Chore List: The MMO Killer

Nothing kills a MMO faster for me than a list of chores. When gameplay can be distilled down to a list of chores and tasks, burnout kicks in almost immediately.

Even the ‘best’ games that I’m enjoying and seemingly have no reason to suddenly stop are killed by the repetitive tasking. I think about a game like World of Warcraft as a perfect example. I really do like the world, the lore, aesthetic, general gameplay, etc. What I can’t stand are the assumptions on your time and gameplay.

I don’t like knowing that I have to log in every day and do a dungeon (or several), complete a dozen or more daily quests for currencies I need to accumulate a million of, run a raid at a certain time because of lockouts, get a weekly run of this and that in, etc. It’s just overwhelming, and instead of playing a character in a world I’m simply playing whack-a-mole or checking items off a never-ending honey-do list.

I prefer broad objective-based gameplay accompanying a more open style. There’s nothing wrong with giving the player a huge list of things they can do. It’s when the objectives are gated behind completing set numbers of these activities, then the activities are placed on daily or weekly timers. And despite what some people will say, gating said things behind timers is not the only way to keep people playing a game for a subscription model.

Replaying Skyrim has reminded me of how neat it is to know there’s a story and overarching objective looming over me, but the choice on how I go about accomplishing that is so open. I’m reminded of games like Star Wars Galaxies where my objectives were quite simply to live the life of a player in a Star Wars galaxy and see all the galaxy has to offer. Sure, there are daily quests and specific things you can do, but they aren’t stopping me from forging my own path of enjoyment.

I’ve always championed the idea that a player is in a game world to have fun — whatever that means for them. A player should never feel forced to play something that isn’t fun over a prolonged period of time, nor should a major portion of a game be about having a player jump through hoops they would rather avoid.

While effort and to-dos and even negative emotions are certainly required to emphasize and make those good times better, they should be interspersed with care.

The new generation of MMOs should focus on letting the player say, “this is what I want to do today,” instead of, “this is what I have to do today.”

  • Jeromai says:

    Alas, it seems that a lot of MMO players these days don’t know what to do with themselves without a chore list.

    Either they complain about being lost and overwhelmed with options, then post on Reddit and forums asking for step-wise advice on what to do next; or they log out in bafflement and play a game that presents them with a clear chore list to perform tasks.

    Is there any way to teach this cohort a new style of no-chore-list play, I wonder?

  • I’m going to counter on WoW currently because it has so much to do at this point that if you think you’re going to do it all, every day, you’re kidding yourself. It sounds like you’re complaining about WoW having too much content. Strange days.

    Blizz actually has done some decent work on trying to accommodate both those who binge and those who need a more moderate pace. For example, unlocking flying needs you to run a bunch of world quests and get revered with a set of factions. You can go nuts and run world quests all day and night and burn through it if you want. Or you can do the emissary quests daily, which just need you to do three or four world quests in a given zone, after which you get an extra faction bump, and then you’re on your way to something else. And the emissary quests even last for three days, so if you miss a day you can catch up. Four emissary quests don’t take long, and eight barely much longer.

    And then there are their weekly quest things. Those rotate through all sorts of things, time walking, battlegrounds, worlds quests, and such. If I don’t care about a given weekly quest, I skip it. I have no real interest in battlegrounds, for example. But when the weekly for 20 world quests comes up, I don’t sweat it because I’m going to be doing the emissary quests anyway, so 20 will come easy enough.

    I’ve been wandering through Legion at a leisurely pace. I got flying unlocked, I’ve done some of the pet battle stuff, I did time walking dungeons one week because they were WotLK dungeons, I’ve worked on a couple of alts, and haven’t really felt like I am missing something. But I don’t feel the need to do everything. And we know the expansion is a ways off, so there is still time.

    • Keen says:

      There’s a weird balance for me between doing these objectives at a leisurely pace and missing out because I didn’t min/max how many I did.

      I’ve never been very good at allowing myself to just ‘play’ a game that’s based off of accomplishing an objective in a certain period of time.

      It’s all artificial. Technically the same imposed time frames exist even without the daily quest objective system. The more someone plays, the more they gets.

      It’s just once a game tells me I missed out by not doing a specific task, I feel like I’ve been penalized. The very notion that it has become a checkbox to complete daily (or once every 3 days, or once a week) is perhaps the problem.

  • Bhagpuss says:

    Hmm. A few years ago I would have agreed with this, by and large, but the world has changed, gaming has changed and I have changed.

