Tobold's Blog
Monday, November 16, 2009
Spice of variety

Let me tell you how a typical play session of mine goes: Usually I first log on those of my World of Warcraft characters with a daily cooldown, like the alchemist transforming a rare gem into an epic gem once a day. Send the epic gem to my jewel crafter, who not only cuts the gem and sends it on to the bank alt, but also does his daily jewelcrafting quest, to get the tokens to buy new recipes. Then comes the general bank alt, followed by the glyph bank alt. The glyph bank alt can take up to one hour, as even with addons, getting 1,000 mails with either sold or expired glyph auctions from the mailbox and reposting those that expired will take a while. Then comes the inscription alt, who will now buy herbs, mill them to pigments, make inks, and then make those glyphs which sold out.

As several of these characters are guilded, and I'm watching guild chat, it is possible that I join a guild group doing some heroic dungeon or other activity. If not, I'll play one of my leveling alts, for example my paladin. But I'm usually just playing him an hour or two, and never past his rest xp. On other days I play other games instead of leveling a character, for example Dragon Age at the moment. Again I'm just playing an hour or two, finishing one chapter or section and then stop.

As you can see, I'm playing a *lot* of different characters and sometimes even different games in the same play session. The direct result of that is that I'm leveling quite slowly. I started that paladin when Cataclysm was announced, and today I'm only level 41. Measured in "level per week" that is rather slow, although I'm probably not faring that badly in "level per hour /played", given that I'm always on double xp from resting. My level capped characters are also developing either slowly or not at all. My "raiding" priest is only used as jewelcrafter or for helping out a guild group as healer, but as I don't raid for the moment he's not likely to get much in gear upgrades. In Dragon Age I'm also advancing quite slowly, I only reached Denerim this weekend, being less than 20% through the game (not counting having tried several starting "Origins").

Now I know that some people play games, especially MMORPG, to *arrive* somewhere. Some people even say that leveling a character in World of Warcraft is just a tedious obstacle towards the true goal of having a level capped character for the "true" game of raiding. If somebody who thinks like that looks at the way I play, he'd probably tell me that I'm playing it wrong. By dispersing myself among different characters and even games I'm not progressing very fast or very far with any character. But, as so often, the "you're playing it wrong" comments are based on a faulty assumption of us all having the same goal. But I'm not standing here scratching my head and wondering why my pally levels so slowly, and what I'm doing wrong. Rather I'd say that I'm playing it perfectly right, only my goals are diametrically opposed to the goals of the achievers.

Basically I'm working 8 to 5 every day, and when I come home I play games to relax. My goal is maximum entertainment, preferably with not too much stress and effort. My periods of low raiding activity for example coincide with my periods of higher job stress. As I put a strong priority on real life over virtual life, I'm rather reducing my game progress when I need my energy for my job, or my family, instead of the other way round. Playing a lot of different things in one play session for me has a higher entertainment value, as doing the same thing for several hours tends to bore me. Thus splitting my time up between different characters is perfectly rational and wanted. I actually enjoy the leveling game, in many cases more than the end game. And playing different areas of the game, leveling different characters, trying different tradeskills, and exploring different activities from playing the auction house to running low-level dungeons brings the spice of variety to my gaming sessions.

Now I'm certainly not telling the people with different goals that it is them who are playing it wrong. Yes, I sometimes wonder why people try to "win" a game which by definition is unwinnable, spending a lot of effort on getting gear which the next expansion will make obsolete. But I just assume that this is what is most fun to *them*. For me a MMORPG is not just *one* game, with a defined set of rules and a victory condition; for me a MMORPG is *many* games, and even has some aspects which are more correctly described as "toy" than as "game". So just as there is no way to play LEGO wrong, you can't really play World of Warcraft wrong either. As long as your activities are in line with your personal goals, you are playing it right.
Hear, hear! I play along the lines of your model as well. I have about 20 Warhammer characters, of which I consider about four to be my "mains" - two good, two evil, four different servers. Don't really feel the need for a guild, I just like the casual relaxation after a workday. The proliferation of shooters/RPGs this month has put a halt to much of my Warhammer runs, but I do a quick check to keep their auction mail current. Why race to the top and then complain that there isn't enough?
I can relate to your playstyle. We deal with things all day long at work and at the end of the day...sometimes WoW feels like work...
I've been making these same points for years! I play who I like in what I like when I like how I like. No right or wrong way to play any of these games exists.

That's not to say that there aren't more or less efficient ways to achieve certain goals. If two players both agree that they wish to get from level 1 to level 80 as fast as possible, then it will be possible to analyse their chosen methods and say that one is "better" than the other. But people rarely have exactly the same goals, and even when the apparent goal is the same, some players may find one route to it to be preferable to another for reasons other than efficiency.

On the other hand I can't say I've ever really had anyone tell me I was playing MMOs "wrong". I've had a few puzzled looks and shakes of the head, but most seem to assume I must be mentally ill in some way and should be pitied rather than criticized when I explain that I don't want to join a guild and have no interest either in raiding , having good gear or seeing high-level content.

