I’ve noticed a theme in the comments here and on other sites regarding the productive use of time when playing MMORPGs. There’s a tendency for people to say something like, “I want to feel like I’ve achieved something.” Players want to log in and know that what they did meant something. No one wants to feel like they have wasted their time. However, I think the way in which we perceive progress or achievement has drastically lost focus.
Back in the days of the original EverQuest, or even a few months ago when I played again, I could log in and technically lose experience yet still feel like I made progress. Progress wasn’t just about leveling up or getting better loot. Traveling was an accomplishment. Meeting someone new was progress. Progress wasn’t measured in huge leaps, but in tiny little steps.
Part of the problem is the ease of which we progress in modern MMOs. Leveling up from 1-50 takes a couple weeks at most for the average player. I remember spending 6 months leveling up in EverQuest, and I was one of the fast ones soloing my entire way there on a Necromancer. When you consider your time spend as a journey, and not a sprint, it’s okay to log in some days and perhaps appear to make no progress. Chances are you’ve taken steps toward unlocking the ability to progress.
Then there’s the other perspective I have come to know quite well these past few months; it’s okay to just play the game and have fun. I know to some people making progress is fun, but what happened to just “playing” the game and feeling satisfied? This goes hand-in-hand with what I’ve been talking about these last few days. There’s a pervasive mentality out there trying to convince people that unless they are the best raider, the best PvPer, always leveling up, always moving (like a fish) then they are somehow drowning and going to die. It’s okay to act like a hobbit and kick back, relax, and enjoy the scenery!
Many of you agree with me that although this problem rests on the shoulders of the player, we have to acknowledge the fact that games these days are being designed to encourage people to move faster, consume more, and go in a straight line. Games like EQN Landmark are going to start challenging some of those tropes for the MMO industry like Minecraft did for others. But such a big jump is going to be a disconnect for a lot of people. I feel like we’ll need a smaller more gradual step to reintroduce the idea of ‘existing’ in a world rather than ‘playing through it’ as fast as possible.
Everything here ultimately boils down to gameplay that, no matter what it involves, makes the player feel accomplished. Whether it’s decorating a house or killing a dragon, leveling up or riding a boat, finding a sword or dying a horrible death, these things have to be independently unique and fulfilling experiences.