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An Ongoing Tribute to my own lameness.....

General random thoughts about gaming, both within and outside of the MMO genre.

Author: Jimmy_Scythe

Game Responsibly

Posted by Jimmy_Scythe Friday April 18 2008 at 11:36PM
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So I've been thinking a lot about time and MMORPGs. If I could choose one thing to completely tear on MMORPGs about, it would be the time commitment that these games demand from the very outset. If I could choose one reason why more people aren't playing MMORPGs, it would the amount of time that players are expected to put in per session, week, month, year, etc. But to be fair, why in the hell are we letting a game monopolize our schedule?

We don't let single player games consume our lives when they require 80 to 100 hours to complete. We're just fine with catching TV shows on a weekly basis. We don't even have a problem with waiting a year for a movie sequel. So why do we feel like we have to rush to the level cap and acquire all the epics in X amount of months?

Just why the hell are people puting 20, 30 or 40+ hours a week into MMORPGs when those hours aren't actually required by the mechanics of the game? If you leave a quest half done, won't it still be there when you log back in? Won't all those levels and shiny things be rendered worthless in the next expansion when the level cap gets raised and the next tier of epics comes out?

The cause of all this time wasteage is twofold: raiding and guilds. The lesser of these two evils is raiding. The longest raid I've ever heard of lasted 10 hours and that's about even with the amount of time that most  people put into SuperBowl Sunday. If six to 10 hour raids only happened once a month, or even once every week, I don't think anyone would mind. It's when we throw in raiding guilds that the games devouring your life whole and begin feeling more like a sweat shop than a hobby.

For the record, I am anti-guild. You can tell me that your guild is different and how not all guilds are Machiavellian communities for the betterment of "geek football," but it doesn't hold a very much weight. The bottom line is that the player is expected to martyr themselves for the good of the guild by putting in a set amount of time and remaining on the guild's beck and call. If your guild is different then you need to hang on to it for dear life because it's one in a fucking million.

For the most part, guilds are about convenient grouping and loot. In theory, you're supposed to be able to call on your guild to provide party members in the event that a quest that you're working on requires more manpower. You are expected to offer the same help to other guild members in return. The net result is that everyone advances faster and gets more loot. Additionally, if the guild is big enough, you have access to high-end content that requires large numbers of players which, in turn, affords you the opportunity to get more valuable loot. In short, guilds are motivated and powered exclusively by greed.

The emphasis on loot means that guilds attach their status to their stuff and establish social hierarchy around level and gear.  This inevitably contaminates the surrounding community, creating a compitition to put  "those elitist pricks" in their place. Now, we have a situation where new players are forced to seek out a guild in order to get the levels and loot that signifies adequacy within a given server's community. This is generally at odds with most players motivations to enjoy the gameplay or to simply have people to hang out with in game.

Maybe it's time that we approached these games differently....

About a week ago I posted a thread about static parties and asked how many people actually engaged in them. I got a pretty  mixed reply. Most people had never been in one, but had heard of the concept. Others had been trying to get a static party together over the internet for years and failed. And finally there were one or two people that were in static parties and had alts set aside specifically for the purpose. So you're probably asking "WTF are static parties?!" I'm glad you asked.

A static party is simply a group of players that get together at a specific time and group using characters mades specifically for that group and nothing else. For instance, a group may meet on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for two or three hours per session. This group will also use characters that were made for this group. So everyone is free to play the rest of the week if they want, just with alts and not with static party characters.

Static parties are something of a regression to the table top RPGs of old. The main differences being that you aren't leaving the house and you probably aren't roleplaying either. This doesn't make it any less nerdy, but it does make the game way more manageable time-wise.

Think about the advantages for a minute. No more waiting for hours LFG. Minimal drama due to the smaller number of players and the fact that you aren't playing every single day together. Having limited the game to a set number of hours a week, you now have time for other activities or even <gasp> other games. The game that you're playing will last longer and be considerably less stressful since you aren't racing toward some vaguely defined end-game. You get all the advantages of grouping without having to rely on a guild that cares more about how you serve their needs than how they can help you out. After a few sessions, your party will be a well oiled machine calibrated to your group's specific play style.

That last one could arguably be done within a guild that practiced every day, but static parties will reach the same results with much less pain and irritation. And ultimately, this emphasis on the journey rather than the destination is what can make static parties more enjoyable than the way that MMORPGs are normally played. Rather than playing for the acceptance of a given game's community, you're playing for completely for yourself and the three to seven people you bring with you.

Before I get the flood of "why not play an regular multiplayer RPG" replies, let me explain that your static party is still free to interact with the rest of the community. If you want to team up with another group, help someone in trouble or just add a random PUG, you're completely free to do so. You're still playing an MMORPG after all. The only thing that's changed is the amount of time you spend playing and the fact that you're playing to enjoy the game and not stroke someone else's epeen.

Also consider how much more effeciently your time will be spent in the few hours that you play. A group that meets for four hours on Wednesday and Friday will put in 32 hours a month. In one year, they'll have put in 384 hours. In those hours, they will have spent zero time looking for group. They will have spent less time getting wiped because they will be intimately familiar with eachothers play style, roles and tactics. They will have 30% more loot and experience, on average, than other players with equal game time because the static party is always grouped. Most importantly though, a static party will still have plenty of game content left to experience after a year whereas everyone else will be bitching about how bored they are because they've already capped and done everything. Do I even have to mention the fact that you probably won't be able to play any single player RPG, aside from Morrowind, for anywhere near that amount of time without running out of content.

Raiding for epics? With the money you save up after a year why bother raiding for them? You'll be able to get them straight out of the auction house or craft them from materials that you can get in other ways. Battlegrounds? Eight players working as a single unit seems pretty effective to me. You really don't miss out on anything by being in a static party. Well, maybe hearing some douche screaming about how you just got 50 DKP Minus....

Let me sum it up with an old parable.

Baby Bull: Hey Pappa, lets run down to that field, fuck a couple of the cows and run on back here!

Papa Bull: No son. Let's walk down thar and fuck 'em all.

WRyan writes:

My brother and I got started in MMO's with SWG.  We were sucked into the whole "GUILD FOR LIFE" propaganda, but we eventually left the game for appearant reasons.

After that, we fell out of touch with our guild mates as we explored other games (none of which really managed to capture our longing to really be playing SWG once again.)

Then we heard about Age of Conan and thought, "Maybe this will be the next big game for us."  We're still waiting for it, but for now, we are playing Tabula Rasa.  It's just him and me.  No guild's, no friend's list, no nothing.  Just us two playing the game and having fun.  I think that the way we do it is the best way to play an MMO.

Make your alts, whatever - but keep that static character for those people you really enjoy playing with.

Sat Apr 19 2008 12:31AM Report
dethgar writes:

I think one of the biggest reasons gamers rush to level cap is the fear that new content will be coming and they'll be left behind. There aren't many mmo's that let you reach the top of the mountain and enjoy what you've done. There's always some new content that makes past content obsolete(see Burning Crusade and all of WoW's free content updates) and makes your character less leveled with the rest of the field. So you rush to cap, rush to grind gear, and then a few weeks later there is new content to rinse and repeat. Look at the big time raids in WoW, MC, BWL, AQ, and Naxxramas which barely got the time to exist. All pointless after one another, and all pointless after the expansion.

Sat Apr 19 2008 12:46AM Report
Kaldrannath writes:

Do you think the game pushes the players or vice versa?  I tend to believe that it's the players who compete with each other, investing whatever time is necessary to reach the current end-game content, that push the developers to create additional content in order to keep a player base and income.  To say it differently, I think the developers anticipate that they will need to create additional content even before an MMO is released in order to sustain an interested player base.  But they do this because they anticipate that the players will reach the current end (kill the biggest, baddest mob available at the time)  and lose interest.  I think they're right.  But why do we compete?

I'm inclined to agree with you in regards to guilds on most counts, but it doesn't change the fact that there are a great many more gamers who would disagree with us.  The numbers may be changing, but it doesn't change the feeling in me that in order to enjoy any MMO, which includes experiencing some end-game content, I need to grind my eyes blind.

It's not the game or developers who demand so much from us as players.  It's us.

As an aside, the only MMO that I've played where I didn't feel that pressure was Guild Wars.

Sat Apr 19 2008 2:41AM Report
jivesy writes:

I think games like Eve-online the way skills are time-based instead of grind-based can affect gameplay and time playing. But when I think about it I stil see miners graind rocks for hours a day trying to buy some officer impant. But for me knowing my character is growing even if im away from game for a month is a bonus, means I can Play when I want and more importantly when I play I can do what I want ingame. I like the idea of static groups something our corporation/guild does naturaly.

Sat Apr 19 2008 4:41AM Report
JB47394 writes:

These games are about achievements, so they definitely tend to produce hierarchies based on character achievements.  I've stuck with more mature guilds, but I can imagine how bad things can get with guilds dominated by less mature players.  I wouldn't stay long in a guild led by the guy running that Onyxia raid.

Eve Online suffers from the time commitment problem in a big way. I've mentioned sandboxes in this light before.  A PvP sandbox is the worst because while you're trying to invest your time to build something up, others are investing their time to tear it down.  That only adds to the time commitment.  I tried to find a casual corporation there, but found that I was quickly expected to participate in the PvP wars.  I didn't care to be told how I was going to play the game, so I left the game.

I'd very much like to see infrastructure that encouraged "MMO Nights" because it sounds like a healthy way to play the games.  I'd want an online service that helped me to find like-minded players.  Not compatible characters, but people that I'd enjoy playing with so much that we'd want to use voice chat.  The most fun I've ever had in gaming was playing Diablo with a couple guys at work using phone intercoms for voice.  If I could duplicate that experience, I'd really look forward to my MMO Nights as something special.

Another good article.

Sat Apr 19 2008 11:25AM Report
Anofalye writes:

I have no idea what you are talking about.

Sat Apr 19 2008 11:48AM Report
Jimmy_Scythe writes:

Let me break it further down for you Anofalye.

Let's say you knew four people at work that played MMOs. Let's also say that there was a game that you wanted to try out that they hadn't played yet either. You contact these guys and point them at the free trail and ask if they'd be interested in playing on a particular schedule. They agree. Now in order to make sure that everyone is on the same level, all of you make a character just for these scheduled sessions.

That's all that there is to static parties. It isn't rocket science. You only play in a set number of sessions over a given time frame, with the same people, using the same characters. All other time in the same game is played with an alt. That all it is.

Sat Apr 19 2008 12:43PM Report
Jimmy_Scythe writes:

I also forgot to mention that you and your four co-workers would have to be on the same server and probably in the same faction for it to work...

sorry.

Sat Apr 19 2008 12:57PM Report
Avsok writes:

No doubt static parties could work. I believe that its actually an interesting idea, and i personally have done it and used this type of play in the past.

 

I don't want to speculate, but after reading this, it seems like you have had a rough ride when it comes to guilds and events that involve the whole guild. Im not sure how many different MMO's you have played, but there are good guilds with strong/mature leaders who unify the guild and treat people with respect.

 

You say guilds are "motivated by greed". I truly can not say i disagree with that, but i personally see nothing wrong in that. I believe greed has many forms. If a guild master leads a guild, treats everyone equally with respect, is happy when his comrades get loot, and especially puts the whole guild before individuals in order to unify everyone, then i think being greedy and wanting to achieve w/e you can achieve is far from bad. If you join a guild that requires you to be active, and you can't, then like you said "its just one in a fucking million" go join another one.

 

I have no problem with people trying to be the first to do this or that. That doesn't bother me at all. If people want to put in 50h a week and if they can, then its totaly cool i believe. You say why do people put some much time? Well you can ask that question about anything really, reading, working out, working, eating, socializing, watching TV, etc... i believe a lot of people tend to take certain things they enjoy to extremes for many different reasons, and thats that.

 

Anyhow, nice read.

 

Cheers

Oz

 

 

 

Sat Apr 19 2008 3:39PM Report
stringo0 writes:

Although I don't like your use of vulgar language, I loved your article - that's such a neat idea!

God Bless

Sun Apr 20 2008 2:51AM Report
Daedren writes:

Not bad, Jimmy. I enjoyed your use of vulgar language, by the way.

You say that raiding is the lesser of the two evils, with Guilds being the non-lesser.

Have you thought, though, that if raiding didn't exist, Guild's wouldn't be such a bad thing?

For example, if you take a PVP-only guild - existing in a game where "Raiding" persay, didn't exist - I think of DAoC and frontier battles - Guilds aren't a bad thing. It's like a Guild in an FPS or something - just a bunch of people with the same tag that are on each others side.

 

Mon Apr 21 2008 5:06AM Report
Jimmy_Scythe writes:

Well, we don't have guilds in FPS games.... we have clans. The difference is largely a matter of scale. The game is closing however, with games like Joint Operations that can host 150 players at once.

Anyway...

PvP guilds and FPS clans are just as bad as raiding clans. Sometimes their actually worse. The drive to WIN WIN WIN!!!! makes many clans worse than American high school football. I like playing football, but the attitude that surrounds organized team sports turns me completely off.

Raiding is kinda like PvP without the other team. It comes back to the attitude of the players and that comes back to the value on levels and loot rather than enjoying the game in and of itself.

Since half the problem is the players, then it's up to each player to reduce the problem by half.

Mon Apr 21 2008 4:35PM Report
neschria writes:

Heh... I was going to come to the defense of the small guild of people who know each other IRL and who pretty much just play together... but that is really a static party with a tag, isn't it?

Thu May 08 2008 7:20PM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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