I have been trying to write this post for a little while now, wracking my brain on how and what is needed in the conversation and how to structure it. But alas as it is a topic too ingrained in subjectivity, of personal feelings and playstlyes that the message just gets lost at times. Regardless ill try and convey the point but it still may come off as more of an incoherent ramble then usual.
The style of mmo’s has been changing for some time into.. I don’t know really although it appears to be idling towards single player games and focused on immediate gratification instead of any sort of intrinsic play. I hear the word Fun more than I ever had and it still irritates as much as ever as fun is meaningless when talking about an mmo. Yes fun is a part of play and should be but the guiding mission statement for any mmo developer should not be fun. Fun is subjective, fun content is not limitless, fun is usually novel, fun does not last, fun just does not guarantee long term retention.
I see many players and mmo developers so wrapped up in “fun” that the have neglected the core of mmo’s. I just don’t think we should trying to recreate the novel fun that is inherent in single player games, it’s a futile task and I’m sure the player base would thank you if you just dropped the mmo part and made a co-op single player… Skyrim where you could play with friends quickly and easily would sell well… So well that I don’t understand why it hasn’t been done and why companies a cling hopelessly to the fictitious mmo dollar, when the main point of your game is creating an open world wherein the novelty of ones surroundings, characters, and events continuously diminishes then you aim for a single player game with a defined end point not a long term prospect for players. For instance I recently had fun with dishonoured but once it was finished I no longer had any wish to play… Fun achieved, mission accomplished and moving along. Don’t mmoify your game because no one wants that anymore, just take a look in the general tragic direction of a game recently going ftp for proof of that.
I see many mmo players engaged in the chase for novelty, content consuming machines in every sense of the word and i really don’t understand it.. it is just not a playstyle suited to a long term project. I read one of Jeromai’s wvw pieces recently and was just dumbfounded as I just didn’t see WvW as something you could finish… I never saw a tangible finish line anywhere around the place or maybe there was an option for a WvW experience bar I missed.
Till death do us part
Jokes aside i just thought of WvW as something I may eventually get bored of instead of experiencing all the experiences. At the moment though I am still perfectly content with whatever it is this collection of mechanics achieves, i have issues with certain areas and there are parts that are completely rage worthy (aka idiotic commanders) but i keep playing regardless of how repetitious it feels. Jeromai uses the word obligation to describe this and maybe it is in a sense but most of the time i don’t see it that way and I guess it comes down to the group I regularly run with.
I am definitely committed to my guild and maybe even to banging my head up the wall for some misguided sense of server pride (or more not wanting to be complete pushovers at the moment), but in my opinion commitment and obligation are not one and the same, in fact they are far different when talking about games. I see obligation as usually being the result of responsibility in some form which is usually guided be either a dependance or habit. But obligation is not necessarily a bad thing as it only enters the territory of evil when your doing something you don’t want to do… for me that was main healing once upon a time and banging my head against the content wall over and over and over, i felt obligated to push our group forward in something I lost interest in.
I have also felt a little obligated at times towards my fellow group members but to engage in activities i enjoy, such as running off into WvW or a story instance or whatever.. in this case I don’t really feel it’s fair to call it obligated in the way that it equals work because if I’m enjoying myself then it is still my leisure time. This is what I would rather call commitment and it is an amazing thing. To be committed is to have a place in the gaming world and people to experience the good and bad with. To have people to share your experience, and help you out as you do for them… Commitment is more of a symbiotic relationship rather than the parasite of obligation.
A group your suited to, comfortable and that has similar mmo interest can be a driving factor behind how much you play and how much fun your having. Zubon over at kill ten rats had the opinion that the core game sets the standard, and that a buggy pile of shit is still just that. I think that’s immaterial though at times as if your able to share that with a group, laugh and have fun then the quality of content is meaningless. Sometimes I think I even get more out of the bad gaming moments in terms of social experiences.. for instance if i had to pug wvw during the week i think gw2 would have ended up in the recycle bin by now.
An mmo, or long term game becomes more about being social, socialising and having shared experiences and regardless of circumstances.. good or bad games, good or bad mechanics a social group improves the experience. There’s definitely a breaking point to everyone but a good group makes the good better and the bad manageable. But games are focusing less and less on groups and building communities in favor of a single minded approach, and i think this is why burnout has been so quick in games lately, there is just no buffer to bad experiences.
The general sense of familiarity with mmo’s keeps growing and the novelty is beginning to wear of, same quests, same gear grind, we know the drill and yet i still see many getting disheartened at facing the same thing but with no change in their own habits or motivation. But as I see, due to the single player casual approach of development getting that new shiny is no longer an achievement or it is now more an effort of personal restraint, patience, and be able to show up. I don’t even think the long term players care about that shot anymore, at first it is at first it was about that carrot, a plump juicy thing dangling so enticingly but now its changed. All I see dangling there now are the rotten carcasses of the many mmo’s that have regurgitated similar mechanics.
When fights were hard, took perseverance and teamwork that little shiny new thing meant something, more than that though the time spent achieving things made you invested and committed to the game. Mostly though this doesn’t bother me as I have stopped worrying to much about that carrot, but unfortunately people have carried on these past goals and then get dispirited when it essentially means nothing. Everything is too quick, too easy, with no skill or learning involved that there is no way to get committed to your achievements, surrounding or a group.
Those support roles of the past were the path to enlightenment for me and taking me away from the search for more shinies. I was always focused on my allies, friends, and colleagues of destruction rather then the gigantic numbers over my enemies heads which tends to alter your viewpoint. In a support role gear is not as much the focus, it helps but is not the defining feature and you wouldn’t really ever wipe because of healing gear. It just tends to remove you from the treadmill towards a focus on the group which is a far better thing. Being involved and altruistic towards a group and then getting that back is a certainty for creating that sense of commitment.
There are just so many mechanics and influences that all culminate into grouping and being committed into something being far more beneficial than any single player element. It is nice to play alone occasionally or get that burst of novelty but a group is what sustains long term play. So forget those self absorbed urges you have, find a group, get committed and be social.. its what we’ve been working towards with this always online world of ours.
In the end though this is what works for me and how I enjoy my online life… Although I used to be one of the casual pug masses as well. In the end it is about having balance as well, between activities, games, and real life. You can be committed to a group without losing who you are as a gamer.