Back To The Basics

It’s unfortunate to step back out of the flow of things and realize just how far across the line we’ve gone. What might have once been true has been cashed in for its connotation but its meaning is no longer valid. And starting any ball rolling down any slope…

Why do we allow ourselves to buy into the landslide of marketing? The chosen words of game designers have become used as they are not employed in a manner consistent with their meaning. Designers are removing value from the words, not adding to them! Desensitization, anyone?

Diving Right In

Common gear means gear within 1? 2? 3? standard deviations of the mean.
Superior means above the center-mass.
Rare means (perhaps more exclusively, above the limits of standard deviation provided by the common definition) not common at all.

Epic means having been acquired through a momentous and noteworthy act.
Legendary means existing only in hearsay.. something people speak of but no one except some elder from an isolationist tribe in the far hills has any visual confirmation of that also hasn’t been seen in a century (see also: unique).

Without Further Ado

A player is one.
A party is a collection of players able to, at a glance, identify precisely the number of players in the collective.
A group is a collection of players able to, at a glance, approximate within 10% the number of players in the collective.
A mini-raid is a collection of players unable to, at a glance, approximate within 10% the number of players in the collective, but able to given a quick (5 seconds?) headcount.

A raid is a collection of players unable to approximate within 10% the number of players in the collective, and also unable to given a quick headcount.
A horde is straight un-tally-able.

And Then Some

A title invokes a sense of respect. (?)
A quest invokes a sense of adventure, once-in-a-lifetime life-altering journey. (?)
A bag invokes a volume limit, able to carry objects of smaller size(s). (?)

An achievement invokes an earning process and is this uncommon. (?)
Experience, talent (trees), home/inn, … all hold real value and get tossed around.

Chicken Or Egg (Edit)
Consider the growth of a child. Upon entering this world through the magic of birth, no concept of ‘words’ is known. Sounds, sound imitation win the day. A child knows what something is before they have a label for it. This is done throughout life. Some individuals/groups know this, and base their method of learning specifically around this fact.
When people use labels, they are trying to incur that definition in the mind of their audience. It is the definition that yields the word. Words are used to call definitions. This is the organization of the two-way street.

Definitions Abound

When something needs a handle to help others relate to it, one gives a name to a meaning. But if names and/or meanings already exist…

Using a name that incurs a definition does not mean the thing that has been named inherits the definition! By calling a carrot blue, it does not become a bluish hue in color. By calling sandpaper smooth, it does not become a uniformly level surface at microscopic level. It is the thing’s definition that gives it a name, not the other way around. Care to abusing the order of horse:cart!

What to watch for: collaborative series on how far removed defining features have become from their handles.


About Ahtchu

Jock. Nerd. Holistic. Game theoretician. Can recite the alphabet backwards.
This entry was posted in Consumption v Contribution and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Back To The Basics

  1. Doone says:

    You're saying that a thing isn't defined by it's name, but I think some of your points demonstrate that they do in some cases. I'm not sure which end is the right end on this one, not sure what's the right way we do things with words.In practice, we name things and they are defined by their names as much as they are by their nature. As an example, is an epic item in WoW "acquired through a momentous and noteworthy act"? Or is an epic item simply anything that is purple? We all know the answer to this. The item may not be epic, but it is epic in that universe.People change the meaning of words every day. It's kinda the nature of language really, it just evolves. But I think I agree that for many words the meaning is lost and they turn into mere labels. In our effort to communicate an idea, we often exaggerate. Very often. So that epic simply becomes a fool-proof word for describing something awesome, rather than symbolizing a noteworthy act.I'm not really sure how this works out on a micro level, but it's not difficult to see its effects at all on a macro level.

  2. Ahtchu says:

    There is a two-way street, absolutely. And the goal is to reflect on that relationship between words and definitions and witness how far they have shifted in their original meanings.Take for example curse words. Where once people would employ them for shock and awe, over time with excessive employment via exaggerated situations, they have lost their meaning. There is an evolution, absolutely, but is that evolution contributing to the tool of language, or abusing it?It's a question of taking from the pot, versus contributing.If I engage in an activity that is mundane, but recount the tale using the term 'epic' when it is clearly not, I have just removed value from the word the next time someone hears it.If I engage in an activity that is ridden with struggle, progressive decline of hope, and at the last hour against all odds the outcome is positive, and recount the tale without saying the word 'epic' but perhaps imply it, I have just added value to the word the next time someone hears it.What's the expression again? "People with class don't use 'class'"?I am more than implying there is an evolution- I'm suggesting that we've really stretched the words from what they 'actually' mean. It is hopefully from here that thoughts are provoked.

  3. Doone says:

    I think you've got a point there. Contributing versus abusing.There's a funny thing happening which I think is accelerating and exacerbating this phenomenon: the internet. With the rapid transfer of information and communication, I think it's fair to say a lot of people are being compelled to communicate more and in different ways. The consequence is that we hear information from *everyone* as opposed to the largely legitimized "educated" authors we would otherwise rely on for word usage (the news, a teacher, a book, etc). In the information age, everyone is pretty much forced into the pool of communication — those who are good at getting ideas across without using words out of context or inventing new contexts, and those who aren't.And that means people who don't really communicate effectively are playing a much more active role in changing the way we get points across. I think this is a pretty cool thing we're getting to witness, but it has its drawbacks. We're the most literate breed of humans to walk the earth. That means something too. I guess I'm not sure there's any way to control this phenomena and I'm not sure we'd want to. I hope this wasn't all jibberish. I'm a little cloudy in the head atm 🙂

