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Default RPGWatch Side Quest - Time Out or Burn Out?

March 4th, 2008, 16:09
My exp4ectations have become lower, I don't get so easily involved in "hype" anymore, and with a rather small wallet I'm forced to wait anyway (until a game hits the bargain price area).

So - I'll buy a game when it's out for a while now (my wallet forces me to do that), and so I'm happy, because the hype travels past me.

What I also do, is, training to hear to my intuition. This works fairly good, and hinders me from buying games I wouldn't want.

A few days ago I bought Warlords 4 (by Infinite Interactive), and … - well, I didn't play it to say whether I'll enjoy it, or not. But the price was right (3 Euros), so I'll have a decent game I can dab around with, once in a while.

Right now, I'm playing NWN. Had I bought it at the "high tide", I would've been utterly disappointed. I feel it.

But now, it's a nice and decent game that gives me some fun - I'm content.

So, my advice is: Leave a game alone for some time, and try to buy it AFTER the "high tide". When it's ripe enough, then grab it. Like wine.
It's like travelling: Travelling outside the seasons wherein masses of tourists visit the same place is always more fun.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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March 4th, 2008, 16:15
Thanks to everyone for the positive feedback. It's good to know that others have 'been there, done that.' Echoing blatantninja's comment in the post above and a few others, I really feel bad about not being able to get into this game, almost to the guilt level, but that really just makes the situation worse.

Ander Vinz wrote:
Why can't this "article" be cropped to "I don't get what's so good about Mask of the Betrayer"?
Because I do 'get' what's good about it. I did my best to make the point that the game has everything I would expect to like. If you see my words as putting the game down in any way, that certainly wasn't my intent. The devs at Obsidian are in my mind some of the most talented individuals in gaming and have made memorable, one-of-a-kind classic games. If the game were bad, there wouldn't be any question about why I couldn't get into it.

@Holly Avenger Good point—I agree that expansion packs/sequels can have this syndrome. I had pretty much the same experience you describe with IWD2 as did blatantninja, and as Squeek had with Morrowind.

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March 4th, 2008, 16:38
Don't sweat the troll, magerette. It's plain that the game is mostly incidental to the point you're making.

Sorry. No pearls of wisdom in this oyster.
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March 4th, 2008, 16:45
Originally Posted by dteowner View Post
Don't sweat the troll, magerette. It's plain that the game is mostly incidental to the point you're making.
Well, I thought so.

Alrik has a good point also about waiting for the hype fest to die down and just playing a game with lower expectations. Thats sort of how NWN1 went for me…when it came out it was IIRC advertised as a primarily multi-player experience, so I never even thought about getting it. Years later when I picked it up in the bargain bin in a bundle with SoU I enjoyed all the expansion and even part of the OC.

As Dhruin said, timing is definitely a factor.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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March 4th, 2008, 16:46
I think if you have too many games and you're spoiled for choice this can effect your playing as well.
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March 4th, 2008, 16:55
I've had it happen many times and, indeed, with MotB. Here are a few I remember off hand.

Original NWN campaign. I started it up, got most (as it turned out) of the way through it, stopped playing one evening and just couldn't bring myself to start up again. Why? It was fun at first, probably because it was new, and then it just got tedious. The story was dull, the companions were annoying, and the implementation of the D&D rules was poor. I then spent a lot of usenet posting time arguing with people who thought it was great because of the modding potential versus guys like me who thought the campaign was awful.

Several years later I picked up the first NWN expansion on a whim and with exceedingly low expectations tried it out. Dang, it wasn't so bad as I remembered. In fact, it was fun. I finished it and pulled out the original campaign and finished that (which, alas, was as bad as I remembered). I grabbed some of the best rated mods off the net and D*MN some of them were really good. Then the second expansion came out and it was GREAT.

