It’s not too controversial to note that a lot of people seem to be hopping MMOs, hooked on the new, shiny MMO feeling. It’s awesome to be in a game right from the moment the floodgates open, to spill out into a new world with hundreds of people in the same situation, to fight to distinguish ourselves, to learn new systems, to tackle the economy, crafting, gear, fighting and making new friends and acquaintances. There’s nothing quite like it in any other gaming sphere. And for me, that’s one huge part of the appeal of MMOs.
But, as with any rush, there comes a downer… grind time. It may not actually be grinding, it could be repeating content to get gear you want, it could be a general malaise in struggling to reach the level cap or the crafting level cap. It could be dealing with your class being nerfed, or even tweaked and buffed to the extent that it loses some of the things you loved about it. But an MMO is an evolving world and experience. Gameplay changes (as the warnings say), but also moods do, excitement levels don’t maintain themselves, and what really appeals to one person may turn another off.
Right now we have more choice in MMOs than we ever have. When I started playing I think I had the choice of Ultima Online, Everquest or Dark Age of Camelot – in terms of games I’d heard of and was likely to play anyway. Once I pinned my loyalty onto Dark Age of Camelot it didn’t even occur to me to play another game. I put in my time, did the grind, had both good and bad times until I came to the realisation my time with the game was done.
The same with World of Warcraft. While playing it, I was focused, I played a druid to level cap 5 times from the Alpha onwards. I didn’t notice the grind until I was bored of the game, or something changed to annoy me about it. I never really considered ducking back to DAoC to revisit it.
Now, in the last few months I’ve played WAR, LotRO, Vanguard, Age of Conan and Aion and I’m more disillusioned than ever about MMOs. I’ve enjoyed each of them in their own way, but it’s unsettling to be popping in and out of an MMO world for me. It’s not how I’m used to playing them, and it’s turning me restless. Which is not a usual state for me in an MMO. Left to my own devices I’d probably just stick with LotRO and fill in the quiet times with grinding or replaying old content to help others, or to finish deeds and traits and get gear I’ve always wanted. Giving me options unsettles me it seems. So some of my general malaise is from all this game-hopping.
I feel like a tourist when I try a game knowing, in my heart, that I probably won’t play beyond a month. Most of the time I like the game, I would happily go and play each of them, but I can’t deal with the distractions, I need more of a schedule, more of a happy medium and more permission to just exist and experience the world, not just do the quests and level. That’s what an MMO is to me, and that’s what it has to be to me.
I am talking with Spinks about a one-night/week foray into EQ2. It’s intended to be a more fixed and casual experience, and to give me an alternative to LotRO, but taken at a pace I can handle. I think perhaps sampling many games has been a double-edged sword, it gives me a fix of ‘new MMO’ (or new to me), but it doesn’t last. Maybe when my group finds the one we all feel strongly about it will, and the focus will shift a bit.
There’s a lot more MMOs coming out, and a lot of them look mildly interesting to me. No, I’m not really excited about any barring World of Darkness, and I appreciate the wait for that might be a long one! I’m interested in quite a few, and I’m sure now I’ve started, the MMO testing/hopping will continue – but at least I recognise that it, in itself, is partly to blame for my general malaise.