The Game Factories
December 9, 2005 10:25 AM   Subscribe

No time for Warcraft? There's a whole new industry growing in China for outsourcing your "character". So called Gaming Factories (nytimes reg req.) have men playing for $250 a month 12 hours a day 7 days a week.
posted by bitdamaged (28 comments total)
See also
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:32 AM on December 9, 2005

The game's more fun leveling to 60 than it is at 60.
posted by graventy at 10:42 AM on December 9, 2005

John Kerry to condemn "Benedict Arnold" nerds outsourcing gameplay overseas.
posted by brain_drain at 10:45 AM on December 9, 2005

I hope the gamemakers are watching because someone really needs to make a MetaSim game where you can control people controlling people in a game.

I don't get why it would be at all enjoyable to pay someone else to play a game that you're already paying to play. But then, I don't play WoW or any other subscription games.
posted by fenriq at 10:53 AM on December 9, 2005

Fenriq, I think everyone has different reasons. A lot of gamers might get a certain rush from being powerful/able to crush lower players/respected without having to do all the work to get there. Most WoW players, though, seem to have more fun working up to that point.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 10:56 AM on December 9, 2005

My impression was that it was less outsourced powerlevelling and more farming stuff to sell on eBay.

Either way, it beats menial labor. Er, physical menial labor.
posted by GuyZero at 10:57 AM on December 9, 2005

So not only can I outsource my job, I can outsource my hobby as well! Sweet!!

Just think of all the time that'll give me for, um, other stuff...

sleeping... eating... um.. help me out here...
posted by LordSludge at 11:01 AM on December 9, 2005

1) become web designer
2) outsource all design and coding work
3) use excess money to outsource your game playing, online dating, blogging

You could have a whole online life without even doing a single thing.
posted by delmoi at 11:07 AM on December 9, 2005

Well, that makes it official: we're the most spoiled, decadent people on the planet.
posted by jmcneilly at 11:14 AM on December 9, 2005

One reason for buying a higher level player might be to give yourself a fighting chance when entering one of these MMRPGs. I know one reason I've avoided playing them is that by the time I discover the game, it's full of players who've either been playing it 20 hours a day for months or who have found some sort of hack or trick or something to give them great powers in the game... I figure I'd come along trying to learn the particular tricks of this game and I'd be wiped out in about an hour.

That said, this sort of story fascinates me. The layers of abstraction involved - we're trading bits of paper that represent value (money) for virtual property (game characters, land). We've seen online plagues , and crime and prostitution took over the seemingly innocuous Sims Online for a while. We humans are a funny ol' race sometimes.
posted by Zinger at 11:23 AM on December 9, 2005

If that's not enough, you can also outsource the rest of your life.
posted by camcgee at 11:24 AM on December 9, 2005

Yes, I found that leveling up to 60 was the best part... actually, getting up to 40 is probably the most fun, and then it gets more tedious. As long as you're with a group, it's never that bad. You can make 60, on average, in about 20 days of gameplay. (that's 24x20 hours... call it 500 hours plus or minus.) Of course, at 2 hours a day, that's almost a year. That's a lot of time, but it's actually a fairly short investment compared to games like Everquest, which can take twice that long to reach max levels. Or more.

After 60, most of the content requires large to very large groups... 'raids', in the game's vernacular. And the hardest areas, like Molten Core, require a lot of specialized equipment, much of which can only be gotten in ... Molten Core. So you have many failed trips, with 40 people, into that raid zone. And then there are eight or nine huge bosses, each of which requires very specific tactics to defeat, where your entire raid group is working pretty much as a well-oiled machine. It's not at all uncommon for it to take several months of practice to have even a chance of beating it.

Basically, after 60, the game becomes too much like real work. It's not the fun little groups of five anymore. Buying your character at 60 means you miss all the coolest stuff.
posted by Malor at 11:28 AM on December 9, 2005

camcgee: that's a very funny article.
posted by jouke at 11:38 AM on December 9, 2005

Exactly... after playing for a year am just about to ding a character to 60. I've been on a few MC runs, and you know what? It's too much "work". There's no fun, it's such an ordeal to get a group together that by the time you get into the instance its all seriousness and why didnt you tank that mob and why aren't you healing and arrrrr.

