I am not trying to start a controversial thread here so hope you will bear with me. I know that the vast majorities of folks here who also play games, especially MMOs, are motivated by the very things that we see in most games, the achievement, the rewards, the progression, etc. However, I want to talk about another way to play an MMO.
Recently, we have seen more games attempt to change the grind that goes along with these games. Crowfall seems to be adapting the passive skill features from Eve Online where players gain skills without actively participating in raising that skill and even when they are offline. When my son drew my attention to a video of Crowfall’s passive skill methods and it made me think….deeply.
So when do you have fun playing a game? Is that early grinding period enjoyable for you? What about the mid-level grinding, when the monsters and NPCs you encounter are more challenging. Or maybe it is when the game puts out the new zone for those who have reached the top so they can start over again…or the next new zone? Or do you prefer the end game, when your character has reached the top and there is nowhere else to go. Is this when you quit the game or is this when you begin to play?
I guess if you accept Bartle’s taxonomy of player types, those that like to achieve may not enjoy a game where they achieve by doing nothing. The grind may be the chore one must do in order to deserve the reward. Those who have the time to spend hours upon hours in-game might feel especially cheated when others drop by casually and can still keep up.
So that group of players may not like passive skills and prefer the grind. I imagine in most MMO’s out there today the achievers make up a huge segment of the gaming population. Since many games focus on that part of the mechanics, it could be a big loss.
But are there other ways to measure achievement? Does it have to come from the constant grinding and repetitive behavior over and over again, for months or even years in the case of many WoW players.
What about the end game? What happens when a game actually does not continue to add more and more levels and zones with harder creatures?
I often use a particular game as an example, mostly because it is a very good example of a tedious grind as well as an example of an end game that succeeded, until developers changed the game.
I played Star Wars Galaxies for three years, actually more since I started during the beta testing. The game allowed you to choose a profession and then grind up through the skills to until you had mastered them all. At that time, you could take a second profession if you wished. You were limited after that and would be required to remove skills if you wanted to learn new ones outside your currently chosen professions.
However, for many of us, the grind was just the mud you had to wallow through to get to the end game. Fortunately, we had macros available so we could park our avatar somewhere and write a macro to allow our characters to acquire skills while we were offline. It mostly worked, although often you were disconnected in the middle of the night to come back and find out leaving your computer on all night long was all for nothing.
Eventually, your character would become a top level dancer, or musician, or bounty hunter, or resource collector, or tailor, or whatever profession you chose. Then the fun began.
In my case, it meant I could form a band with some friends. I ran a business, where we would rent out to parties and events, getting paid in lots of credits. I was courted by organized crime, who I guess thought I could add something to their group…but the fun was in resisting even though the crime boss was sure he could convince me to turn to the dark side. I started a factory to supplement tips and had clients who bought stuff from me. I received a discount on clothing so I would “model” the clothing when I danced and advertised for the tailor.
I owned several houses on different planets. Had several ‘romances’ (fun, not real ones since I am married after all), made lots of friends, and felt completely immersed in the world. While I obviously made no difference to the mechanics of the game, the look of the world, etc., I did make a difference to the community and many others made a difference to me.
The achievement was not in XP anymore, but in acquiring fame, riches, friends, developing my character, roleplaying, and simply enjoying every moment in the game. My culminating experience was when a friend and I put on an opera in one of the local theaters and filled the place. Years later, someone found me on the internet and remembered that performance.
Of course, the game changed, and when Jedi’s became playable, the game required one grind 10 professions to be a Jedi and suddenly the vibrant world turned into robot avatars, all grinding away. No one talked anymore. No one had parties. No more chit chat with the gals in the cantinas as we danced away and flirted with customers.
The end game was reset and the joy was gone. One by one my friends left and so did I. To this day I run into people, many of them like me, older, a mother or even grandmother, and we find out we played SWG…and we talk about those glorious golden days.
So…the end game. Maybe the end game can be as much fun as the rest of it for many of us. Maybe achievement could be measured in other ways. Maybe the grinding could be replaced by player directed game play.
You may be interested in the mysterious of the world and travel to collect artifacts, compare with others, and figure out what may have happened in the past. Maybe you will even publish a book on these mysterious, with your ideas out there for others to see. Could be that you wish to join a religious organization, rise to power, go on pilgrimages, dedicate a new cathedral. Or you may want to own a ship and be a merchant or a pirate, becoming well respected or infamous.
Possibly you may achieve through becoming rich through your business, whether that be a series of taverns, a party planner who throws extraordinary parties, or a politician, who uses his oratory skills to gain votes in the local election.
Of course, you may want to be a notorious criminal or an assassin, or a judge who likes to see others hang. Or maybe you will run a secret organized crime syndicate, like my friend in SWG.
Do we really need to grind the same thing over and over again to succeed in a game? Do we have to play hours upon hours to keep up with everyone else? Can we just trop in to have an ale at the tavern, tell some tales, listen to some tales, make friends and then go have dinner with the family in real life?
You may think..no one will want to play this game. Maybe that is true. But what if there is a large number of people out there who do want to play this game. Who is going to make it?
I would love to hear your thoughts, even if you want to say…you crazy old lady!