Deep Thoughts on Gaming: Part 1 – Time Value

Due to a hectic work and school schedule, I’ve been forced to put gaming on the back burner. That’s hard when you enjoy it as much as I do, and thus when you know you have some time to play, you look for completely different things in a game. Also, taking a step back from gaming more than I have in probably 10 years, you look at games themselves differently. As such, here’s the first of several articles I plan to write on more of a meta level of gaming than I usually post.

First off, the biggest concern for a time-pressed gamer, the Time Value, aka “What do I get for what I put in”.

I’ll start this right off saying I have not yet played AoC nor WAR. The first due to an aversion to Funcom brought on by being a release-day AO player, and the latter because I avoid PvP whenever possible. Therefore, I welcome our reader’s comments on how either of these two do on this subject.

A main factor when dealing with gaming on a time budget is figuring out what you’re looking for in a game. You can Bartle Test yourself if you like to figure out what makes you tick, or simply perform a bit of a self-audit. Do you enjoy simply beating the snot out of stuff? Or exploring? Perhaps you like working towards a goal, or have a level of character statistics that you would like to see with a possibility of doing that without raiding 5 nights of the week.

One of the first things you will have to give up when you have major time restraints is raiding. For the most part, there is more to raiding than showing up, killing a boss, and looting. You have to camp spell components, or money to buy those components, resistance gear, potions, runes, or even just enhancing your character’s skill. So any game where you can really only make true advancement via raiding is going to need to be really looked at carefully.

Secondly, travel, both speed and ease of use of, becomes very important. If you spent an hour getting to your planned killing or questing field, and only have two hours to play, chances are you’re not going to have much fun, no matter what your plan is.

Third up, is the ability to save your progress. Think of this as an incremental counter that goes up for say like oh, killing ten rats. If you have to kill all ten rats within ten minutes, that is different from simply having to kill ten of them at some point. For the time pressed gamer, you really want the latter. Experience points, used in almost every game at this point (thank you Mr. Gygax), which is incremental building at the most basic level. Beyond this, the ability to do partial quests or tasks over a prolonged, ideally non-timed, basis.

Next up has to be visual appeal. Yes, for many this will be a high priority, but for the time-pressed gamer they want to be sure they will get something for their time which will often trump graphics. It is a consideration though. The gamer on a time budget will want something that is visually appealing, but depending how they actually play (say a gamer who travels and has a sub-par graphics card on their laptop like me), the bar for graphics will tend to be lower than your typical gamer.

Looking at these factors, a person even semi-familiar with the industry can see that most of the games released today are leaning towards giving at least a token representation to this group. Be it WoW’s daily quests, LOTRO’s deeds, or even, although I’m stretching this a bit, AO’s and CoX’s missions. AO’s missions could be considered also the epitome of this – you’re given your own custom, randomly generated mission, in your own private instance within the game, to perform a task appropriate for your level, with mobs, loot, and size all set according to you in unlimited amount. Adventure, party of one? AO’s missions often have timers however, and after a certain level grouping for gear becomes almost mandatory (as the good stuff is in instanced dungeons). The same could be said of WoW’s daily quests as far as upper level ones, and certainly of LOTRO’s upper level deeds.

So what does all this mean? Well for me, it’s meant leaving a few games that I truly enjoyed for ones that I could play it more bite-sized time schedules. I actually play AO on the road in the hotel at night sometimes, as the graphics requirements are almost nil (my work PC’s graphic chip was developed by the Frito Lay people) plus it’s a slim client so I actually run it off a jump drive. Also, no monthly fee means that I never feel like I’ve been left behind. No, it’s not the MMORPG I would prefer to play, and I play another one when I get home on weekends and have a few hours to kill. That company is certainly making money on me, as a 2-8-hour/week bandwidth draw has to be profitable. I’ve learned to manage my goals into smaller goals than the game would like me to have. One benefit of the playtime is that you tend to appreciate the subtle nuances of the games you play more, but that would be my Explorer-type talking.

A caution: One thing you will have to concede as a time-pressed gamer are seasonal type events. Almost anything that is up for a limited time you will me. So if that Sword of Foozle Slaying only drops once per year, for an hour, while the stars all align, is out of your grasp. Give up on it. Anything that requires many multiple reps (say 20-30 reps) within a short period of time is probably also out of your reach. These are what I like to think of as seasonal factions, in that you need to appease the Lord of Navel Lint of your prowess while he’s here for a week, thus dropping everything else while they are around. Yes, these can be fun, but you’ll only be frustrated if you try and complete the series. Almost every game runs these now, and I know how tempting it can be. I can’t tell you how many times I ran WoW’s Halloween event last year (Headless horseman), as people desperately wanted the helm and a healer is always needed. This year I’ve given a pass to seasonal stuff, albeit with great regret. The Foozles are safe from me. For now…

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Jaded old gamer, and father of gamers, who's been around long enough. Still, he's always up for giving the Next Big Thing a whirl.

5 thoughts on “Deep Thoughts on Gaming: Part 1 – Time Value”

  1. so what actually made you not pick CoX? That seems to fulfil every casual players wishes (20 minute missions, minimum travel time, exemplaring/sidekicking, a well working LFG system)?

  2. My main issue with CoX is bad memories from the tons of CoH 30-40 level chars I have, when I hit the leveling wall. A short while ago I went back and gave the CoV side a run. I found it immensely more entertaining, however even that faded after hitting 30 and finding leveling just as dull as I remembered it.

    CoX does have Badges, which allow for my desired short term play but I didn’t find it to lead to prolonged gameplay. My chosen game of short-term Real Gaming is currently LOTRO, as I can either grind out a deed somewhere, or craft, or work on quests/books even with an hour to play and still feel like I’m making some progress.

    I’ve been following CoX, and gave it strong consideration when trying to figure out what game to play at home (because AO just isn’t good enough). LOTRO had more to offer, plus is graphically more pleasing. CoX is fantastic in choices for characters, but beyond that more bland.

    The look of the games is actually my next planned topic…

  3. Console games would be more in line for your time schedule in my opinion.
    LOTRO or ANY MMO for that matter will start to get old when you find with that time constraint you are limited to a multitude of “Kill 10x” quests or “Fetch me this boy” type of gaming..
    Guild Wars may be a feasible option due to it’s quick play style, and the fact you can do ANY mission without grouping (thanks to the Heroes/Henchmen system) and the missions even in groups take no more than an hour to do..
    And the reward is quick and easy!
    Did I mention it looks better than LOTRO? or Most MMO’s today (besides Conan and Eve).

  4. Two items –

    First of all, in response to RedW, CoX should be considered as an option for the gamer with limited time. I did enjoy time in the game, and spent 8 fairly happy months in it, plus a few months sporatically later. LoTRO on the other hand I spent 60 days, and thus it was “newer” and had more to offer. Plus it still has the best character creation engine available in gaming (rivaled perhaps by Spore).

    Secondly, to Openedge, I tend to mostly game on my DS these days on the road. That said, there is that element of other people missing that I really need to enjoy a game. Even in the vast barrenness that AO is (you can play for hours without seeing another person), I still really need that touch base of other humans to ground myself. I am, in this way, addicted to MMORPGs. The interaction of the game is much more to me than the game itself. Socializer mentality.

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