Game, Interrupted

As I continue to fumble my way around Eye of the North in Guild Wars — as anyone who watched my stream this weekend can attest to — I’m realizing it’s not not only hard to come back to a game you played extensively and then quit, but it’s even harder to get into a game you never really played.

When Riders of Rohan releases, I’ll check it out — well, once I’ve had my fill of Guild Wars 2, that is, which releases a week before — and once I get to level 85, I’ll probably take another look at max-level instances and raids. Even if I took two or three years off from LOTRO, and had to adjust to whatever changes had been made in that time, I’d still have five years of experience to draw from and a pretty solid idea of how to play my character in top-end content, so I could probably adjust to whatever the game throws at me pretty easily.

What do you mean they banned armour in the last patch?!

I never had that experience in Guild Wars, so even though I can label myself as a “returning player,” I’m really more nooblike in my tendencies. Seeing my playing companion for the evening, Soy Oil, whip out his six heroes with specific builds for the area we were going to made me realize I’ve got a long ways to go before I can consider myself an actual “veteran.” And, truthfully, I’ll probably never get there.

With so many games going free-to-play these days, or doing whatever else they can to lure in new players, it makes me wonder how many people are actually willing to jump into an older game and stick with it when others have such a significant advantage on them in experience, gear, and general know-how about how the game is played. Maybe it’s because I’m more a sampler than a hardcore go-getter, but I can’t think of any game that I’ve started up in — or returned to after giving it a brief try  — well after its launch where I’ve driven to max level and become even a remotely competent endgame player. I might dabble, wander around a bit, look at the pretty sights and kill a monster or three, but I’ve never gotten “serious” about such a game and don’t know that I ever will. I’d rather be there from the start, with everyone else on an equal footing, than feel like I have to play catch-up from day one.

Weren’t you, like, eight years old the last time I played this game?

Maybe that’s OK. Obviously, games are supposed to be fun and not “serious,” but there’s something about an MMO that makes you want to reach for the pinnacle. If you figure you can’t get there, or that you’ll have to grind for weeks or months — mostly alone, because everyone else has higher-level characters — just to get to the point where you’re semi-competent, how can that be fun? It’s not the same as when a game is new, and most people are less than semi-competent, so your shortcomings can be looked over (“We’re all learning”). Once, I even vowed not to try a new MMO unless I had a friend to adventure with who would take away some of the boredom, make it faster and easier to progress, and not make me look so bad. That was around 2009. So yeah.

Has this ever worked out for anyone else? Have you ever gotten into a game — really gotten into a game — well after it was released? Or are you more like me, in that you tend to look around, smell the flowers, and then decide you’d rather go back to the game where you’re already an ass-kicker instead of having to claw your way up from ground zero? Heck, maybe that’s why people keep going back to World of Warcraft: not necessarily because it’s better, but because when you’ve already climbed one mountain, it takes a lot of energy to want to climb another, especially when there are so many people at the top already.

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5 Responses to Game, Interrupted

  1. I’ve done it. I joined World of Warcraft in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion — everyone else was literally years ahead of me.

    It doesn’t seem like such a big deal to me. MMOs are complex games, and I think pretty much any game will feel a little overwhelming regardless of whether it’s new or you’re joining late. Maybe it’s partly because I tend to be a very casual, slow-paced player. I always tend to feel like I’m playing catch-up compared to more hardcore players. It’s just part of the MMO experience to me, and the degree to which I’m behind doesn’t seem terribly relevant.

    Heck, if anything, I think it’s kind of nice to be fashionably late to a game. Things are more balanced, bugs have been worked out, lots of people know what to do and can help you learn…

    Games can also simplify over time, as well. WoW may have gained new complications like multiple raid difficulties and PvE scenarios, but it’s also lost old complications like raid attunements and massive talent trees. It sort of balances out in the end.

  2. Big_H says:

    Has your background image always been Forochel and I just never noticed, or do you change it depending on the post topic?

    I also prefer to start an MMO at the beginning. I find that there’s an energy with a new MMO that fades after release. Everyone is excited to explore the new world, everyone has roughly the same knowledge level so there’s no “I’ve done this quest 3 times before, just follow me, and hurry up”, people haven’t turned negative because they’re bored at end game yet, and since the game is new there isn’t a runaway gear progression system in place so end goals seem more attainable. It’s just more fun at launch (for me).

