Why I game.

This post is going to be a little self-analysis about why I play MMOs, how I play then, and what keeps me going. For readers who have been around for a bit, you can probably guess some of the stuff below, but hopefully this post will give everyone a clearer picture of what keeps me, and players like me, logging in day after day.

The thing that drives me most is progression in an endless environment. I like to know that I’m stronger in whatever game I’m playing this month than I was last month, whatever that gain may entail. The other key is that this progression must be in an environment that rewards that progression, and one that the progression has some meaning. The event that got me to quit WoW was the imminent release of The Burning Crusade; not because of any upcoming feature or change, but because TBC was a character progression reset, instantly invalidating everything your character had done since hitting level 60. Once you hit level 70, it did not matter whether you just started that character or had Nax40 on farm, everything was back to square one. For me, that’s a killer in an MMO. When I went back to WoW, it was in a completely different mind frame; I was there to see the sites and sounds, knowing that regardless of what dropped or how I played my character, at the end of the day it did not matter. Progression for me matters, and knowing that at a set date its going to reset destroys my motivation and leads to playing half-assed. Once that mentality sets in, it’s only a matter of time before the sites and sounds grow old and my account expires. This in part explains my preference for sandbox gameplay over themeparks, as no matter how well designed the themepark is, at some point the ride progression gets reset, and that knowledge makes it hard to fully commit to going all out to progress, and also in my mind undermines the true value of a massive world that continually grows based with its players.

The progression itself does not necessarily need to be my character doing more dps, it can be simple things like knowing the lay of the land better in DarkFall through exploring, or learning a little trick in PvP after being the victim of it, or our guild growing and having more solid members who can hold their own in a fight. One of my major issues with Tier 4 in Warhammer is that while the campaign is well designed and fun from start to finish, once it’s finished it simply resets. Your character is a bit more powerful, and you slowly gear up to eventually take down the king encounter, but what then? Either another layer of progression is added (good for me), or some form of a power reset is implemented (bad for me).  Furthermore, while winning the campaign is rewarding, it only goes so far to help your side against the enemy, and for good overall balance, that power swing can never go too far to one side or the other. The issue I have is the game has to balance the power structure, rather than the players being in control. In a sandbox like DF or EVE, if one alliance gets too powerful, the game rules don’t change to hurt them, the players’ band together and take them down or deal with the oppression. The powerful alliance knows that the longer they keep their position, the more meaningful their accomplishment. Anyone who has ever played EVE knows about BoB, even if you have never set foot in 0.0. That’s a goal worth chasing IMO.

Another feature that keeps me going in an MMO is the ability to play smart and have it count. For instance, one of the main reasons I stopped playing Atlantica Online is because that game only rewards time invested (or RMT money spent). As long as you keep grinding mobs, your power increases at a steady rate, and playing poorly changes little. In direct contrast, playing poorly in DarkFall has consequences. You might have eight hours a day to play, but if you spend five of them grinding iron to get a full set of scale, only to go out and lose that set stupidly, you are no further ahead than someone with an hour or two a night that runs with a solid group and wins more than they lose. A player can grind his way to 100 armorsmithing with enough time, but a guild that organizes and specializes their crafters will get ahead faster and more efficiently, and before that solo player gets to 100, the guild as a whole will have moved on to greater things. On a much smaller level, if you plan ahead and scout an area, identifying the safest and most profitable spots to harvest, you can accomplish the same result in an hour that takes a lesser player three or four. It might not always work out that way, but just knowing that HOW you spend your time matters as much as how MUCH time you have is important to me. The true value in an MMO is that you are competing with thousands of players, and the game rules should not reduce that competition to a pure race against time.

