So do you go for a higher spot on the leaderboards? Do you go for a higher achievement score than your friend? Will you keep killing that boss until he drops his pants for you? Er, leg armor drop, that is. What motivates the Massively team members to reach their MMO goals? Let's find out!
I am motivated by making a unique character. I am not worried about being powerful, but I do worry about being an individual in a virtual world. If the game doesn't allow for much customization or color changes or whatever, I try to approach the game in a unique way by playing differently. I like to explore all of the possibilities of a game!
The first few years I played MMOs, I leveled skills and classes to keep up -- if I didn't, I couldn't play with my friends, end of story. Later games like World of Warcraft motivated me to do stupid things for loot, like run classic Scholomance 100+ times for a sword, and I worked damn hard in Star Wars Galaxies to be a famous merchant and keep my player city humming. Now I game less for bragging rights and making non-guildies happy; I try (try!) to do just the things that are actually fun. It's always interesting how having less time to do a hobby makes you home in on just the best bits instead of the pointless timewasting busywork.
My answer depends on the game. Most of the time I couldn't care less about advancement until I'm roadblocked from crafting something I want to craft or exploring and screenshotting something I want to explore and screenshot.
In these newer story-focused "MMOs" like Star Wars: The Old Republic and The Secret World, I'm interested in doing the minimum amount of character advancement necessary to view the cutscenes.
I think it's just the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tackling projects, both small and large, in these games. Real life is messy and unpredictable, so there's an attraction to MMOs offering concrete results: If you do X, you'll get Y. Leveling is nice, but ultimately I care most for whatever continues to grow and shape some aspect of my character, whether that be stats, skills, gear, or lovely fluff.
My desire for advancement in games is related to personal story and growth -- the evolution of my character and her place in and effect on the community. I don't really give a hoot or a holler about levels in MMOs and turn off all views of XP bars when I can. I am definitely an enjoy-the-journey kind of gal. The only time I really deviated from this was when I did the crafting grind for carpenter in EverQuest II so I could make all the housing items and supply my decorating addiction.
Mind you, I'll take achievements during the normal course of play and exploration, but on my own I do not go out of my way for them (though I have helped others achieve them). On the other hand, give me collection quests and I am powerless against their siren song; it's the random discovery of the treasure that fuels me though... and often the housing item I get when completed!
As for sticking with a mob or situation until I succeed, that's more stubbornness than any desire for an achievement. My achievement there is a personal HA-you-didn't-beat-me-after-all feeling!
It depends on the game. I'm drawn mostly to games with deep skill progression and lots of things to learn, so getting better at a particular title and understanding its systems are big motivators in keeping me moving. If a game is level-based, I usually end up charging to the end as quickly as possible, motivated only by the "ding!" animation and the promise of greater challenges ahead. Achievements sometimes snag me if they trigger something in my brain or if they come with a cool title (and are reasonably accessible to me). Sometimes I do things just because I think they would be funny -- I leveled fishing in World of Warcraft only because I found a very public place to fish in enemy territory and though it was hilarious to /wave at all the little lowbies. In summary: Who knows?
I like figuring stuff out. Sometimes that's all done for me, but a lot of times there's a ton of untrodden ground that no one has explored. It's especially true of lower-popularity titles where there are few game scientists, but sometimes the bigger games have undiscovered things waiting to be found. I like discovering the different interactions in a game and answering the question, "What if I do X with Y?" A lot of the time, those things are barred behind progression walls of some kind, so I have to climb through hoops to find out.
I'm a slave to achievements. It's a sickness, but at least I'm self aware. I like checking things off my virtual world bucket list until all of the bars are filled and all of the meaningless points are obtained. Having rewards tied to achievement point totals, as in Guild Wars 2, really fuels my addiction. Now excuse me while I seek out the last few diving goggle spots I need for the Dive Master achievement!
I think many of the goals that I'd like to achieve, such as being the famously best on my server at a particular crafting profession (anymore) or seriously making a real impact on the game world (not just for 15 minutes), are features often touted by studios but not properly implemented. These promised-but-not-delivered MMO features really kill my motivation.
What do you get when you throw the Massively writers' opinions together in one big pot to stew? You get The Think Tank, a column dedicated to ruminating on the MMO genre. We range from hardcore PvPers to sandbox lovers to the carest of the carebears, so expect some disagreement! Join Senior Editor Shawn Schuster and the team for a new edition right here every other Thursday.