Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Games to play less

I am playing less computer games this year than in previous years, instead spending more time on other activities like pen & paper roleplaying, reading, and other stuff. And I find that changes my selection criteria for games. I have a lot of interesting and very deep games installed on my computer, but if I don't play them for a while and then come back to them, I have a hard time of getting back into the swing of things. For example Skyrim is a great game, but if you don't play for a week and then restart, it is hard to remember all the different small stories you were involved in. And if you skip from game to game, you also need to remember the controls each time anew.

So I find myself playing games like World of Tanks, which is by its structure already well partitioned into little bits of battles of a few minutes, and the controls are very intuitive. Regardless of how long I didn't play, I can always start a battle in WoT and be right back in the "flow". Other games which are easy to pick up again any time are the various Facebook and iOS games, but that is often because they aren't very deep to start with.

So I was wondering whether Diablo 3 might actually be a good game for me. I'm not playing the beta much because it is boring to play through the same first 10 levels again and again. But the release version wouldn't have that limitation. And the game is sufficiently linear and with easy controls that it doesn't matter how long I didn't play, I should always be able to get right back in. Unlike MMORPGs, Diablo will have multiple difficulty levels, so I should be able to find one which is just right for me, and not be too boring.

What are the games that you like to come back to after an absence? Are there any eternal favorites you play on and off, once in a while?

I have a list of the ones I CAN’T go back to…

1. Nuanced, technically difficult controls: Like Heavy Rain. I can remember what I was up to clear as day, but I also remember it took me half the game to learn how to play and was finicky even then… and that the game has no save points and will mercilessly kill off your characters and force you to continue playing without them, if you fuck up. Which, if you don’t know what you’re doing with the controls? You will do. I might’ve been a ninja at a game at one time, but now when I load my old save all I do is fail.

2. ‘War & Peace/Casablanca’ games: like those books or movies you’re always told you should read or watch before you die, but fall asleep during repeatedly. Games which are apparently important to the genre, and you know you ‘should’ finish them, but have no enthusiasm for it. Eg: Final Fantasy XIII. It’s the only FF game I’ve failed to finish and it will probably remain so. I don’t like ANY of the characters enough to go through the grind-filled torture of dragging their asses past the variously-disguised hallways full of monsters to see a cut-scene which invariably makes me despise them more. Dark Souls. Limbo.

3. Mod-frenzy: Skyrim. The controls are simple, and the stories are easy enough to pick up again if you set about spring-cleaning your quest log. What paralyses me is always trying to find the perfect combinations of mods. Browsing, installing/testing, looking for conflicts, deciding which of the conflicting mods to keep and which to discard… That has become the new game that I associate with Skyrim. Fallout 3/New Vegas. GTA4 to some extent.

4. Pretty much any MMO after a few major patches/expansions/F2P conversion: City of Heroes/Villains, changing too long between character classes in SWTOR, WoW…“What was all this shit in my bags? Do I turn them in somewhere? Why are half my skills missing? Wait, that ability does what now? Why am I shit at this now? Where the hell was I in the quest log, and did I miss anything? Wait, I just completed a daily quest and got a token, and a piece of gear costs HOW many hundred tokens?” You’re drunk and concussed in a skating rink (these two may be related), the music just changed and you can see that your reward for persisting with this once-fun but now disconcerting sensation will be… doing more laps of the same thing.

5. Games I didn’t finish before the infinitely-better sequel came out: Great new game came out and I couldn’t help but taste it, (AC: Brotherhood) but I didn’t completely finish the previous game (AC:2)… and now that I’ve tasted the new hotness, the previous game is more chore than delicacy. Batman: Arkham City vs Arkham Asylum. Infamous 2 vs Infamous. FFXIII vs FFXIII-2. Soon? Bioshock Infinite vs Bioshock 2.

6. OCD triggers:Any game I didn’t complete because my OCD was forcing me to grind the achievements/hunt for collectables. “Hm, that was a pretty cool game I never finished? Why was that?” *loads save* “Oh, that’s right. Because it turned into a second job.” *uninstall* I am FULLY aware that you can just ignore that, press on ahead, and see the story. Something is wrong with my brain, it pains me almost physically. I’d rather leave the entire thing unfinished than finished poorly. Some games trip this worse than others. Prince of Persia (the one with the chick). Warp. Fable 3. Infamous. …POKEMON. (After I found out what EV points were.)
World of Tanks, for the same reasons you mentioned.
Crysis 1, cause it provides many possible ways to entertain yourself.
Starcraft 2, cause being in low leagues does not require much "skill" to play, and can provide lots of fun.
King's Bounty: The Legend, for many reasons.
Football Manager, Medieval Total War II/Rome total War and Civilization 3. I have these games installed almost always for so many years and always take breaks from MMO's to play them!

The last 2 years I also have Dragon Age Origins in my favorites where I play for a week or two to enjoy the story again and the music and that epic and sad feeling :P
I'm looking at Diablo III for much the same reasons. Played the beta, beat the Skeleton King with a Barbarian. The game "feels right", something D2 didn't (but e.g. Sacred 1).
I've experienced the same problems with pausing a game. Happened last time with Oblivion - and now it's that way with Kingdoms of Amalur.
Lastly, that's one of the reasons I've switched from RPGs to shooters like Battlefield: I can jump quickliy into a game - and leave when I want to.
Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. Stupid name,great game. It's free, no strings attached. From reading your blog it seems our tastes are pretty similar. Yes. It's a rogue-Ike, but not stupidly so. Give it a whirl sometime.
I like casual puzzle/strategy games, such as Everett Kaser's, or Oasis, or Astral Masters. Those don't have any muscle-memory or control-memory needed, so they are easy to pick up. Games like HOMM or Civ are fine too, or Crawl.

I don't suffer from mod frenzy like Cam. I might, but there's an easy answer: be very reluctant to install any mods. Skyrim is fine with no mods at all. I might install one that gives a smaller font, but that's probably it.
Civilization 4: The game just feels like home for me because it was one of the first empire building games I've ever played
Final Fantasy 8: Also because it was the RPG I played on the playstation and it had me completely addicted.
Red Alert series : I am completely addicted to it, once every 2 month I have to lose myself into it for a couple of days.
+1 for World of Tanks
I love this game. I can log in anytime I want, play a battle and log off. Then I can log back in a month later and do the same thing. There's nothing there to keep me for hours if I don't feel like it or don't have the time.

Of course, now I'll be getting heavily into Diablo 3 which means I'll be playing it every spare minute.
DDO, I can always find a group and I like the instanced dungeons
Minesweeper. Solitaire. Tetris.

They're timeless classics for a reason.
I am also utterly hooked on Triple Town, which is completely your fault, Tobold!
I find it easy to return to digitally implemented boardgames (Race for the Galaxy, Yomi and Neuroshima Hex), because boardgames were created for this kind of few and far between session.

It's almost impossible for me to return to eastern tactics such as Disgaea (and most jrpgs for that matter), because the mechanics used in the game are decoupled from reality, and you cannot figure out which was supposed to do what unless you just start a new game.
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