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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

MMOG-Hopping? - or - Commitment to a character and community?

Posted by Meleagar Sunday July 29 2012 at 8:24AM
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Reading various forums, I've noticed a large number of players that "MMOG-hop"; they play a couple of months in one MMOG, then go to another, sometimes going back to a previous one if some new content interests them or if they just feel nostalgic.  Many if not most of the MMOG-hopping crowd give the impression that it takes them a couple of months to max out at least one character (sometimes more) and burn through the whole game, in the linear sense.  They often say that the price of the box is good for about 2 months of entertainment, which is a good deal.  To them, this is the new reality of MMOG playing, where MMOGs are like any other game they play.

Let me admit that, in the first place, it probably takes me a couple of months of playing just to get a decent understanding of the fundamentals of an MMOG - keyboard, user interface, shortcut keys, movement, combat options. In a couple of months of play I might have a fairly decent understanding of the basics of one class; I might also understand the basics of crafting and the basic game mechanics.  This is because of two things; first, I'm older and don't absorb and retain skills and information near as fast as I used to; and second, if you add up all the video game time I play in a week, you might end up with 15 hours. I just don't spend enough time playing games to learn the mechanics of a new game very often.

Which brings me to MMOGs in general and GW2 in particular; I can't imagine playing a new MMOG every couple of months. For me, that's just about the time I'm starting to feel comfortable, where I'm spending more time enjoying the view rather than figuring out how to operate the avatar.  In a couple of months I might be familiar enough with one character's home area to be able to navigate it without always checking the map.

Also, how do you give up a character and community after two months?  I guess I'm just from a different school of MMORPGers, where investing time in your character and world formed an attachment to it. It was difficult giving up my Everquest character, and then my WoW character, and the social attachments there, because I had carefully crafted very specific characters that I really enjoyed, and I had crafted a place for myself in those communities.  Also, I enjoyed the company of the people I encountered in those games, be they friend or foe.  Such familiarity and sense of community was really one of the best things about having a "toon" in an MMORPG, IMO.

How the heck do you develop that if you're MMOG-hopping every couple of months? I don't think you can. I think you have to see MMOGs as simply big online games you happen to play with other people as you burn a path towards "beating" it, and not as an MMORPG that you develop a character within, or else you couldn't just drop it like a boring toy to move on to the next "something shiny".

It seems to me that GW2 is deliberately designed to re-ignite that old-school MMORPG commitment and appeal to those that want to craft characters and develop a place in a community, rather than those that are just going to burn through it in a couple of months and move on to the next "something shiny". I hope Anet stays true to that commitment.


Rushing to Endgame

Posted by Meleagar Wednesday July 18 2012 at 10:18PM
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Gamespy just released its review of "The Secret World". Reading it over, a couple of sentences near the end caught my attention:

But much like BioWare, Funcom might be underestimating the number of subscribers who rush or skip content or getting to the endgame. The sad truth is that all that work on an immersive story and setting is lost on a disheartening amount of players.

I was thinking about some poor nameless designer, pouring his/her heart and soul into their little corner of the game, then players just trampling through on their mad dash to the endgame, never even noticing the work.  That must be really frustrating.

A Wish Fulfilled

Posted by Meleagar Wednesday July 18 2012 at 7:13PM
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The name of this blog has changed.

After a couple of years of beating the casual/solo player drum, what is probably the closest thing to a perfect (IMHO) MMORPG for those playstyles has been developed - Guild Wars 2.  Since nothing is completely perfect in this world, I'm certainly not going to keep ranting about the MMOG industry being unfriendly to the casual and soloing masses out here when we now have GW2 to play - a big league, AAA, full-blown casual-friendly MMORPG if there ever was one.

If I was writing a blog about trying to get to the moon, and then I got to the moon, it wouldn't make sense to continue writing about trying to get to the moon; instead, it makes sense to write about life on the moon. So, this blog will take a new direction (not so new when you consider the last few months of posts were virtually all about GW2) starting now: it will chronicle my casual player experience in and thoughts about GW2 beginning with this last Beta Weekend Event coming up Friday.  I plan on letting no ArenaNet designer's loving touch go unnoticed in my time in Tyria.

Thanks, ArenaNet!

Powergamers Really Don't Understand Casuals

Posted by Meleagar Sunday July 8 2012 at 9:49AM
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In previous conversations, it's become apparent to me that powergamers not only do not understand casual gamers; they often are skeptical that there are that many truly casual customers playing MMOGs. I've mentioned in prior columns that it may take many casuals a year or more to level a character up to max level in most MMOGs and I was met not only with skepticism, but the opinion that perhaps those players should be playing some other kind of game - that MMOG's aren't suited for those that only invest 5-20 hour a week in their gaming activities.

IMO, a "powergamer" is a player that invests huge amounts of time in an MMOG and is focused on one thing - getting to max level as quickly as possible, and then grinding end-game content for whatever exclusive, superior rewards the game has to offer.  A "casual" player, IMO, is one who is not focused on getting to maximum level and generally finds themselves unable to participate in end-game content anyway because of time & lifestyle conflicts, and often also because they are often unwilling to play the game according to any min-max template or are unwilling to develop a professional-level knowledge of any game.  Casuals do not play games primarily to "get to the end" or "beat them", so to speak. They play the game to enjoy the content of the game.

Obviously, if the content of the game is deliberately constructed to specifically serve the interests and enjoyment of powergamers, it cannot help but be less enjoyable for casual players.  That's just a fact of life; if you offer a first class service, those that cannot afford it will feel slighted when they must use 2nd class options. Casual players are regulated to enjoying "as best they can" the content powergamers rush through to get somewhere else, and that "somewhere else" is a place that casuals don't spend much - if any - time in:  the endgame.  If a game is going to serve the interests of the powergamer in the long run, then most of the development team must be focused on providing more end-game content. This means, necessarily, giving the casual players the short-shrift on content updates and expansions.

Why? Because ultimately, in standard end-game scenarios, everything except the end game is just what powergamers rush through. If you're targetting powergamers, why develop an area that is going to be completely abandoned in  month or two? Why invest further time in it?

Powergamers ask why  casuals are concerned with end-game content if they aren't going to experience it anyway; the answer is simple. I'm concerned with end-game content because if it trivializes everything everyone else does in comparison to what a few do, achieve or acquire as powergamers, then I cannot help but feel like a 2nd-class player.  Right or wrong and all pop-psychology aside, it doesn't matter why I feel that way, the fact is that I do. In every MMOG I've ever played, I've felt like the game company considers me a 2nd class player, because all the best content is reserved for those with a different playstyle.

Now, I'm not saying it is wrong to develop games that cater to powergamers (as described above); of course it isn't.  What I'm surprised by is the number of powergamers who seem to be bent on preventing the existence a game - like GW2 - that specifically does not cater to that kind of playstyle; doesn't design the game to favor them or significantly reward them.

They - many of the powergamers posting on this site - apparently believe that no MMOG can substantially succeed unless that game significantly and exclusively rewards them and their playstyle with superior content, denying that there exist enough "casual" players to support such a game. The cannot even understand why anyone would be interested in playing a game other than, ultimately, to grind end-game, progressive, superior content.

This is why powergamers really don't understand the appeal of GW2, or casuals in general; they don't believe there is a significant number of MMOG players out here that play MMOGs for completely different reasons than they do, and see MMOGs in a completely different light than they do.  Apparently, they think it is a big waste of developer money and time to go to all of this effort and not even include what is, at least to powergamers, the only meaningful part of the game.

I think on August 28 and in the months to follow, the powergamers are going to be in for quite a shock.