PoR2. I was so pumped about this game but as soon as I started playing I realized there were two severe problems. #1 was you couldn't really develop your characters other than picking a class. The game picked all the skills and such for them. WTF? The capability for it was in there they just didn't allow you any way to do it. #2 was the game was so slow I literally fell asleep one time while waiting for a horde of zombies to shuffle across the screen. 5-10 minutes waiting for the enemy to do a turn is stupid beyond belief in an RPG. And the level layout made it slow even outside of combat.

Gothic 3. I loved Gothic 2 despite its roughness and eagerly looked forward to Gothic 3. I got it as soon as it came out and, uhh, cr*p, it the first 5 minutes I realized it was all screwed up. Especially combat. I slogged along through various patches and combat was better but still screwed up but in new ways. Unfortunately the overall game structure just seemed goofed up. I eventually just set it aside and, well, there it sits.

Finally, NWN2: MotB. I didn't like the early part of (original) NWN2 but it got better in middle and really good late in the game (though, alas, not at the very end). Overall I liked it a lot. I got MotB right when it came out and I really enjoyed it a lot. However, I got to a part in the middle that I found REALLY frustrating as it seemed to be designed to punish you if you are playing a good character. I made it through that part but the sour taste killed the rest of the game for me for some reason and I gave up soon afterward. Another problem is that one of the more interesting NPCs (IMO) is the same class as the character I chose to play and having two of them in the same party is not a good choice.
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March 4th, 2008, 17:34
My take is that you're just experiencing burn-out. I went down a similar path with Oblivion. And after first installing it 2 years ago and playing it for maybe 5 hours, I'm only just now 'really' playing it. Couldn't get into it 2 years ago. Now for some reason I can't wait to play it. I've always thought this was about gaming burn-out more than anything else.

If I'm right but there is no wife around to acknowledge it, am I still right?
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March 4th, 2008, 18:43
I hated Planescape: Torment when it came out and didn't want to play it, because it was so hyped and I didn't like the fact that it was based on D&D rules (which I didn't like too much either.. jeez, I sound like Grouchy Smurf). After a couple months though, I didn't mind anymore, prepared for the game with a calm and relaxed set of mind, and enjoyed it quite a bit. That's not exactly like the boredom described here, but I guess it shows how expectations can distort the experience.

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March 4th, 2008, 19:10
It is really bad for me since I have to force myself to play a game and is the reason why I only play RPGs and a couple of adventure games. I try to play a game and then I just can't but if I force myself then if I really like the game then I will play the game almost constantly for a couple days. If I stop playing the game for a period it is harder to get myself to start playing again. It is better then it was a few years ago where I couldn't play a game again if I stopped playing it for a few weeks or longer.
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March 4th, 2008, 19:12
I also thought it was a great article

Oddly, the same happened to me with NWN2 - I preordered it but then took over a year to finish it. MotB however, I did enjoy fully and didn't want to put down. This seems to back up your subjective idea.

Personally I noticed a shift in perception of games about two years ago for me. I don't know what happened, but suddenly I do find games a bit bland whereas before I would be entertained by any decent game it's now the exception rather than the rule. I don't know if I just matured, or hit some kind of threshold where I knew I could actually just buy games when and where I wanted, rather than it being some special thing.

Having prior knowledge of a game used to increase the anticipation, but I think like GBG it now tends to reduce it. The exception to this was The Witcher, which I knew a lot about and had even played quite a lot before it was released… BUT there was something intangibly polished and atmospheric about TW that dragged me in and gives me a little mental shiver every time I boot it up.

I wish this 'spark' was definable, but now it's the only thing that I guarantee will make me want to carry on playing a game. They can be technically and graphically great, even have good gameplay, but there needs to be some kind of polish and something 'extra' to really move me nowadays.

Did MotB have that? Much more so than NWN2, but ultimately I think it was saved by the fact I was also playing The Witcher - it gave me a counterpoint experience that I could actually appreciate I think.
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March 4th, 2008, 19:18
Happened to me with Pirates of the Burning Sea.

