was a dark,
bone-chilling day at Ten Ton Hammer Investigations; the
kind of day that makes
you want to call off the dev interviews,
procrastinate a little longer on that review deadline, and crawl back
under the sheets. And that’s when she walked in. Framed in
the wan light, she was eerily attractive, like some sort of 8-bit ghost
of computer gaming past.
When she spoke, I half expected a syrupy female computron voice to
complete her cold, clammy tapdance down my spine. “Looking
for a case?” she said, and I looked down at the scattered
browser-based games on my desktop. “Lady,” says I,
“if you’ve got something more interesting than
World of Ersatz Manga Online, I’m your man. I’m
sure I can’t make it any easier than that.”
But, just my luck… she’s attached. Attached to one
Hardcore Gamer. Not surprisingly, she hadn’t seen him in some
time. More surprisingly, she thinks he’s gone missing.
She’d been hanging around the dev studio lunchrooms, official
forums, vent servers, even in-game voice chat channels. Nothing turned
Her man’s business was online gaming, and business had been
good for some time. Lately, however, some shady characters had been
popping up, stealing the limelight and, she suspects, the almighty
development dollar. Once, he was the king of the MMOG jungle, but now
he no longer seems to rule. She suspected some of his…
associates had rubbed him out. I took the case, and without so much as
a good day, she despawned.
Victim: Hardcore Gamer
I dug out the dossier on one Hardcore
Gamer. I needed to see what made
him tick. Hardcore Gamer had been a part of the MMOG scene since it
began. He was definitely the old school style of player. He
didn’t log into a game for a few hours to blow off some steam
or chat with some friends. No, he logged in to not only play, but to
beat the game every way to Sunday. He learned the best possible way to
play his class and he demanded nothing less of compatriots. A game had
to be challenging to be worthy of his time and effort. Seeing your
character die with little to no penalty to advancement - where was the
risk in that?
He lived for epic gear won in massive raids. He lived to take down that
raid boss, pushing though 4 to 8 hours of dungeon crawling to get to
the supreme badass, and said badass only dropped said epic 5% of the
time is the stuff of legend.
According to Hardcore Gamer, crafting should be more than gathering a
few resources, hitting a button, and walking away. Good crafting
resources should be rare, require travel to dangerous places, and force
the player to face dangerous foes in order to acquire them. To sift out
the wannabes, make crafting and research gathering occur in real time.
Make it hurt.
Hardcore Gamer - "This is what
crafting should feel like!"
Likewise, advancement should be a challenge as well. Getting ten levels
in a single night? Zooming through to the end-game content in a matter
of days? B.S. Why play the game if there’s no challenge? The
difficulty, the challenge, the struggle of it all was the reason to
As I completed my dossier on Hardcore Gamer, I realized that, to him,
the challenge and difficulty of the game was fun. He didn’t
want blind, repetitive grinding, he wanted the recognition that comes
from getting to the top of the MMORPG mountain and knowing required a
lot of patience and effort.
But times change, and online gaming was become increasingly easier.
Aside from a few games, few devs made more than token concessions to
Hardcore Gamer. Rewards were handed out not for winning, not for
completing, but just for participating. Quests had become tasks on a
checklist complete with step-by-step instructions and locations, raids
dropped from welcome-all-comer affairs, to 40-mans, to 25 mans, to 10
mans, death had become an excuse to call your girlfriend on the runback
rather than a experience draining, level dropping catastrophe.