In my last post I went over the main reasons I can never seriously play LOTRO, or any grindy MMO again and whilst it’s all very well for me to say what I hated about LOTRO maybe I should balance that out by telling you what makes me not only want to play a game but then come back to play again and again.
The answer, it turns out, is simple. Fun. Just pure, unadulterated fun. And if a game isn’t providing me with fun then I have to ask myself what the hell is the point in playing it, which seems to be a point of view Arenanet agrees with
But what, for me at least, makes a game fun? Well now that is a question that can’t be answered so simply but being the brave little soldier I am, I’ll try
Tell me a story…
First off I need a story. I’m a narrative driven lad and I can’t tell you how many games I’ve dismissed lately because their stories were either weak or sounded far too generic. LOTRO obviously had a huge advantage with me here because I’ve been in love with Middle Earth since reading LotR when I was about 13 but even when it came to GW2 I have to say I was very sceptical. Every time I heard about the game, every fan blog post or podcast that joked about its release date just reconfirmed what I thought to myself – it sounded like yet another cookie cutter fantasy game that would annoy me for poorly mimicking Tolkien. Yet something kept dragging me back, kept pulling my attention towards the game. Eventually it was Rubi Bayer’s enthusiasm in the Massively Speaking podcast that convinced me to actually look into the game seriously and almost straight away I loved what I read – here was a game who’s designers not only wanted to make it fun but wanted to pour in enough lore to sink several other lesser MMOs. I found myself suddenly falling in love with a whole new world.
Let me play, not think…
After a story I need easy gameplay. I don’t mean some kind of dumbed down system but rather an intuitive experience that is easy to learn and soon becomes second nature. The control system for Left 4 Dead 2 is a dream – it vanishes into the background and just lets me play. At the other end of the scale is the Legendary Item system in LOTRO which just leaves me scratching my head and feeling very, very frustrated. Somewhere in between is nice – the skills system in GW2 recently went from (for me at least) a big old mess of “choose anything y’all!” to a much-easier-to-understand-without-spending-hours-searching-wikis-and-forums tree system. I like that. It is powerful yet I can instantly understand it and not break my play-fun-headspace in the way that even thinking about LOTRO’s LIs does.
I vant to be alone, dharlinks…
Next I need to be alone. I want to be able to play the damn game alone. But I also want to be able to group dead easily. A contradiction I know, but one that I know I’m not alone in. I loved the group play in Left 4 Dead (ignoring the arseholes you could get stuck with), found things a little more restrictive and forced in LOTRO and breathed a sigh of relief when I played GW2. Grouping just works in GW2 so well! From formal guild membership to totally ad hoc quest groups, it is just a dream to join up and play with other people. My only note of worry about GW2 so far is about how bloody hard it can be to tackle some things on your own and make no mistake, I like to play on my own. I have kids, limited playtime, my own goals and a grasshopper mind and these things can make playing in a group a pain. I don’t always want to run with everyone else into a cave, I might want to explore the hills above instead and any game that wants to draw me in forever had better understand that. Give me a way to complete the whole damn thing on my own because I guarantee you that 99% of the time that’s *exactly* how I’ll be playing. I have lost count of how many times I simply couldn’t finish quests in LOTRO without asking kin mates for help and every damn time I felt cheated because these very nice people would come over to help with their level capped engines of destruction and reduce my experience of the quest to that of a spectator and that is not fun. Hell, why would I even buy a game I have no hope of being able to play?
Hell is other people…
Another not fun thing is other people, or rather the kind of knobends computer games seem to attract in abundance. One thing I always loved about LOTRO and have almost always hated in Left 4 Dead is the other players. In LOTRO I found a mature & intelligent community seemingly always willing to answer questions no matter how newbie they were. L4D2, on the other thumbless & rotting hand, seems to be infested with pricks. Still, it does mean when you find some good people you stick together for dear life, but that’s hardly a selling point is it. What I’m hoping GW2 manages to achieve is to take the freedom of L4D’s grouping and maintain the decency of LOTRO’s community and if it manages that then I think it will be one hell of a multilayer experience. *crosses fingers and prays to the gods of good friends*
You grind me right down, right down like a record baby…
Speaking of LOTRO and all things not fun, do I need to mention grind again? No, thought not. Still, whilst I may not mention grind I still have to explain what I want to see in its place. For kill deeds I don’t want to kill 300 bloody spiders, I want to tackle a quest chain that leads to a spider queen! For skills I don’t want to find glorified goblin toilet paper (ssorry, missing book pages) by killing 600 orcs, I want to break into a library and steal books! For reputation I don’t want to collect 400 shiny stones from 1,000 piles of recently slaughtered lizard guts, I want to save the chieftan’s daughter from a bloody scary witch’s tower! GIVE ME STORY, NOT GRIND! Make me feel like I’m a hero, not a street cleaner. Jesus H Presley people! If you ever, EVER ask me to waste my time again I’m gone. If, on the other hand, you offer fun, interesting quests and storylines I can feel involved in I will sit on your lap and stroke your luxuriant beard until the cows some home. Grind bad, play good – it is that bloody simple and GW2 gets it.
Do you know what the biggest reason me for never paying an MMO up until last May was? No, of course you don’t, you hardly know me after all but let’s pretend you all guessed correctly and at the same time. Yes, that’s right you clever lot! Monthly subscription fees! Now a tenner a month isn’t much and has always been within my budget (even after kids came along and
ruined my whole life blessed me with their sunshine) yet I could never, ever bring myself to consider paying every month for a game. I only took the punt on LOTRO after finding out it was free and even though I bought the 12 month subscription I never counted this as a recurring fee because it just feel like paying for the game. If Turbine hadn’t totally pissed me off with a stupid combination of grind and greed then I would have happily paid another £100 last month, but their loss is my gain and now I have been shown the light by Arenanet it will have to be a very special game indeed that sees me ever, EVER pay more than once to play it.
Greed is so not good…
Did I mention ‘greed’ in that last part? Why yes, I do believe I did. Look dear game companies I totally understand you have to make a profit but when that desire to make money spills over into the realms of pure, naked corporate greed then I’m off. I am *not* a walking wallet for you to dip your hands into at every opportunity and selling me a feature that I feel you should have included into the game is the surest way to piss me off royally (*cough* LOTRO *cough*). Now I have no idea how this is going to work in GW2 but my hope is they put enough items in the shops (both important & fluff) that I want to buy from it without pulling a cheap, shitty stunt like the LOTRO wallet scam. Don’t rip me off and you’ll find more of my disposable income is predisposed to you (see what I did there?).
TL/DR (What do you mean you didn’t read the rest, you rude swines!)
So, there you have it. Just make your one-off purchase intuitive games full of fun, story driven adventures that I can complete on my own or with other friendly people with occasional trips to the cash shop for fun items rather than outright system improvements and I’m all yours, oiled and ready in your tent. Oh, and don’t ever, EVER make me grind. You wouldn’t like me when I grind.