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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 7:18AM
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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.

Vasagralem writes:

I fear that for lots of people that gaming style is the only one they know of, and the only one there IS, in their minds. They started playing in mmos that were focused on gear and end game raiding, thats the reality they know, if you google something like "little to none grind mmorpg" you will find tons of post of the like "what are you talking about mmorpg = grind". They just cant understand that these games are meant for "playing" (as simple as it sounds) and not for leveling, or farming, or getting the uber gear. Its like trying to explain colors to a blind guy.

IMO i dont see any exit here, other than restricting age in mmorpgs to 25+ yo, and leaving wow to the kiddys.

Fri Jun 25 2010 10:49AM Report
Annwyn writes:

I completly agree with you Meleagar.


The RP in MMORPG has long been forgotten, gamers are unable to imagine a way to progress your character other than through grinding. For them, there exists no other way, yet we can imagine 1000 other ways to create character progression while they can only see one.


Funny enough, since I've been playing Mabinogi recently (a F2P), I find myself living that "freedom" a little more. Sure got to grind a little but just being able to take a break, compose some music and play near a campfire with friends is just awesome. It's more of a sandbox title though so there's no rush.


I wish DarkFall would've taken this path. It had so much possibility to create a huge RP world with lots of ways to create character progression, yet it's current playerbase only see grinding as the only way. Quite sad.

Sat Jun 26 2010 8:20AM Report
Madimorga writes:

Progression is like a disease other players passed on to me that has seriously decreased my gaming enjoyment.  Prior to my last year of playing AO, I was quite content to explore, decorate my apartments (had one in Jobe and one in West Athens), buy clothes from the shop, solo Rubika missions (even though leveling was so much faster in Shadowlands), chat with other players and make up stories about my character's adventures. 

Then I fell in with the wrong crowd.  They tried to tell me where to level and how, what items I was supposed to have, and where to allocate my skill points.  And I never have enjoyed any game quite the same way.  Always, in the back of my mind, there's a gnawing little rat of advancement, and it's running endlessly on a gear/level/stats treadmill. 

Sat Jun 26 2010 9:26AM Report
Blindchance writes:

I agree with Meleagar, except one thing. He says that developers don't realize that grind and carrot on a stick ( next level another shinny piece of gear ) is not necessary to make a good MMORPG. They know it, even if few will admit it. Grind allows them to take the simpliest and well explored path to keep subs coming for as long as possible with game content spread thinly like butter on a piece of boring bread.

Creating a new and fun game is really risky and expensive gaming industry doesn't like risk. That's why games which try to be different or take unpopular approach struggle to develop. Most publishers will never support innovative ideas they rather exploit another IP in the same game model. 

Sat Jun 26 2010 10:16AM Report
Kossad writes:

I totally agree with Blindchance.

The never ending circle is that no company is interested in taking this kind of risks. It CAN cost them too much resources.

And the little companies, which are ready to take this kind of risks, struggle with financial problems. Yet again, no one is interested in giving them any of this because there is a risk that they lose it. So again, we come to this point: Never ending circle.

Its like democracy, it is a nice idea... But it just doesnt work.




Sat Jun 26 2010 10:48AM Report
Meleagar writes:

Well, I think I probably was just venting angst when I said no developer realizes that the MMOGs don't have to be treadmills, some - like those that make Eve - do know it, but just can't get over that hump and give it a shot.

Eventually, though, someone is going to realize that a true MMO "character  progression management game" is a whole different kind of entertainment, and can draw in a whole new clientelle.

Thanks for the support and comments guys.

Sat Jun 26 2010 2:01PM Report
BuZeR writes:
I think one small thing that has changed that also hinders how much you can be immersed in MMO's is the whole questing process. Now means there are quest logs with nice shiny arrows telling you of the location you need to go, and step by step what you need to do, there’s no point listening to the story of WHY you need to do it. And the knock on effect means most people no longer read the quests, the dev's don’t bother spending time on them that makes people less willing to listen to the drone of a crappy storyline.
It may only be one small thing but it’s an example of how the "I want that now" generation are having effects of the video game market.
What ever happened to being able to work things out for yourself, and the sense of achievement you got when you did. Not only that, but the community will also grow because there is more mutual support needed to accomplish anything in the game.
As for the treadmill factor of MMOGs - Every game will for ever be like that now, gone are the days of Ultima Online and Everquest where a MMO can be made in a shed for a few grand and gross millions. Everyone’s out there to make a buck.
Thu Jul 01 2010 9:48PM Report
chookteron writes:

The big barrier is that the world is static.  When I started playing RPG's you would sit around with your half a dozen or so friends, one of you would be the G/DM and the things you did stayed done and you became the heroes who vanquished the Evil Wizard(tm) or who iced the evil Toxic Shaman threatening Hell's Kitchen etc.  They didn't come back when the instance reset.  It was a one chance kill.  Add to that that there are no real consequences in most MMORPG's and you have the market that currently exists.

Fri Jul 02 2010 3:43AM Report
BuZeR writes:
Yeah i liked the fact when you died in UO/EQ you had to go back to your body to get your gear/items etc back, even just spending the first 5min after ressing re-memorising your spells too. Makes things a lot more interesting when you are worried about being killed, what’s reward with out risk?
Also with the whole don’t grind thing, your ideas remind me of the private Ultima Online servers where you used to be able macro your skills... Used to get like 4 mates in a house we had to save for and buy, two people would start fighting to raise their sword, parry, str, agi etc and there would be another 2 people who would use bandages on them so they raise their healing skills. All you had to do was come back every few hours or so and make sure you had enough bandages and no one had accidently died. You didn’t have to invest bulk time into that game (on private servers anyway - macroing was a bannable offence on the "official" shards). But it still required you to make money to buy the resources to macro say magery, or spend time gathering resources to make 1000’s of bandages. So you could play it for a few hours when you had time, then macro when you had other things to do.
Fri Jul 02 2010 7:31PM Report writes:
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