  4. Aidrana says:

    This is an interesting article!For people to understand and experience their creation the way the designers intended, designers must provide some context. But nowadays, it seems that their intended results end up conflicting with their original ideas.For instance, the rarest bind on equip gear item in WoW uses the label, Legendary. I was unable to find the actual definition on the official warcraft website so I went to and came up with this:"Legendary quality is currently the level of item quality in between Epic and Artifact. Generally there are very few of these items on any given server. It usually takes multiple end-game raid instance runs to acquire or craft these items." –wowwiki.comLegendaries nowadays are not hard to get, it seems. I would not be surprised if there was over an hundred of Dragonwrath staff wielders on my server in-game. I see the Dragonwrath cutscene above SW at least once a week. This conflicts with the intent of being the rarest of all items in-game. What's a designer got to do now? Everyone knows once you begin telling a story, you can't backtrack and change a fact you put in. We can't teach a child that the color blue uses the word red, and backtrack, "Oh, the color's name is really blue." The child will always have the first impression of being introduced to the material, and even as correctable as it is, it's something you can never change.Blizzard can't change the label Legendary, but they certainly can change the drop rates or change how difficult it is to obtain one. I'm not alone in feeling that legendaries in WoW aren't, well, that legendary. I can see how it's a difficult thing to fix when you're trying to have your legendary items compete against natural human progression in game.This is why designers should put considerable thought to any labels they want to use. It's a powerful mechanic controlling the user experience in their designs. Nothing is foolproof and can often end in unpredictable results when human nature is put into the mix.

  5. Ahtchu says:

    @DooneI hope your head isn't too doozy of late. I think your summary in 'abusing versus contributing' is accurate. And as you've illustrated in both words and actions (today, your majority are coherent =P), the ease in which people communicate leads to a breakdown in quality of contributions.@AidranaStill waiting on your critique of the hybridization post!I think you've outlined a good many considerations as well as possible recourses for how designers can and should be looking to solve this problem (which empirically most will attest does exist). Such things as not modifying the label, but fixing the meaning is both accurate and shows that the system isn't a failure, it's the implementation that is via its abuse of trying to capture the audience's attention. Some things, like raid sizings, might be more difficult to tackle, but your proposal would work equally well. Other misnomers outside of those lists here would equally be dealt with in a manner of simply putting the designer foot down and doing right by the words used by using a proper meaning.Apologies for the tardiness with my response. I'm busy orchestrating a move to WordPress, and it would appear my username is taken in the system, and I'm stuck contemplating how to go about securing it, or if I would be willing to come up with a new one.

  6. Aidrana says:

    I plan on writing my input in the hybridization post- I've been really busy as of late too. It doesn't help I had to go out of town unexpectedly and had to put some of my projects on hold until I get back on Monday. I'll have tons of work to do :/Yeah, I apologize if it went off tangent. I was trying to illustrate that things can change and that when it does, it's very difficult to fix. How do you change a label that millions of players have learned, especially when it comes to the Legendary label. I can't think of a better label or how much rarer an item can be made beyond the Legendary label, if they decided to go that route. What would they name it? How much more difficult can it be to obtain compared to a Legendary? I doubt Blizzard would do that, but I'm just saying that this is also an option, outside of changing the Legendary item in their quest to continue presenting challenges to their players.I agree that sometimes designers have to put their foot down and stick to what works. I've played some games and were completely confused with how some things were labelled and catalogued because I simply couldn't relate to it. It took me longer to learn and find my way around the game, that's not something I'd want to have my players to have to do if I ever made a game. They're there to play the game, not having to figure out what some words really mean in the game. I'm also intrigued by your description of titles, "A title invokes a sense of respect. (?)".Do you reckon that's why people collect titles? I'm not much of an achievement collector and always wondered why some people cared so much about getting titles. Is it because they want to garner respect, or is it a way of boosting their sense of self-worth? How do you perceive people with titles in games?How is the move going? I'm surprised someone has taken your username, because it's so unique! You'll have to come up with a new user name, I'm afraid, but you can change your profile's name to Ahtchu for your author's id name. The user name would just be the login name. Try a user name and see if you can change your profile options!

  7. Ahtchu says:

    'Name inflation' might be a good way to put it. And I agree that adding yet another name and class of rarity to a game is not the answer, but rather circling the horses and bringing naming back in line is a proper course of action.This post was actually spawned when reflecting on a friend mention raiding in RIFT. It's disheartening to have such a chasm between the thoughts and feelings the term invokes, all directly tied to the numbers associated with the word.Consider the historical application of titles. Not that I subscribe to caste societies, but it illustrates well the point: commoners did not have titles. Individuals of prominence were awarded titles (Sir/Lady) and responsibilities synonymous with with the title. (In practice, the 'responsibilities' were rather hallow). To quote one of the best movies of all time (The Incredibles): 'when everybody is extraorderinary…'A title is meant to bring attention to a facet of someone or something that is worthy of attention (and/or respect) up front. Consider the title of 'lawyer' or 'doctor'. The former is capable of navigating legislature, the latter capable of dealing with maladies. Due to the work involved in obtaining such a status, and the pertinence of said status in society, it is worthy of note. When you slap titles like '8th grade graduate' on people, or in MMORPGs 'Jenkins' and the ilk, you're effectively diluting the purpose of titles. And when titles become meaningless (as they really have), it's just added visual noise to my UI.Takeaway: we'd be better off with no titles at all than everyone with a title. Both cases yield the same mutual result, except the latter gives less eyesore to the gamer.

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