Friday, December 30, 2011

In Which Home Truths are Revealed...

Yes, they Cheesed the Endgame. Get over it already...

Today, I cancelled a subscription. No, it wasn't my Warcraft one.

Yes, I have played some Old Republic. I was forced to subscribe to do so, even though my Deluxe Edition came with 30 free days game play. This bothered me even before I began, and this is how Bioware had one million subs so quickly after release. You couldn't play the game without signing up. It's a good game, too. After all, you get to play with a lightsaber, and what's not to like about that? It's also clear that all that work and effort on Bioware's part was for a reason and the game looks and plays well, it's got a decent crafting system and frankly it's not going anywhere, at least not for as long as all those people are prepared to stump up the cash. I, however, am not all those people and I think that probably deserves a bit of explanation.

It's got nothing to do with the gaming, I realise, and everything to do with the community.

I was in a guild in TOR, for about an hour. I joined after I'd healed a Heroic (at L20, so not like a Heroic in WoW terms) and was staggered at just how much bile there was for Warcraft: how people seemed to detest what Warcraft had become, and how Star Wars was just So Much Better. When I suggested to someone that maybe it would be possible to like both games equally I was laughed at, and then I grasped that for some people that's just not possible. If you consider time constraints as a starting point it's easy to see how people might not be able to grasp more than one game, but it's so much more complicated than that. I realise this because it's taken the best part of a week for me to distill what it is that bothers me: not the time, not the game itself and not actually the people who have chosen to play it. I know a proportion of my Guild is there now, scattered across various servers, having a whale of a time in most cases, and that's fantastic news because it means people are happy. This is the point.

The key to a successful game, in the first part, I'd say is immersion. That's why Skyrim grabbed so many people by the throat, you want to get lost in the World, you want to use the game as distraction in the same way as a book or a movie. Over time (as has happened in Warcraft) the community aspect joins things together, and this has clearly happened with Guilds that Bioware allowed to be established before the game even began. Of all the moves made by the developers this I reckon was probably the most sensible, because that community 'spirit' will allow the establishment of solid gaming foundations. Ironically an online friend of mine's first question about the game wasn't how it played but was what server was everyone else on, and that shows how the choices people make about which games to play has changed thanks to the existence of Azeroth.

Then we come back to me, and my realisation that what I want in the next year does not extend to joining other people in a new virtual community. I need to spend less time immersed in virtual worlds, not more, and if it comes down to a straight choice between having a pet or wielding a lightsaber/blaster, I'm going to defer to a pet. I love the Star Wars universe, it's significance on me should not be over-estimated, but I don't want to live there, because that's a move too far. Lots of people however are going to pack up and leave Azeroth, many of them I suspect for good, and the effect this will have on those who decide to remain will be more significant than any of the games that have preceded TOR. Once New Year is done, with my GM hat on at least, I'll begin to see how cheesing End Game has combined with Lightsabers and how this will affect our Guild for the year to come...

Until then, there's plenty of other things to do.