Tobold's Blog
Friday, April 12, 2013
Pause-friendly games

I finished Mass Effect 3 last weekend, and as I didn't have much time this week during the evenings, I only played Anno Online every day. But somehow I was repeatedly wondering what I should play as the next "big" game during the coming weekend. Basically I am wondering whether I should continue playing Dishonored, which I stopped playing somewhere in the middle for no good reason, or start something else instead.

I am pretty certain that if I don't go back to Dishonored anytime soon, I might as well uninstall it, because then I never will. Dishonored is one of those many games which A) have a story, and B) have complex controls which you get used to while playing. Not having played Dishonored for three months, I already forgot a lot about both the story and the controls. Thus it is a bit like starting a game in the middle, which is annoying. But I certainly don't want to start over from the beginning either. Somehow these games are not very "pause-friendly".

That contrasts with games like Civ5, or World of Tanks, or to some degree XCOM, where one "game" lasts only a limited time, and by design you then start the next game. Even if I was in the middle of a Civ5 game when I stopped, I probably would start a new game if I came back months later. In World of Tanks I don't even have the choice, every "game" is just 15 minutes, and you "start a new game" every time you log on. The new SimCity, with its far too small towns, then also ends up in this category, you probably would want to start a new city after a pause.

The other extremes are MMORPGs, which to me seem the least pause-friendly. If you made a pause of several months in a MMORPG, not only do you tend to completely have forgotten what you were doing last and why you are carrying all this stuff in your back; but also the virtual world around you has most probably changed, so whatever you were doing when you stopped is probably not relevant any more today. An expansion pushes that irrelevance of what you were doing before to the point where it actually feels like starting a new game. It doesn't really matter where you stopped in Cataclysm when you come back to Mists of Pandaria. So expansion somehow make MMORPGs more pause-friendly, and usually cause huge numbers of players to come back.

I have to disagree about MMOs. I think the fact that the world is changing when you take a break means that picking it up again is almost like starting a new game... If you stopped playing WoW during Cataclysm and came back now, you'd just get rid of all the "junk" in your inventory and get right to leveling.
One thing I used to like about WoW was the Badge/Valor system. This meant if I skipped a few content patches, I could easily catch up with dungeon running for a few weeks. They seem to have gotten rid of that in Pandaria, as Blizzard said they will not make any more dungeons for the expansion. Sure, you could do LFR runs, but no skipping raid tiers anymore. I would say WoW is less pause-friendly now.
I am glad you wrote on this topic as it is something that really bugs me!

There are many games where I get 50% in and then when I come back a few months later I have to start from scatch in order to finish them as I can't for the life of me remember how to play.

I am trying to decide whether to buy Dishonoured in the Steam sale this weekend but I know my other gaming commitments will mean that in order to finish it I would likely have to do so with a gap of some weeks or months between sessions.

As for WoW, it was break friendly but the situation is that if I take a break now I am effectively out for the rest of the expansion. Pity they removed the catch up mechanisms. They are playing a dangerous game though as there are too many good titles fighting for my time that I might just pull the plug and once I am gone I will gone for a long time.
I have the same experience, but I generally enjoy CRPGs more at the start then later anyway, so if I decide to pick up and RPG again after a long gap I just restart.

It helps that I rarely finish them anyway and have gotten used to that!

Agree about expansions being a reset: whatever the problems with that approach, it definitely helps if someone is thinking about coming back.
I find WoW very pause friendly, but I consider the "catch up" portion to be THE game.

The interesting part to me is that the gear catch up strategy changes with every tier, and mapping that route requires research that I enjoy.

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