Richard Bartle’s very well read Players who Suit Muds is an essay designed to give players and designers a way to talk about Player Types. It’s an incredibly useful tool, and was later made into a test designed to measure your Bartle Quotient. If you’ve ever seen someone’s signature and it said something like “34% Explorer, 42% Socializer”, they were referring to their results from the Bartle test. This is all well and good, but how do the concepts of Player Types actually help us as players? It’s nice to be able to brand yourself in such a way that people understand you, but what is the benefit? In the past, the different MMOGs have been examined for what kinds of players they mainly appeal to. I’m going to go into some specifics today as regards how the different player types will interact with some of the newer games that we’ve seen become available. Down at the bottom of this article I’ve included a list of most of the major MMOGs and the player types they cater to.
Final Fantasy XI
If the state of New Hampshire is for lovers, Vana D’iel is for Achievers. The textual backdrop of the major cities is interesting, and the quests you use to explore the world are entertaining…but the game is really all about the next level. The job system enforces the achiever viewpoint through the subjob system. Being able to switch jobs is a really great feature, but it requires a good deal of leveling just for the sake of leveling. The game rewards this level gain through changes in the types of creatures you face. While your initial newbie zones are very limited in what creatures you face, the amount of xp you recieve quickly diminishes as you gain in level, forcing you to move to greener pastures. The quirky quests and this tendency to implore you to travel ahead means that FFXI is also fairly appropriate for explorers. While they may not appreciate the game’s main thrust as much, it’s hard to argue with a series of quests in which you work for a gang of kids who really like onions.
World of Warcraft
Some people have tried to understand why, besides the Blizzard brand name, World of Warcraft has proven so popular. Given the predilections of most MMOG players, it’s actually easy to understand. Something like 60% of all Massively Multiplayer Players peg themselves as explorers. And World of Warcraft is an explorer’s dream. The game has a rich questing system that draws you into the game world, rewards your efforts to aid those around you, and encourages you to travel. In point of fact, you receive experience for exploring! Entering a new area reveals the details of the geography on your world map and deposits a hundred xp or more into your hot little hand. On more than one occasion I’ve gained a level just from entering a new area. Beyond that, World of Warcraft features enough shiny loot and bad guys to squish to make even the most jaded Achiever happy. The best part about WoW is that Achievers will not be inclined to leave the game after only a few weeks of playing, as the questing system will ensure they can do more than just grind away to reach the next level. It’s crazy, involving the players in the game world makes them want to stay? Who woulda thought?
A Tale in the Desert
This very different game shows one of the weaknesses of the traditional Bartle types. In reality there needs to be an axis governing how much a player wants to craft. If there was, ATITD would fall far to the crafty end of that axis. There, it would spike a ball and do a little dance. In traditional Player Types, ATITD is co-inhabited peacefully by the Explorers and Socializers amongst us. The ends of the earth are almost certainly how far you have to go to get to some of the rarest materials in the game. Wandering amongst the different areas of Egypt will improve your trade and your knowledge of the land. On a more talkative level, trade with other players is almost a necessity. Going it alone would be an enormous challenge, and most players do end up joining guilds at one point or another in the game. Guild leading, Guild Politics, Guilds drama….ahh socializers. There are also some really interesting mini-games you can use to pass the time, giving socializers an in-game reason to spend time chatting with people.
Star Wars Galaxies
Everything under the two suns of Tatooine would be the best way to describe the Player mix of SWG. According the Bartle test results, Star Wars features an almost dead heat between all four player types. Each of them is separated by only a few points. Explorers, as the most common type of Player, come out on top by a mere two or three percentage points. Explorers in SWG are in a hog’s heaven. Explorers in Galaxies have acres and acres of planetary body to explore, player cities to build, and ships and caves and ruins to delve. Right on their heels, the Socializers of MMOGdom have descended on Galaxies in droves. Not all of them are shaking their wookie-makers, but the Entertainer class has ensured that there will always be a role for the chatty Cathy’s of the galaxy far, far away. Politicians are another great expression of this traditional player type, allowing the natural leaders of a community to have a recognized role with some real influence over the play of the game. With expanding roles for both classes in upcoming patches, Socializers can look forward to a long future of conversation and relationships.
Finally, a look at the types of most of the major US games. As you’ll notice, overwhelmingly these games appeal to the Explorer type. This makes a lot of sense if you think about it. First, it’s good marketing sense. The overwhelming majority of MMOGers are Explorers, right? So catering to the audience is the best approach. Additionally, statistically speaking most Developers are Explorers too. Building a game that you would like to play only makes sense to me. These statistics come directly from the Bartle Test page’s results information.
Everquest Achiever – Explorer – Socializer
Ultima Online Explorer – Socializer – Achiever
Dark Age of Camelot Explorer – Achiever – Socializer
Asheron’s Call Explorer – Achiever – Socializer
Star Wars Galaxies Explorer – Socializer – Achiever
Anarchy Online Explorer – Achiever – Socializer
Shadowbane Killer – Explorer – Achiever