Complexity of systems and player retention

If you don’t read Cynwise’s Warcraft Journal, you probably should. Cyn’s been doing an excellent series of posts about warlocks in Cataclysm that are interesting and thought-provoking — even if, like me, you’re not a warlock and don’t really know much about the class. For me, one of the most striking tidbits was that rogues are the second-to-least-played class overall, but the second-most-played class in high-end PvP, implying that people only play rogues to PvP. There’s a lot of interesting data in there about class representation, role representation, and who is playing what and at what levels.

The post that really grabbed my attention was this one about warlock complexity in Cataclysm because it highlights an extreme form of something we’ve talked about before, the design philosophy that argues for increased complexity in a character’s suite of abilities. In its simplest form, it can be summed up as the hitting buttons is fun argument, although at the extreme Cyn describes for warlocks, it becomes a game of if X, then Y that resembles programming your first computer in Basic. If you remember making a chain of dirty words scroll on a loop up the screen, congratulations on being old with me.

Cyn’s comparison of the destruction rotation in Wrath and Cataclysm shows a rotation with seven elements mushroom out to one with 14 elements to remember and consider. That if X, then Y flowchart just got as complex as a subway map. In my experience, all DPS rotations in general have a little bit of this kind of gameplay nowadays. The difficulty is in hitting the sweet spot where the rotation is designed so that random elements or procs serve to liven up an otherwise predictable set of abilities (providing the fun in the hitting buttons scenario) without making a rotation so complex you need six to seven addons to help you plot it out.

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Complexity of systems and player retention originally appeared on WoW Insider on Sat, 14 Apr 2012 18:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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