This article will be verging on blatant plagiarism of a quite popular article written over 16 years ago by the Head Designer of Magic: The Gathering (MTG), Mark Rosewater. Mark has created, and still creates, great content in addition to designing MTG itself. Personally I'm very fond of his 'Drive to Work' podcasts where he shares his thoughts on game design. I can only encourage you to check it out!
The MTG Research & Design department discovered that they were able divide the game's player base into three personalities - Timmy, Johnny and Spike. Each with a unique reason to stay motivated to play the game.
Quite clear parallels can be drawn from the findings of the MTG team to practically every other game and genre, including Warcraft 3. So let's take a look at the three personalities and try to establish a link to Warcraft 3 player types!
The Timmy profile is characterized by a desire to win in a dominating fashion. If that entails using a sub-par strategy and losing a few extra games, then so be it. As long as the thirst for dominance and power is quenched with the victories.
Timmy is what we in R&D call the "power gamer." Timmy likes to win big. He doesn’t want to eke out a last minute victory. Timmy wants to smash his opponents. He likes his cards to be impressive, and he enjoys playing big creatures and big spells.
- Mark Rosewater
The most radical example of a Timmy player in Warcraft is that one guy on ladder we've all played against who rushes huge units such as Frost Wyrms or Chimeras ASAP. A highly counterable strategy, but when it works out and the opponent doesn't scout it, it feels so good to steam-roll them with a horde of big, bad-ass dragons.
In Warcraft we also see more common, subtle varieties of Timmy. One instance of such, is the player who just loves making expansions and strives to take an economical advantage, slowly using it to exhaust his opponent completely. A game ending with the opponent in financial ruin while still having plenty of gold is the criteria for success. In the Human vs Orc matchup, where the meta dictates the Human should play for casters to squeeze out a win with a Tier 2 timing push, the Timmy may be much more inclined to use an old school strategy; early expansion and mass air.
More aggressive types of Timmy also exists. Like the Orc player who plays Far Seer with non-stop aggression from the get-go and closes the game with mass Wind Riders. If you can hamper the opponent enough in the early stages of the game, so the opponent won't have a proper answer, Wind Riders will bring "death from above".
Tower rushing can also be considered a very Timmy-esque way of playing the game. While perhaps not necessarily being the absolute best strategy, it can definitely give you some victories where it seems the opponent never stood a chance.
What motivates Johnny is winning in innovative ways. He's the creative player who loves exploring underused units and making them fit into a tailor-made game plan. Calling Johnny a hipster is, in some ways, quite fitting.
There can be several reasons for players venturing into a innovative style of playing. To some, it's a result of being bored with the meta, others play wacky strategies to give the opponent a chuckle and sometimes it's even to reinvent the meta. I dare say that the core reason for a pure Johnny is the joy he finds in winning with something he's created and refined himself.
Like Timmy, Johnny cares more about the quality of his wins than the quantity. For example, let's say Johnny builds a new deck that has a neat but difficult way to win. He plays ten games and manages to get his deck to do its thing… once. Johnny walks away happy.
- Mark Rosewater
It's hard to pinpoint exact strategies that resembles Johnny since he, by definition, is drawn to the unique. Extreme cases may vary from mass Witch Doctors to "Necro-Wagon". It can also be much more subtle and niche, like playing Blood Mage as a second hero. It's especially quirky units like above mentioned that which is preferred.
Spike is the embodiment of your traditional, pro-level competitive player. He plays to win as often as possible, unlike the other two types. What gives Spike joy and motivation is refining and mastering the strategies that is widely considered the best. It's common for Spike players to enjoy tournaments and achieving the best possible ladder stats.
Spike cares more about the quantity of wins than the quality. For example, Spike plays ten games and wins nine of them. If Spike feels he should have won the tenth, he walks away unhappy.
- Mark Rosewater
The strategies played by Spike are the easiest to point out. It's the common, meta strategies as we see them played by the game's top players. Keeper of the Grove with mass Huntresses and Mountain Giants, Blademaster, Archmage, Destroyers... All that familiar jazz!
It's important to take note that these profiles are meant as the extreme cases. Caricatures of the reality to facilitate the comprehension. Way more often than not, players will be a mix of these personalities - a hybrid. This is where the lines get a bit blurry. Even on the highest level of competition we see hybrid players, who are not just pure Spike.
There are many examples to choose from, but an especially obvious one is Moon. Moon is arguably the greatest player of all time, but this is definitely not just because he perfects known strategies micro and timing wise. Moon is incredibly ingenious in his style of playing which gives us a glimpse of Johnny.
The same kind of comparisons could be made between all the profiles. Some are even a mix of all three! Mark Rosewater made a follow-up article to the original a couple of years later, in which he elaborates a bit on the different types of subgroups.
Folowing the original article, two other player types have also been introduced; Vorthos and Melvin.
Vorthos finds a lot of joy in the lore of the game and flavour of units, while Melvin is more intrigued by the interactions and mechanics of the game - understanding how the game works in a complex way.
I won't dwell into these types of players as they are a category to themselves; aesthetic profiles. The subject is, however, very interesting to me. If you agree you should check out this article.
Personally, I primarily identify as being a Johnny. I persistently tried to make Goblin Alchemist work on 1.28 before he received his buffs, which resulted in my very first strategy article. Though the results were mixed, I still remember the joy of winning with him, since playing him was considered laughable back then. Luckily there are always new wacky strategies to be explored!
What type of player do you identify the most with yourself? After reading the above definitions, the answer may even surprise you.