Monday, 9 April 2012

Have You Been Here Long?



"‘Epic’ moments in an MMO don’t always end with a dead dragon. Sometimes, ‘nothing’ happening can be just as, if not more, exciting."   Hardcore Casual

That was always my problem with RvR in Dark Age of Camelot, and with raiding in Everquest come to think of it. Nothing happening and a lot of it.

No, that's not entirely true. Nothing happening would be relaxing. Instead, during the protracted acquisition of a Wormhole in EVE that SynCaine describes with such enthusiasm, waiting happens. Just like waiting happened when we stood at the Mile Gate hoping for some Albs or Hibs to appear or when we loitered in Plane of Disease hoping for the raid to form.

Waiting in itself isn't a bad thing but it's hardly entertainment. It barely even counts as occupation. In a leisure context, waiting isn't fun. At best it's the space between the fun you just had and the fun you're going to have. Mostly it's more a fence through which fun can occasionally be glimpsed, far off in the distance where someone else is having it.

Giant Robot! Fun! Kill!
Of course, not everyone is waiting at the same speed. The raid leader isn't. He's trying to herd seventy cats and tearing his hair out in clumps. The skirmish leader isn't. He's receiving tells about enemy movement and seeing the Big Picture. Whereas all I'm usually seeing is some gnome bouncing all over my screen like a sugar-high six-year old on a spacehopper while bored barbarian warriors spam up my chat window with smack talk about sports as they /duel each other and grunt.

At least, that's how I recall the good old days. It's not like that any more. In today's MMO everything happens all the time right now. Anything that gets in the way of Stuff Happening needs to go and most of it already has.

You can complete an entire raid in less than the time it used to take to get people into groups. WoW did away with the boring old "finding people and getting to the dungeon" grind when they came up with their much-copied Dungeon Finder. So much for all that tedious scenery and conversation.

I heard someone on the far shore needed a boar killed
Trion upped the ante. Not content with open groups and raids that autojoin you as soon as there's something to fight, now there's no need to travel to the zone, find a quest hub or click on an NPC even to do basic overland PvE quests. A couple of clicks from your Menu and presto, Instant Adventures. 

Guild Wars 2 goes further still. The entire world is open group by default. Every kill, every quest credit is shared. No need to wait, just all pile on. I've yet to play so I'll reserve judgment on that one. No, no I won't. I'm sure it'll be lovely.

Because it's all about keeping things moving, isn't it? Something needs to happen and it needs to happen now or else we'll all lose interest and wander off, possibly to another game, and where we go our money goes. It's sort of true, too. As I said, I don't like waiting around for something to happen. I never did. Too much of that and I start asking awkward questions like "is this really how I want to spend my evening?" and "don't I have something better to do?" not to mention "are we having fun yet?"

Have Horse, Will Travel
Waiting around for extended periods while someone else organizes something that might be fun when it happens, if it happens, but over which I have no control or influence is one thing I can happily do without. Automating the administrative functions may kill the fun for the handful of people who used to enjoy having their own Conference Co-ordinator Sim (High Fantasy Edition) embedded in an MMO but I would guess that most players are happy to have the game take control of that side of things.

Going through places to get to places where the stuff is that you're going to do, though. That's not "waiting". That's doing. Talking to people about what you're going to do and how you're going to do it, that's doing too. And it's fun. Or it can be. The banter, the jokes, the foul-ups, the getting it wrong and working out how you're going to get it right next time.

Take out too many bones and the cat just won't stand up. And who wants a floppy cat?



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