I finished a computer game the other day – Saint's Row 2 on the Xbox 360. This is a very rare event, normally I'll play a game for around 2/3rds of its length and then get bored and play something else. Either that or I'll get stuck and give it up rather than throw the controller across the room.

(I found that the best way to play Saints Row 2 is to play like some sort of 90's comic book villain – it makes the insanity of the game more… 'real' is the wrong word, maybe 'internally consistent').

Meanwhile I haven't touched World of Warcraft in the past few weeks – in part this is due to frustration at my inability to complete one of the yearly achievements due to a 'Player Vs. Player' component and partly due to a realisation that I wasn't hugely enjoying the game anymore.

During this extended period of time off work (something that I can see ending soon) I could have spent a lot of time grinding my way through Warcraft, even taking part in more 'end-game content'; something that is difficult for me to do normally due to the need to play with other people – co-ordinating these meetings is a bit of a pain when your workday finishes around 19:00, frequently later and nine other people are relying on you.

But instead I found that I was looking at my time in Azeroth (the WoW gameworld) as being like a job, and a not very enjoyable job at that.

I think I understand why I have fallen out of love of Warcraft – in part it's because it doesn't provide what I'm looking for.

Essentially I am a 'role-player', I like to play a role of a character, my aside about playing Saints Row 2 as a comic book villain is telling in that I was playing a 'role' rather than just using my game character as a proxy to shoot my way across the game world.

In my MMORPG I'd love to actually play a character with a bit of a backstory and drives and ambitions that form how that character looks at the world – When I started playing WoW for instance, my Paladin character was a disappointment to his family and so he busied himself looking for the Progenitors of the Azeroth world, being a replacement for a more normal drive to please his parents.

In the latest expansion to WoW the backstory has a lot of content about these Progenitors – so you would think that this would make me happy.

Sadly, while trying to listen to a very 'lore-heavy' NPC talk I was constantly being harranged by the group I was with that I was wasting time in listening to the speech and that I should start killing monsters again.

It would seem that Hell is, indeed, other people.

In these multiplayer games the chance to play a role is often spoiled by other players who just wish to rush through the content and grab the rewards. Even in a game server that is explicitly reserved for role-players.

This cannot compare to the single-player game where, while there is no audience, to watch your role-play, at least the world can remain fairly consistent within your own head. With no computer controlled character breaking character and telling you that you are 'n00bish'.

So, I suspect that I'll be cancelling my WoW account, as an open-ended game the chance to sink hours of time into it when I am gaining little pleasure means that I'm paying to to work, not have fun.

Instead I shall concentrate on some of the single player games that I have sitting on my gaming shelf. Next up will probably be either 'Mass Effect' or 'Fable 2', both games I seem to have stopped playing at that 2/3rds mark.


The other reason to drop WoW is that it's all about the questing – where is the game where I can work towards being the best woodcutter I can possibly be without having to become a 'hero' and beat up monsters?

I would guess that EVE-Online might be the closest one can get to this idea, but is also another huge time-sink, and is perhaps lacking a little in the 'game' component due to the concentration on the business simulation.


Incidentally, the complete soundtrack for 'Beyond Good and Evil', one of my favourite games is available here – 'Beyond Good and Evil', besides being an excellent game (currently on Steam) was one of the first games I played where the in-game music completely blew me away.

10 thoughts on “Gaming”

  1. Eve isn't that big of a timesink, you don't need to be logged in to progress your character. You just set the skill to train and change it to something else when it's done.

  2. Grand Theft Auto? My preference would be the Vice City one, mainly because of the soundtrack and ease of finding your way around compared to the other ones, though GTA:III is good too. I also prefer the character in Vice City compared to the later ones.”Quests” in the game start off being a bit of a lead-along to get you into the game but once you've done the first few, it's pretty much free rein to do what you like when you like. Further in the game when you complete quests and buy assetts they can earn you money. Various side quests (vigilante, paramedic, fire service) get you different rewards, but you don't “need” to do them. Quite amusing hearing various quotes over the radio saying you're innocent as you get more of a reputation.

    One “quest” is to spent a certain mystery amount in a pole dancing club – I'm sure you wouldn't object to that one! πŸ˜‰

    And it does have an “end”. Well, various ends. There's an end point which is finishing the final storyline quest, there's an endpoint for collecting all the hidden packages, there's an endpoint for copmleting the emergency services tasks, and there's an endpoint for finishing the three stadium tasks. Oh and musn't forget all the various “rampages”, stunt jumps and flight/bike/radio-control checkpoint races you can do. So you can set the end where you like really.

