Readers of this blog dropped by about 40% since I stopped writing in March. … This makes me wonder whether those 60% actually ever read my posts, or only the link list. Anyway, I might write a bit again in the future. No promises, though.
There’s a lot to comment on since my last post. For example, Guild Wars 2. I bought it; I played it; for a few days. I stopped playing. What did I like? Some basic concepts. Having different abilities depending on the ‘weapon’ you wield is a great idea. The graphics look nice.
What didn't I like? Hearts seem artificial, gamey, to me. So does under-water play; I’m not a fish; I don’t want to play a fish. Group combat seemed chaotic; I think I said before that the holy trinity – as much as I dislike it - shouldn't be abandoned lightly. .. And that’s it. GW2 just didn't catch me. The reason is not that playing in itself wasn't fun - it was about as much fun as playing any other MMO. The problem was that I didn't have any perspective – no goal to reach. Not even exploring the world. Markers that tell me what to explore next are ridiculous, in my opinion.
Diablo III - that was a fun game; for a while. I played a mage on all difficulty levels and only stopped at the highest difficulty, which was ridiculous to solo-play / pug. I’m fine with that. I played D3 for about as long as I played D1 or D2. I only used the AH for the second highest difficulty level because it was necessary. D3 won’t capture me or many other players long-term, I think. Blizzard, of course, agrees. Otherwise they had asked for a monthly subscription.
In my opinion, the developers couldn't resist and handcrafted too many areas. And the areas, which they didn't handcraft, don’t contain any gameplay-relevant features. For a random map generator to be useful, it has to create more than just noise. If I don’t need to care where the next randomly-generated corner is, I don’t.
What else ... Well, Keen has a good post on money and MMOs. Of course, he is right. Money is not the issue. I didn't stop playing GW2 because it costs too much. When I think about what to play next I never, ever, look at how much it costs. I’m an MMO player - I’m not looking for distractions, I am looking for something to care about. I would easily spend 50€ a month for a really good MMO. Even at that price a MMO can be cheap if it only replaces eating out every now and then. Oh – and f2p isn't just a business model. It changes the gameplay!
Syncaine is correct, too. Games that only offer 20-minute activities are fundamentally different from what is traditionally called a MMO. A good MMO offers all kinds of activities – dungeons that require 10 minutes and dungeons that require 3 hours; battles that last for 48+ hours which you can enter and drop out whenever you want. Activities that require lengthy preparation and activities that you can participate in just after you logged in. Did I mention that I liked farming mobs in dangerous areas where joining a party is useful but not mandatory and the question how to attack which mob from where provides an interesting decision?
Oh – I played WoW with my girlfriend lately. A friend told her about it and she knows that I have *some* experience with that game. We made new characters and stayed below lvl20. She has no experience with computer games (only consoles and facebook). She had real trouble controlling her priest with the mouse; constantly running into walls and complaining that she didn't know where I am, when I was usually right behind her.
She found it silly that I can swim in full-body armor and I successfully resisted the urge to defend ‘my game’. Making rivers and bridges irrelevant from a gameplay point of view, makes potentially interesting decisions irrelevant. And then, suddenly, around lvl16 she told me: "This is boring, everything dies so fast." She is a holy priest and she’s right.