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March 4th, 2008, 20:20
I've had the same reaction to MotB. I've even started it twice, but half-way through it I've lost interest and started a new Oblivion character (using the wonderful OOO mod, among other great mods) and I've never looked back at MotB.
I, too, think it's a D&D burn out factor for exactly the same reasons: same old loot and wonky combat.
I only hope that if KoTOR III rumours turn out to be true that they ditch D&D. Please.

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March 4th, 2008, 21:26
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
The other thing is, most RPGs have simply awful openings. Drudgery - saving cats in trees and killing rats in basements with characters that couldn't hit a barn 3 feet in front of them.
That's usually the part I like the best! Just goes to show…

Another great article, Magerette. Thanks.

On a related note: anyone else find the pre-release hype of a game you're looking forward to a guilty pleasure in-and-of itself?

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Default The Thin Line Between "Fun" and "Unfun"

March 4th, 2008, 23:28
The other aspect here is that the line between "fun" and "unfun" can actually be laser-thin.

For example, I've recently started replaying through the classic Ultima titles and I've been struck by the difference between Ultima I (which I enjoyed playing) and Ultima II, which is proving to be an incredibly dreary game that I'm probably going to end up skipping.

The differences between these two games are not particularly large: They're both tile-based graphics. The mechanics are pretty similar. And so forth. The difference between the "fun" of Ultima I and the "unfun" of Ultima II lies in pretty subtle design distinctions: The spawn rate for random monsters. The distance between cities and dungeons. The inability to explore dungeons without first getting a light source.

These differences end up making the difference between an enjoyable hack-'n-slash gameplay and an interminable grind spent perpetually on the edge of death.

Modern gameplay is more complex, but the differences between the fun and unfun can be similarly subtle. I haven't played MotB, but the reason it just isn't "clicking" for you could be as simple as the design of the first dungeon or a slight stat imbalance in the early encounters.
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March 6th, 2008, 06:31
great article magerette, and doublely great for getting us all to reflect upon our own habits. like others have said, its timing, but i think player demand/desire plays a huge role (and expectations play a huge factor in that). for instance the 'why' are you playing the game you are getting in to:
is it to continue the story line from a prior game?
followup, are you playing the games back to back? (for me this actually helped me get through completely starting over nwn 2 which i got stuck on so i could get to play mask of the betrayer, or in past cases i played deus ex, for the first time, fairly close to deus ex 2 being released. the further apart people seem to play games in a series combined with a change in the gameplay of the series seems to factor significantly in player dissatisfaction, for as others have said our tastes seem to evolve while often our expectations stay the same.)
is it a new game which really excites you, and you've done your 'homework'?(these games stand the most chance of someone enjoying and completing i believe)
gimme some more of that: gameplay or backstory?(sometimes its the craving to shoot, build, manage, or read that is the driving force in game desire and selection. this need can sometimes be easier to fill, but i also believe that in some cases this can also lead to a higher degree of burnout. the other desire is thematic, whether you really want to play games that delve into the history of the middle ages, futuristic architecture of cyberpunk, or the expansive tolkienesque fantasy kingdoms. for me those often provide a much more sustainable game drive, and their 'atmosphere' subverts and distracts me from what can sometimes be mundane or quirky gameplay. take for instance nwn. bought the diamond edition a couple of years ago and played for about 5 hours or so and lost complete interest:no characters of interest and fairly forgetful art direction. i enjoyed nwn2 when it came out but after sinking so many hours 40+, it just was to much gameplay when i got to the keep management and jugling nearly a dozen characters all whose storys i was interested in more or less. it wasn't until this year i took it up again and stayed at if for over a month and jumped right in to the wonderful motb which took a considerablely shorter amount of time but had none of the problems of nwn2 and i though the epic items and levels seemed not a problem as there was so few of them. but now the world of faerun has grabbed me and i've started up the original nwn over the weekend and even printed out a large scale map (first for me) which hangs on my wall (much to my wife's puzzlement) and helps to fuel my interest into massive world of faerun.
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March 6th, 2008, 08:03
Um, magerette? Games are play. Fun. Entertainment. Feeling guilty because you don't want to play one is silly. At most you can regret dropping fifty bucks on something you don't use, but even that's a bit pointless really. It's perfectly OK not to like epic-level D&D, you know. Did you play Hordes of the Underdark, by the way? If so, how did you like it?

