Sunday, July 3, 2022

Dog Days

Shortly after we got our new puppy I posted about the unexpectedly positive effect she had on my reading habits. Since then I've mentioned a few times how having a puppy in the house has impacted the amount of time I have both to play games and write about them.

It's exactly three months today since Beryl arrived and I think I can now say she's effectively pressed the reset button on my gaming schedule. It's possible that things will swing back into the old pattern in due course, when she grows up and demands less attention, but I suspect some of the changes, like the dog herself, will already have settled down and made themselves at home by then.

The biggest impact has been the end of my decade-long affair with Guild Wars 2. I realised yesterday that I couldn't actually remember the last time I logged in. It must be several weeks. 

The last time I used the GW2 tag here on the blog was at the very end of May. That means I went a whole month and wrote almost two dozen posts without even mentioning the game, let alone making it the subject of a post. I'm not about to go back and look through a dozen years and more than two thousand posts (Over seven hundred of them tagged "GW2") to see if I've ever ignored the game for that long before but I'm guessing I have not. 

I don't have any plans to abandon Tyria for good but I'm beginning to feel it might be a good time to explore other possibilities. Mostly I'm looking for games that can be paused or saved or which have gameplay that can be left to idle indefinitely.

It's not as if I was playing the old three-to-six hour sessions of a decade and more ago anyway. I was already playing far fewer long sessions even before Beryl joined the family. Even games that I found compelling, like Valheim or New World, I was largely putting in sessions lasting no more than two to three hours.

The big difference is that, whereas a year ago I was able to play a couple of sessions a day and write a blog post, together taking up eight or ten hours all told between breakfast and bedtime, now two or three walks and a couple of play sessions in the garden take up much of that time. It's not that I don't still get time to play or blog but often it's either one or the other and when I'm doing either I need to be able to stop at a moment's notice and not return to it for quite a while.

It's a happy coincidence that my interest in single-player games has bounced back of late and that my tastes in that direction tend so strongly towards the walking simulator/adventure end of the market. It's a lot easier to drop in and out of those kinds of games than it is the average mmorpg.  

That said, mmos have changed a lot since the days of having to give notice and wait for a replacement to be found before leaving a group. I can remember when, even as what passed for a casual player back then, if you were playing an mmorpg and needed to do something in real life at three o' clock, you'd need to be making your apologies and sending out recruitment messages by two-fifteen at the very latest, in the expectation that it might easily be thirty minutes or more before you could actually leave.

Most of the kind of things I do in the mmorpgs I play nowadays don't require much more than that I finish the event I've started. There's usually no-one relying on my participation other than my pets and my mercenaries and they can go whistle. Even so, an event or a boss fight takes as long as it takes and unless you're willing to lose whatever progress or reward you were trying for, you do at least have to keep going until its all over.

Boss fights in any game, mmorpg or single player, can take quite a while. Ten or fifteen minutes isn't uncommon. I've known some last twice that long. That's a commitment I can't always afford right now. It does limit the options somewhat.

Yesterday I was pleased to be able to finish the whole of the new Scorched Sky instance while Beryl was fast asleep. She tends to sleep a lot in the morning and early afternoon, which means I'm learning to restructure my playing hours to fit around her naps. EverQuest 2 is a pretty good fit for what I'm after, especially if I play my Bruiser, who can flop over at an instant's notice and just lie there for an hour or two until I can get back to him.  

I have a lot of non-combat things I could be doing in EQII as well. Things that can be put on hold without hesitation for as long as necessary. The only problem with those is that, while both necessary and useful in preparing my many characters for future adventures, they aren't all that exciting in and of themselves. Even I can't get that pumped over the prospect checking every character against every potential upgrade in the bank.

Consequently I've been on the look out for mmorpgs that encourage fast drop-in, drop-out sessions with short bursts of focused gameplay that doesn't require a lot of set-up. I have a lot of mmorpgs installed and I'm happy to add some more. There must be some that fit the bill.

Yesterday I happened to get an email from AdventureQuest 3D promoting the new Nulgath Saga update. I don't usually pay a great deal of attention to press releases from games I'm not currently playing but I noticed the update included a raise in the level cap - to 37.

Thirty-seven seemed such an odd level for a cap that I ended up reading the whole thing. Then I started wondering what level my character was and then I noticed AQ3D is on Steam and next thing I knew I was patching up and playing.

I was going to write about the experience tonight but I seem to have written this instead and now it's too late. What I will say is that I really enjoyed playing AQ3D again. It seems to have come on quite a lot since the last time I played. It also seems to be very well designed to get you straight into the content with the least amount of fuss and bother, which means I'll almost certainly be playing again.

With a bit of luck and dog permitting I'll have something more substantial to say about the game itself later in the week. Right now, though, it's time to take Beryl out for the last time today before I settle down to watch the penultimate episode of Stranger Things.

Nobody and nothing is going to interrupt that!

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