Just a bunch of children running the same instance over and over again and using points to give themselves items. I mean, if I was 14 and had nothing to do I could see myself getting caught up with it, but as an "adult" the concept of having to meet at mandatory times every week for several hours at a time to run through a darker spookier instance just to get items to run that instance over and over again... enh.. no bueno..

Time to roll another char..
posted by cavalier at 11:54 AM on December 9, 2005

posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:02 PM on December 9, 2005

but as an "adult" the concept of having to meet at mandatory times every week for several hours at a time to run through a darker spookier instance just to get items to run that instance over and over again... enh.. no bueno..

And that's pretty much why I quit. When the expansion is released, bringing the level cap up to 70, I'll probably spark 'er up again. I can see Upper Blackrock Spire being doable with a party of five level 70s rather than fifteen, and Molten Core doable with perhaps fifteen 70s instead of forty -- much like party of five level 60s can easily stomp through Maraudon in a matter of an hour or less, and a single level 60 can destroy the Deadmines alone.

That, to me, would make it much more fun. The game would again be playable casually. But I just have no interest in having to set aside 20 hours a week to have a chance at Molten Core loot. Sure, the players who stuck around are going to be the ones who complete the new world event in Silithus, while I will continue to take my life into my hands whenever I venture very far into that region. I'm happy to let them; I'll do raid instances in Outworld after the second expansion comes out and I hit level 80. Y'know?
posted by solid-one-love at 1:01 PM on December 9, 2005

Would you like MMOLG's better without all the leveling and work?
posted by parallax7d at 1:23 PM on December 9, 2005

That's just it, parallax -- I like the levelling; it's what comes after levelling that's no fun: spending 20 or 30 hours a week running the same instances over and over again in order to get better loot. And if you don't hit it over and over again with the same group, you have zero chance of getting loot because every group that does those runs on a regular basis assigns loot preferentially to people who do those runs often with the group.

I was part of the "most elite" Alliance guild on Silver Hand when we started hitting Molten Core and Onyxia's Lair and the like. But while I could justify a couple of runs on UBRS or Scholomance a couple of times a week, I could not justify spending five or ten hours every Saturday running Molten Core and five or ten hours every Sunday running Blackwing Lair or Onyxia's Lair or Azuregos or Kazzak.

Maybe once a month. But doing so would get me no phat loot. None. At all. I just wouldn't have enough "points" to make a claim for a shiny epic armour piece.

So what it boils down to is this: sure, you can pay someone a couple of hundred bucks to power-level you up to 60. But then, unless you're willing to put in even more time in the game than you would have spent levelling that character, you're not going to be about to do anything 'productive' in PvE play. And you're going to get waxed in PvP play because you won't have the personal eperience in how to use your character.

I really can't see any point in buying a level 60 character.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:48 PM on December 9, 2005

"On eBay, for example, 100 grams of World of Warcraft gold is available for $9.99..."

Heh, obviously the author is not a WoW player.

-Demus, 60 mage on Kilrogg
-Unholly, 60 priest on Garona
posted by Democritus at 1:57 PM on December 9, 2005

camcgee: that article was awesome.
posted by imaswinger at 2:10 PM on December 9, 2005

I'm glad I read this. I've been thinking about buying WoW for a few weeks now, and the article and the comments here have convinced me not to.

Also, the remark about blurring the line between a virtual economy and our "real" economy made me laugh.
posted by Ritchie at 5:25 PM on December 9, 2005

Well the motivation is that these games aren't designed to be fun (at least not always, or after a while). Some of the things in the game are essentially made valuable through the magic of cognitive dissonance.

