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…