Some games I have sitting on my shelf that I've repeatedly started, played for an hour or two, and dropped simply because they didn't bite:

* Baldur's Gate 2. (So sue me.)
* Myth 3.
* DOOM 3.
* Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
* IL-2 Shturmovik (sorta — I've played it a lot more than two hours, but never managed to play the campaign past the third mission or so.)
* Sacred
* X3: Reunion
* TES: Bloodmoon (Morrowind expansion)

I'm fairly certain that X3, Sacred, Bloodmoon, and DOOM 3 are complete losses for any of a number of reasons; I'll probably give the others another whirl one day when I feel like it.

And there are plenty more that I played a quite a lot, but never managed to finish — Oblivion, Gothic 3, and Crysis, to name three.

For me, though, it's not really about expectations; it is about how much I actually enjoy the game. For example, I expected more from Medieval II, but I still played and enjoyed it quite thoroughly.
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March 6th, 2008, 09:51
I began MotB and liked it without it being great. Out came Eschalon and the Witcher, so I took a look at them and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get back into playing MotB!! One day I hope I can, but right now my interest level is zero!! Pity, because it's better than the OC for NWN2!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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March 6th, 2008, 12:00
Great article!

*** LONG POST WITH LOTS OF BABBLING ***

I've been having this problem, or variations of this problem, for many years. I've tried hard to figure out why, and I've yet to fully grasp exactly what makes me keep trying when I don't enjoy myself.

In my own case, I've been passionately playing games since I was around 5-6 years old. My brother introduced me to the world of gaming, and though I couldn't understand much of anything back then, I was immersed all the same. Since I didn't speak a word of english, it was kinda hard to appreciate games for all that they were, but most were just little letters moving around on the screen in those days, anyway

Back then, games weren't released very often, and I'm sorry to say that we didn't have the means to acquire them legally, so we pirated our games back in those days.

This meant that whenever we DID get a hold of a game that intrigued us (and most did), we'd be much more willing to put up with whatever weaknesses it had. That patience and willingness to hold out has gradually faded, as time has passed and my tastes have grown more and more particular and limited.

I don't remember exactly when I first experienced the sensation that great games which could entertain me sufficiently, were becoming very rare. I think I was around 14-15 or so. I spent A LOT more time following development or news of upcoming releases than I did actually playing anything. Also, whenever great titles were released that I'd waited for, for months on end, I rarely played them as much as I had expected. Some games came out that SEVERELY disappointed me and left quite a few scars on my poor gaming soul.

I think the worst case of this was with Daggerfall. I don't think any game compares with the level of expectations I had of that game. I think I spent an entire summer doing VERY little except reading and dreaming about that release, and this is especially pathetic because I was around 18-19 years old back then. I wanted that game SO badly.

Anyway, it was released, and to give you some idea of how much I expected, I can reveal that I'd pulled the curtains and lit two candles for the experience. To partially redeem myself regarding my youthful piracy, I should mention that this was the overseas collector's edition (or whatever it was) with the 20$ strategy guide to boot

It took me at least a week to release that it was nothing but a pale shadow of what it should have been, and in the end I had to realise that I simply hated it.

Not only was it extremely buggy upon release, but so many of the features they'd promised were either left out entirely, or implemented in the weakest possible fashion. Ships, for instance, were nothing but empty rooms with a storage locker. In the previews they'd talked about ship-to-ship battles and what not.

In any case, such experiences left me extremely jaded, and after however many, I learned to remain extremely sceptical and reserved in terms of buying into hype. Interestingly enough, some of the very few games to get me excited since that time, have been both Morrowind and Oblivion, and they both managed to disappoint me quite a bit.

Oh, but where am I going with this… I know a have a point.

