Saturday, November 6, 2010

Exploration versus progress

I am an explorer when it comes to MMOs. Not only in terms of lore and in-game geography, but also in terms of systems. I really enjoy exploring the mechanics of MMOs. In fact, once I learn all of the basic mechanics of any given MMO I tend to lose interest in it.

I spend a lot of time fiddling around with the classes and crafting professions, then get bored once I'm not learning anything new. In most MMOs you can learn 80% of the mechanics in your first few weekends, and then need to put in another six months or so to get to the endgame where new systems start to open up. There are very few MMOs that have kept me hooked long enough to get to that last 5-20% of the game.

Even in the rare ones that hook me for more than a month or two, I tend to make slow progress. My approach to MMOs is more like ants crawling out in all directions from a nest than a horse charging forward. I always want to see all the starting areas, which takes some time. However, what really slows me down is my penchant for having an interlocking and self sufficient fleet of crafters. For example, in EQ2X I currently have crafters that upgrade abilities for both casters and melee characters, as well as crafters that make bags, cloth armor, leather armor, and metal armor. I'm waffling over whether to use my recently purchased fifth character slot to make metal weapons or jewelry. I may end up buying a sixth character slot for my silver account so I can cover both.

Getting all those crafters up to the point where they can make useful stuff for each other has eaten up most of my playtime. Going on adventures and killing stuff is sort of a side activity that helps me gather the mats needed to keep my family of characters in the best gear that can be crafted. The only MMOs I've played long term where I didn't fall into this cycle were either MMOs that had an absolutely grueling crafting system (e.g., DAoC and EQ) or MMOs that lacked any crafting system to speak of (e.g, DDO and COX). In WoW, LoTRO, and now EQ2X I have fleets of mid to low level characters that make great stuff for each other, and mains that take at least twice as long to level as the mains of users that play these games linearly.

I'm certain that to some players of these games, my diffuse approach to progression borders on insane. Particularly to players that think MMOs "start" once you hit the level cap (?!?). However, it's fun to me and that's really all that matters. . . at least to me :-)

An aside: apologies for the lack of posts lately. I am traveling a lot these days. This is the first weekend I've been in town since my last post. Regular posting will resume towards the end of the month I expect.


  1. I'm like that with my fleet of crafters too. I have no idea why, since crafting it far from my favorite thing to do in a game. Perhaps it stems from a desire to be independent, so if I need something right away I have it covered. I'm also super stingy when it comes to gold, so it chafes me to pay someone else for a service when I know it's something I can do myself if I put some work into it, heh :P

  2. Although I'm lean more toward the achiever camp, I understand where you are coming from. Exploring the complexities of systems can be quite a joy. That's one of the reasons I played Guild Wars for so long. Figuring out the skill interactions was great fun.

    And although I said I'm an achiever, exploring the new world and how to function in it has been one of the reasons I've been enjoying Minecraft. I haven't built any huge monuments like others have. I'm still enjoying discovering new things in the world.

  3. Completely sensible to me and pretty similar to how I play.

  4. I am very much an explorer but not so much a crafter, I easily get bored after a while.

    The last two Fallout games really bring the explorer out in me, I just can't help but go to that unexplored section and see what could be there. That's probably where half my time goes in those games.

  5. @MMOgamerchick: I simply enjoy being able to twink the hell out of new characters without having to spend much money on them. It's fun to start some new little guy and see what he can do with the best gear I can craft. On any server where I have a really well stocked fleet of crafters, a common refrain from new alts is "I... am ...Rocket Powered!!!"

    @Anjin: I have always been fascinated by RPG systems. When I was GMing PnP MMOs I would generally rework systems that i found lacking, or expand upon systems that I considered well thought out. New classes (DnD), new races (Star Frontiers), a more internally consistent power system (Marvell Superheroes), slight tweaks to the combat mechanics to make various weapons more distinct (Gamma World).

    At least 70% of why I try most MMOs is just to see the mechanics. Unlike my PnP days, I can't really do anything with the knowledge I gather. Still, I enjoy adding to my mental catalog.

    @Glad I'm not the only one :-)

    @Jaydub: I would argue that Fallout III, Morrowind, and Oblivion are sandbox games to an extent that makes even EVE look constrained. Offline games can allow you certain freedoms that an MMO never could. That said, I think MMO sandboxes still have a lot to learn from offline sandboxes.