Water, water everywhere…

I have nothing to do when I log in to WoW.

Hold the vegetables. Hear me out. Don’t point me to the this, that and that other thing I could be doing. Been playing since Dec. of ’04. I’ve done them all. And this is not pre-expansion lull blues. I’ve been like this for a while. So, why is that I say I have nothing to do when there are clearly things for me to do? Because they aren’t worth a damn.

I have to question the wisdom, not only in WoW’s implementation of things, but of MMOs in general and the gaming ideas they produce. Seems I’m at a point right now where anything I can do will involve a massive amount of time for a very small reward. Yes, I understand timesinks. I understand the need for them. I just don’t understand why they have to be so unengaging in its development and so sterile to the player at the end.

Timesinks are fine. Hell, gaming is a timesink when you think about it. But, does it have to be boring and long and unengaging as hell? For example, my main character is grinding AD rep. Of all the things I could be doing, that’s the most passable because of a time spent/reward deal. I just want one of the items at the end of the grind, which would be a small upgrade to me. Maybe, yes, getting to exalted does have to be so long. Maybe it represents something. But does it have to be so boring?

Maybe I am indeed whining. If so, let it be.

Why is it that MMOs in general, almost from the beginning, have veered to the “let’s give the player a few things to do, but very long” instead of “let’s give the player a lot of things to do, but short”? Why is it that WoW’s endgame (or most other MMOs’ endgame) is basically a devolution into a few, exceedingly long grinds? Why do these blessed people think grinding is fun at all? By far the only reason players grind is because of need. It’s because most games offer little or no other way to acquire or achieve what players need. Why the grind? Jesus, just look at the word itself… grind.

So, what could I do in WoW, with my character as it is, right now?

Well, let’s see. I could join a raiding group. I’ve been there. It’s fun to a point, but then it is quite time-consuming and for many, including myself, the prospect of having your playtime subject to that of 19/39 others is not an attractive one. Some say “If you have 3 hours to grind for AD rep, you have 3 hours to raid”, but this isn’t true. I don’t need 19/39 other people to grind. I can do that by myself. Raiding (in WoW at least) is nothing but a logistical nightmare, a collective hallucination of staggered “brb bio”s, with nothing but the fleeting promise of random loot at the end that may or may not happen. So it’s not about the man-hours. A 3 hour grind represents 3-man hours for me. A 3 hour raid ranges from 57 to 117 man-hours. It’s ridiculous. And what makes it even more ridiculous is that, unlike a grind proper, at the end you’re not even guaranteed a reward. I remember going regularly to a raid group, and faithfully going 9-10 times to the same instance and coming out with nothing but a repair bill. The only thing that kept me going was the promise of future potential loot. At some point. If the RNG cooperates.

Well, then I guess I could grind? I guess I could. But that’s boring as hell. Repetitive. Unengaging. Insultingly long. Insultingly? Yes. Or is there any other reason why mobs stop giving rep halfway into revered, for example? What? Wasn’t it long enough? Wasn’t it boring enough that they had to throw another roadblock? And then again, grind for what? For loot that, while good some times, is not really worth the effort?

So, suppose I don’t grind. What do I do? Quest? At 60? What quests? My quest log is looking pretty rale right now. I’ve done what I could, and what’s left… guess what… requires raiding. There’s really not much else. Roll an alt? I have no more room in the server I play on. Yes, I’m full of alts. Guess why I have so many?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking long, involved, massive timesink activities. Some people like those. To each their own, and if they make the game better or more fun to you, then more real, ultimate power to you. I just question the wisdom in not including anything else. Forget about the rewards… just anything else that’s fun to do. The endgame is pretty much raid/grind or die. It was designed that way. It’s not something that happened in the way.

Where are the hundreds of short quests to do at 60? Why does the flow of simple, fun, engaging quests stops at 60 and the focus switches to raiding and grinding? I’m not complaining about the raiding. I like the concept of raiding. I like difficult dungeons, different encounters, progression like that. I just can’t suffer the execution of such raiding, and how sometimes it has become as difficult and as time-consuming to gather and organize a group as it is to actually go through the dungeon. That’s the virtue and pitfall of raiding, all rolled into one: That your fun and time become dependant on someone else’s.

Again, where are the short quests, that players had from 1 to 59? That kept them engaged, progressing, moving forward? Why are the reputation grinds so obscenely long and ultimately unrewarding? I can take short and unrewarding. I can take long and rewarding. But long and unrewarding feels like you’re messing with me, as a player.

The fun is gone. And they killed it. They had it, but they killed it. How much of that is just incompetence and lack of vision, and how much is that is shrewd business decision to keep players hooked to the nectar, I just don’t know. And I don’t want to think. But I will say this: Sometimes you do catch flies with honey, and not with vinegar.

The fundamental mistake in the conservative MMO design thinking is that without timesinks, without that as a way of keeping players in the game, players will leave. But I will challenge that notion with this one: That if a player is having fun, he won’t leave. And if a player is playing your game, it’s because he thinks you have the fun in it. There’s no need to be a jerk, cheat him at the end or nickle-and-dime him to death with a grind. Treat your players fairly, give them fun things to do, not timesinks, and they will stay. Why wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t you stay where you’re having fun? Wouldn’t you leave what bores you?

Is this thing on? *tap* *tap*….


1 Response to “Water, water everywhere…”

  1. 1 carrie March 23, 2007 at 8:58 am

    I’m a few months behind, yes. I totally feel you on this one. Pre-expansion, WoW at 60 sucked royally. There were many days that I logged in and sat in Ironforge or Stormwind or any other random location and did nothing but chat with friends. I was at the point that the main reason I was still playing/paying was to be able to socialize. Not for anything that the game itself offered.

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