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Massively Overthinking: Designed downtime in MMORPGs

Massively Overthinking: Designed downtime in MMORPGs

In a Every day Grind not way back, MOP reader Armsbend stated one thing I assumed simply cried out for dialogue. After noting that he had a guild member who used to spend hours rescuing associates’ corpses from in-game disasters, he criticized the best way some MMOs appear to have deliberately inbuilt these timesinks: “We lengthy for yesteryear, however on the similar time a lot of recreation design was created round losing our time to remain of their recreation over different video games,” he noticed.

In gaming parlance, that’s actually the definition of designed downtime, is it not – the concept builders are padding out a recreation with intentional causes so that you can cease your chugging alongside a path and take a break with out truly logging out of a recreation. We could be charitable right here and say that not all designers have that acutely aware aim of monopolizing all our free time with boring bits, though we definitely know of some utilizing psychology wizardry to do exactly that. However the finish outcome speaks for itself.

For this week’s Overthinking, I’ve requested our writers to mirror on the idea of designed downtime in MMOs. Is it a great factor? A nasty factor? A plague on all MMOs? What’s the worst instance in MMO land, and what’s probably the most interesting?

​Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): It will depend on the design aim. For instance, when crafting has every day stamina or timers concerned in a recreation with out merchandise decay, it feels just like the aim is to stop you from enjoying at your personal velocity. With merchandise decay although, it helps forestall flooding the market which ruins the financial system.

Physique runs I really feel have been one of many higher MMO downtime instruments, particularly in PvE. They made dying throughout common play sting, however not often was it that painful when you had an concept of your personal talents. And in case you tousled or have been new? It gave you a cause to succeed in out and be social. I truly met a few of my favourite MMO gamers due to physique runs, and I’m nonetheless in touch with one in every of them. That was virtually 20 years in the past, yeesh! I feel that claims one thing.

Andy McAdams: I may be slightly within the minority right here, however I like designed downtime. For me, it makes positive I don’t rush via the whole lot at breakneck velocity and overlook that enjoying the sport is the enjoyable half. I can typically get so targeted on my in-game objectives that I truly ignore once I’m not having enjoyable pursuing these objectives, or that I might actually fairly be doing one thing else. Designed downtime supplies that verify for me, that second of pause and reflection to say, “huh, you understand perhaps I can do one thing else for a bit,” and so I do. I do know individuals will argue vehemently towards this, however my favourite designed downtime is a taxi service. I like immediate journey to exist, to be a particular occasion or one thing that takes consideration to make use of. Taxi journey can really feel burdensome, however it could actually additionally (if executed proper) add the immersion and the sensation of being a part of the world. Driving the taxi in Wildstar and listening to the robotic cabbie chatter at you as you lounged within the again seat was a pleasure.

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): I don’t thoughts designed downtime so long as I don’t acknowledge it as such. Meaning it’s been nicely built-in and isn’t detracting from different elements of the sport that I take pleasure in. However the second I roll my eyes on the considered leveling yet one more legendary weapon or closing yet one more Psijic portal (purely hypotheticals, in fact), my mind has began to comprehend that what I’m doing isn’t pleasant any extra. It’s at this level that I start to resent being pressured down a path with a purpose to get to the “enjoyable stuff”. Too many of those revelations, and I’ll determine to seek out one other recreation altogether.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, weblog): I’ve written quite a bit about designed downtime prior to now, not all of which I even agree with anymore. The time period used to make me exceedingly salty as a result of I related it with a sure subset of video games that purported to hunt to create a social setting however appeared obsessive about baking in a variety of ready within the hopes that it might encourage social play – as an alternative of, you recognize, constructing out precise social methods like housing, PvP, and commerce that might undoubtedly generate social play, and social play of a better caliber and stickiness in addition. That drove me nuts.

However the recreation I directed most of my ire at has modified a lot since then it appears pointless to proceed harping on it now. So as an alternative, let me level you all to an previous Raph Koster weblog through which he talks about social loops in Star Wars Galaxies. Although he doesn’t use the time period designed downtime explicitly, it’s a great descriptor for a few of the gameplay in that title, and even higher, SWG has each actually nice examples and actually horrible examples to study from.

“In SWG, we have been designing in loops as an alternative: sending gamers out into the wilderness, then bringing them again. We needed individuals to stumble upon one another in ‘water cooler’ areas, and we needed there to be ‘third locations’ on the planet, the place you voluntarily went on your downtime since you appreciated to go there. Due to this, our constructing listing included issues like bars, theaters, parks, areas absolutely meant to at some point host participant weddings or guild induction ceremonies, and so forth.”