Finally, I look for an MMO to have a story, and community around that story. I don’t mean hardcoded lore, but the story of what the players have done. The lore behind Onyxia is not important to me, but the story behind the world first kill is. The raiding progression thread on each WoW server was, for me, the story in WoW. How fast is a rival guild progressing, how do we stack up against everyone else, and what can we do to get to the top? I can’t recall a single piece of lore from Asheron’s Call, but I’ll never forget the Blood hierarchy on Darktide. Similarly, while my guild Inquisition is a small-ish guild in DarkFall, we are working to establish both our reputation and presence in our area of the world, to either establish better control of what we have now, or perhaps to become a key piece in some greater, further reaching plan. The point is, what we do today will actually impact what happens to all of us tomorrow, independent of what the patch notes next week might contain. It’s a force that keeps me logging in; to see not only the world progress overall, but what part my guild plays in that progression.

I consider myself a power gamer on a now more limited time budget. Realistic or not, my goal is always to progress towards the top tiers of power, or impact the world in a meaningful and hopefully memorable way. Even if in the end that does not happen, knowing that it COULD is a huge driving factor. And knowing that my actions reflect on hundreds, if not thousands of other players all striving for similar goals is why MMO gaming is miles ahead of any single player or less worldly game, console or otherwise.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Atlantica Online, Darkfall Online, EVE Online, Random, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Why I game.

  1. Kyir says:

    Every time you post something it makes me more and more annoyed by my inability to buy Darkfall.

  2. Eyeball says:

    I may try Darkfall once it comes to North America, but I really think Warhammer is improving, and I can’t play two games at once. It is no different than two-timing girls. Only one deserves all your attention to reap the benefits.

    I loved the article. I just started blogging myself about Warhammer, and find myself wanting to write 5 blogs a day, but I have been controlling myself so I have content for the future.

  3. pitrelli says:

    Nice post and agree entirely with the last bit. Dont really understand your reason on leaving WoW was the fact they raised the level bar.

    Glad to see you have found a game for you in Darkfall

  4. Malakili says:

    I agree with you 100% on the story part. People always say to me, EVE has no real storyline. And I say, “Are you kidding, the players create a constant story, and it isn’t about “role playing” its about the actual story they create by their actions.”

    I got into a long argument about this very thing on the SWTOR forums before finally swearing off the place as crap.

  5. Bonedead says:

    I played to have an impact in the game for a long time and I always felt like I came up short. The way I see it, I just can’t compete strongly over a long period of time. I get bored or burnt out, a week I can do, a month is pushing it, more than that is just not possible for me. My few shining moments are specks of poo compared to the stories I’ve read. But instead of feeling bad about that, I just play differently now, I do what I want because it is what I want. I hate how the rest of the players are always laying out the ground rules for how you’re supposed to play and what you’re supposed to be playing for. So now I play for me. (Does this have that much to do with the topic?)

    Pitrelli, if he was level 60 for a few months or more prior to the level cap increase, that means he reached end game and was pretty much settled/settling into the “reason” for playing the game. It’s like running a race, crossing the finish line, catching your breath drinking some water, and then you’re told hey wtf are you doing? The race isn’t over, we just added another mile, get off your ass and run! That sucks to some people.

  6. Drew Shiel says:

    That’s a remarkably accurate summation of my complete lack of drive to progress in levels in WoW, and why I prefer playing with the Auction House.

  7. Swift Voyager says:

    I think my attraction to MMORPG’s is related to my preference in books that are very long and/or books that are part of an on-going series. I think that I like the idea that my enjoyment won’t come to an end till I’m ready for it to end. If I am going to really let my imagination run and let my mind escape into the fiction, then the longer, epic series allow greater immersion.

    I always hate the end of the single player RPG’s like Baldur’s Gate or Final Fantasy. There are two aspects of the end of those types of games that displeases me.

    First: is the end of the story and/or end of the game. Most of those games abruptly end when you complete the final boss. There’s no chance to go back and re-explore areas, complete quests you never turned in, find gear that you may have missed along the way, etc.

    Second: is when you hit the level cap, learn all the spells, equip all the best gear, max your skills, etc.

