When the treadmill moves with you…

I just saw a glimpse of a possible MMOG future, and it concerns me a bit.

Preface: My old DAoC guild, the people who helped shape my best MMO experience ever, have fairly mixed feelings about WAR. They’ve been in the beta for far longer than me (good to have friends in high places), and none of them are as excited as me about WAR.

I can’t talk too much about the specific reasons why, but I’ll be talking about it when the NDA goes down. It’s certainly nothing that will stop me from playing; I see a lot of positives in the direction Mythic is taking. That said, the glimpse of the possible MMOG future came from this Richard Bartle comment on Syp’s blog.

Another point: when I said I didn’t play MMOs for fun, I wasn’t saying that MMOs weren’t fun for players, I was saying that they weren’t fun for me. I envy players, in a way, because they get 18 months of fun from an MMO whereas I only get a few hours’ worth. When you’ve looked at play for long enough, you grok the concept. If you think you’re going to play the same kind of way 20 years from now as you do at present, think again: you can’t help but pick up on the patterns, and you can’t help but learn from them, and then you can’t help but lose the desire to run through those patterns time and time again every evening.

My DAoC guild has been together in one form or another since UO. They’ve put countless hours into most of the major MMO’s ever released, and quite a few of the minor ones. That’s halfway to Bartle’s 20 years of playing, and I have to wonder if their lack of enthusiasm has something to do with what he’s talking about. I know I’ve felt it from time to time. I really liked LoTRO, but I couldn’t grind out the levels. I wonder if WAR will be the same. Will I feel connected to the other people in my realm like I did in DAoC? Will it feel less like leveling and more like hanging out with friends every night? Will the server come together to fight against the enemy, and will that realm fighting be more exciting than grinding levels is boring? Will I be able to level up an alt if I don’t like my first class choice? I mean, will I be able to stand leveling up another character?

I come to WAR weary of the grind already. I’m in the midst of my longest MMO break since I started EQ in ’99, and I still don’t feel like I’d want to level a character in any game but WAR. LoTRO definitely suffered from the many hours I put into EQ, DAoC, SWG, WoW, and Eve (although Eve hardly counts, it’s the least grindy MMO I’ve played). When I mount up for the WAR treadmill, I’ve got miles of MMO trail already behind me. Is there going to be enough game there to keep me pre-occupied? Will there be enough old friends saddling up to play alongside? Will I have the energy and enthusiasm to make a new set of friends?

I tend to think that, after playing the WAR beta, I’ll be ok for a while. It seems like it’s going to be immersive enough to help me push through the grind again, but I do think that Bartle’s right, and there’s going to come a day that a game has to be something quite different for me to put leveling time into it. I suspect some of my old friends may have already hit that wall. Same treadmill, different game. Somebody going to come up with a better way of advancing characters in MMO’s one of these days? Eve’s model? UO and SWG skill-based games? I don’t think I can level forever.

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7 Responses

  1. Eve, UO and SWG all have grinds but they are just disguised. Whether it is raising money for a new ship or getting a skill higher, it usually comes down to a repetitive activity for X amount of time.

    What I look for now is variety and the fun of the activity. Fighting live players in open-world RvR seem much more fun then running Agent missions or doing the same old quests, or using a skill 1000 times :) That may just be me though.

  2. I think it’s extremely hard for MMOGamers to, after a while of playing these games, keep their minds off of leveling and focus on what first attracted them to these games… the people and the worlds.

    Leveling IS only a part of the game, but in a level-based game it becomes the part people focus more on especially if their friends are ahead of them, behind them, or if their guild needs a healer leveled for content, etc.

    It’s sad that the entire genre focuses so much on “levels” because there’s far more to these games than that. I think that the first game to go back to the UO way of NOT having levels and to do so in an interesting way will find themselves a very wealthy development studio.

    I like leveling, I do. I certainly enjoy it the first time in ANY game, but I’ve also grown as a gamer to the point where it’s not my main focus any more. In some games, that’s easier said than done. Certainly in WoW it USED to not be the thing I worried most about, but the 2nd time and more through, it’s all I focused on.

    In LotRO, I didn’t care about leveling at all until I hit the solo-able wall in the late 30s. Now I can’t go back to it.

    In AoC I didn’t worry about leveling at all either… until I hit 40 and found crafting useless and PvP pointless. Now it’s all there is “to do” and I’m feeling that weight.

    In WAR, there are 3 different levels of advancement if I’m right: 1.) regular leveling or “ranks” 2.) Renown ranks (RvR) and 3.) Influence in each chapter. Then you’ve also got on the side guild ranks and the tome of knowledge goals. It’s a lot of paths of advancement, and I truly help that such a diverse focus will lead towards people NOT being focused on the end-game and the the treadmill and instead on enjoying the game’s atmosphere from first step to seasoned veteran.

    That’s my hope anyway. I think they’ve got a better chance at it than most companies. Mythic knows how to make people in their games care less about levels and more about their friends and realm… if they can pull that magic off again, no one will really care about the treadmill. It’ll be about your Realm versus the enemy.

  3. Great article! This really got me thinking. My age and gaming experience seem to have made me more cynical and less tolerant of many MMO’s. I wonder if I really do enjoy MMO’s the way I used to when the entire concept was new to me. Well, I guess what I just said can be applied to everything in life. I guess its why the term “grumpy old man” exists lol. 36 years is hardly old in the overall picture, but in MMOs I feel like I’m 192 when playing with the teenage and college aged guys.

    Anyway, the treadmill definitely moved with me from WoW to AoC. I too hit the mid 40′s and when all I saw ahead of me was the treadmill I couldn’t take it. Couple that with the other things Bildo said and yeah, I had to put AoC aside (which turned out to be a good call all things considered) and look forward to what’s new and coming up.

  4. [...] down MMO burnout, and ways to avoid it. Rick over at /random expressed concern that his longtime guild may not be as hyped for WAR as he is, and that their time [...]

  5. This article really hits home for me because I’m in a very similar situation, except I don’t have a huge support network behind me, giving me a reason to continue (like your guild). I’ve only really invested myself in two MMOs but that was enough to kill my taste buds for yet another levelling treadmill.

    I would care much less about levels if the few MMO friends I do have didn’t level way past me in such short periods of time due to varying play schedules.

    I guess it comes down to finding the right people and investing more in Bartle’s social element rather than focusing so much on the achiever. I would be as happy as a pig in slop if I could find a network of friends who shared my infrequent gaming schedule.

    That really comes down to self/peer organization more than anything I guess.

  6. Nice post Rick. I had a response typed up here, but then it got long, and when that happens, YOU MAKE A BLOG POST, WHOO!

    Thanks for sparking the idea though, certainly something to watch for once we all start playing WAR live.

  7. [...] Comments syncaine on When the treadmill moves with…Snafzg on When the treadmill moves with…Breaking down MMO bu… on When the treadmill [...]

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