MMOs as casual games

Bejeweled 2There’s a lot of push lately in the casual game market. Initiatives such as Xbox Live Arcade are pushing casual gaming, commonly defined as games that are accessible by a wide audience and require little time to get in, have fun, and get out. In the last few years, we’ve even seen many MMOs trying to add a casual experience to their game.

A few months ago, I wrote about how addicted I was to World of Warcraft. As is often the case with me, my addiction has faded and been replaced by other games and interests. I do still have the desire to play with my friends there and so I still maintain my subscription and load up from time to time. This has caused me to look more closely at the aspects of the game intended for casual gamers.

Star Wars Galaxies Mission TerminalAs I said, MMOs have been attempted to put casual elements in place for years. My earliest experience with this was Star Wars Galaxies. SWG’s mission system was such that you could grab a mission, run around to complete it in half an hour or less, and quit with a feeling of accomplishment. City of Heroes is well-known for not taking too much time or effort to accomplish its missions, at least until the higher levels. And then there’s World of Warcraft.

WoW offers several aspects for those of us who aren’t looking to spend a whole lot of time in game. Many quests don’t take too long to complete. The game has a strong economy and instills players with an urge to get as much gold as they can, making brief forays into the Auction House a reasonable use of a short play session.

Also handy for level 70’s (and soon lower levels as well) are the daily quests. These, as the name suggests, can only be done once a day, but offer good opportunities for increasing reputation with various factions as well as earning a nice chunk of change. Future updates promise profession-based dailies.

World of Warcraft BGMy personal favorites are the battlegrounds. Players can quickly learn the average amount of time a battleground will take. Arathi Basin, not too long, and it has a time limit of sorts built in. Ditto for Eye of the Storm. Warsong Gulch will either go really quickly or take forever, depending on the strength of the teams. Alterac Valley tends to take the longest, especially if either team bothers to defend.

Finally, I’ve found that I’ve been spending a lot of time just playing with low-level characters. Their quests are frequently very quick and easy to accomplish and it allows me to see parts of the game I’d never been to before or to try out new classes.

I’ve seen other newer MMOs attempting to reach out to this playstyle as well, though my experience is currently limited. I know Tabula Rasa tends to be very easy to jump in, shoot stuff, then leave. How about others? What do you play and how do you get a quick fix in your MMO of choice?