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Archive for March 27th, 2010

Mortiphoebe is offline.

She was a character destined from the beginning to only be around for the ten day trial that WoW offers.  I do actually have a box of WoW that I can redeem for 30 days, but she was an experiment.  I’m not sure that I’m going to revisit her with my CD key.  I find that I’m much more of a Druid/Hunter player, even after enjoying the Warrior well enough.  I don’t have any significant complaints about the Warrior, it’s just not quite what I’m looking for.  So, Mortiphoebe languishes in limbo, last seen in a Mushroom Vendor’s hut deep in Orgrimmar, pondering another Ragefire Chasm run.

In another world, Tish, Tosh and Tesh, Gibberling Psionicists, are also presently offline.  I’ve run into a grindy patch of Allods Online, with the PvP-heavy Holy Lands looming on the horizon, so the furballs are thinking of retirement.  They made it to level 17 (of 40), skirting the dreaded “midgame” where expectations derived from early play are changing, and the promised “endgame” is far enough away as to be little more than a pipe dream.  (KTR has a great article on this curious and unfortunate phenomena thisaway.)  The drive to play, rooted in exploration and experimentation for me, has settled into a routine grind.  It’s still a pretty game, and pretty fun, but I’ve stopped learning.  I’m just going through the motions.  True, PvP looms, and that would be more learning (which Ixobelle rightfully notes has potential), but it’s learning I’m not particularly interested in.

While it’s true that my interest in Mortiphoebe’s adventures has also waned a bit as she as in the “early midgame slump” as far as leveling goes, she was also digging into her allies’ territory (she just picked up a quest that took her to the Crossroads in the Barrens) to see new sights, and the Random Dungeon Finder provided for some new experiences as well.  Tish, Tosh and Tesh are finishing their third area (counting the small newbie zone).  Both have places to explore further and more things to do… but I have to admit that the future looming in front of Mortiphoebe is a bit more interesting, even though I have more fun with the Psionicists in Allods.  She can visit more places, and doesn’t have to deal with PvP for a while yet.

Tish, Tosh and Tesh are just over a third of the way through the game, measured by levels.  Mortiphoebe is just under a third of the way through the Old WoW (pre-expansion, with the level cap of 60), also measured by levels.  I do think that there is a natural slow patch in the midgame that will be little more than a time sink in each game, so levels aren’t a good measure of progress of actual content consumption, but I’m at roughly similar places in the progress curve of each game.

The huge difference between the two is that I can jump back into Allods without paying a cent, while WoW demands a toll.  The barrier to progress in Allods is personal, rooted in game design.  The barrier in WoW is monetary and time-based.  It’s not unlike the difference between a time-limited demo or shareware program, and a content-limited one.  As I noted back in my Torchlight article, I really didn’t like the time-limited demo the publishers offered, but the Steam content-limited demo (and great sale) ultimately sold me on the game, since I was able to explore the game mechanics for as long as I wanted, and it left me wanting more content.  (Oh, and it’s on sale again this weekend, if you don’t have it yet.)  I’m much more likely to buy a game that is content limited, instead of time-limited, even if it means that the “full product” content itself is limited, rather than an endless treadmill.  The time-limited demo had me rushing through, trying to see as much as I could before the timer unceremoniously kicked me out of the game, not really giving me enough of either content or mechanical exploration.

I can’t help but wonder if this is part of why players skip quest descriptions and other storytelling in sub games, and a factor in the “game starts at endgame” mindset.  Taking time to smell the roses costs money and time, rather than just time in something like Guild Wars or Allods.  When you could be progressing and Achieving, Exploring actively costs you.  There’s a very real, if subconscious, drive to keep pushing on, doing important stuff, which is, of course, measured by the Ding and the Loot.  (Including Achievements, of course.)

Yes, yes, I love exploring in WoW as well, but since exploring is intimately tied to leveling because of gating mechanics and the wide power band (mobs a few levels higher than you can eat you alive), I had to make my character stronger in order to explore more.  Well, that, or fire up the Mapviewer.

*sigh*

Lengthy prologue aside, I did go into this Mortiphoebe experiment with the ten day limitation in mind.  The limit has a way of focusing your goals, since you know that the clock is always ticking.  For this trial, I wanted to do the following (which I’ll write more about later):

1.  Try out a Warrior, maybe even tank a little (I’m certainly not taking on Ragnaros on a trial account).

2.  Specifically, try an Undead Warrior, since that’s what Ixo suggested, though I’m not much of a Forsaken fan.  I wanted to learn more about their lore as delivered in-game.

3.  See what a RP server is like, and maybe even write up some stories, with screenshots to fuel the journey.

4.  See if I could run into a SAN member, even though I wouldn’t actually get in the guild as a trial player… even if contrary old me could hack it in the Collective in the first place.

5.  Study the newbie experience in WoW, and see how it compared to Allods in the early levels, and how it compares to WoW circa 2005, when I first played the game in a 14-day trial a friend gave me (the only way to play a trial in those days).

6.  Have fun without drawing wife aggro (another significant problem when you’re trying to get the most out of your waking hours as the timer keeps ticking) or burning out by trying to take it all in.

As I played, I picked up a new goal:

7.  Experiment with the Random Dungeon Finder tool.

I didn’t know that this was available to trial accounts, or lower level players.  When I hit level 16, the tutorial tooltips prompted me to check it out, so I figured it was a prime opportunity to not only see the new tool at work, but experiment a bit in groups.  Those are hard to find as a trial player, since you can’t actively group up.

All in all, that was a fair number of goals I had in mind, especially for what turned out to be about 10 hours of play.  (That was a lot in itself for me, as it happens.  I spent more time in-game than I would have during typical “gaming” hours, since I wanted to get as much as I could out of it.)

I can’t help but extend the logic and wonder what my goals would be for a 30-day playthrough when I activate that key.  (OK, 40 with a trial in front.)

Also, what about tracing that logic down another tangent?  What would you do in a given game if you only had a limited amount of time to play?  Note that there’s even a difference between an amount of calendar time (the clock is always running) as opposed to amount of time in-game (time-limited demos) or even “days played” like Puzzle Pirates’ badge system.  (Badges are microtransaction permission devices that only decay if you logged in that day, and they decay in one day increments; all logins on a single day count only against that day.)

If you only had ten days to live in a game, what would you do?

Tangentially, you can also play WoW as if it were Groundhog Day, and just play a series of ten day trials.  You’ll never breach the hard level 20 cap or have privileges that full accounts enjoy, but hey, if you don’t mind trying the same thing again and again and again, it’s pretty much free WoW.  What could you get out of such a playstyle?  Might it be best to try out all of the classes this way before paying to go further, rather than paying as you experiment?

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