I admire your self-restraint on Dragon Age, by the way. I started it yesterday and played for 14 hours straight!
Leveling a character is the most interesting experience for me in wow (i have exhausted the number of chars allowed by WOW for one server, all are level 80 and it was very fun for me to discover each of them as they evolve/level up, to discover by myself what stats would be more important, to do the quests), but I've heard many say it's tedious... probably they consider "game is won" when "level 80 epics are looted from THE raid" and everything between "create a character" and "reach level 80" is just a filler. Which is a pity, there's so much to do in wow besides raiding...

:-) i finished the Alliance side, now I started leveling horde side, to see what quests are different.

But in the grand vision of wow, i'm one of the losers/casuals/slackers, even if 4 of my characters have ToC10 and badges gear or Naxx25 gear, that is not enough for the community not to consider me a casual, I don't raid new content (husband does, so I do get to see this new content, sometimes 15 times a night :D), and I don't want to "advance to ilvl 300 items".

What i'm trying to say: despite the time played, the achievements or anything, I am a (lowly) casual, reading quest text and not using questhelper - because i want to discover the story and map corners - Even if i have 14 characters of which 12 are level 80, i'm not RAIDING :)

I really like it this way and I'm glad I'm not alone in enjoying WoW in this rather relaxed manner (but then again, I'm old enough to have played the first Wolfenstein and Doom... somehow i think age matters in the approach of a game).
I totally understand the difference in goals and am also a big fan of the leveling game in WoW as I will have my 6th 80 sometime in the next week or two. I have actually just started raiding here in the last month and it has been a lot of fun but it means I am way behind what others perceive to be the curve. I just don't care because I am having fun and really enjoying the process. To me the game has alwsys been something to do with my friends and have fun doing it. I mean is it still a game if your not having fun?
I agree with you. My way of playing WoW has been getting alot of headshakes in the last 2 months. Every since they introduced XP in bgs, I dusted off my 45 mage and have been levelling 95% by bgs mostly Alterac Valley. I'm level 72 now. I have completed almost all my Explorer achievements except for the locals needing a flying mount. Now I'm stuck doing some quests while waiting to queue. (I HATE questing) The nice thing is I have gotten quite a few AV achievements my PVP priest has still never achieved. I had the entire PVP set for 60-70. This seemed to make some people really mad (jealous?) as I wasted my honor and didn't do dungeons for my gear. To them I say "Poo Poo". I'll have my entire 80 Pvp set before 80 too.
Play styles are quite personal. For myself, I always try to play just one single character, and right now, I have several games going at the same time and I hate it. Switching between games in a short time, or bouncing between characters in an RPG, is like reading multiple books at the same time. I can certainly do it, but I don't feel nearly the same level of attachment or immersion as I do when I am concentrating on one thing. That's why I could never understand why people watched TV and played games at the same time. For me, it would mean that I was not giving either enough attention to make it worth my while. Then again, my mother does crafts while watching TV so obviously people apporach things very differently.
My activity is roughly similar, although I play for longer stretches and don't hit the AH every day, it just feels too much like work. Sure I'd love more $$ but it detracts from the game too much, so I'm ok taking flightpaths.

Real life > Wow. Thats how it should be.
I'm doing it differently in a way that I dislike the levelling itself most of the time. My clear goal is reaching 80 and then "slacking off". I do join the occasional raid on an alt, especially as I a) enjoy raiding and b) want to try endgame in many different classes and specs.
I'm always heavily focused on one thing.

If I level a character in WoW I'll be spending three hours a day on it every day until he reaches level 80.

If I'm leveling I'll concentrate on leveling. Looking up the min max stats, talent trees or gear I'll need to top the damage charts.

Now I'm playing Dragon Age for a few hours a day. There's not much room for other games at the moment. But I'm at around 35 hours played.

In a way my playing style is dangerous as I know I'm liable to addiction. That's also why I like games like Dragon Age. I'll play for 50 or 80 hours and then I'm done. If I start to level a character in WoW I'm gone for months.
I think its really important for a game to have a few useful and fun tasks that can be done within a 20-30 minute window and where most of that time is spend doing (not traveling to the location, not loading, not queing for a BG, actually doing the fun task).
Currently I'm playing EVE Online and I'm pretty sure I'm definitely playing it "wrong", because I want to explore and learn the game by myself, instead of following a guide with a couple of quick steps to awesomeness.
And I'm having a great time. No combat, no missions, just trading stuff using a big space-truck ;) I have only been playing a couple of evenings and I've already figured out how to trade stuff in low-sec space. I did lose everything I had once, but the player that shot me and my precious cargo was friendly enough to give me some pointers on how to make sure it wouldn't happen again. Let's hope he didn't lie :P
You have described my play style and attitude toward WoW almost to a tee. When I first started playing and read up on-line, I felt tremendous pressure to get to Level 80 ASAP. However, I found level 80 was not all it was cracked up to be. When I did it again, I knew that I enjoyed the leveling experience and the variety of characters more than raiding. Besides, most raiding guilds wanted to do some sort of interview and/or application to allow me in. For a game I play for relaxation and as a hobby, that's too much! Great post!
"So just as there is no way to play LEGO wrong, you can't really play World of Warcraft wrong either."