Koster wasn’t gleefully inserting downtime to decelerate your development, like making you meditate for a minute between each battle; he was successfully inserting a participant interplay nexus in logical spots alongside a deliberate gameplay loop that managed to really feel freefrom. So once you got here again to city to financial institution or catch a flight or decide up extra missions, you’d additionally cease into the cantina and relaxation as much as heal your battle wounds and fatigue, surrounded by an entire secondary group of cantina-rats offering each social and mechanical providers. Apart from the potential for this to go awry on underpopulated servers or be derailed by botters, it labored on a number of ranges to create social intersections between participant teams, to flesh out the participant ecosystem and create recent bonds between combatants and noncombatants.

Then again, SWG additionally did supremely annoying issues like make you wait 10 minutes for a shuttle, typically with a number of hops to get the place you have been doing. The prolonged journey, presumably impressed by lengthy boat rides in video games like EverQuest, sparked roughly the identical social interplay as individuals who get on an elevator on the similar time, and it’s over as shortly because it started, so what was the purpose once more? Wouldn’t it have been higher to spend all these minutes truly roleplaying or hanging out in a medical middle patching individuals up? Good examples of how a single recreation can get it so proper and so incorrect. The thought isn’t dangerous, however the implementation could make or break it.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX): I play Black Desert On-line, and two of the main situations of designed downtime is from the travelling and the processing. I prefer it. It forces me to rise up and do one thing wholesome, get a chew to eat, clear the home a bit, take out the canine, and so forth. Once I play Last Fantasy XIV, all I did was tank. I acquired immediate queues and since I didn’t have to journey anyplace it was very straightforward for me to lose monitor of time and play myself to exhaustion as a result of all the things was so prompt. That doesn’t occur for Black Desert On-line; when my luggage are full, there’s my stopping level. It provides me an opportunity to vary my tempo and determine if I need to maintain enjoying that day. It additionally encourages planning forward; I have to know what I’m doing within the recreation at that second so I don’t waste any time. In fact, there’s methods round it, individuals would “park an alt” the place bosses spawn so there’s no journey time between locations, however that wants an alt. For me, I plan forward, however once I’ve acquired like all day to play, I recognize the downtime as a result of it’s an excellent stopping level to do some self care. So for me, it’s good.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, weblog): An absolute plague, and I promise that’s not my salt coming from my Legends of Aria CMA. There are a few these wasted timesinks that I don’t hate an excessive amount of if it offers a way of immersion — the boat rides in Last Fantasy XI or the practice journey by means of Lorville in Star Citizen — however forcing me to waste my time to revive and retrieve my stuff just because your got here couldn’t be fussed to incorporate even a obscure gauge of how properly I can stack up towards a menace isn’t intelligent or hardcore, it’s laziness in a skinny “problem” shell.

Okay, perhaps a bit of little bit of salt.

Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): My first response to that is to say, “Yeah! Designed downtime is the worst!” It’s principally the MMO equal of restricted lives and unreasonable problem in video games from the ’80s and ’90s; it’s an outdated mechanic designed to maintain you feeding quarters into the arcade machine or hold you from realizing how brief your NES recreation actually is. So many individuals have solved this drawback in different, higher methods, why ought to I put up with it?

… After which I understand simply how a lot time I’ve been placing into Oldschool RuneScape these days (totally on cellular), which is actually Timesinks: The Recreation. Watch your character flip metal bars into cannonballs. Watch your character chop down teak timber. Watch your character stab inches-deep water with a harpoon and someway retrieve sharks. Even the fight is simply watching your character carry out the identical motion repeatedly, with no enter from you, till stuff dies. It’s all designed downtime. But by some means I get satisfaction out of watching these XP bars refill. Sure, RuneScape was my first MMO, so nostalgia has so much to do with it, however there’s a sure — dare I exploit the phrase? — “sense of delight and accomplishment” that comes with doing one thing tremendous boring so lengthy that you are able to do it higher than anybody else.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, weblog): This can be a trickier matter than you may first assume as a result of not the whole lot that takes time is designed downtime. I’m not for deliberately inserted time sinks that serve completely no perform than to waste our time, however there are issues that take time that assist to immerse us into the world and are elements of gaming. I imply, until you convey us a recreation the place all journey is prompt, all fight may be resolved with a single button press, and also you’re mechanically on the highest degree with one of the best gear, there’s going to be some effort and time concerned. I feel that we might merely like the sport to respect our time and ship an expertise that feels fulfilling and is productive with as little procrastinating as potential.

The worst time sink that I routinely encounter are popularity grinds. I like these techniques on precept, however the quantity of fame and time required to max these out and get rewards is often silly lengthy. Minimize them in half and make them extra affordable, and we’ll speak. The perfect time sink is scenic journey, particularly by way of zones that carry reminiscences for the participant.

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): I’ve combined emotions about designed downtime. I feel it comes right down to a matter of the varieties of downtime and the pacing of the downtime. I’ve observed that plenty of trendy video games have a frenetic vibe, with individuals operating via dungeons like their pants are on hearth. I’ve performed casters in a bunch of video games the place mana potions exist, however I’ve by no means discovered an precise cause to make use of one as a result of the mana regeneration fee is that prime. That retains the fights shifting alongside briskly, however typically I might truly like to speak to the individuals I meet in recreation. There’s no time for that in lots of these conditions..

