), but lack the resources to experience them in the way I desire (casual). I just don’t believe anyone can fully classify something as subjective as the two extremes of casual and hardcore. There are an infinite number of levels between the two extremes. I believe you can make generalizations or judgments based on observations, but in the end they are still conjecture and opinion based on how you personally perceive it. How would you classify someone who thought that accomplishments were fun? I think Lotro is fun, I do not enjoy grinding solo, I do however enjoy it in a group. I avoid solo grinding like the plague, but I look forward to grouping to accomplish it. I have several goals while gaming, none of which are to not enjoy myself. If I hate something I don’t do it, if I tolerate it, I do it. Since Mirkwood I have not played the LI lotto, it’s a waste of time. I have however gotten 120 radiance for the chance to raid. I raid maybe once a month, not by lack of desire, but lack of groups and I’m ok with that. My point is it is far to complicated to just label everyone either hardcore or casual.

    It all comes down to opinions mine about myself, you about me, me about you. In the end it really doesn’t matter. But it sure does make for interesting and intellectually stimulating conversation.


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