  3. This is why I love The Sims 2 – I can play ALL the characters and control what happens to them. I can develop this one as geeky and that one as unrestrained libido and another one as a lovely child who helps look after younger siblings. I decide which families are going to be a very nuclear mum, dad and kid, and which ones are going to be sprawling multi-generational communes. I feel pleased about my Sim people hitting their Aspiration targets and annoyed when an event (fire, illness, cockroach infestation) gets in the way of what I had planned. But then I also get a feeling of success when the event is dealt with and their lives get back on track.You can also let out a bit of repressed evil… not that I would, of course.

  4. I'm also notoriously bad at completing games, so I was quite pleased to complete the main mission track in Guild Wars: Eye Of The North. I did it all by myself too, with computer “henchmen”, no other people to get in my way. You're not obliged to join other people if you don't want to.On the couple of occasions when I did try and join a group in a mission, there were all kinds of unspoken assumptions that I was not aware of e,g, my main character at the moment is a Monk, so I think it's assumed that a Monk will sit back and heal, while everyone else can blunder around, piling in to the enemy head-first without thinking. Um … not this Monk. This one walks softly but carries a big staff, and knows how to use it. 8)

    One more recommendation I can make for Guild Wars is an unusual one: it is amazingly beautiful to look at, even if you don't have a high end graphics card (though that helps). Especially the Eye Of The North expansion, in which you can wander around, gawking at stunning Arctic landscapes and strange Viking-inspired architecture. Not expensive, either, and no monthly fees at all.

  5. I'm notorious for completing games rather quickly (due to non stop playing) and putting them away as soon as I've done it. The only game I've kept playing after completion is Fallout 3 just because of the sheer size of the environment. I'm on my 3rd playthrough I've played that for around 50 hours without going near the main story line!

  6. This is a pretty standard critique of MMOs, as they all focus on herding the players through a set of predefined content and none of them allow player input to a satisfactory degree. Most barely even try.One of the best MMOs for a tolerant-to-roleplay community is City of Heroes/Villains. You're still all about the fighting evil (or good), but the roleplay servers have a higher proportion of people willing to put up with your desire to read some backstory or refusal to fight a specific type of villain for roleplaying reasons.

    But really, MMOs are pretty shallow RP experiences no matter what you do. You could play traditional off-line RPGs. I hear Mass Effect is pretty fun.

  7. I've been playing Quake again recently. No, not Quake 4. Nor have I been at Quake 3 (didn't like the tournament style much). Not Quake 2, either.Quake. The first one.

    With the Darkplaces engine and the high-def texture pack (all freely downloadable) it looks really rather good. It's still just as atmospheric as ever – the first time I played it, I'd just bought a Soundblaster 16 which supported stereo audio (a big leap in sound cards, in its day) and I was playing it listening through headphones. Now I'm playing it on a machine that's literally 200 times faster, with a pretty decent graphics card, a 22″ LCD and really good headphones – and 13 years later, it still scares the whatnot out of me.


  8. You want Ultima Online… Or at least, you would've done 10 years ago, I can't imagine it's quite as thriving a community now as it once was, but like Eve, it was a true persistent, online world that was player-driven and didn't demand a particular kind of play.Personally, I was a grandmaster swordsman and made money via tailoring (and occasionally mining, when it was convenient), but many players made money from all sorts of professions. Woodcutting was a useful skill (to complement carpentry).

  9. My poison was always Everquest 2, before it suffered the same fate as you are describing with WoW. To be honest i'm surprised you lasted so long with WoW, I played on and off for about three months, and was greatly saddened by how shallow the gameplay and mechanics seemed to be. What other game can you seemingly enter a fight with someone roughly equivilent to yourself, only to be slaughtered at the hand of a purpled up 80 who then spends two minutes laughing and spitting on your corpse…?The other people in MMO's can both the greatest asset and the biggest downfall, depending of course if you are lucky enough to band with like minded folks.

    The only semi decent MMO's in my opinion are EQ2 (now suffering a slow decline, seeing as it's in the order of 5 or 6 years old…) and the Neverwinter Nights series. I have very high hopes for Aion, if it ever gets bloody released in the West. I have a few good friends who would welcome an enthusiastic RP'er with open arms if you find yourself wanting to try it, maybe send me an email nearer the time if you're interested πŸ™‚

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