It’s just this game, y’know?

January 31, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

There have been quite a number of brews consumed in the Household Hawley this last week.

Some of those lovely cups of tea have been consumed because (I hear) the human body requires a certain amount of liquid every day or suffer something known as “dehydration”; a lovely cup of tea sounds like the perfect antidote.

Other lovely cups of tea, those blessed brews, have been spent in deep cogitation.  I wish I could say that it was the sort of deep cogitation that results in the sort of thinking that solves third world debt, or brings peace to the world, but it wasn’t.

I was pondering what to do about my MMO habit.

There are a number of reasons for this.  First, it allows me to drink a quite phenomenal amount of tea.  Second is that my preference for subscription MMOs means a certain outlay each month.  Third is the fact that it would be nice to go on holiday at some point this year, and have the cash to really have a good time.

Goodbye Fallen Earth and Eve Online.  You are both great games, but you both need more care and feeding than I can afford to give you right now.  I need a game I can pick-up and play, and just as importantly put down and leave.  Both of you need more than just a few hours a week to get the most enjoyment out of, the most game out of.  You’re both filled with fantastic game goo, but my life is too busy to put in the time required to advance through the game.

It’s not you, it’s me.

World of Warcraft, for all its faults, does at least let me put it down and leave it for a few days without me feeling like I’m missing out (apart from those dailies, that is).  And yes, it’s *easy*.  I know everything I need to know about it in moments, the normal mobs are so easy they might as well just queue up to give me their lunch money, and sometimes I feel like the only reason I’m playing is the raiding with my mates.

That, and World of Warcraft can be farmed to death whilst watching films or telly-o-vision.  Yes, it’s *that* easy I can play it with most of my headbrain focused on something else.

One could say that the catalyst for a lot of this tea-based thinking has been the hype-machine that is Rift, and to a certain extent that’s a fair statement.

Now, at this point I feel it’s only fair to say that I dislike beta gaming for a number of reasons.  Yes, it’s *free* gaming, and yes, it’s a great way to have a look at a game and decide if it’s worth shelling out for.

But it’s also gaming to a countdown (that pre-release character wipe), and I find that players tend to play differently during a beta than they will on a live server.  Maybe it’s because everyone there knows that none of it matters in the long run, so we might as well all get on and have fun.  Maybe it’s just that beta players are nicer, or that the percentage of idiots is higher on a live server, but I find that leaving the utopian playerbase of the beta who play to the spirit of the game is soul-destroying when I have to go back to the jerks who are playing to the letter now that the game is for keeps.

Yet, after pre-ordering Rift, I did get an invite to Beta 5, and I did try it out.

If anything, I tried it out a little too much.  I wanted to try a few of the different souls out, but I didn’t want to be bored of the starter zones before the game had released.  Same went for trying out all of the classes or all of the souls.  I created a few characters, tried out a couple of souls that I ordinarily wouldn’t, finished the starter zones for one character each on the Defiant and Guardian sides, and explored a little on the Defiant side, which included the closing of a few rifts and the thwarting of a few invasions.

I was not offended by the starter zones.

Boy, that’s a statement there, isn’t it?  “I was not offended”.  It’s almost (but not quite) as bad as damning it with faint praise, but the truth is that there was nothing offensive in the starter zones.  Nothing screamed at me; “Abort! Abort!”; there were no game mechanics that looked like they were really going to ruin my day a few weeks ago.  They were well put together, didn’t have any obvious gaffes, had quests leading me by the nose through the zone, and introduced me to the world rather nicely.

I think a lot of us forget that starter zones aren’t just the start to a game, and that games designers have a duty to those players who are just starting their first MMO to provide them with an introductory tutorial that is inclusive and welcoming, rather than harsh and bewildering.  It’s not about the old lags, it’s about the fresh blood coming in.

As a result, it’s going to look like a lot of other starter zones for a lot of other games (in exactly the same way that all table-top role-playing games have a “What is role-playing?” chapter at the front of the rules, that all of us long-term players moan about having to skip).  But then again, it’s not like us seasoned MMO veterans are going to be there for long, is it?

I would much rather the developers spent much of their time ensuring that the areas of the game where I will be spending much of my time are fun, interesting and original than spending all of their time creating an all-singing, all dancing starter zone that I’ll be done with after a couple of hours.  Age of Conan’s starter zone was amazingly well done, but leaving it was an anti-climax.

Likewise, there are no “new” quests that I could see.  Hardly surprising, really.  Collecting stuff, delivering stuff, killing monsties, assassinating “persons of interest”; as it’s really hard thinking of something that doesn’t boil down to one of those four concepts, complaining that the quests are same-old same-old would be a step too far even for hypocrite me.

So it’s hardly surprising that it doesn’t seem at all different to the current crop of MMOs to the casual observer.  Especially if that casual observer spent a couple of hours, and didn’t get past the starter zone.  It didn’t seem much different to me.

There were a couple of things that niggled in the back of my headbrain, and it was the good sort of niggling that makes me want to investigate more.

I just like the game.  It’s not the sum of its parts, and it’s not the individual parts that make me like it.  I could start attempting to quantify why I like it, but all I would be doing is repeating a lot of what can be found already on the joyful meeting of minds that is the internets.  I’ll just say things like lovely artwork, world design, and the rifts themselves are wonderful, and intriguing enough to make me willing to fork out the money.

It made me smile as I played, and I like that.  I was happy to fire it up and start playing, and I needed more than a little self-control to put it away and not ruin my fun at launch.

Part of me still wonders if I’m making the right choice.  From what I have seen, Rift does look to be a very good game, and quite possibly the best fantasy-based MMO that I’ve played.  Yet there is still a part of me that wonders if deciding to play is the best thing to do; that part that reminds me of all those hours, days, months, years that I’ll be “throwing away” by choosing to start a new game, and leave existing characters in existing games.

But then again, if this game is better, and leads to more fun than I am currently having, then I’m more than happy to move on; if it was numerically quantifiable, I can’t help thinking that many of the gamers that would quite happily cut their own grannies for gear that’s only a few ilevel points better than their current gear would trample aforementioned grannies in their rush to be at the head of the levelling curve.

Besides, with the pre-order subscription offer it’s half the price of other games.  This helps my bank balance with saving up for holiday spends, as well as the dawning realisation that it will soon be time for my pc base unit to be replaced.  Mmm, new pc…

Cheers,
Hawley.

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