My previous post sparked some good discussion in the comments, and requires a follow-up post. For additional background, see Victor’s post.
I think what I failed to clarify is perhaps how I expect an MMO player to play, both as a gamer myself and as a guild leader/officer. To really get the most out of the experience, you have to be around ‘enough’, and into the game ‘enough’ to care. ‘Enough’ is tough to nail down into an exact number, but as I previously said it can and sometimes should require a solid block (2-4hrs) of time, along with a minimum of 10 hours a week. If you can’t commit to either, I don’t think you can get the most out of an MMO.
First let’s address the large block of time. If you can’t sometimes pre-plan your life to play for 3 hours on a Sunday night (example), you either need to work on your life balance a bit or MMO gaming just might not work for you. This is not to suggest you need to be on for 3hrs EVERY Sunday, but when giving a weeks’ notice or so, move some stuff around and plan to be online. I honestly don’t think that’s asking too much, and again, if it is, wrong game for you.
The other is general weekly activity. I say 10 hours but really it’s going to depend on how well you use your time, and how active you are outside of playing as well. If you can frequent the forums and contribute that way, and generally attend pre-planned events, you might not need to play as much overall as someone else. But yea, if you can’t login at least 10 hours, I just don’t see how you can keep up and be anything more than some occasional random name online (more so if leveling or some steady progression is ‘required’, like in DF1 and skilling up).
So what kind of game does that leave us with, and what kind of content should we expect?
Most importantly, the game needs content that justifies that 2-4 hour block, such as a city siege, a fleet Op, progression raiding, etc. Combining a few 30min content chunks into one lump does not count, because ultimately what you put into the content is what you get out of it. The whole peaks and valleys vs steady stream thing. Working towards something significant as a group is a core value of the kind of MMO design I value/favor.
Now don’t confuse the need for large-blocks with relying on them exclusively, or removing the bite sized chunks overall. You need those little chunks to fill in the gaps, but that’s exactly what they are, filler, and filler is what it is. It can’t be the focus, and they especially can’t drive development at the expanse of the larger items. GW2 IMO ‘fails’ here because the game is all 30min chunks with no regard for those large pieces. It works well-enough for a casual stroll once in a while (hence no sub fee), but it lacks any substance or purpose outside of killing 30 minutes. And again, if all you are looking for is to kill 30 minutes solo (or alongside other bot-like players), GW2 likely works great for you, but that is so far from what the genre was built on, or how it works in games that do virtual worlds well.
More on this I’m sure, but I’ll stop for now.