Of Bartle Types and MMO Difficulty

Got a few more articles over at MMO Bro for you to peruse.

The armies of the Legion in World of WarcraftFirst, I attempt to answer the question, “Are MMOs Too Easy?” Which turns out to be a far more daunting task than you might imagine.

Next, I ponder if it may be time for players and commentators to give Bartle’s player types a rest. Truthfully I’ve always found it strange that people put so much weight on such a basic system.

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5 thoughts on “Of Bartle Types and MMO Difficulty

  1. “Difficulty” is about as useful a measurement for MMOs as “fun”. Neither is even remotely amenable to consensus definition. What’s difficult for a new player is by definition going to be less difficult for a veteran and if the game’s well-designed there’s going to be a predictable learning curve leading from one to the other. You’d think that would lead to the easy content being put at the start and the difficult at the end but as anyone who’s played an MMO knows that’s not always how it works.

    Definitions are slippery anyway. It’s all very well to say that taking an hour to put a group together is “tedious” not “difficult” but that’s more a choice of emphasis or experience than a clinical difference. Putting a viable group together from scratch is a skill that develops with practice, just like learning to read animations to time your blocks and dodges does. Some people will find the process of locating, contacting and negotiating with potential group members not tedious but dauntingly difficult. In fact, I’d say that only someone who can already do something effectively can claim to find it “tedious”. Tedium derives from repetition not from dislike.

    That’s just one example. You can tear apart almost every definition of “difficulty” to the degree that it becomes a meaningless descriptor. Developers have to make choices based on the audience they want to attract, not on arbitrary standards of “difficulty”. The biggest problem MMOs have is that they want to feel right for everyone so they can make the maximum amount of money, which often means they end up feeling right for very few but not wrong enough for many to stop playing. It’s a recipe for the permanent low-level disgruntlement that permeates the atmosphere of so many MMOs.

    • There’s a great element of subjectivity to difficulty, which I acknowledge in the article, but that doesn’t make it meaningless or entirely without some objective truth, either. Running a marathon is objectively more difficult than going to the fridge for a beer, for instance.

      I do agree with your last two sentences. MMOs are often an exercise in trying to please everyone and ultimately pleasing no one. Which is why I am a champion for more niche games.

  2. > Firstly, tedium is not challenge. One tests your skill, while the other simply tests your patience
    > But here’s the thing: Those games do have challenging content. Very, very challenging content.

    To my mind the “very challenging content” usually also greatly tests your patience at least as much if not more than your skill.Because you not only have to understand your class, the instance mechanics etc. you first have to undertake massive grinds of various kinds to get the stats necessary to have a decent chance of succeeding at it.

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