Saturday, November 27, 2021

You Say You Need It But You Don't

Over the years I've heard a lot about gaming backlogs and Buyer's Regret. The two phenomena could be seen as twisted mirror images of each other, one reflecting gluttony, the other its inevitable corollary, indigestion. Not sure how a mirror would reflect indigestion and frankly I don't want to try. Let's move on.

As I was reading Asmiroth's post on the misleading nature of sales and remembering Azuriel's analysis of the even more duplicitous pricing of expansion tiers, I couldn't help noticing both were describing problems quite different from those I have, when trying to decide whether or what to buy. I rarely get to the point of considering the comparative value of games or expansions. Mostly I get stuck on the existential question of need versus desire.

The easiest choice, by far, is whether or not to buy expansions for games I'm already playing. Why wouldn't you? Well, as it happens, Syp makes quite a good case for why you might not. You may already be so far behind the curve that expansion content won't be relevant or even accessible. You might not want to jump straight past a whole load of stuff you haven't seen, even if the expansion does come with a boost designed to let you do just that.

Mostly, though, if you've been playing an mmorpg for a while, you'll probably be ready for an infusion of new content. Ponying up for the latest expansion is a pretty straightforward decision. Which version of the expansion to get, though? That can be more of a poser.

Like Azuriel, under normal circumstances the base expansion is all I need. I don't generally play cutting-edge content. I don't raid or do Mythic/Heroic/Big Trouser dungeons. It's a safe bet that I won't need the pay-to-win bonuses some companies roll into their higher price tiers. 

As for the cosmetics, do me a favor! When I find a look I like, I stick with it for years. I'm not that target market. And anyway, like I'm going to pay real money for imaginary hats! Pshaw!

That's the "Need" part of my brain kicking in there, by the way. It talks like that, miserable bastard that it is. The "Desire" part is jumping up and down, squealing "Oooh! Shiny!" Sometimes it's hard to ignore but I manage.

Once in a while the extras in a deluxe expansion pack will come so close to having genuine, practical applications I'll teeter on the edge. Value for money is a nebulous concept at the best of times, slipperier still when what you're thinking of buying is intangible but things like character slots, inventory space and cash shop money at least make a direct comparison between cost and uitility feasible.

And yet, to date, I have never succumbed. I have never bought anything other than the base expansion for any mmorpg and I can't say I regret it. Is there anything I could have had, the lack of which has made me unhappy? Nope. Nothing. I obviously can't even remember what any of the things I didn't buy were. Who could? Money well unspent.

So, with the glossy brochure firmly folded to the page that says "Cheapskate Edition", the baseline for the decision on whether to buy an expansion would seem to be "Am I going to play it right away?". That's a very easy question to answer. If I'm already playing the game at least a few times each week then yes, of course I am.

Around this point I probably ought to talk about pre-orders but I'm not gonna. Different topic altogether. Let's leave it at "Whether?" and "What?" and forget about "When?" For our purposes "when" means "at launch".

There is one more wrinkle to straighten out before we move on from expansions to whole games. The account issue. For a lot of people it won't be relevant but for all kinds of half-assed reasons I frequently find myself with more than one account for a game and what's worse I play them, too. 

I have seven Daybreak accounts for example, three Guild Wars 2 accounts, two Lord of the Rings Online accounts (Might be three...), three Battlenet/World of Warcraft accounts... I have, quite literally, more mmorpg accounts than I could hope to remember.

Usually I would only want to expand one of them for each game but there have been exceptions. Two of my three GW2 accounts have Heart of Thorns for the very good reason that I liked it so much I wanted a second go. Only one has Path of Fire because even once was one time too many.

Even with all that mental clutter, it's clearly not a difficult choice. In the end I buy the expansion and play it. Then I either like it or I don't but it's done and I accept it. For given values of  both "Need" and Desire" the scales are balanced. It's over. We move on.

What about those sales, then? Didn't come into the picture for expansions, did they? Expansions never go on sale until the next one's in sight, looming over the horizon, casting an ominous shadow. De facto, by that point I've either bought it long ago or I've lost all interest.

New games, though, that's different. Every one is a unique opportunity to start over. Each purchase is a discrete and separate process. God, the thinking! It hurts my head!

Here's the thing: I always want new games, just like everyone else. I'm not an android. No, really, I took the test and passed. (I failed this one, though, so who really knows? Who ever really knows? Eh? EH??)

Ahem. Yes, I read about games and think "That looks like it might be fun. I'd play that." Sometimes I go so far as to put those games on a wishlist. And then I don't buy them.

Why don't I buy them? It's simple. Games do not come with an allotment of extra hours with which to play them. If it says a game takes on average thirty hours then you have to supply all thirty of them from your own stock. And you probably already had plans.

I do, anyway. The key time for me to buy a new game is when I've run out of old ones. That sometimes happens but not really all that often because mmorpgs are stretchy. However much time you have they tend to expand to fill it. It's why they're so very good for people with more time than they have things to do, that being the genre's core demographic.

I have more time than I have things to do, being semi-retired, but it still doesn't mean I want to spend all of it playing games. For a start I have this blog to write. It doesn't write itself, you know, though I'm sure it often seems like it must. And having bloated out to a post every day means even less time for playing games.

It's awkward. I feel, sometimes, as though I might be neglecting the games I already have. Not like neglecting a puppy. That would be terrible. Games are not puppies. They don't get mopey and fractious and have dull coats if you don't play with them enough. They just sit on your hard drive or in their cases, silent, inert. Looking at you.