    For me, a good MMO will not have an end of the story or a max level. It just feels like it’s over at that point. There’s nothing new to find, there’s no more goals. When they go back and expand the level cap and add new items with an expansion it’s too late because I’ve already “beaten” the game and moved on to some other game. Why would I want to continue paying a monthly subscription when my character is already maxed, while I wait for the next expansion to come out?

    What is even worse for an MMO is when they add a new class or a new race. Sure, it’s good for new players who will have more choices now, but it’s not going to do anything for the character I already have maxed out. For that character, I need new activities to perform and perfect, like a new mini-profession or a new stat to raise, or the ability to dual-class.

    The current method of expanding games like WoW is like a real themepark adding a new rollercoaster. If I’ve been to the park before, and enjoyed it, then I may be temped to go check out the new coaster, but the new coaster will make all the old rides seem “more old”. Then, once I’ve tried the new coaster, it’s not new for me any more, and the entrire park continues to grow “older” for me every day. If they really want to make the park seem new to me again, then adding another ride or changing the speed of all the rides in the park, or making them all run backwards, isn’t really going to do the trick. It’s still the same old thing, just slightly more and slightly different. Now, if they added a totaly new feature, like for example, days when only naked single people wanting to meet other people can enter the park, or days when all the rides are attended by US Senators and you get to hit them with clubs. That would actually be something new, and the park would take on a whole new interest for me. There would be a new “fun-ness” to excite my dopamine centers.

  8. Anjin says:

    Always fascinating to peer inside the head of someone who’s gaming tastes are so completely out-of-phase with my own. It reminds me of my MtG days. Some players loved crafting an optimum quick-killing deck where I enjoyed trying to do my best with whatever random assortment of cards I ended up with.

  9. syncaine says:

    To add to the MtG example, it was not much fun to play a theme deck vs a power deck, for either player. Theme vs theme or power vs power was great however, and MMOs really are the same way. It makes little sense to force themepark rules on a group who wants a sandbox, just like themepark players dislike it when sandbox elements are placed in their game. You don’t add open looting to a theme park, and you don’t instance a sandbox etc.

    What’s nice is that we FINALLY have good quality games that cater to both, rather than one or two games attempting to be a jack of all trades and just pissing one side or the other off each patch.

  10. Bonedead says:

    There is a community taking a WoW clone and giving it full loot and some other hxc(!!!!)11 rules.

    I’ve been considering starting MtG again recently, just for some ‘outside hobby’. I don’t have any of my old cards though, so unless I find a place where they do the booster pack tournaments, it’d be expensive.

    On a side note: Donate island, waterwalk on your face!

  11. Paragus says:

    5 color deck full of dual lands here. Damn land walkers rape my face :(

  12. Anonymous says:

    “Either another layer of progression is added (good for me), or some form of a power reset is implemented (bad for me).”

    Wait, so an expansion which adds another layer of progression is good, but an expansion is considered a “because TBC was a character progression reset” so its bad? I’m confused.

    EVERY game expansion offers “more”. More levels, more gear, more advancement. What you seek is what I hope is never found, a stagnant game that never progresses so the characters can get to the end.

    When I get to the end, I want to find a new road…..

  13. Bonedead says:

    Every expansion does not add new levels (fyi).

  14. pitrelli says:

    Bonedead point well made, there are however certain guilds etc that remain level 60. The option is still there to remain at 60. I also think they had to raise the cap as it was all becoming stagnant – I do however think they need to think about expanding the game sideways at some point.

    I respect his decision just wanted to know his reasons, i aint a loot whore so wasnt bothered saying goodbye to the gear I’d worked for, fun is the main drive for me

  15. syncaine says:

    Every expansion for UO that I saw never added levels, nor has an EVE expansion. In both cases content was added without making previous content or achievements worthless. In WoW and other games, each expansion is basically a serve wipe, but you get to keep your character and some soon to be worthless items. WotLK did not add more content, since it made all BC content void, replacing raid progression with Nax25. I’d you liked raiding on the BC level, WotLK was a huge content cut.

