Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
How many MMORPGs can you play?

Syp floored me with his gaming plans for 2015 mentioning 9+ different MMORPGs he is planning to play. I barely find the time to do everything I want in just one. Different MMORPG surveys consistently over the years have found that the average gamer plays just over 20 hours of MMORPGs per week. In one game 20 hours per week results in some sort of progress. Split over many games, nothing much is happening. Now I don't know how many hours per week Syp plays, and there certainly are extreme cases playing up to 100 hours per week. But I wonder if the average player even has the time to play 2 MMORPGs in the same week.

Besides time, the other issue is that MMORPGs require a lot of knowledge. You don't only have to know control schemes, but also things like spell rotations, and where to go to find what. I just spent all weekend figuring out the new zone in World of Warcraft. I'm not sure I could hold in my head all the information needed to play 9 MMORPGs efficiently.

So I'd like to hear your opinion and your experience on this. How many different MMORPGs have you played in parallel for some time? For you, what are the advantages and disadvantages of playing more than one MMORPG at a time?

So far I've only played two MMOs concurrently. First WoW and Eve, and then Planetside 2 and STO. In the latter case, both games being free-to-play helped a lot, because I didn't worry about wasting the subscription cost.

For me, the ideal moment of trying out a different MMO is when I've hit a plateau in the learning curve. I might not have been the best player out there, but I had a solid grasp on the mechanics, the overall metagame and the specifics of my role. So when I was just slightly bored with game 1, I could switch to game 2 and engage my brain fully.

Of course, it's entirely possible that the two games provide additional food for thought at the same time. Maybe the enemy is using a completely new strategy while the other game just had a major patch. Especially if you're in a guild in both games, it can feel like you're neglecting one game while you're playing the other. But that in turn can be fixed by choosing large enough guilds where you're not completely indispensable.
I currently have the icons for 22 MMOs on my desktop. Of those I have logged into 16 this calendar year. In the last month I logged into six but I was away on holiday for over a week so that's not a typical month.

In terms of what you would call current, active play I am working on character or story progression or other specific, directed activity in Guild Wars 2, Everquest, EQ2. Villagers and Heroes and Dragon Nest:Oracle. I consider this to be somewhat lazy play and while it's an improvement on what I have managed in recent months I hope and expect to increase my current, active MMO play to include at least The Secret World (during the Anniversary events) and Allods. I'd also expect to try any new and interesting MMOs that crop up over the coming months.

I've always played more than one MMO at a time. The only real exception is during those honeymoon periods with a brand new game when it becomes literally the only thing I want to think about and the only place I want to be. That rarely lasts more than a month.

It's extremely easy to play many MMOs concurrently nowadays because almost all of them are designed to have meaningful content that can be consumed in 30-60 minute sessions. If you were an organized kind or person you could come home from work each weekday and play two or three different MMOs every evening and then play longer sessions of several more at the weekend. You'd easily be making visible progress in all of them.

As for remembering how to play them, almost all MMOs nowadays are blindingly simple, at least in solo and open-world play. The only difficulty would be paying attention to which one you happened to have logged into.

The only way I can play 2 games concurrently is for one to be the "Alpha game" and for the other to be "The game I'm trying for giggles." I just can't switch gears like that over the short term.

However, MMORPGS today are long lived beasts, back in the day, it was common to get a new game, take it out of the box, and burn through it in it's entirety in a month or less. You could go through 10 games a year that way (short breaks between games.)

It's east to try to go back to "The good 'ol days" when you got to play as fresh new game every month and buy that "new game" that you subsequently don't play in any meaningful way because you're not done with the MMORPG you're playing.
I suppose if I did what Syp does and dedicated nights or time slots to specific games or some such, I could play a few. But when I play a specific MMO, I like to do it more than one night a week. That cuts me down to two MMOs at a time, and one of them is usually EVE Online, where action is sporadic and often based on timers that are announced a couple of days in advance. So EVE Online and another MMORPG.

I suppose there is also the question of what constitutes "playing" an MMO. I have logged into and done something in five MMOs over the last week, not counting games like War Thunder. But I wouldn't consider myself to be actively playing them. I am not invested in them.

I suspect that Syp's chosen career path also allows him more time for gaming than my own.
My pattern is I have my main mmo, and lots of other little games I'll try out for a few weeks now and then, before coming back home to my main. I only very rarely play two different mmo's concurrently, like in the same week. I'll just take the occasional vacation to a three-monther.

For a long time my home mmo was WoW, and I'd occasionally take a 1-2 month sabbatical and play through The Secret World or Rift or whatever, run out of content, and go back to WoW. Then I hit GW2 and it stole me entirely, so it's now my home mmo. But I'll still go on vacation and check out all the new games, even single player games that catch my attention like Bloodborne and Witcher3.

There really haven't been any major mmo releases recently, though. Perhaps I might try ff14? Actually, lately I've been feeling a bit of an itch to see what's new in WoW. Might try resubbing for a month or two.
This is more reasonable given what I see as one of the biggest design flaws of current MMORPGs. I feel they should offer 20 hours per week of non-repetitive content. Things like garrison chores and daily quests become a lot less tedious if you only have to do them once a week, rather than every day. For all my complaints with raiding, I think this is something it does right. You only have to see that same boss once a week, and this is the primary reason why raid content lasts the whole patch while basically nothing else does.

Keep in mind, breaking it up this way doesn't even require adding more content in the long run, simply adjusting how players "consume" that content. If you give players a rep grind to power through all at once in one weekend, they are done with that content and you have to offer something else for them next week (and the next, and the next).

Bringing it back to the subject, playing multiple MMORPGs can sort of be a fix to this. You use other games to break up the repetitiveness and grind of each individual game, so that they all last longer before you grow sick of them.
I have a difficult time playing two games in the same week because I get the controls mixed up in my head. Not just MMOs, but any action oriented game. I can mix in puzzle games or other similarly "mostly just clicking with the mouse" type games, but nothing that requires a lot of different keys.

Over the longer run, I find my pattern to be to play one game a whole lot, then switch to a different one as I start to feel like I've played too much and am losing interest. Then I cycle through games in chunks like this. Currently, I am getting back into Guild Wars 2, which I haven't been playing for probably four months.

The above is a big part of why I finally changed my mind and bias about subscription vs. "free to play" MMOs. I just can't put my full weekly playtime into a game for more than a month or two anymore without starting to feel like I'm in a rut. (And I am not even playing as many the oft-quoted average of 20 hours.) Being able to cycle through games every month or two keeps the play feeling fresh for me.

I have also never been a raider, a group PVPer, or any of those other activities that require a constant time commitment to keep current. I almost always get involved in crafting, but I find that is something I can pick up when I come back to a game without much loss of player skill.
Oh don't worry. He'll play each one, post about how cool it is, then a few weeks later how much it sucks, and move on for a while, then come back six months later once they add some content, post about how cool it is, then how much it sucks, and move on for a while.

Dude has to come up with fresh content for his blog, you know?
I've been playing multiple MMOs in parallel for years now, I guess it's something you can get used to. Mainly it's because there isn't a single game that unites all my different groups and friends together. Even WoW in its heyday didn't quite manage that.

I game online for the social/cooperative experience more than anything else. As for solo gaming sessions I get bored playing just 'the one game' and so try to avoid playing a game solo that I'll also be playing with close friends that same week. It just makes sense to have a few options available.
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