Her reaction was exactly what you would expect. She looked at me and then told me to think about what I just said. She said, “I don’t understand why you spend so much time playing a game that just frustrates you, that you don’t even like.”
World of Warcraft has been my hobby of choice for seven years—almost exactly, as the game is celebrating its seventh anniversary this week—and in that time, I’ve come to dislike almost everything about it, from the combat engine to the part-time job of an end-game. I like love the people, but the game…not so much.
After dumping more hours into Skyrim this week than I’m comfortable with admitting, I can honestly say I see her point. This week has reminded me about what I have always loved about video games: they’re fun.
Fun is not a never-ending points grind. It’s not a part-time job of raiding that leaves me with no real sense of accomplishment. It’s not convincing myself that I like the idea of a game, when I dislike the reality of it.
That’s not fun. That’s not gaming. That’s absurd.
And it’s in the past. I’m reevaluating my gaming priorities. I am not going to play games I don’t like and convince myself that I’m having fun.
I am going to play video games and actually have fun, or I’m not going to play video games.
Anything else would just be silly.
Enter: The Old Republic
So as much as I am looking forward to The Old Republic, I wonder how long I’ll stick with it. I spent one beta weekend there, and I’m sure I’ll spend another soon. The NDA has lifted, and I can now tell you: Bioware succeeds at raising the bar in MMO storytelling.
What they don’t succeed at is making the game more than a themepark MMO. I cared about the quests I was doing for the first time since EverQuest (maybe Star Wars Galaxies and the Jedi village stuff), but if the end-game narrative is restricted to raiders, then my Sith Inquisitor will just take his Huttball and go home.
Star Wars: The Old Republic has an incredibly polished storytelling and questing system. Bioware did not let us down in this department. The voice acting is nicely done, the dialogue choices are interesting, and the stories themselves are captivating enough to make me care about even the random FedEx quests. So kudos to Bioware in actually integrating a real narrative in an MMO.
However, the rest of the game is nothing revolutionary. It plays like any other class-based MMO with global cooldowns and hotbars and cool icons over quest-givers’ heads. You go from one planet to the next, one quest hub to the next, killing ten foozles at a time, but in The Old Republic, you give about about why you’re killing them.
Sadly, that makes all the difference in the world. At least, initially.
I got to level 15, and never got off the second planet. I never got to see any of the zones where Republic and Empire were interacting. I hope those are open. I hope there’s some choice. I hope those are fun.
Based on the little experience I’ve had on Korriban and the Imperial capitol of Dromund Kaas, I have no doubt that the game up to level 50 is going to be stellar. I have no doubt there will be a bunch of max level content that continues the class quest stories through flashpoints and such.
My biggest fear, though, is that the core MMO gameplay will cause the fun brought about by the innovative storytelling to degenerate into another time-sink points/gear grind. If it does, then no Jedi Mind Trick in the galaxy will get me to stick around.
In the past seven years, I’ve spent over $1,200 on World of Warcraft subscription fees alone. I’d wage that roughly 1/3 of that was actually well spent, that I had fun during that time. The rest of it was spent on me convincing myself that I still liked the game.
Right now, I wish I had bought a PS3 instead.