I've played to the 'end' of FFXI (two 70+ jobs and zenith stuff for anybody who knows anything about it), and gotten a fair way into WoW, and the issue to me seems to be that the further you get into the game, the more the game is made only to be enjoyed by people with essentially piles of time to devote to it. After I got my first "real" job I quit both those games, because at the high levels it isn't just progression, it is 2-3 hours a day just to stay even with everybody you know, to still be able to compete evenly and still be a known quantity for whatever raid might be most popular / scheduled next.

My personal opinion is that there are some serious problems with the genre, but that it is still new and has a lot to offer.

It seems a lot like other semiserious hobbies. If you were to join a community tennis team, or engage in something else that required a serious commitment, even maybe just playing tabletop RPGs with a group on a regular and involved basis, it might be a similar time commitment. But I think that the structure of a smaller group would be more flexible, more capable of inclusion, and honestly just tailored in small ways to be more fun to the people involved.

I think a game that was global, but could be played in community groups would have a better chance of being fun, and of promoting healthier playing behavior.

Really, what it comes down to in these games is keeping up with the joneses. And when you are on a global constant 1k+ population server, some of the people you are with are playing 10+ hours a day. I don't want to judge these people or what they choose to spend their time on, but it makes playing the game like going to your tennis club and having to play against Federer and Agassi. A fun challenge once or twice a lifetime, and definitely a thrill for a tennis fan. But how about if it was every single time you showed up? Ultimately I don't think these games can be played and enjoyed by people who are just there for fun over a long period of time like many hobbies.

What if you could play the game locally in groups of people that you knew, and there were many many servers through which your unique character(s) could jump? What if you could set up your own local server and host a 6-12 person game for you and your friends, maybe start a little club around it? What if part of the fun was making up the challenges for you characters, instead of letting WeKnowWhatsFun Inc. be the dungeon master every @#$@ing time? How about making character personalization the goal instead of making everybody idolize and aim for the one exact armor set, with the one exact look, that every single person of your job/class wanted? I know there are some games that take this route, but they seem less professionally made, less deep, and less, well, pretty, than the current MMO games.

I don't know if there is even a way to make a game like I described and have it be both fun and profitable. I thought Shadowbane's idea of having characters build cities was interesting, but you just don't want to spend 3 years building a city that might be destroyed in a week or a day by a group of griefers.

Ultimately this is the problem I have with online games. The communities suck. They just do. There are a few consequences for really, REALLY obscene behavior, (if somebody makes a video of it and devotes their bandwidth to distributing it and has a group of friends on the server they play on to help them ostracize a person), but just plain old everyday jackassedness is not only tolerated, but almost encouraged.

I don't think the solution is to force people to play in groups to progress. That happens already. You have to have 40+ people for some things and that doesn't mean that people have to be decent, it means that you will accept anybody, ANYBODY to get that last necessary 40th person so the other 39 didn't show up for nothing. WoW offers more soloing capacity than other games, and that has its pros and cons, but ultimately it relies on creating value by making its stuff require a group of elite friends, (more like servants and tag-alongs who pick up scraps while getting a select few absolutely everything in my experience but there have been some groups of friends), and absolutely insane commitments of personal time.

Even then I don't think that it really wants to BE an accomplishment as much as it wants to EMULATE one. This is ridiculous maybe, but I've actually been proud of a few starcraft maps I've made, of a few solo RPG characters I've leveled, and even of a few really tricky moves I've pulled off in MMOs that have turned the tides of a few battles. I have yet to really be proud of an item I've gotten, as much as I am relieved to have gotten it, and jealous of those who have more. I recognize the value that my nicer items have to me, but I also have to be honest about its source, and it really is just the time that was spent.

Let your community build upon the game. Don't make them just subservient to it. What made starcraft one of the best videogames (IMHO) ever to play with a group of people was that they made a powerful, beautiful, complete and understandable game, then they let the gaming community take it and build on it. Let the community have the MMO. Let them contribute to how characters look, what races can be played, and what you can DO!

