With the state of the industry at the moment it seems a lot of people are talking more about the notions of complexity and depth. The how’s and whys of our games march towards simplistic mechanics and accessibility and the focus towards gaining more players for the genre but less that stick around.
I tend to agree with many that for some games, the removal of needless bloat is almost a necessity. Such things that are mere disguised complexity are needed but in a way I don’t wish to see their complete removal. Sometimes it is these little choices are what make a difference in the minds of players even if there is some predetermined optimal path. It is this input and choice that can make the experience more meaningful and a stronger connection to the character.
Scree voiced his own opinions lately about the correlation between levelling speed and how long people stick around but I think there’s more to it than just that. Part of it is this illusion of choice and having input in your character and progression. I think a lot of the population are now very bored with the standard levelling process and these illusions of choice are what keep people attached throughout. Being along for the ride longer is obviously important, you create more relationships that keep you logging in but there is definitely something more to it than just that, more to the equation than just added time.
Personally I think it is these choices that create the experiences you remember more. The bits and pieces that make up your character and then the content you complete along the way are what make up the experiences you keep with you. Having the same experiences as everyone is boring, and create little importance or connection and yet this is the way development of mmo’s seems to be going. Streamlining the whole process, taking away choice all for the name of convenience.
Removing a lot of the choice and needed decision-making does seem to make these game more accessible but at what cost. Weapon choices are lessening, stat choices are minimal and restricted or even completely auto correcting based on the role and class. Questing seems to only involve following from one marker to the next. The amount of skills gets restricted, talent choices predetermined and any sort of input in character growth is minimal at most.
And then there are acts of maintenance that have been outright removed. We are no longer required, or even asked to spend that much time on our characters in any aspect. No need to worry about crafting if you really don’t want to, or even worry about the economy; just complete quests and kill stuff and you are provided for. Things like ammunition or sharpening have been removed to take away choice and any sort of requirement in battle. Taking away the physical needs of food and drink and replacing it with more enticements. The lack of contention over resources, places, enemies and well everything that could create any sort of conflict… conflict that often creates conversation. Just a singular focus on the quest tracker and the next treadmill.
And then there is the weird confusion developers seem to be placing on aspects of time to the point where I don’t think they know what they want. A whole range of processes that take time from the player to complete have been removed or shortened. Character maintenance has mostly disappeared from play except for an infrequent repair. There is no need to personally craft or gather in order to play effectively, Creating connections in-game is mostly unneeded with the prevalence of lfg tools and just how easy it is to progress by themselves
One thing I Miss in these games is just down time. Everything seems designed to continually push the player onto their next objective, to constantly be active and moving forwards. Crafting seems easier and quicker than ever in order to keep players moving. A constant wealth of quests to complete and events happening all around the player and little down time between mob pulls and kills as resources constantly regenerate, and extremely quickly out of combat. I can remember in a few games wherein this down time created far more conversation between players, sitting around the campfire and talking over strategies for the next attack. or just time in between action where you could take about yourself and your team mates. It was a time to create those connections the games so obviously need. Without this we have the constant active states of play where there is little time for people or patience for anything that interrupts the march of progress.
Yet, at the same time they add in all these inconsequential daily requirements on play that do nothing but create artificial time sinks and obligations. Small grinds to attain meaningless things or to improve a character in small ways that are attached to these long, soul shattering grinds. Often time it is just rote and completely pointless activities that is mostly spent alone.
All these other elements of time and maintenance seem to be more about creating connections with others either through interdependence or down times than elements of convenience. In tandem with a longer levelling process I think this is what would create more of a connection that in turn means greater long-term retention. A polished, responsive thempark experience is just not enough and I believe these elements are the key.
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