Hope For The Time-Poor

What if you didn’t have to be online at the same time as everyone else to raid?

That’s the question Stubborn asks – well, one of them – in this fascinating look into the future and the past of gaming.

He’s asking what might seem like a silly question at first – when we moved from turn-based gaming into the realm of real-time, was it worth it? And might we be going back the other way soon?

“At first glance it may seem ludicrous to try to play a 500 turn Civ game one dragging turn at a time, but that was completely standard for a long time. Chess games were played that way, online “pen and paper” RPGs were played by email or by forum post. There were many complaints then about how long it took, and about how if one person was slower than others, it dragged everyone else down, and those were legitimate concerns, but what we found in the opposite wasn’t much better.

Ferrel writes in his excellent book The Raider’s Companion of some of his early raiding experiences in EQ, where raid bosses were all world spawns and server dominance went to the guild who was ready at the drop of a hat – at any time of night or day – to hop on and kill it when it spawned. He writes about having people call at 3 or 4 a.m. when he had work next day as part of a phone tree to get everyone up and logged in to kill the bosses.

I sincerely applaud him and all his guildies for such dedication, but to me, that’s madness. That to me epitomizes what engendered the asocial MMO behaviors like enforced parallel play or solo dungeons. Sometimes the social stresses of having to be in a certain place at a certain time are just too great for a leisure activity, and you end up with situations like what PA described in their The Guildfather comic. In the post that accompanied the comic, the oft-quoted description of MMOs as “a vortex of social obligations” first came to my notice. I’ve used it a lot since, and I think the above trends are all backlashes to that idea of the “always available online” world.”

Read the rest of “The Return Of Asynchronous Gameplay” »