Convenience vs. Realism (part 1)

I’ll admit, given enough free time, I would prefer an mmorpg to be completely realistic, take exorbitant amounts of travel time, require tedium to complete even the most mundane of tasks and be filled harsh penalties. The closest game I can think of to this model is EvE, which by the way I still play, but even then training (leveling) is barely a course in tedium but more of a trial of patience.

Even so, I only play EvE once in a blue moon and only as a means to quench my rare hardcore gamer thirst which I developed during high school.

No, these days I more closely resemble the type of power gamer who could spend a couple hours a night to raid or pvp in WoW or EQ2, instead of a 13 hour mob camping session in FFXI. I miss those days of FFXI, but they are long gone and baring a sudden and detrimental job change (namely the absence of) I don’t see those days returning any time soon.

My situation is not too unlike many of my generation though. Most of us first and second generation mmorpg’ers began playing in high school or college with nearly limitless amounts of time on our hands. While most certainly our power gaming had an impact on our grades, the lessons learned and bond formed though those long hours far outweighed (at least for me in developing the type of leader I am today) a couple of grade points in our GPA. As we’ve grown older our perceptions and values change, some dramatically, and for the first time we are starting to find a struggle to balance work, family, friends and achievement in game.

Benefits of Convenience

Why not, you may ask, target my game to those with infinite time on their hands and cast off those adults as whose gamer time has past them by? I’ll tell you though I semi answered this in a previous post…

  • You expand your potential player base 10 fold.
  • You increase the longevity a particular player could potentially play your game (i.e. well into adulthood).
  • Working adults are more apt to play P2P games since they generally make more money then teenage or out of work adults with infinite tie on their hands.
  • You foster a little more mature community.
  • It is much easier for a gamer to convince his spouse to play an mmo then your girlfriend/boyfriend.

The last point may seem sexist but it’s the truth. Spouses are more willing to partake in activities they may initially find boring just to spend time with their loved one.

You may be asking yourself now, “yeah it’s great I can make my game appeal to more people if I make it easier but I don’t want to compromise my design integrity and make a one plays instead of a game one lives in.”.  In short the agrument convenience versus realism, which is exactly where I will outline the fine balance you can strike to accomplish both a large subscriber base and livable world at once.

Let me make one thing clear, I’ve not yet seen an mmorpg on the market that is both convenient to play in 2-3 hours at  time, but has the longevity to be livable. In my estimation, EQ2 would be about the closest to the type of mmorpg I’m aiming for, but even then the world isn’t nearly as livable as it could be. There are still extremely static content making the gamer feel as though he has no impact on the world. The feeling of impact is vital to make a mmorpg feel like one could live in it.

Conversely, EvE is extremely livable but no where close to convenient to play in. While this was CCP’s aim from the beginning, they must now deal with the consequences of a tiny niche market, a small budget for development, and a game where the players hold too much power.

No game yet exists which fits this ideal balance, WoW and LotRO included, and the main reason is they made convenient the wrong things in game.

Budgeted Gaming and how it fits

Going back to my definition of Budgeted Gaming, the gamer should be able to get in, do something cool, and get out within a 2-3 hour time block. With that in mind, lets break it down once more to  – log in, assess what needs to be done, find a group, travel, accomplish a task, travel, log out. The basic outline is the same for solo content, just cross out “find a group”.

Many games I mentioned above have taken this approach, and gone to great lengths to improve their convenience in one or more of these areas.  

Part 2 >>

(I’ve run out of time today to finish this past, but fear not, part 2 will be coming out on Thursday. Time to go back to work)

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2 Responses to “Convenience vs. Realism (part 1)”

  1. […] The Aphelion An MMORPG Design Blog « Convenience vs. Realism (part 1) […]

  2. Pete Says:

    this one ends ubruptly but i like it better then part 2 you released today. I can relate to your experience of not playing as much as you usd to. The same thing happened to me but lotro does a good job of increasing the game once i catch up so i’m not bored.

    i’ll have to read what you mea by budgeted gaming since it seems like all games do this.

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