Friday, March 30, 2012

Commitment and MMOs, Guild Wars

For those who know me, this will not come as a surprise... I am easily bored. When something new ans shiny comes out, I immerse myself in it and focus on it to the exclusion of all else, but after a short period of time, usually following a notable milestone of some kind, I lose interest and start rooting around for other things to occupy my attention.

I've decided to work on this a bit, partially by investigating the reasons behind it within games, and partially by choosing to do otherwise.

This most recent bout of game apathy is coming off of a stint with Star Wars: The Old Republic. It is not in any way limited to SWTOR, though, as it has happened with pretty much every game I've ever played. SWTOR had the best chance of most recent games to get past this issue, but didn't quite manage to break through, and I am coming to understand why.

The issue with MMOs is generally story. While there may be an overarching theme, or even a full story, to an MMO, progression through the levels tends to be focused on performing activities that are entirely defined by what zone they are located in. They can vary from tangential to the overall plot to entirely unrelated. The entire purpose of these quests is ostensibly to add more depth to the world, but generally ends up being methods of gaining experience on your way to the endgame, and as time sinks so it takes a while.

SWTOR attempted to alleviate this with the character story, an ongoing story that's entirely defined by your class. But, in keeping with MMO standards, you will also be doing side quests in order to keep your level up to par with the content. Most worlds you're on have at least an ongoing quest to lead you around, but it ends up being the same thing. This isn't a bad thing, and I had plenty of fun with it the first time around. But then I completed a character's story and the idea of going through all of that again with another class deflated my interest. Also to blame was the general feeling at the end of Chapter 3 for my class. While other classes clearly had Awesome Endings and did Amazing Things, my character's entire effort was nullified as part of the ending. it left me with an unpleasant taste.

WoW has managed to hold me for the longest time, but in the end it wasn't because of the story. I enjoyed it, and was happy to level through the Cataclysm content, where they streamlined the questing and made each zone more cohesive in story. But in the end it's the guild that kept me coming back (and still does). I like my friends there, and having them around to share the experience is why I was able to play it for as long as I did, leveling 4 characters to 85 (and one to 80). But in the end it was simply a change of mechanics and playstyle, and the story was simply something I had to grind through in order to reach the level I was seeking.

In the end, for both WoW and SWTOR, the world and the story does not engage me enough to keep me performing the same tasks over and over. I enjoy that there is lore, but it isn't all that interesting. I've never been a big Star Wars fan, and while I've read one WoW novel, the lore of the world doesn't grab me. And once you've reached the maximum level, the End Game as it were, your options for activities to engage the world are more limited, not less. And more repetitious.

The end result is that there has not yet been a game to which I was willing to commit myself. Certainly, I seem committed to whatever I'm excited about at the time, but always with the understanding that it will wear off eventually and I'll go find something else. I want to. I want to have the passion for a game world that I have seen so many other people have, that keeps them involved in the game for far longer than the basic gameplay might allow.

So I'm going to attempt to commit myself, to a small degree, to a game. I won't be starting a game-devoted blog, nor recording my activities for posterity, but I want to be able to experience the story more personally than even SWTOR was able to allow. So I'm going to try to play Guild Wars.

Yeah, I know. This doesn't sound all that different. In the end, I really want to play Guild Wars 2, and the more I read about the lore, the more interested I become in the world. After listening to various Q&As and vlogs from WoodenPotatoes, I've come to realize that there is significantly more history and lore to the game than what I immediately had access to. And much of that was something I could experience for myself, simply by playing the original Guild Wars

Guild Wars is an odd duck for an MMO. Its PvP is very much MMO fare, but the PvE content, before the requisite EndGame stuff to keep people around, is less MMO and more single/multiplayer cooperative story. There are cities/towns where you see other players, where you sell, buy, upgrade gear, but the questing is entirely instanced. You, and whoever you might bring with you, be it other players or simply henchmen, work along the story's path. An it's a linear story, with a beginning, middle and end. Unlike traditional MMOs, there is no need to make the story malleable to fit whatever time period the game world might be in. The entirety of that time period exists in the campaign.

Now, I want to prepare for Guild Wars 2, and understand more of the story that got there. So I'm going to try to play Prophecies, Eye of the North and Winds of Change before Guild Wars 2 comes out. Not for any Hall of Monuments achievements, but so I can see the story. Now, I'll be bypassing Factions and Nightfall for this, if only because there's a limit to what I can expect myself to accomplish, but also because GW2 takes place solely on the continent of Tyria, and I'm choosing to focus on the stories that coincide with this. Certainly, Cantha and Elona will come up, but I have to focus somehow, and I'm choosing to focus on the Tyria.

I'm hoping that I can complete this before the release of Guild Wars 2, and then I can perhaps focus more on intricacies of the world. If anything, its an experiment in commitment to a goal for me.

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