Which MMOs Make You Feel Badass?

Pardon my French, but I used that word in my title on purpose. This post was inspired by a book I’m reading for work entitled Badass: Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra. So the word is totally relevant in this case.

Now, the entire idea behind this book is really interesting. Catch this.

The book’s author notes that for a brand or product to succeed against competitors, it’s not just quality, customer service, design, or how cool a product is – though those things help. It’s more about the feeling the user feels when they use the product – do they become better and better at something, and take pride in what the product helps them create? Do they feel awesome at doing whatever task the product is supposed to help them to accomplish? If so, they are more likely to talk positively about the product, and that product is more likely to succeed based on the user’s organic, word of mouth promotion.

To quote one of the editorial reviews on the Amazon page:

Believe it or not, many people don’t care how awesome your product is. Instead, they care about how awesome they are when they use your product.

Daniel H. Pink

MMOs That Make you Feel Awesome

I started thinking about this in terms of MMOs and games, and I realize the same can be said of what we choose to play. I don’t know about you, but I tend to gravitate towards games that either make me feel awesome about my character/skills or allow me to build a character that I feel is awesome in some way. In short, we’re more likely to be loyal to a game that makes us feel good about our digital selves or our accomplishments – whatever we see our accomplishments as being.

This can be different for each person. It could be that you feel awesome at PVP. Maybe you’re a pretty darn skilled healer or tank for your guild. Maybe you’re proud of the house and farm you built in your sandbox game. Maybe you’ve collected enough mounts and pets to put a zoo to shame.

All these goals provide an intrinsic feeling of awesome. And the games that don’t do that for us on a personal, individual basis are less likely to get our money and time.

The Awesome Progression

Another thing to take into consideration is that player growth may be gradual, especially if a player is brand new to a certain game. So how well does the game move a player from being a “noob” to being what the player perceives as a competent player?

What about MMOs that are perceived as nothing but “grind?” What about when a game you’ve played for a while suddenly introduces a new feature (that then becomes grindy, too punishing, and unrewarding)? The book warns about what happens when you make users feel like they’re stuck in a “Suck Zone.”

Credit: Scanned from “Badass: Making Users Awesome” Book

I’ve been here before. When I start to ask myself why I’m wasting my time hitting my head against a wall over and over. Gaming is supposed to be fun, right?

Usually, this is a fast track for me finding a different game that feels more rewarding.

Then, there’s the MMO expansion syndrome. The devs have all these great ideas for new features and fun things to bring players back to their game. They raise the level cap, and suddenly, all that hard-earned gear becomes something of the past. The trash mobs on the overworld map are dropping better gear than what you raided hours to get.

Or there’s some new feature or strange upgrade system or the game locks you out until you attune to something, and it’s just frustrating. You used to be at the top of your game. Suddenly, you find yourself back in the suck zone, and that… well… sucks.

Credit: Scanned from “Badass: Making Users Awesome” Book

Proper progression, the book suggests, is one where the game is able to balance changes without taking away the progress and learning the player has made. That should look something like this:

Credit: Scanned from “Badass: Making Users Awesome” Book

While that’s a good thing to shoot for in a game, MMOs have it difficult because they appeal to gamers of many different playstyles. It may be easy to pacify that RPer or person who just wants to decorate their in-game house (throw fluff at them). But what about those players who always demand a challenge? Who want that uber raid to overcome? And when does the uber raid go from a balanced challenge that makes a player feel good about what they’ve achieved to being something so over-the-top difficult that only 1% of the playerbase could ever hope to beat it?

Well, all those thoughts aside…

My questions to you are: 

Which games have made you feel awesome? Did you stick around them longer? Recommend them to gaming friends? Blog about them? Become part of that community?

Which games failed to make you feel awesome, or lost the awesome over time? Did you eventually leave, or did you keep trying to return to see if you could recapture that awesome?