Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Read any good books lately? While playing?

My level 42 druid in the original Everquest, when out of mana, would need exactly 15 minutes of meditation to get to full mana again. But at least he could teleport to various continents. My other characters, if they just missed the boat going from Freeport to Butcherblock would need to wait a full 20 minutes for the next boat to arrive, and that is not even counting the time needed for the trip itself. And there were lots of other features in EQ that made you wait, like a quest NPC spawning only every 8 hours, or a mob I once camped for 16 hours, which spawned every 23 minutes, but had a very low chance of dropping the mammoth cloak I wanted. The developers stated that all this "downtime" was intentional, so groups would have opportunity to chat. But if you were soloing you often ended up reading a book while playing.

Modern games have little or no downtime. In World of Warcraft you get up to full mana in a minute or two, the longest wait for a boat is 5 minutes, and the longest flight path is also just over 5 minutes. The only really slow-spawning mobs are those you need a raid for to kill, anything you are supposed to solo respawns within minutes. WoW doesn't give you much opportunity to catch up on your reading. The only games that still have significant downtime are those which have traveling as part of the gameplay, for example EVE Online. Going once across the galaxy in EVE takes a long time, during which not much happens, except at the gates.

The faster gameplay without downtime waiting periods has obvious advantages. If you wanted to read you could always log out. But sometimes I wonder whether it wouldn't be good to slow down a bit. For example the emergence of voice chat is partly due to the fact that the games are so hectic now that there isn't any time to discuss tactics with typed chat. Maybe not to book-reading slowness, but at least having combat slow enough that tactical decisions matter more than button mashing. What do you thing, are the games you play too fast, too slow, or just right for you?
I do miss all the downtime from EQ. I used to be able to read/do homework while playing it, or even play a console game (I got though alot of PS1/Ps2 games that way, now I hardly ever touch the system)

I really wouldnt mind if they slowed WoW down a bit.
Looking at WoW downtime actually pretty much depends on the perspective. When in raid, and working on some new boss encounter, one spends a lot of time doing notin but corpse-running, waiting for others to catch up/buff etc, and finally briefing in new members on particular issues of a given fight. It is a perfect opportunity for a read, or some sneak peak at some movie etc.
I'd say just about right. Downtime could be slightly shorter, but I find that typing really fast, I can get in decent chat etc while still playing. Though in pvp, that doesn't happen, I still kinda wish the global cooldown in WoW was half a second or even just a second, instead of 1.5 seconds. >.>
I agree that modern MMOs have become a bit too hectic and twitchy nowadays. In recent WoW raids you have to react fast, while dodging Area Effects etc. While I don't think that downtime is per se a virtue of game design, I prefer a more relaxed pacing. If I wouldn't I'd rather play FPS games.

There's a fine line between dulling downtime while waiting on mana regen after a mob kill and a relaxed gaming pace.
I find ample time to surf the web and chat while I'm playing. While you have to maintain a minimum level of concentration, that minimum is easy to reach, especially with a proper UI. If you have cooldown indicators, raid warnings, health/mana alerts, proc notificators.. the game will let you know when there's something you need to pay attention to. Basic tanking/DPSing/healing requires minimal concentration and usually leaves your other hand free. The only other requirement is that your other form of entertainment is "byte-size" and can be dropped at a moment's notice. Recorded TV shows or movies, small books, turn-based games, text chat, RSS feeds..
I kinda miss EQ's downtime in a sense, that it brought a certain pacing to the game, that sometimes was very impressive. Falling into the grind when suddenly a rare spawn pops up and breaks the calm. The suprise factor is deeply missed.

i never actually read or watched anything back then while playing. Most of the downtime was used to socialize, wich again many players miss today.

This time, although downtime is a thing of the past, i listen to audio books and podcasts while playing MMOs, especially for everything "grindy".
You're all talking about socializing while waiting in EQ, and that's well and good, but maybe you're forgetting the hideous span in the teens. Before the Luclin expansion, your vacation destination for grinding was none other than Lake Rathetear. Remember?

Sitting in the mouth of the cave leading to The Arena (because that was where you bound yourself), waiting for the respawn of the aviaks, you had little to do but think. You'd pick up so much copper that it was easier just to drop it on the ground than make the run to cash it in.

And unless somebody else had the same idea, you saw nary another character for hours at a time.

Basically, if you want to read, just log off. I'd rather do that than have breaks built in.
> and the longest flight path is also just over 5 minutes

Technically, you could fly for over 15min, from Booty Bay all the way to Chillwind camp, or from Un'goro Crater to Darnassus. I've never flow all the way from SMV to Stormspire or Cosmowrench in Netherstorm but I believe the total flight time would be about the same.

If you meant the longest single flight path without intermediate stages, I believe that would be the Auberdine to Ratchet path, a very scenic but long flight, taking iirc about 7 minutes.
if i want to read a book i read a book, if i want to play a game i play a game. downtime (even loading times) are annoying. now i understand flying etc cost time simply for slowing down , but it doesn;t have to be much. i really hated to miss a transport in swg and had to wait 15minutes
Forced downtime is a poor alternative to content. Groups who wish to be social will be, those who do not, won't, no matter how long you make them wait.

The amount of time it take to get anywhere in EVE, sitting watching your ship go through jumpgate after jumpgate, is the one thing I can point to and say it prevented me from subscribing.
hehe, the way some pugs in wow go, I get 2-5 minutes between pulls to read. :)
Channeling group blogger subconscious mentality again, T? (

Nah, I'm just kidding. But I too miss those days sometimes.
When I work on crafting in MMOs, I find myself alt+tabbing to a web broswer to read blogs and stuff.
I hate forced downtime as well. Forcing constant mayhem is bad, too. But forced downtime seems worse, since it's basically telling me I can't play the game for [X] amount of time. Like Joost said, if I want to read a book, I'll go read a book without a game going.

I prefer the fast pace of modern MMOs. In fact, I'm looking forward to the full-twitch gameplay of The Agency. I'd love to see the FPS genre and MMO genre combined more fully.

But that's not to say there's no value in slower-paced games. A more casual pace, or a pace that emphasizes strategy over tactics, can be great. But a return to EQ-style downtime is not what we need. The pace and style of play should be placed further into the player's control, ala the combat system of Mass Effect (which wouldn't work in an MMO, because it involves pausing... but it relays the general idea).
I envy people who actually have time for 4-5 hour raids.
Between work, wife and my toddler, I usually only play in 30 min to 1 hour spurts.
Having to wait 15 minutes for a boat would make the game unplayable for me.
I believe that WoW is currently balanced as far as downtime is concerned.
I feel that newer games need to implement some sort of solo instances with long respawn times to allow for some exploration.

When grinding I love that mobs respawn in 5 minutes or less, but if I try to go exploring a cave or something and mobs are popping behind me so that I have to press forward as fast as possible, it sucks the fun right out of it.
Just have to comment that the longest flight path in WoW is most definately not 5 minutes. I think its 11 or 12.
Try flying from winterspring to Gadegetzan. Ugh.

Not that it matters, but hey.
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