You Are No Longer AFK
March 2, 2010 2 Comments
I remember when I first started playing Everquest. I was living with a couple of married friends of mine, and he and I got into the game. Playing on our respective computers, we’d log in, get our characters ready, and then I’d sit and wait while his character spent a good half hour making arrows.
See, you could make a good bit of money making and selling arrows to other players. You could usually make better quality arrows than what you could buy in-game, and usually the cost for the materials was negligible compared to the profit to be made. So my mighty dwarf paladin, resplendent in his armor and wielding his enchanted weapon, fiercely stood around while this exciting economic simulation took place.
I understand the need for time sinks in these kinds of games. When you’re charging a monthly fee, you a ton of things that take a lot of time to do so that your players will keep paying that fee. But I never got the concept of being an adventurer who also had a side career in sewing leather together. I didn’t leave my sleepy village for a life of gathering flowers and making potions, I want to lop the heads off of scary monsters so I can get better weapons and lop the heads off of scarier monsters. And waiting around for arrows to get made only solidified that opinion.
Over time, Everquest gave way to other games, including World of Warcraft. And I’ve recently gotten back on the WoW bandwagon and have been busily making a widow of my wife. I mean playing.
It’s an easy game to get back into. The learning curve isn’t awfully steep, the interface is pretty simple, and the damn thing is pixelated crack. I was happily jogging along finishing quests one weekend when I looked up and noticed that four hours had gone by, and I think my wife had said good-bye and gone to work at some point during that time, and I vaguely remember saying it back to her. I’m amazed she came back.
It still has the traditional MMO annoyances. There’s still a large group of players who seem to play simply to annoy other people, presumably without the risk of getting punched in the face. There are still quests that ask you to bring back something like ten boar livers, only to have you end up killing five or six dozen boars, a good 99% of which seemingly have been surviving without a liver. And since I last played, the in-game economy has gone all to hell; with the game having been out for five years, everyone has so much money now that players auction off even the simplest of items for what approaches the gross national product of Switzerland.
But it also has that addictive, “OK, just one more quest” pull to it. And that rush when you kill something and find it carrying a better weapon than the one you have. And the world is pretty deep and immersive (even if it owes a heavy debt to Warhammer, so much so that when Warhammer did its own MMO, some called it a WoW rip-off). And it’s simply fun. All for fifty cents a day. Not bad. Unless you’re that starving South American kid that guy with the beard says I can support for that much.