    Firstly, I’m no longer convinced that having a lengthy to-do list is inappropriate for a virtual world. I have lengthy to-do lists in the real world and the plots of many fantasy novels consist almost entirely of to-do lists. If an MMORPG had no content other than to-do lists it would be problematic, but none of the major ones do, not even close.

    Secondly, as Wilhelm points out, these lists are entirely optional and the way you approach them is entirely up to you. It’s completely practical, acceptable and usual for players who aren’t achievement-driven to bypass most or all of the structured content included by developers. Over the years I have played with many players who not only ignore most of it, they remain unaware that it even exists. Those are the players who don’t need any of the guidance Jeromai describes and for them modern MMORPGs are scarcely any different from those of ten or fifteen years ago, except they have better graphics.

    I like having to-do lists because I find increasingly that I appreciate being given some structure in my MMORPG play. I used to create my own goals and to a minor extent I still do but but generally I don’t have the mental energy for that any more. When I get home from work I’m more than happy to do some dailies and zone out for a while.

    I don’t do the dailies because I want or need any of the rewards they give, either. Almost all of the rewardsI have ever earned in GW2 from completing dailies every day on three accounts for several years remain untouched and unused in my bank vaults or wallet. I do the dailies because I enjoy doing the dailies, because Mrs Bhagpuss and I talk about doing them between ourselves as we play, and because it’s amusing.

    The key thing is, I certainly don’t think of anything I do in MMORPGs as a “chore”. The moment anything starts to feel like that I stop doing it. Always have and I hope I always will. I did once see this kind of content as destructive of the underlying tenets of the genre but I don’t see it that way any more. It’s just another option, take it or leave it.

    • Keen says:

      I see what you’re saying, and unfortunately it’s subjective I guess. It all boils down to fun, right?

      It varies by game how this shakes out, but let’s continue with WoW since it’s the most contemporary and has lots of angles to explore on this subject.

      I have fun in a game like WoW when I get to do the newest, neatest stuff. That’s fun for me. I want to do the newest dungeons. I want to do the newest raids. I want to get the flying so I can go to the newest places.

      Since that’s my idea of fun, we have to approach this from “what does it take for Keen to have his fun?”

      In this case, I -am- doing the “chores” because I want the reward they give. That means if I don’t tackle them in an optimized fashion, utilizing them to their fullest, I’m only prolonging the number of days I have to be stuck without my “fun”, and subjecting myself to an extended period of exposure to the “chore”.

      I’ve tried the approach of just logging in and doing what sounds fun to me that day. The results?

      The people I play with bash their heads against the wall until they break through. They’re off having fun, and I’m picking flowers and exploring the world and realizing I’m now weeks behind them in unlocking something. It’s happened more than once.

      I then feel an increased pressure to catch up because, again, Keen’s idea of fun is behind that wall. So not only is my fun gated behind something I don’t find fun at all, but I have the added pressure of now knowing I’m behind.

      Clearly it’s all personal. Some people never feel that sense of urgency. Some never feel the need for the reward. I know I can’t be alone, though. I can’t be the only person who believes players shouldn’t be forced into feeling those emotions while playing. I’m still in the camp that finds them destructive to the industry.

      That said, sure, I have also always maintained that if a player wants a chore list the game can totally offer them one. Let’s just not make everyone have to participate.

      • Caldaren says:

        Aren’t all mmos chorelists? Even the one you seem to like most (EQ) has one. It is just that you decided you enjoy the leveling game and fuck the end game. And nothing wrong with that. Even games like skyrim have chore lists (Go talk to all npcs to find the quests, I remember dreading finding a new town cause I didn’t want to do that)

        I don’t see how wow has more of one than other mmos. Yes, you have to gear up and complete the questline, but neither of those are unique for WoW. Everything else ‘mandatory’ (and even then only for absolute highest endgame stuff) comes from doing literally whatever you want. Your current issue seems fully in your head, and when you analyse it I think you’ll see all mmos have the same items, you just process them differently per game.

      • Keen says:

        Having things to do isn’t the same as a ‘chore list’ as we’ve classified it here.

        They become chores when they become almost superfluous. It’s like you log in and do the exact same set of tasks every day, or once a week, etc. Having to do 300 of them to unlock a dungeon or a mount, for example.

        The repetitive tasking of “log in and do these set of tasks in order to access this other thing” isn’t in my head — it’s mechanical to the game.

  • Sanz says:

    Original EQ did not have a chore list. It might now, but it didn’t for a long time. Hell most of the early days were spent just trying to figure what could be done. There were quests but nobody really knew how to complete them.

    • Keen says:

      Agreed, original EQ did not stick you with a chore list. Even the quests themselves weren’t chore lists.

      Get a quest, do it, you’re done.

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