    But I have been able to join games in progress before, it’s just much harder and happens much less frequently. I took a break from LoTRO a few months before Rift came out, then when they released RoI I was able to jump back in well enough even though I had missed a bunch of content; though that may not count since that was only a seven month break or so, and I only really played through the new RoI content then quit again (about two months). But I was able to start up WoW fairly successfully this past year. Unlike LoTRO I didn’t have those ~five years prior experience to fall back on there, I had played for about a month back during Burning Crusade, and then for another month after I quit LoTRO and before Rift came out, and that’s it. Now seven months into my WoW sub and I’ve basically reached the same level of progression I reached when I was actively playing LoTRO – multiple characters at cap, raiding fairly often, etc etc.Though after looking at what it took to be able to join WoW in the middle of its life, I don’t think I’d do it again.

    >Heck, maybe that’s why people keep going back to World of Warcraft: not necessarily because
    >it’s better, but because when you’ve already climbed one mountain, it takes a lot of energy to
    >want to climb another, especially when there are so many people at the top already.

    This is something I’ve believed for a long time. The reason WoW has so many subs is not because it’s the best game out there, but because people became invested in the world and their progress through it. It’s hard to start over, especially when you’ve been at end game for a long time and acquired all that shiny stuff. It’s hard to just toss all that time and work aside for a blank slate, to be a “noob” again. When I quit LoTRO that first time it was a rough few months; I felt like I should still be playing, even though I wasn’t having fun, because I had spent an obscene about of time in that game, had a group of friends, had a nice solid “base”. It’s an addiction. After playing some of the MMOs that came after WoW, then joining WoW in the middle without having all that history… It was clear to me that WoW wasn’t the better game, and hadn’t been for quite awhile.
    Even though I was actively playing Wow, and at the drop of a hat would gladly spend hours upon hours listing off all the things I hated about LoTRO, if you had asked which I thought was the better game I would have said “LoTRO, hands down”.

    • I think there’s a lot of truth to that being the reason people stick with WoW, but I think there’s also more to it than that. I think a big factor is how little difference there tends to be between MMOs. The ones I’ve played all live up very strongly to the “WoW-clone” stereotype. So not only do people have to go to the effort of learning a new game, they also have very little reward for doing so. Once they overcome the initial learning curve, it’s not a greatly different experience from the same grind they’d have had in WoW.

      I know that’s a good chunk of why WoW remains the only MMO I devote much time to. If I want to play WoW, I’ll just play WoW. Guild Wars 2 is the first MMO other than WoW that I’m seriously considering playing, despite the fact there were some aspects of it that I strongly disliked, simply because it’s the first one that feels like a truly different experience to me.

      And then these things sort of create a snowball effect. Since most people don’t want to learn a new game when there’s not a lot of reward for doing so, they tend to stick with WoW, which ensures it continues to have a big following and a thriving community, which in turn provides even more reason for people to stick with it.

      • Big_H says:

        >I think a big factor is how little difference there tends to be between MMOs.
        >The ones I’ve played all live up very strongly to the “WoW-clone” stereotype.

        That’s part of it too, and part of the reason I left Rift. It was basically WoW with some tweaks, so after playing through all the content (several times), I went back to WoW because there was still a lot of stuff I hadn’t seen there. If I’m going to be playing reskinned WoW, I might as well play the original instead.

        That’s also one of the reasons I got fed up with LoTRO; when it started it was a fairly original and unique game, it was still an MMO but it wasn’t as close to a “WoW Clone” as some of the other MMOs out now. Then they started tweaking the game to try and pull in some of the WoW crowd…. by making the game more like WoW. And we’ve covered how well making your MMO like WoW works at pulling in WoW players. That’s one of the main reasons I believe they had to go F2P. They made the game more like WoW but they couldn’t retain the WoW players they brought over, and they lost a lot of their original players because the game was too like WoW for them.

        The point you being up though, is one of the most frustrating things I see in the current “post WoW” MMO market. Developers see WoW standing there with 12 million subs and gobs and gobs of money, and they say “we want that”, but the only method they can think of to get there is make their game like WoW. Which in turn doesn’t work well because why play a new game if it’s the same as the old one. Then when they fade away they take whatever good ideas and original concepts they did have with them into obscurity. Look at Rift (though I wouldn’t say they’ve faded away yet), even though it was very WoW like, they did have some really good ideas and views of the genre. And if they were to dwindle like Warhammer or AoC then it would take those good ideas with it, because it’s rare for a new developer to look at the “failed” MMOs for inspiration.

        That’s why I’m also looking forward to GW2, it’s finally standing up on its own and not borrowing from WoW in order to pull in the WoW crowd. That’s also why I’m more critical of it when they make changes to (in my mind) appease the “WoW crowd”, more critical than I would be of another game doing that at least.

    • jasonwinter says:

      Heh, I’ve had the Forochel up for months, at least since the start of the year. Thanks for the comment!

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