I don't think I'm ever going to set foot in Jeuno or Ironforge again. But I bet at least every month or two for as long as I can I'll be searching thru the UMS section of starcraft looking for a game.
posted by SomeOneElse at 5:30 PM on December 9, 2005

That took a while to write and looking back on it this last time I think there's a flaw in the logic I should address. I say the communities suck, but one thing they should do is turn more control over to them. (That may not make sense). I think that the people you are essentially forced to play with sometimes / often are not under any obligation to be polite. More than a few of them take advantage of this. But I think that allowing the community control over the content, and yes even the goal of the game would allow those people who really care about it to dedicate their time in it into creating something that they and the other players there would genuinely enjoy.
posted by SomeOneElse at 5:34 PM on December 9, 2005

My wife and I were able to break away from Everquest (I&II) after 4.5 years without moving to WOW with all our guildmates.

It was fun, and would be cool in moderation. But it doesn't. It sucks you in to make you play it more. and longer dungeon runs. More! More! More!!

(Lot's of videos on that page, Player created.)
posted by Balisong at 5:47 PM on December 9, 2005

Ritchie : "I'm glad I read this. I've been thinking about buying WoW for a few weeks now, and the article and the comments here have convinced me not to."

No, no, no, no. Don't take our comments to mean that we hate the game. The game is AWESOME. Probably one of the best games I've ever played. It was fun, serious fun, for a good 6 months, if not more. Then I got to 60, and my guild was small, and I didn't have enough time to do huge-ass instances, so I quit.

Up to that? Awesome. It really is great. At least get a guest pass key from someone and try it out for 10 days. Give it that. Hell, e-mail me and you can have my guest pass key.
posted by graventy at 7:12 PM on December 9, 2005

Personally, I hate WoW. It's a dumbed-down MMOG for powerlevelers and grind-lovers.

Don't listen to them Ritchie. Don't take that first free hit of crack!
posted by melt away at 2:56 AM on December 10, 2005

graventy, I don't doubt that WoW is fun. Lot's of fun. In the same way that cocaine is fun.

But honestly, holding down a job, living by myself, and devoting myself to the one great passion in my life (reading), leave at most 1 hour per night to play a video game.

It just sounds like WoW isn't quite made for someone like me, who wants to maintain a low level of commitment to the game. It's a pity, because it sounds really good. If a trial version ever becomes available outside North America, I'll probably give it a chance. Thanks for the guest pass offer, and I hope you won't take it amiss if I decline.

SomeOneElse I think your comments are great and I agree wholeheartedly. I used to play A Tale in the Desert a couple of years ago. This is a game with no violence whatsoever, and a plethora of high-concept features.

Still, the community managed to suck. Griefing was rampant, guilds took an exclusionary approach to Tests and resources, and the high-involvement players just raced ahead of everyone else (there is no levelling, but they found ways to remind everyone of what they'd accomplished just the same).

Paradoxically, most of the interesting elements of the game were as a result of community interaction, as opposed to developer-created content.

I'll keep looking for the right MMOG.
posted by Ritchie at 8:37 PM on December 10, 2005

I think the WoW experience is quite variable depending on what a person seeks to get out of it. And for myself, I have noticed that being able to be part of a good guild really makes a huge (positive) difference in my playing experience. I look forward to reaching sixty on my main character, but that won't be the end of the fun for me. I have plenty of other characters (how could I be satisfied playing only one class?), and there's always the fun of creating a character designated for 10-19 or 20-29 Warsong Gulch play.

I know I won't be one of the people with the uber-elite equipment, and that's fine with me. I play not as a way to show off my status, but as a fun diversion, and as a nice way to help other people. To me, that's the kind of power that matters. Maybe part of my attitude has to do with my gender.

But don't get me wrong - I enjoy PvP play on battlegrounds and such. I feel great when I've been instrumental in my team's success.

I guess it all comes down to what you are seeking from the game in the first place. If you're seeking supremacy, well hell yeah, you're always going to have a problem competing with the jobless who can play during every waking hour. But shouldn't it be about more than that?
posted by beth at 9:00 PM on December 10, 2005

« Older Music by computers   |   License and registration, please Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments