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The Casual Life by Wintyre Fraust

An older, casual player's perspective on MMOG's in general and GW2 in particular.

Author: Meleagar

Why no customizable animations & phrases?

Posted by Meleagar Wednesday November 30 2011 at 9:42AM
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Sometimes it seems to me that modern MMOG developers all evolved from the same universal common ancestor of developers, because they can't think outside of their MMOGenetic heritage.  If we can have virtually unlimited control over our character's in-game appearance, why not let us customize our animations?  Our voices?  Our spoken phrases?

Even if we start with an old-school EQ-style multiple-choice option of voices, phrases, and animations, why not give us that? Even better, let us customize them with sliders controls and option switches.  Let us connect battle actions with phrases or specific effects of our choosing.  When we gain a new skill, give us some personalized, creative input into how the skill is visualized and integrated into our behavioral repertoire. 

Let me decide what phrases trigger which animations.  Let me have control over my walking and running animation.  When I sit, let me pick from a set of styles. When I laugh, let me have some options so that I can flesh out my character.

Sometimes it seems that every new patch to every existing game is about (1) new bosses, (2) new dungeons, (3) new areas, (4) new races, (5) new gear. I don't know that I've ever seen a patch - ever, in any game - that was dedicated to expanding the personality/characterization choices of our avatars. It' s like, after the game comes out, the only thing the development team cares about is satisfying the ravenous end-game or replay (new character) appetite of more hardcore gamers.

One of the most fun experiences I had was with the Champions online character creation interface; it was mind-boggling in its depth. I'd like to see that kind of character creation system, but exponentially increased to include all aspects of my avatar.

I Want DIFFERENT Stuff To Do In-Game

Posted by Meleagar Tuesday November 29 2011 at 7:25AM
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What led me to eventually leave the MMOG's I've played is one simple thing: not enough diverse stuff to do.

As a casual player, I really only have time to invest in a single character in one game.  That means that I really only can fight one kind of battle using a very narrow set of battle skills/talents, and I can only pursue a certain range of crafting avenues. Since the socializing and lore-reading of a casual player is very limited, there just isn't much diversity available in terms of actually impacting my character and enjoyment of the game long-term. All I really have to look forward to is doing the same small set of things over and over for the long-term. I can only imagine how boring such games must be to hardcore players.

Which brings me to the question: why isn't there more breadth in these games?  Why are there so few alternative areas of advancement? It seems to me that MMOGs could offer nearly infinite lines of potential character advancement, not only in battle and crafting, but in all sorts of areas, like politics, an actual lore-based advancement system, professions where one can open up a shop and teach other players that don't want to invest advancement time in the profession (such as, new animations, new pet designs, new gear designs, house and furnishing designs, etc.), exploration advancement that opens up areas of the game, language advancements that opens up all sorts of new avenues, personal storyline advancements, city quest advancments that moves you up in rank and/or fame in particular cities or even particluar areas of the city - or even, just personal relationships with NPCs, where you don't know how "whom you know" and have helped out might help you in turn in the future.

One of the things I really liked about EVE was that there seemed to be an endless assortment of areas one could study in, that each branched off into many other sub-specialties. It left me wondering about the sheer lack of breadth of advancement systems in MMOGs (and, truthfully, even in EVE, since basically all advancement was in a fundamentally narrow meta-system).

IMO, adding new lands, bosses or gear is not having "new" stuff to do; it's the same stuff you've been doing, only wearing a different set of clothes.  This may be adding depth to the current systems, but it is not adding new and different systems. The potential is limitless, and IMO largely untapped.

How To Get Rid of Grinding

Posted by Meleagar Thursday November 17 2011 at 9:41AM
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Many paid professions or jobs require us to do the same menial tasks over and over.  I remember I once had a job as manual check sorter for a bank (before it was all automated). I stayed on that job, as I remember, one hour. It was either quit or find a cheap clinic that could perform a while-you-wait lobotomy.

I'm not saying all grinding is a bad thing.  Some people like  repititious key-pounding and doing the same thing over and over with different clothes or make-up on. Liberace comes to mind.  I'm just talking about getting rid of the bad grinding. I don't mind doing the same thing repititiously, but doing it from a sense of having to, or of not being able to advance unless I spend long hours doing so, makes such activity become un-fun very quickly.  Given the nature of the MMOG format, what can be done to remove the need for grinding - but still allow those who want to grind or for whatever perverse reason enjoy it, grind for additional benefit?

If a game implemented a 24/7 advancement feature where one's character was advancing all the time regardless of how much time one spent doing anything else, or was even offline ( like Eve's advancement tree), then the necessary grind is removed from the game and replaced with the "I wanna" grind. If you made it so that grinding added advancement on top of the 24/7 amount everyone got all the time, then there would be added reward/benefit for grinding, but such play would not be necessary in terms of advancing your character.

Plus, you get all the other benefits of 24/7 character advancement - a sense of involvement in the game even when you aren't playing; a sense of relief from feeling like you have to play; the freedom to do what you wanted in the game instead of what you feel you have to do, etc.