MMORPG Gaming - The Ultimate Nerd Expression?
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June 5th, 2013, 00:01
I have recently dipped my toes back into MMOs after about a 9-year hiatus. I played City of Heroes and WoW very religiously back in the early 00's, but went cold turkey after my divorce. The MMO's weren't the primary cause of that breakup, but I had to realistically admit that they played a part.
The addiction aspect is real, at least for me. With single-player games, I can justify monopolizing large chunks of my free time, because I know the experience will end before too long, and I inevitably "come up for air", so to speak. I've now found a good balance with my new wife and family, and make sure to insert some downtime between games, like for example my wife and I might catch up on the latest round of movies on Netflix in the evenings over the course of a couple weeks, or we'll schedule a trip to the beach, etc. And even when I'm engrossed in a game, while everybody understands that there are some weekends where I may spend an entire Saturday or Sunday sitting in front of the computer in my sweats, everybody also knows that if anybody wants to go out and do something in the real world, I'm game, right then and there, let's go.
Which is another aspect of MMOs that concern me…there's inevitably a commitment involved for a particular gaming session if you start anything with a group, or even a solo instanced quest. If my wife hollars that dinner is ready, or says that she's tired and ready for bed, and I can't walk away from the computer right then and there, then that's a problem.
Nonetheless, I have to admit that the F2P revolution has tested my resolve, and I have dipped my toes back into the water over the last few weeks (not least of which is due to some of the discussion threads over on the MMORPG forum). First I tried LOTRO, and even spent a few bucks on the way to getting a few characters up to about level 18 to experience the different starting areas. Playing this never felt quite right, though, because I could see in front of me the huge, immense task it was to experience everything the game had to offer. With my busy work schedule, I saw no end.
Of course, a rational person would have picked one aspect to enjoy like the main story arc and skipped things like crafting and unrelated side quests. But I find that I'm unable to play games that way. It's like gaming OCD or something…if there is a quest or a progression path available, I must do it. "Oh look, it's possible to get up to 10 crafting levels, I guess I'll have to grind on some resource gathering!". Just in a couple weeks of playing, I was already planning out which characters would have which crafting professions to trade mats and gear back and forth. And I hadn't even gotten into things like the skirmish system, the Legendary item progression system, etc.
Thankfully, real life took me away from the computer for several days, and with a clear mind I realized that down that road lay a dangerous path. So I never logged in to LOTRO again. However, I still found myself uninspired by any of my single-player choices, so I gave DDO a whirl after the enthusiasm from some on here for that game.
I enjoyed DDO quite a bit at first, but it just never clicked for me. I think my biggest issue was my limited inventory space, and all the random junk I kept picking up that was supposed to be valuable currency for specific merchants (and then when you go to that merchant, all their best stuff is available only with some special currency that appears to only be available for real money?). When you add in the crafting supplies and mats (not to mention the annoyance of having to go to one out-of-the-way place to do any crafting), I kept getting frustrated during missions at my lack of bag space. I tried concentrating on the Coin Lords quests to get enough favor for another bag, but eventually the only choices I had at my level were quests that required groups, and I just never had much luck with the grouping system. I tried doing one on my own with a hireling, and actually did ok for a while until my hireling got killed trying to walk through a pool of acid. After about 2 hours of slow, methodical progress I finally died as well and I pretty much rage quit then and there.
Just this last weekend, I tried out SWTOR. So far, I like it best. Very little grinding. Of course, there's one caveat: you HAVE to spend some money. It's just too gimped if you go completely free. I spent about 10 bucks on an account-wide additional Crew Skill, which bumped me to Preferred and gave me some cargo space, a sprint skill, and the full allotment of crew skills. If I continue playing and think I'll play this for a while, there's about $40 of must-have unlocks that I have my eye on (a big chunk of that is the account-wide unlock for using relics, ie purple items). What really got me hooked last night was the VERY easy grouping system, and how easy it was to simply insert myself in a queue for a specific instanced quest (called a Flashpoint), have a party constructed for me, and off we go. And it helped that the first Flashpoint that was available at level 10 was a really cool story with a neat chain of missions. Also appealling to me is that with all 3 crew skills unlocked, I can be a self-sufficient crafter and not rely on an auction house or playing alts.
One thing I'm finding with the F2P model is that it opens up the possibility of making a series of one-time purchases that in the end add up to an experience that almost rivals that of a subscriber. This allows me to play at the pace I want with no worries that I'm wasting money, and allows me to come back at any time in the future. By the time I started looking at SWTOR, that's what I started looking for. In essence, I want to see how I can buy the game instead of just rent it.
In LOTRO, the recommended path is to subscribe for a single month, create and log in with every character you think you'll want to play to unlock extra inventory and raise the gold cap, and then purchase the Mithril Edition from Gamestop that has several of the largest expansions. And then from there you can usually earn enough Turbine coins to buy more expansions as you go. So $35 should get you pretty well set for quite some time.
For DDO, I came across a website that details how one can spend $100 (about a year's subscription) to get all the best unlocks and all the biggest and best adventure packs and provide good levelling fun every step of the way.
For SWTOR, I came across this site that lists different purchase options totaling $20-$40 each (getting everything it recommends would total about $80):
There are still restrictions when you play an MMO this way, not the least of which is the cap on in-game money, but I find that not having a subscription tying me down to a game helps me keep it in a more casual space in my life. Maybe kinda silly, but with me every little bit helps. And besides, after spending hundreds of dollars on various Kickstarter projects, it seems silly to worry about spending a few bucks to try out a game that looks like it might be fun…
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