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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

You Call That Treadmill a GAME??

Posted by Meleagar Friday June 25 2010 at 8:18AM
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Once again, people ask .. what is there to do in a game with full offline advancement, and the ability for your character to earn money even offline? Why bother logging in? Why not just give them an "I win" button and have done with it?

My response is: you call that treadmill you're on a game?

First, let's look at what this question reveals about those who ask it; the only reason they have to be "in the game" is advancing their character by gaining experience or farming gold. If that is basically the only reason they are in the game, then obviously their gameplay is characterized by efficiently obtaining experience, increasing character stats,  or gaining gold. They consider this activity the fundamental purpose of buying and paying for play in an MMOG.

For them, obviously, there's no RP in the MMO - - G; there is no reason to role-play. Or socialize. Or pay attention to story or lore any more than it serves to advance their experience and wealth. They don't really care about the graphics or the animations or even the gear in any sense other than how the stats on that gear increase their ability to gain character advancement and gold.  These things used to be called Role-Playing games for a reason; they were never called "massively multiplayer treadmill games" or "massively multiplayer raiding games" or massively multiplayer abandon your real life games".  Supposdly, the main aspect of such games was to Role Play - that's why they put Role Playing right in the title, see?

But these guys say the only reason to play such a game is to spend time online grinding on the treadmill to advance your character and gain gold.  If you are playing a character that happens to be the sort that only cares about getting that next ding, 10% more dex on your sword, or 20 more HP, then great, you're role playing! Yippee!

So, why not just give them a button to click and a graph with categories like "health" and "gold" and "leet gear rating", let them pay to log in and keep pounding keyboard buttons (but only in a certain sequence, because it should require skill, baby); the faster they can type those sequences and the longer they can stay online and pound buttons, the higher the bars on their character graph will go. That's all they need, really, because unless their game is measured by how long they can stay on pounding that keyboard and increasing the various stats and levels and wealth of their character, there is no reason to play the game.

For them, the game is just log in, bang on keyboard to raise stats and wealth, feel like you accomplished something, advanced something, gained something through "hard work" and "leet skill", then log out. That's it. That's what the MMORPG genre is all about, and there is no other reason to play.

For a lot of people, that is actually the worst part of the game - the annoying grind that keeps us from doing the things we'd rather be doing in a well-made game, like chatting with others with full sentences, role-playing, exploring, enjoying the game graphics, discovering deep story and lore through a questing system that isn't short-changed because they're only contrived devices for advancing one's character. We like to stand around and talk about in and out of game stuff, compare skills, talents, and attributes, talk about long-term game goals.

We enjoy testing out our PvP skills against each other in harmless arena fights; we enjoy banding together in fun to see if we can take on a certain creature. We enjoy flocking to events like giants or dragons invading towns and involving ourselves in recurring events. We enjoy helping others and answering questions about the game, fiddling with our character looks and gear, trying out new animations, getting in-game musical instruments together, playing, and dancing.  We enjoy making up little role-playing interactions where we can.

We enjoy investigating well-planned, deeply developed areas to see what we can find.  We enjoy fighting stuff not necessarily to advance our character, but to watch the combat (which is why a slow-motion mode would be so cool).  We enjoy finding out what our particular skill lines can do. We enjoy killing Mob X for fun, but not to grind out experience. We enjoy doing quests for fun, but not fundamentally the same quest over and over and over when it is only a contrived way to hide the fact  you're still just on the treadmill.

We don't play the game to get on a virtual treadmill and go down cookie-cutter paths we've all seen dozens of times before.  Making character advancement choices as our character advances can be fun, but having to bang on the keyboard for hours and hours to get to that point is not. Eventually, we have realized: that ding of fun is not worth the hours ... days ...  weeks ... of boring, tedious treadmill action necessary to get there.

You guys wonder why anyone would bother logging in to a 24/7 advancement game; I wonder how anyone can take those online treadmill games out there for more than a few minutes without putting a bullet through their monitor.

One of the great joys we have in-game is to make the decisions about how our character advances when we have the opportunity; doing the treadmill gig for hours and weeks to make one such choice is - for us - not fun.  The 24/7 advancement sytem I advocate here takes us off the mind-numbing treadmill and puts the fun of character advancement management and role-play at the forefront; you are always - always - making  character advancement choices, always managing the acquisition of unique and specific attributes, skills, profession and talents of your constantly advancing and evolving character.

The treadmill is not fun for me. I suspect that if a lot of people just admit it, it's not fun for them, either. And, if the game has to be about who spends the most online time banging keys in a certain sequence to obtain a necessarily difficult (in terms of time) "ding", then there is simply no avoiding that treadmill.

Fortunately, the game doesn't have to be about that treadmill; unfortunately, no developers realize this.