Oh yeah, that's it.

For me, it's the combination of being extremely picky AND extremely jaded that (at least partially) makes it SO hard to enjoy those few games that DO intrigue me. The picky part is responsible for there being so few of them, and the jaded part is making me pause everytime I sense I'm not being entertained sufficiently. I just don't want to be disappointed and I don't want to waste my time with games that don't fulfill my looong list of demands. However, and this is key, the reason I'm even bothering to try this, again and again, is because of those few truly wonderful experiences you CAN have with games (and yes, they still happen on VERY rare occasions).

So, it's a very circular thing, and it's really odd that I do this to myself, but that ever elusive great experience is what I'm chasing.

Also of note, is that many games tend to have vital bugs or problems that could POTENTIALLY be fixed and make the whole thing worthwhile and great. Often, I just start waiting for the inevitable mythical super patch, that's supposed to fix all the core issues. A good current example would be Gothic 3, which I enjoyed thoroughly until I understood just how buggy it really was, and lost multiple days of playing in the form of corrupt savegames.

All this means that I end up playing very few games, and those that I DO play, tend to be old classics, because I don't have any expectations of them whatsoever, beyond being what I remember them to be. Also, they tend to have very few serious bugs or omissions at this stage of being classics. I'm replaying Baldur's Gate (TuTu) right now, for instance.

Another significant factor is WoW.

Sadly, I'm spending way too much of my free time playing that timesink. Whenever I start playing something else, I start feeling an "obligation" to achieve something in WoW instead. It's like a job in that way, as I feel that I'm wasting time with an offline game, because somehow achievements mean more in a social setting. That's another big reason I can no longer become immersed in singleplayer titles as much as I used to.

Oh, woe is me.
Last edited by DArtagnan; March 6th, 2008 at 12:07.
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March 6th, 2008, 16:30
@Prime J—Your point is valid, of course. But having been indoctrinated as a child that guilt is a motivator, it's hard to stop now.

Did you play Hordes of the Underdark, by the way? If so, how did you like it?
Indeed, I'm sure some of it is the overwrought nature of high level DnD. I played about half maybe of HotU—primarily because I enjoyed Deekin, (even though they had to change his voice for some unknown reason and make him sound like a chipmonk) whereas I finished Shadows of Undrentide—where you begin at level 1—and enjoyed it.

I think the guilt about MotB comes from my respect for Avellone and Obsidian— and also the sense that I don't want to miss anything. I feel as if they could have something in there I need to check out in order to call myself a gamer; even though many of their recent efforts have left me less than thrilled, I always think the next one will be PS:T reincarnated.

@ D'Artagnan: Glad you liked the article. You wrote something that resonates for me here:
For me, it's the combination of being extremely picky AND extremely jaded that (at least partially) makes it SO hard to enjoy those few games that DO intrigue me. The picky part is responsible for there being so few of them, and the jaded part is making me pause everytime I sense I'm not being entertained sufficiently….However, and this is key, the reason I'm even bothering to try this, again and again, is because of those few truly wonderful experiences you CAN have with games (and yes, they still happen on VERY rare occasions).
That's exactly it—the lure of that experience that keeps you rivetted in place playing til you threaten yourself with carpal tunnel syndrome and deep vein thrombosis. And sooner or later that game always does seem to come along—for me it was The Witcher—that fulfills all your expectations and more. That's what keeps you playing.

@ curiously undead: the idea of the next in the series kind of game is mixed for me—I think actually I examine each game as a separate unit—sometimes I like the sequel better—as in the NWN stuff listed above, or like Might & Magic VII, and sometimes I can't even play the sequel as in Might & Magic VIII (though that was a much poorer game on all fronts anyway..)
I do think MotB picking up where NWN2 left off may have worked better for me if I could have played the whole thing in sequence rapidly as a continuum.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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March 6th, 2008, 16:53
It's possible that games really aren't advancing/maturing as fast as the old audience has/is. Looking at the range of film, books, music do games really have that?
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