Well said. While LEGOs and WoW are by no means operating on the same addictive mechanic, they are both very fun activities.

I approach both compulsively. With LEGOs, I madly search for that perfect piece (mmm, the sound of all those plastic pieces!) and subsequent pieces, and in WoW there is always one thing after another to take care of. It is difficult to take a break, in both cases. There is no Tuesday Maintenance for LEGOs, though ;)
They try to win because it's called, by the makers, a 'game'.

You'll notice lego isn't called a 'game' by it's makers.

As to win conditions, it has top level, then it has the top raids, and finally on the very top, getting a full set of the best epics.

Yet it doesn't have win conditions?

How about this. Your playing it wrong! AND the other guy is playing it wrong! Nobody can play it right because it's been made into this frankenstien creature which is neither game nor toy.
I played LOTRO recently for a month or so and after the initial newness wore off, I found myself camped at the AH again, just like in WoW, trying to turn a profit. It was at that point I basically stopped playing.

I predict the next new thing to take MMOs to the next level of easiness will be automated auctioning to alleviate the burden of AH camping. It's a sub-game, yes, but it's also painfully boring.
Yeah, I can't dislike how others play. Play what you want how you want, that's cool.

But to me it's a bit baffling to hear what, to me, amounts to people wanting so badly to get past everything to get to some shiny apple they like to call "end game".

You mean you want to skip the hundreds or thousands of things to do(for fun) in the game?

I enjoy most of it. I lean one way or the other at things and at different times, but I've played Runes of Magic for almost 1 year now, and haven't reached level cap, and this in a game where I'd say the average player could reach it without zerg-stress in maybe 2 months maximum.
Like you, I am what many call a "casual player". People are agast when I tell then I am not interested in raids or end-game stuff. I want to level my profs, craft stuff and make some gold. "Every person plays a role," I tell them, "You are an adventurer out on the front lines. I am support staff.". That is what I enjoy doing, how I want to spend my few gaming hours. I play wow to relax and dealing with die-hard end gamers (ESP the screamers) is not fun or relaxing to me.
I've been playing since 2005 and never really got into end game playing. When I got my first char to 60 I started leveling an alt. I was 60 for about 6 months before I started raiding ZG and MC. Then when I leveled to 70 I lost interest in raiding again and leveled more alts. I haven't done any raiding at 80 either.

Atm I have 10 chars on 1 server. 1 is 80 and 5 are 70+ and my current goal is to max out all professions and get a few more of them to 80 before cataclysm.
I've been playing LOTRO for 2+ years and still haven't gotten a character to the level cap. I find that I really enjoy the leveling process, exploring the world, socializing with kinmates, crafting, and trying out all of the classes. Although with Siege of Mirkwood coming out soon I'm working on getting at least one character to 60 so I can experience the new content along with my kinmates (many of whom have been sitting at 60 for quite some time now). I've never liked the idea of an 'endgame' - initially it was because I didn't want the game to 'end' (that was before I knew what the endgame was all about). I'm not a fan of raiding as it takes me right out of the game. It's no longer Tolkien's world, a cool story, or what have you -- it becomes some weird chaotic experience with people yelling in my ears. Maybe I was just on a bad raid. ;) At any rate, I definitely support different playstyles and believe that games should be fun -- otherwise, why play them?
I'm a WoW hardmode raider and have found myself recently seeking variety.

Outside of the raiding schedule, I rarely do any farming/PvP/dailies, opting instead to play other games.

Recently, I've really enjoyed:

-Torchlight (addictive randomness! Oodles of loot that doesn't matter!)

-Fallout 3 (a story! a non-fantasy scenario!)

-Left 4 Dead 2 (instant action! surpises!)

I really have to agree with Ghostcrawler when he suggested players have a go on a different game for a while. WoW will still be there when you return.
Hey, you sound like me. I've found that I enjoy the process of leveling much more than I enjoy the raiding/rep grind end-game. I do raid casually with my small guild, but we're certainly not cutting-edge about it, and that's usually 3 evenings a week at most. The rest of my WoW time is spent leveling alts, farming for herbs or ore, and roleplaying if I find someone interesting (I'm on an RP server.) I love that there are so many ways you can play the game and still find enjoyment, and I'm certain it would not have the numbers or longetivity otherwise.

Like another commenter mentioned, I've even tried doing the battlegrounds for experience, and I hope they expand that even more -- perhaps including more items you can earn with honor and the marks.
If you have trouble emptying your mailbox, run /reloadui on your glyph alt -- for some reason reloading the UI resets the 60 second timer so you can get to the mail straight away. Make sure to have as few addons as possible to make that process faster. As for quick reposting, I recommend QuickAuctions2 if you are not already using it -- it'll post several auctions per second.
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