Different mindset for different games

I’ve read a lot of times about how different MMOs are for different people, and I agree, but what I am thinking lately is that we adapt our mindset to different games, as well.

Probably every player has found that some days they want to play challenging content, try to push harder… and sometimes they only want to log in and take some relaxed quests, or gather some materials, or just be there chatting. Now taking it even a step further I find myself thinking or feeling really different when comparable things happen on different games.

Something that bores me to death in most games, and makes me park them is endless grinding. I enjoy leveling and advancing the MSQ in Final Fantasy XIV but as soon as I get to the end of the patch and I have to repeat each and every day the same content just to get some “Allagan Tomes of whatever” I get bored, start logging in once a week and… then not again until the next expansion is coming. It’s the same feeling that I have with other games (WoW, Rift, Archeage…).

Then, you see me entering into Wurm, and I would spend hours after hours doing the exact same thing. Using the same skill over and over during a whole weekend, mining the same tile just so I get a bigger number on my mining skill that would help me… grind again the next week to get a bigger number on Armorsmith. And it goes on and on, but I keep playing this game.

Similarly, I love EVE online. I love the thrill of never being 100% safe. If I am just doing some anomalies, trying to get money and some hostile jumps into the system and interrupts my grind, it feels good. It forces me to be ready or die. I will have to reship into a PVP ship to fight back or wait until (s)he gets bored and moves away. Sometimes is the other way around. I am the one hunting, trying to punish people who become AFK without docking, or has too many alters at the same time and cannot save them all.

Now, What if the same thing happened in a different game? What if I were on FFXIV mining or fishing and some random player jumped on me and ganked me? And on top of that, they would destroy all my gear and stole my inventory? No way I would play with that conditions!!
Same conditions, same punishment, same mechanics… but different games. The thing I enjoy in one setting I would never accept in the other.

I wonder why. I assume it has something to do with all the other game mechanics; how it fits with everything else. For instance, in EVE, once you’ve gotten the basics, you are able to avoid combat in almost all situations. You’re not going to win all battles (actually, you are going to lose almost everytime at first), but you can run. And if (when) you get caught, you can identify what you did wrong and become better. Of course, there are some tricky situations, but identifying them and deciding if you want to put yourself into them or not is part of the game, and part of the “avoiding” mechanics.

But is not only avoiding. You can fight back. In other games, as a low-level player, you can’t even scratch high-level players. But EVE is a different kind of beast. As a new player, you can focus all your training on small ships (frigates and their T2 variants) and be a pain in the ass for the big ships. You can speed tank them, tackle them, bump them, ECM them, relay info about them to your allies…

Another point where I feel different depending on the game is inventory management (the truly central theme of all this Blaugust 😉 ). Both in Wurm Online and EVE, I lost everything I was carrying when I die. In Wurm, I can come back to the corpse and loot it. EVE server would randomly destroy a part of it and let anyone loot the rest. On top of that, both games track where I leave things. There is not a single central “magical” bank where I can deposit something, cross the whole map and recover it on the other side. If I want something moved, I have to move it myself or ask somebody to do it (and usually pay for it, of course).
If you had to remember where you’ve deposited each item on games like WoW, FFXIV… the forums will be full of ranting posts, Steam rates would be trash, Reddit would be burning in memes… I wouldn’t want it either.

There are games when this kind of mechanics add to the game, and there are others where not. If you could safely move any kind of item around EVE, local markets would not make sense, so EVE economy would be radically different (worse, in my opinion). Without risk, PVP would be radically different; it would be like any MOBA, or arenas on other MMOs where you get some points,  ranking, and everything is reset again for the next match. But, the other way around, if I am not risking anything, don’t bother me with bank management, it doesn’t add anything.

In the end, I have different preferences over the same mechanics in different games. It’s not a matter of which option is better or which one goes with a better game, but which one fits on each game. All the games I’ve used for the examples are good games for me, and I would not change the way that mechanics are implemented on each one.

Comment (1)

  1. That’s a really interesting post and not something I’ve seen described in quite that way before. I very much agree that similar mechanics can be annoying in one seting and involving in another but I’m not sure I’d pinpoint the difference to being item loss on death.

    One factor is animation; another is audio. There are certain combinations of visuals and sound that just feel intrinsically satisfying. I used to find skinning animals in Vanguard immensely satisfying, for example, because of the sound sample that played and the way the progress bar filled. In other games I’ve found having to skin animals to get mats for leathercraft actively annoying but in VG I would often go hunting animals just so I could skin them.

    I played Wurm for a short while and yes the skills are compelling. I believe this applies to most games that use a “skill increments on use at randomized intervals” mechanic though. It taps into some deep function in the brain that releases dopamine on a success – it probably goes back to our evolution as a gathering species. It’s well-known to be the driver behind both randomized drops and loot boxes ( http://www.psychologyofgames.com/2009/12/phat-loot-and-neurotransmitters-in-world-of-warcraft/ ) but I suspect it applies in an even more intense way to skill-ups.

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