Commitment

Next thing to try this weekend: Endless Legend. Yes, another game from 2014. I have a deep Steam library to get through. This is not actually a discussion of Endless Legends in particular; I played a few hours, it was entertaining but did not knock my socks off.

No, this is about the struggle to get into a new 4X game at all. 4X games are commitments. One full game is going to take hours. Just the tutorial was about 30 minutes. And like with an MMO, you cannot say you really know the game after that first game. You need to invest a lot of hours to get a feel for its mechanics. While you would think you at least know whether it is fun for you in that time, you might be expecting it to be like previous games, missing a major mechanic, and otherwise be too clueless on your first playthrough. “Oh, that was a horrible experience because I went with Strategy X for my first 50 turns, which was optimal in Game Y but lousy here.”

I was looking for bite-sized gaming last year largely to avoid this, and I guess I still am. I don’t want to invest 23 hours in a television season or more than 100 in a series only to find it craps out at the end. I am unlikely to start The Wheel of Time when most seem to say that you want to skim/skip several thousand pages in the late Jordan years. And how much do I want to invest 20+ hours to see if I like a game? I have a friend who encourages me to join them for Twilight Imperium, where even if I accept that it will be a great experience, I will be investing 3+ hours to learn an 8-hour game that I might play twice.

Movies are looking pretty good in terms of benefit-cost. Games that do not feel the need to pad themselves to 40 hours are looking pretty good.

And the funny thing is that I love commitment. I want to dive in and invest deeply. I have thousands of MMO hours under my belt. Maybe that is it: after a combination of burnout and disappointment with the entire MMO genre, I am hesitant to commit and get burned anew. I am still recovering from a divorce.

I would pick up Civilization VI, because I feel already invested in that series, but I am waiting for a good sale. I have plenty of years-old games that I am still sifting through, and a few good ones will see me through to the Christmas sales.

: Zubon

6 thoughts on “Commitment”

  1. It’s curious. Almost from the moment I began playing MMOs nearly two decades ago I’ve found it next to impossible to watch a movie. I used to watch several a week, every week, and had done since I was a child. It wasn’t unusual for me to watch two or even three in a row without a break. After a few weeks of EverQuest I scarcely ever did that again.

    The reason, as far as I can make out, is that watching a movie commits me to a specific block of time lasting 2-3 hours during which i can do nothing else. I won’t watch movies in segments or with interruptions so it’s all or nothing and post-MMO I find that “all” oppressive.

    That doesn’t affect any other form of entertainment I can think of. A 500 page novel might take many hours to read but I can pick it up and put it down as I please. I can and do read a sentence between floors in an elevator then put the book away. Seasons of T.V. shows are split into handy 30-60 minute chunks. (I’m not entirely comfortable with 60 minutes, actually; it’s the outside of the envelope but I can manage it). Again, I feel no need to watch all of the episodes in any particular time frame – I can watch one today, one tomorrow and not get to the third until two months from now.

    As for whether the time taken to run through the entire sequence – a run of linked novels or the extended arc of a tv show for example – that presents no issues. I see them as individual units not as a coherent whole. If there are 15 books in the series and 12 of them are good it doesn’t much matter that the bad ones are the last three and the entire arc crashes down. That was exactly the case with Peter Hamilton’s execrable ending to the otherwise excellent “Void” trilogy. I’d happily read it again all the same.

    MMOs, far from causing problems of commitment, seem to me to offer the opposite – total freedom from any time constraints. Barring sunsets, they are always there and if you’re not then almost nothing you miss ever matters. I can and not infrequently do go back to an MMO I haven’t touched for months or years (soon, decades), give it another five or twenty or a hundred hours, then drift off and forget it until next time.

    Not sure this helps any but I think the concept of “entertainment” has become a very elusive, slippery one in the 21st century and a very intriguing subject for examination.

    1. I think the main issue with games and perceived commitment is the inherent learning curve.

      For books and movies, once you already comprehend its language and conventions, you can consume any similar item for its contents without too much extra effort needed.

      For games, each genre has a degree of different “language” and conventions and rules to grasp, and learning all of that takes time. The effort is closer to say, learning a new skill or even a new hobby if the game is structured very differently than other games you’re used to.

      Books and movies also do not get increasingly more difficult as the plot progresses (in general). A game that doesn’t ramp up in difficulty as one gets closer to the end is much less common than one that does. When you think about all the investment that’s required to get to the end of a game, it’s much more tempting to not even start.

      I do think a lot of this would be less oppressive if we could relax in our minds the perceived necessity to “finish” or “complete” games. It’s still a work in progress for me on this front.

  2. WoT is such a weird series, in that its by far my favorite overall, but yea, there are certainly thousands of pages in the whole series that stink, so how do you strongly recommend something like that? The beginning is awesome (first 2-3 books?), then every book after that has its great moments, along with sections that are very eh, with the eh increasing and the great moments deceasing until you get to the books Brandon wrote, and those jump right back to awesome. The final book is amazing in that its 1000+ pages of basically one massive epic battle, and does justice to the whole series IMO.

    More on topic, I liked Endless Legend a lot, because its a very different take on the 4X concept, and has some truly unique races/factions. It just misses being a classic IMO because after a few games, it becomes a lot more formulaic than Civ V games (Civ VI is still sadly broken/bad).

  3. Endless Legend is a lot of fun once you’re in it far enough to really “get” how it plays. But then each race actually plays VERY differently, so what works with one race may not work so well with another, so the learning curve keeps resetting somewhat.

    That said, I think it’s worth it….

    1. Yeah I didn’t get that many hours into the game but I do distinctly remember two cool things about the way the different races play. I really liked the bug people because I would win a battle and have converted some of their fighters into my fighters (which meant a lot of the game I was living outside my means/being penalized for it). Also I really liked the idea that one of the races just uses gold as like every resource, whereas most other races had multiple types of resources, including gold.

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