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” »

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How Much Committment Should An MMO Demand?

LFR. Dailies. Lucky Charms. Food. If there’s a single thread running through Mists of Pandaria’s reception, it’s “HOW MUCH STUFF ARE WE MEANT TO DO?”

But is that fair? Are raiders – or players in general – actually required to do any of it? And why’s it provoking such a stink?

That’s the question a number of bloggers are addressing today, looking at the design of MMORPGs as a whole, and whether they do, will, should or can demand massive time commitment…

  • Jeromai considers the question from a psychological perspective, delving into Myers-Briggs personality types to find out why some people love grind and others hate it“The Judging preference might be more telling. I’m guessing that Judgers really like a sense of structure to their gaming. They need to be able to make plans, to see the next goal ahead of them, and are probably the most likely to enjoy making lots of to-do lists and checking them off.”
  • The Game Delver argues that MMORPGs as a whole have changed – that not every MMORPG is going to be a “virtual life” to play, and we should stop expecting them to be“Maybe it is time that instead of bloating their games beyond necessary, developers design MMORPGs to be picked up and played like League of Legends or a typical shooter.”
  • Vixsin, a very hardcore raider, argues that even hardcore players shouldn’t be complaining about the things there are to do, but thanking Blizzard for all their choices“This game isn’t a quicktime event, I don’t have to press “X” to continue, and I don’t have to do anything I don’t damn well feel like doing. And I’m going to thank Blizzard for giving me that option.”
  • Healing The Masses muses on the topics of committment, fun, entitlement, group play and more“So forget those self absorbed urges you have, find a group, get committed and be social.. its what we’ve been working towards with this always online world of ours.”
  • And Green Armadillo says that saying dailies, LFR or coin hunting is optional is rather like saying wearing pants is optional“Lecturing the customer on why they are incorrect, not as good at playing the game as people who are beating the content with the minimum gear, and need to find new friends with lower expectations – however accurate all of these statements may be – is not a good business strategy. “

This one’s going to run and run, I suspect, particularly with Blizzard showing no inclination to reduce the amount of Stuff To Do. I must admit, even as a non-hardcore raider, I’d be feeling the pressure of time if I was raiding this expansion – time before the nerfbat hits and raids suddenly get easier…

What do you think? ARE players required to do all this stuff?

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SWTOR Price Misunderstandings and Quickfire Dev Updates

A quick weekend catch-up to get us back on track after my week of playing rather than writing about games

  • Inquisitor’s Roadhouse laments a common MMO problem – players who want crafters to, essentially, work for them for free“One of my fellow crafters jumped in and noted that we have to spend 4+ minutes crafting each of our 10 items that we have to RE in order to make each kit. And that further, the materials for making those crafted items sell for 1-3k a piece on live servers, making your base cost for materials anywhere from 40-120k depending upon your server economy. To which our heckler replied “Go farm the mats.””
  • Zoso at Killed in a Smiling Accident looks at the options popular MMOs offer for play in bite-sized chunks of time“My favoured option is the PvP warzones, 8v8 instanced fights with themes like “Kill The Dude With The Thing (Then Take The Thing Somewhere)”, “Click On The Thing (Then Stand Near It)”, and my favourite (and catchiest of all) “Click On A Series Of Things Then Swap Around And Stop The Other Team Clicking On Those Same Things”.”
  • DevSpy is a neat new tool that tracks all developer posts from popular MMOs – old-timers like me will be reminded of the old .finger trackers from the Quake days.
  • And post-E3, Justin Olivetti at Massively breaks down the confusing price options for the new LoTRO expansion“I am excited about Riders of Rohan as a whole but underwhelmed by the bonuses and features in these different editions. It’s a very pricy expansion, even in its cheapest edition, and I think that Turbine’s yet to really sell us on the bump of quality and content in Rohan to justify this increase.”

Anything from E3 you’re really excited about?

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PvP and Poetry, Time and Skill

We’ve got a great grab-bag of articles to feature today – from Tobold asking if the MMO emperor’s a bit short in the outfit department to Casual Stroll To Mordor proving once again that LoTRO just isn’t quite like any other game.

  • Epic Poetry! Yes, that’s right – A Casual Stroll To Mordor features some spot-on poetry describing the events of the Elf starting area in the style of Professor Tolkien
  • Cynwise has a great guide, with diagrams, to baiting defenders away from objectives for anyone who’s thinking of getting into PvP – _“In PvE, being called a ninja is a bad thing, but in PvP, ninjas are awesome. Ninjas come in and steal objectives out from underneath the enemy’s noses. They snatch reinforcements away from a node and send them tumbling across the map.”
  • The Grumpy Elf starts off a really interesting discussion by asking how long is too long for an MMO fight?“I understand for most people it is different but for me I would rather wipe at the 2 minute mark 100 times than wipe at the 10 minute mark 20 times even if the time investment is the same. “
  • And Tobold asks just why we need to be skill-limited in MMOs – isn’t it kinda ridiculous? – “Imagine your TV had a remote brain-scanner attached, and if you didn’t pay attention to the movie or weren’t intelligent enough to understand it, the movie would stop, and you would be forced to watch it again from the beginning until the system determined you fully understood the story. Does that sound like a machine anyone would buy?”

What do you think? How long’s too long? Should content be gated by skill?

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