Tobold's Blog
Saturday, November 19, 2022
Finishing games

When I was a kid, an electronic entertainment wasn't as prevalent as it is today, my main form of entertainment consisted of reading books. Like most people do, I was reading one book at a time, which wasn't a problem because I was an exceptionally fast reader. Reading one book at a time helps you remembering the characters and plot in a story better than if you try reading several books in parallel. I don't know if it is because of this background in book reading, but today I frequently have a feeling about video games that I should "finish" them before starting the next one. With the same basic justification: It is a lot easier to remember the controls and game mechanics of a single game than mixing several games in parallel.

Curiously I don't do that with mobile games. There are a lot of mobile games that have game mechanics that allow you to play only so long before you run out of "energy" or have to wait for something to finish. For those games it is better to play several of them in parallel, as you just need to log on and play each of them for like 15 minutes, setting everything up and then waiting for stuff to replenish or finish.

But for the games on my PC, most of which don't have any real-time limits, I always feel reluctant to start a new game before finishing the last one. Only, unlike books, it often isn't all that clear when a PC game is actually finished. For example I have now played Age of Wonders: Planetfall for 90 hours. I sure got to the end of several games, and even to the end of one races campaign. But I haven't even played all the races yet, and am far away from having all achievements completed. In other games, like Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga, I got to the end of the campaign and then started over, because there was still stuff that I wanted to try differently. I decided I had "finished" somewhere in the middle of the second playthrough. So "I feel I have seen everything" for me is a more relevant indicator of "finishing" than some artificial length of a main story.

The matter gets even more complicated when a game isn't in itself a finished product. I still have games like Wartales or Baldur's Gate 3 installed, each with 60 to 80 hours of played time, but both are works in progress and I feel I would like to play again when there is a "release" version. For Solasta: Crown of the Magister the game is released, but new DLC are coming out all the time that tempt me to come back, so I don't uninstall the game either. In the end I have over a dozen games installed on my PC; and while I have this weird urge to "finish" them before uninstalling, I never really get there.

The big issue for me is whether a game is 'pick up and play' when you've been away for a while. Much as I like the old-school RPGs, modern games with their simpler interfaces, automatic journals etc. do make it a bit easier to come back.

I mostly play turn-based games, so muscle memory isn't an issue like in action games.
I rarely "finish" games either. I generally play to the point where I am not enjoying them anymore, then find something else to play; or as I like to change games occasionally, I just realize at some point that I never went back to a game, have nothing really drawing me to, so I uninstall it. (Though I often keep saves in case I feel like returning after a long break.)

Because I found that going back to a game or even just switching games for a while confused my muscle memory, I actually started creating a list of keys for each game that I could pull up and review before playing, often keeping it displayed on the other monitor.

For a lot of games, I use a Razer keypad that I program so that I'm using the same buttons across multiple games. (Movement, interaction, jump, map, run, inventory.) Then I have a diagram of what all the keys do for that game.

In more complicated games where there are "rotations" to remember, like SWTOR where I have multiple characters, I include the rotations as well on the sheet so I don't have to spend time trying to recreate them every time I change characters or take a break from the game.

There's still a relearning process when I return to a game, but it's not as bad as it used to be when if I returned to something like Guild Wars 2 or World of Warcraft, I had to create a level 1 character to learn the game from scratch all over again.
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