Tobold, Spinks, etc. have been talking about skill recently, mostly in relation to WoW, and while I’m broadly in agreement with their arguments, it bothers me that we don’t have a clear definition of what does and doesn’t constitute ‘skill’ in MMORPGs. Again and again we encounter the same confusion and disagreements steming from a lack of shared definition.
In particular, I often see blog comments and forum posts where the writer conveniently minimises or ignores what I would consider to be a far larger factor contributing to ‘success’ in most MMORPGs than player skill, that factor being time invested.
So, what follows is my first attempt to define skill in MMORPGs. This is not meant to be definitive or exhaustive at this stage, and perhaps it will help stimulate a little discussion and debate.
Knowledge – Understanding of the game mechanics, of specific mobs and encounters, of yours and other classes’ abilities, etc.
Judgement – The correct application of knowledge. Problem solving and the ability to make the right decisions.
Observation – Being aware of one’s surroundings, spotting incoming patrols, noticing dangerous debuffs, potential spike-damage, etc. Basically, being able to notice important things in a timely fashion.
Control – The ability to quickly and effectively translate intent into action. Hand-eye co-ordination with the mouse, keyboard dexterity, etc.
Leadership – Organisation, delegation, absorbing of input, encouragement, diplomacy, etc.
Opportunity – Being able to play 40+ hours a week due to having no job, no social like, or neither.
Flexibility – The ability to stay up until 3am banging your head against a difficult piece of content due to not having a job that requires a good night’s sleep.
Unscrupulousness – The inclination to make use of someone else’s detailed strategy in order to beat a raid boss. Also, exploiting.
High-boredom threshold – The ability to perform repetitive, mundane tasks indefinitely.
Superior gear – It makes the game easier, not more difficult.