I’m previous and performed EverQuest (the unique) for a very long time, and that’s on the reverse finish of the spectrum. It was largely TimeSink: The Recreation, and once I subscribed for a month to leap onto one of many development servers, I found that I simply can’t cope with that at this level in my gaming profession. Even on the common servers with all the standard of life enhancements, the pacing continues to be very sluggish in comparison with what I’ve develop into accustomed to. That’s a part of what EverQuest is, however I’ve totally different expectations in 2019.

I want to see a recreation the place the downtime and the tempo are such that I can have precise textual content chat conversations with individuals at the least sometimes, with out being so sluggish that I wander off from the sport to go watch some paint dry. I feel it helps to have plenty of elective actions which are slower paced and take you out of the primary thrust of the sport (fishing, for example), and a mixture of options that maintain the required downtime to a cushty minimal with out rushing every little thing as much as the ridiculous tempo of the supersonic dungeon sprints.

I really feel like I need to say one thing about fast journey vs. autorunning vs. manually operating everywhere in the map, however that’s a specific type of downtime that is perhaps a whole dialogue unto itself.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, weblog): I’ve some drawback with the designation “downtime.” Downtime implies that the exercise is taking a break from enjoying the sport, and I hear it utilized in gaming, that particularly means fight and/or hard-core development. Is the fighty fight stuff the one factor thought-about enjoying the sport? Are we making an attempt to say solely fast-paced adrenaline rushes rely? Why isn’t collaborating in non-combat actions thought-about part of enjoying the sport? Why isn’t fishing thought-about enjoying the sport? What about touring to discover areas? I might go on. These are extra about enjoying a recreation to me than fight. However it’s undoubtedly a stigma I see again and again: Individuals are even accused of not “enjoying” a recreation no matter their hours concerned simply because they select actions aside from fight.

Now, if by designated you imply being artificially pressured into an exercise as an alternative of my selecting once I need to take part, then sure, I’m not in any respect a fan of that. If I’m within the temper to go harvesting, then I don’t need to be gated by having to finish some kind of fight — or fight degree — requirement to take action. Conversely, if I need to go all blast-and-bash on mobs, then I’d wish to go go go and never be informed, oh wait, you first should degree up inn-sitting for a complete of 300 factors!

That doesn’t imply that development can’t have a sprinkling of other actions combined in. Say you might want to achieve entrance to a brand new dungeon however first should gather a number of supplies by harvesting. An natural weaving of non-combat and fight is right for me — so long as you aren’t gated utterly by an alternate exercise. There must be different dungeons or fights you possibly can take part in nonetheless in case you simply don’t need to harvest for that one. And it’s worthwhile to not be utterly prevented from advancing in story or development till you do it! If there are options so I can take part in several actions once I select to, I’m glad — and far more more likely to spend plenty of time within the recreation.

Oh great.

Samon Kashani (@thesamkash): I’ve received to say I’m not a fan of designed downtime. I’ve solely received a pair hours at greatest an evening to get my recreation on, and I’m not about to be comfortable spending any quantity of it not having fun with the sport. I do know numerous you’re considering of designed downtime as sitting on the boat ready to sail or one thing comparable, however I’m considering of it when it comes to horrible matchmaking. Bear with me right here. Let’s take some area PvP matchmaking.

Now there’s a ton of various matchmaking algorithms that video games can make use of, however you’ll know quick if you end up in a single that’s driving your general win-rate to 50% regardless of the rank/class/league you’re in. If I’m enjoying solo or perhaps a duo queue and abruptly understand I’ve gained the final, let’s say, four+ matches in a row, properly strap in as a result of the subsequent four+ fights are going to be absolute trash. If its a recreation with full groups versus solo queuers, put together for these subsequent fights to be crammed by full groups. To me, that is designed downtime. The matches probably gained’t be shut, and there’s completely nothing I, enjoying solo, can do however grin and bear it. Nicely that or git gud.

Tyler Edwards: I’ve few variety phrases for any recreation that deliberately wastes my time, to the purpose the place there’s little for me to say on the matter past quoting the immortal phrases of Mr. Horse: “No sir, I don’t prefer it.” I’m all for stopping to odor the roses. I’ve spent loads of time in MMOs simply standing round, or wandering aimlessly, taking within the sights. However that must be my selection when the temper strikes me. It shouldn’t be pressured on me by builders simply to allow them to delay my progress (and presumably make more cash off me).

Each week, be a part of the Massively OP employees for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable through which we talk about the MMO business subjects du jour – after which invite you to hitch the fray within the feedback. Overthinking it’s actually the entire level. Your flip!