Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Proteus Effect

Nick Yee, of Project Daedalus did some interesting work in his doctoral thesis, in which he studied something called the Proteus Effect. Namely, he showed that what toon you play has an effect on your behavior. By using virtual reality to manipulate the attractiveness and height of experimental subjects, they became more agressive (height), or more willing to approach another person more closely (attractiveness), or disclose more information about themselves when asked (attractiveness).

Nick was even able to cancel out the possibility of "priming" or the sort of social feedback that other's reaction to your toon's height or attractiveness has by changing what the confederates in the VR-implemented experiement saw. That is to say, even though the subjects saw themselves as taller (or more attractive) in the VR environment, the people they interacted with did not. I say, that's pretty slick.

But really, what us gamers want to know is which toons will level faster, don't we?

Well, Nick has an answer for that, too. Sort of. First of all, he gathered data on height and attractiveness for all the different races of WoW. (I know, it's not Everquest, darn it. But we can still learn from it.) Attractiveness was based on a toon with randomized appearance, and given ratings by an independent panel, probably composed mostly of college students. Here's the ratings:

Dr. Yee then sampled characters from WoW over the course of a couple weeks and ran regressions to see if the levels of character correlated to attractiveness and/or height.

Yes, yes it did. The most attractive race (Human) was on average 2.7 levels higher than the least attractive. The tallest race (Night Elf) was on average 4.5 levels higher than the shortest. Dr. Yee is careful to say that this might not be causal, since more serious players might choose taller toons. And notice that popularity seems factored out of this analysis, so the wild popularity of Night Elves maybe doesn't mean as much.

Nick points out that the average playing time in WoW to get to level 60 is 480 hours. That's three work months, by the way. I'm not sure if EQ2 is shorter or longer than that, though it's in the ballpark.

In thinking about this in Everquest terms, I note first that there are virtually no trolls at the high levels of the game. Well, or at any level. Folks just don't want to play trolls. If you go on a raid, you will see lots of toons that are sexy (Night elves, wood elves, half elves) or tall (Barbarians, Ogres, Kerrans). There are far fewer gnomes, halflings or dwarves. Arasai and Fae certainly exist at the high end, but not in great numbers.

Now I have friends in-game who play gnomes, halflings, dwarves and Fae. Some of them leveled pretty fast. I'm not trashing y'all, but I'd like to hear from you. Have you also played a tall toon? Did it make a difference? Did it make you feel different?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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