  16. pitrelli says:

    I wouldnt say it made the content void, again it comes down to what kind of player you are. I revisit old dungeons for fun, to help out friends or to even experience it for the first time since i missed out previously. I know many level 80s that run even the old level 60 raids.

    WoTLK in my opinion is the best expansion released to date. Why? because it suits my playstyle, sure other people dont like it but the vast majority of WoW players i would think would give it a big thumbs up. Add to that the recent content added in 3.1 and I think its a major success – especially for the casual gamer.

  17. Lucian says:

    @Anon – There is a difference between horizontal and vertical progression.

    In WoW there is predominately vertical progression as in your character increases levels, and at level 80 begins to increase power through gear. This is the staple of the game.

    A perfect example of horizontal progression would be player-housing. Imagine for a second that the next WoW expansion did nothing to raise the leveling bar, but rather added guild cities, player-housing, armor dyes, new crafting skills, card games played through a pop up window, etc etc…

    This hypothetical expansion would not alleviate your character’s vertical progression by raising the bar, but rather give you a speed boat in that so-called “stagnant pond” of end game.

  18. High Plains Drifter says:

    How many hours a week do you game? (and how many additional hours are spent reading/thinking about the game)?

    I just quit Darkfall (just the same as I quit WoW) – I get in to these MMo’s and realize that realistically I have other commitments that go wanting because I spend too much time on the MMO.

    I imagine that I could only really get in to an MMO if I was in college or retired. It’s not feasible for me anywhere in between.

  19. Tesh says:

    “or days when all the rides are attended by US Senators and you get to hit them with clubs.”
    Swift, you made my day. I’d go back to a tired old themepark for that. Extra kudo points would go to the proprietors if they used TARP money to open the park that day.

    “To add to the MtG example, it was not much fun to play a theme deck vs a power deck, for either player. Theme vs theme or power vs power was great however, and MMOs really are the same way.”
    Nice analogy. I’d extend it, though, and note that even the casual and the hardcore MTG players are playing the same game. It’s similarly possible to make an MMO that can welcome divergent playstyles. The trick is to compartmentalize them sufficiently, so the FNM drafting nut doesn’t wind up playing matches against the tourney Spike or casual Timmy *during FNM play*… but let them do so if they want to in other venues.

  20. syncaine says:

    @Drifter: I play about 25-30 hours a week, more if I get a free weekend. And yes, the more free time you have, and the more you are able to put into one MMO, the more you usually get out of it. But that’s more or less the case with anything in life, right?

    @Tesh: That’s why power players use tourney rules, while the just-for-fun crowd usually ignores them and just builds whatever decks. Both are fun, but for very different reasons. I don’t know how that translates to the MMO genre, short of two different games.

  21. Tesh says:

    It translates fairly directly; give people the same baseline tools to work with (MTG cards or DIKU classes/skills), and give them different arenas that use rule variations. We already see that with PvE raids and PvP Arenas in WoW or GW, but players aren’t constrained to just doing one of those activities. EVE miners can just go about, doing their “carebear” low stress mining, or they can find some war zones if they get the itch.

    In other words, players can take their character wherever they want in the world and play by the local rules, but they can go elsewhere for when they want something different *without* going to another game. The persistence between the two can make for a more compelling world, and more brand loyalty. (It could also be botched, certainly. Also, those who want to tell other people how to play will always have a problem with this sort of variability.)

    The trouble from the “lowest common denominator design” is when devs try to make everyone do everything to proceed in the game, or try to make everything appeal to everyone. It’s perfectly OK to have a nasty, no holds barred PvP arena in an otherwise carebear world, or a merchant carebear town in a mean world, so long as you’re not forcing players to do what they wouldn’t, given the choice.

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