I can't not know they're there. (I've stopped talking in the second person, you'll notice. It wasn't fooling anyone.) There's a nagging feeling and it gets uncomfortable, which is how we end up here with posts like this one

Luckily, it only takes a quick hour or two and I can happily forget about a game for months. Years, sometimes. Or that's how it goes with mmorpgs. With single-player games that have a beginning, a middle and an end it's more problematic. Those, I feel more of a responsibility towards.

Let's look at those four games up at the top, the ones on my wishlist that went on sale this weekend.

Swords of Legend Online is a an mmorpg I don't particularly want to play and it's quite expensive even at 40% off, considering it's not all that different to any number of Free to Play titles. I certainly don't need it and I don't even want it all that much, either. I'd kind of like to have it installed on my hard drive so I'd know I could play it if I felt like it but I know I wouldn't feel like it so what would be the point?

Wildermyth is the one everyone goes on about how great it is. Terrible syntax there, which I'd have to say is what runs through my mind every time I read a post about Wildermyth and imagine the character dialogue being read out loud. People say how immersive and convincing it is but the screenshots tell another story. 

All of which, ironically, makes me even keener to try it for myself to see what it is that I'm not getting. I really wanted to buy Wildermyth yesterday and the reason I didn't is because if i did I knew I'd start playing it immediately. I'd then either find it was as good as everyone says, in which case I'd be playing nothing else for days, or I'd find it wasn't and I'd feel I'd wasted my money.

Since I neither want to derail my current activities right now nor feel like I've tossed £14.61 down a FOMO drain I've decided to leave Wildermyth where it is, on my wishlist. We'll see what combination of circumstances and price cuts it takes to shunt it onto my hard drive. Pretty sure half price would do it.

Lake I liked when I played the demo but it's quite slow and quite.. I don't know, I want to say "difficult" but that's wrong. It's not easy to play, I think that's what I mean. I found I had to pay attention. If I found it a little draining in a demo, would I want a whole game of it? Not sure. And that discount is pitiful. Why even bother? So, definitely don't need, not even sure I want. Easy skip.

Lastly, Sable. I liked the demo a lot. I liked the look of it, I liked the music, I liked the setting and the characters and the writing. The gameplay was acceptable. Not exactly riveting but didn't need to be. Of the four, this is definitely the the one I want most.

A third off is a substantial discount, too. Substantial but not sufficient. I can tell you from decades in retail that at a third off you're pushing people who were definitely going to buy to buy now but you aren't pushing people who were maybe going to buy to buy at all. I was maybe going to buy. I still am. At 50% off I might be nudged. At 33% I'll stick, thanks.

On the last paragraph, I think we may as well define "people who were definitely going to buy" as people who've decided they need. Obviously they don't. No-one needs a video game. (Although maybe we should avoid absolutes. You might not think anyone needs Walkers oven-baked sea salt flavor crisps but you would be mistaken.)

My problem is that I'm perhaps too good at knowing what I need. Or maybe I'm too precise. Too specific. Too hardline. Or maybe I'm just too weird about it.

I mean, apparently I needed to spend two hours writing this when I could have been playing New World or even Wildermyth, had I bought it, because look, here's some time I could have borrowed that would never have been missed. Clearly I have my priorities entirely straight, no doubt about that, none at all.

Anyway, I'm glad we could have this talk. It's cleared a lot of things up for me. (It hasn't.) Let's do it again sometime soon. (Let's not. Really, let's not.)

Roll on the Boxing Day sales!


  1. Sable's on my wishlist as well, but I'm holding off because, according to the reviews, the game is full of bugs and severe performance issues.

    1. Ah, thanks! I hadn't seen that. Makes for a very good excuse for waiting a bit longer.

  2. I ended up with eight games on sale. None of which I strictly needed. I could've popped for another half-dozen, my Steam wishlist contains as of right now 1005 titles.
    I have a weird relationship with games, in that I Want them and then I feel weird about it. I know I have a lot of games from various bundles (mostly RTS or turn-based strategy) that I will never actually open, but I always stop and look at them as if today is going to be the day I hurl myself boldly into learning a completely new genre. Has it ever been?
    Ah well. My game consumption has slowed, but if it ever stops, report me dead.

    1. Heh! You almost nudged me into buying Nocked, the Robin Hood game, there and I'm not even a big fan of Robin Hood. It looks like good value at 75% off, though. Still thinking about it.

      I only have ten titles on my wishlist so clearly I'm slacking.

  3. You might find this interesting if you haven't seen it yet.

    1. Yes, I saw that. It looks interesting but as the NME report put it, "Don't count on seeing it any time soon." Probably not going to see it until 2024/25, which honestly sounds like science fiction time to me.

  4. So far (I stress this element, hah) I've held off and not bought a thing this sale. Still pretty well enamored with Forza Horizon 5 and the Outriders update. Or, like you say, I too am worried buying something else now will take from the time spent happily in things I already enjoy right now. :)

    But even if I somehow hold out and don't buy anything right now, I probably will with the Christmas sales.

    Wildermyth has also been on the verge of entering my cart a number of times. My main worry is that a lot of the stories I see people tell about it seem to entail the same moments. Almost uncannily so -- to the point I wonder how limited the range of story elements it has to draw upon is.

    Even so, with the right level of discount, I'll no doubt dip my toe in and check it out for myself.

    1. For all the blog posts I've read raving about Wildermyth I've yet to see a anything that makes it look more than a fairly rote, unremarkable trot through some well-worn fantasy tropes. I'm guessing there's some alchemy that can only be experienced in play because it for sure doesn't come across in precis or screenshots. I find that curious because I am an absolute sucker for even the most pedestrian retellings of people's D&D campaigns so I'm about as far from a hard sell for these things as it's possible to get. I want to play it myself mainly to find out what the hell, if anything, is so special about it but I really don't want to pay much for the privelige, hence waiting for the sale to get to at least 50%.


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide