Transparency: Understanding crafting in a single-player game like Fallout 4
For those of you living under a rock, Fallout 4 dropped in stores this week, and I can only name two of my friends who aren't playing the game.
Remember that the vast majority of my friends are MMO players. These are players who have experienced many a game where they can build any number of things from a Sith temple on Yavin 4 in Star Wars: The Old Republic to their own PvP arena in a game like Landmark. Of course, the creation tools in Fallout 4 greatly surpass those found in SWTOR, but few can touch Landmark. On top of that, the only person actually experiencing this amazing Fallout 4 town that you’re creating is you, whereas your amazing creation in WildStar can be shared with thousands of people. So I am having difficult time wrapping my head around why people are quickly becoming addicted to the town creation, especially those who are avid MMO players.
Before you begin thinking that I'm setting out to bash your game or tell you that should be playing something else, read what I have to say. Fallout 4 looks great, and it might be the best game that Bethesda has ever made. It's also not the only game that falls in the category of me questioning why a person would spend so much time creating something that only he or she will see.
Another highly successful Bethesda game falls in this category for me as well: Skyrim. But Skyrim’s building has more to do with the mods than the game itself. There is a whole community built around that, just as there are modding communities built around the Fallout games.
So the question that I’m asking everyone today stems from this idea of building a town in Fallout 4 that no one else will ever see. How is it that players, especially MMO players, can spend so much time in games that offer them so little compared to the MMO world? I’d seriously like an answer in the comments after you’ve read my perspective.
The four types of players
My MMO world has four different kinds of players, generally. Richard Bartle created a taxonomy years and years ago that has been used to guide game creators for creating a good and balanced MMORPG. MMO players can be divided into Socializers, Explorers, Achievers, and Killers according to Bartle.
Many designers have utilized his taxonomy to help develop single-player games as well, especially RPGs. If it wasn’t used as a foundational tool for the game it was used to make sure that the game hit certain beats. Things like the Xbox achievement system plays right into the Achievers and Killers category. Open-world games, like your Grand Theft Autos and Elder Scrolls games, feed the Explorer’s appetite. And game forums and message boards feed the Socializer. It’s not a perfect fit for single-player games, but many things are applicable.
My working hypothesis
It should also be noted that when I took the Bartle test, which no longer exists, I fell heavily in the Socializer category, and although I understand the general motivation of the other kinds of players, I cannot always wrap my head around some of the specifics. One thing I’ve noticed about other Socializers is that the story and the motivation of a character is important to those players. So many times storylines in a single-player game will pull Socializers from the MMO world. This happens for me with just about everything that BioWare makes, as well as Skyrim, The Witcher 3, and Batman: Arkham Knight.
After a short discussion with a friend who is also a heavy Socializer, I’ve come up with one hypothesis. But it really only applies to one type of MMO player, and it can only loosely be applied to other games that have a heavy settlement-building.
I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that your settlement in Fallout 4 is intended to be a reflection of the town that you lived in before being placed into the vault. And your first motivation to clean it up because the things that you find can be useful in the game later. Then you also need to build yourself shelter to survive in the game. But why step beyond that? Story.
Although no one will see what you’re building, you have a personal investment to rebuild the neighborhood you were a part of before the nukes destroyed everything. And because people come to live with you in the settlement it becomes more of a Sims game, where each thing you build on becomes additional growth for not only your character’s story but also the stories being built through the people of the town itself. Discovering people and the motivation of others becomes a strong motivation for a Socializer, whether the avatar is a real person or scripted characters.
Of course, my hypothesis doesn’t account for players who are not Socializers. It also assumes that all Socializers enjoy story as much as I do, which might not be true outside my circle of friends. Admittedly my personal circles aren’t that big and we all seem to have a similar motivation when it comes to games in general.
It’s time for your input. What do you think? Do you have any hypotheses? I’d really like to know what your thoughts on the matter. Perhaps one of you can help me wrap my head around that drive for some MMO players to build a world that no one else will see except via screenshots. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.