Our home access to the internet died a while ago, and once the company fixed it, it died again a short while later. We wound up with no internet access for about 3 weeks total. (Of course we’re not getting our money back for that time, even though the errors were entirely the company’s fault. Go, go subscription service business model!) At first, it was an annoyance, but it did coincide with my dwindling interest in MMOs, so we really only lost out on email access and bloggish stuff. More than once, my wife noted that she wasn’t as bothered by the loss as she thought she would be, and that she actually kind of liked it. (Facebook detox can be rough, but it’s worth it.) I concurred.
During this time, I dived into some offline games I’ve been meaning to pick up, namely Final Fantasy 12, Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume and Disgaea. I have thoroughly enjoyed them, and I’m more annoyed than ever that I have to check in via internet to play some games that I own. (Even my beloved Guild Wars could and should have an offline mode.)
Specifically, when my daughter wanted to play World of Goo and Audiosurf (her favorites), she couldn’t, because I got them via Steam, and while we were offline, Steam wouldn’t cooperate. Yes, there’s an offline mode for Steam, but we happened to be behind the curve on updating the client (thanks to being offline), so it refused to start up, even in offline mode, because it wanted to be updated first. This was deeply annoying, and I’ve made it a practice to leave Steam in offline mode as a result. As it happens, even that doesn’t help, though, since *any* connection to the internet lets Steam do a little backdoor checking (even in offline mode), and if it needs an update to the client, it refuses to work until you restart it in online mode and update it.
This ticks me off.
And honestly, how fantastic is that deal when I’ve got to pony up almost $50/month for internet access just so I can play a game that functions perfectly without the internet? I just have to verify that I’m a legitimate customer and get permission to play. …for a game that I paid for. That doesn’t need the frikkin’ internet. Seriously, this isn’t exactly DRM, but it’s pissing me off almost as much. I’m no pirate, but I sympathize emotionally with those looking for CD hacks or private self-hosted in-house WoW server tech.
Back to MMOs, though, I’ve argued strenuously against the subscription model before, and will probably do so again, because it doesn’t offer me good value. I don’t doubt that it’s good for some people, but it’s not good enough for me. There isn’t enough “value added” to these MMO things to make it worth the aggravation and costs, and that’s just to actually play the blasted things. Never mind all the idiots that are online that make gaming a pain oft times anyway (LFG IQ>72, PST). Or the weak storytelling and stupid treadmill design. Or the atrocious time sinks that they have to be to keep people paying for underwhelming design so that they can pay back the investor sharks who thought they could get in on the next WoW cash cow.
So yes, I’m happy to be gaming offline again. I’ve discovered an interest in tabletop Warhammer and Battletech (though it’s stupidly expensive for those dumb little plastic miniatures and paints so I’m not buying in, I’m digging into the rulebooks and finding all sorts of interesting game design… I’ll make my own minis if it comes to that, thanks). I’m working on my own games more (and the illustrations for my mother’s book). I’m having more fun with my family. And when I do play video games, I play on the DS more often than not, and the liberating freedom of being away from the internet permission overlords (and the desk!) is refreshing. It helps that the DS has a lot of good tactical RPG games. Disgaea is the latest one I’ve been playing, and there are a lot of good ideas in that game.
So when I see something like this, complaining that StarCraft 2 will not have LAN play and is toying with DRM, I shake my head, and go dig up some of my Good Old Games (OK, mostly in boxes on CD, but some from GOG that I never have to bother them for past the initial purchase and download) or just work on the Bee Hive board game that I’m making with my daughter. I’ve lost touch with internet gaming, and while I agree that aspects of the battle.net revamp and lack of LAN are exceedingly stupid, and has likely cost them my patronage (even though I loved StarCraft and played it a ton), I doubt that Blizzard cares about that loss.
So I think to myself, why should I care either?
Aion, WoW Cataclysm, SWTOR, EVE, Jumpgate Evolution, Star Trek Online, Guild Wars (even the sequel, despite how awesome it looks), Puzzle Pirates, Wizard 101… it’s all just so much static now (even the games I love on that list). And you know… it’s nice, tuning it all out for a bit. There are still things about those that interest me as a cog in the gaming machine (I work in the field, so it’s good to keep up to date), but as a gamer… not as much as they once did. Oddly enough, they would interest me a LOT more if they were offline games, especially SWTOR, Cataclysm, GW2 and EVE. (I do love Privateer and Freelancer.) They just don’t offer me enough value in their “onlineness” to make them worth getting riled up too much about or feel like paying a sub for.
Will that change what I write about here? And how often? Probably. I never said this was just a place about MMOs, that’s just what I’ve written about so far (more or less). I think I have some interesting things to say still about game design (board, card and digital) and art (traditional, digital and photography), so that’s probably what I’ll get into a bit more. If I do get into Cataclysm as a result of the Arthas contest, I’ll probably have fun with it for that month, and I really do want to look around at the world changes (and take pictures, lots of pictures) and write up a few articles about the experience (not unlike the Death Knight articles), but I’m certainly not signing in for a long haul. Though Blizzard, if you do make an offline “Old Azeroth” retail box, I promise to buy at least one. It’s the perfect time to do something like that, after the Cataclysm… there’s a strong nostalgia streak out there.
You could call it “burnout” if you want, but I take a critical look at the genre as a whole, and just don’t see that it offers me anything that I want enough to put up with the aggravation or the costs of playing online. Perhaps it never really did (I never did dive into WoW even when I first played it years ago), and it just took a bit more experimentation to confirm that. It should probably be noted that for the duration of this blog, I’ve never been all that happy with the status quo. This isn’t really all that radical of a mindset shift, it’s just… shifting gears a bit.
And y’know… it feels like a weight is off my shoulders. I wish current and future MMO players and devs well, to be sure. I’ll certainly play W101 a bit here and there (yay, Access Pass business model!), maybe dabble in DDO, and will probably pick up GW2 when it goes on sale in 2012, so it’s not like I’m /ragequitting the whole shebang. It’s just time for something else for me, at least as a major focus of what I do around here, at least for now.
Maybe more pretty painted pictures.