This morning I am struggling more than a tiny bit to stay focused long enough to actually write up a blog post. I feel like this is a side effect of my odd night. Firstly I was feeling extremely drowsy last night, so I had a few cups of coffee… which never fully woke me out of my slumber. What it did however is make me completely oblivion to the fact that it is past midnight and I was not in bed yet. Combine this with the fact that my wife woke me up in the middle of the night over essentially nothing, and we have a recipe for a groggy Bel. Here is hoping that I can focus long enough to make something intelligible.
My post about being a content locust the other day, made me sit down and think. I am sure I have a bunch of friends who simply do not understand why I and a lot of my friends jump games so regularly. This is going to be my attempt to understand why the process is so alluring. Basically launch day is like Christmas morning for me… the game is so full of possibility. Everything is new, or at least new enough to lure me into a feeling of being on some grand exploration. The dungeons are all new, and there are no real guides to get in the way of figuring things out yourself. Every mob pull is unexpected, every level gained a treasure waiting to be opened as you find out what new abilities you get to play with.
The other thing that makes a game launch absolutely intoxicating is the fact that EVERYONE is playing it. Everywhere you turn there is a viable group combination, and everyone is excited to be doing them. Guild chat teems with “do you want to run X dungeon?” and a chorus of “hell yes we do!”. Everyone is excitedly talking about this thing they found or this trick they just learned. Lunchtime becomes a discussion of specs and strategy, and every single person is looking forward to getting home and logging into the game to experience more of it. The launch of a game is like a massive sugar rush where everything is sunshine, rainbows and magical flying ponies.
Like any good sugar rush… you know there is a crash coming, but at the time you simply do not give a shit because it is just so pure and enjoyable. The problem is… an amazing game experience causes each of us to play in ways that are simply unsustainable for the long run. We might neglect to do this or that chore, knowing that eventually this will snowball and become a weekend we have to be COMPLETELY offline to take care of. Additionally we are all logging hours in a mad push to keep up with each other as we barrel through the content at breakneck speeds in search of the next new game high.
When the crash comes… it is sudden. We go from 30 players online one night, to 15, to 5… as everyone falls into recovery mode. Some recover their gusto for the game experience a few days or even a week later… but others still are just spent from the climb. Now is the point that the reality of the game sets in. As a player you start to notice the features that don’t work quite right, or are generally short sighted or outright missing. You start to complain politely that the company is not addressing whatever dire need you feel is there. Finally the feedback loop of players starts to become a chorus… and ultimately a handful of players will determine the game is unplayable and move on.
The Feet Draggers
In every game launch, there are a handful of friends that for whatever reason will not allow themselves to commit and jump head first into a new game experience. They have all manner of reservations, namely that folks will not stick with this one… but in essence they are missing the point. We are not necessarily looking for the next hundred year game… I think most of us are chasing the high of the launch. Launching a game is extremely intoxicating… everything is fresh and new and unsullied… and jumping into that experience is unlike anything else in gaming. Those timid souls who watch on the side lines, until seeing their friends having so much fun becomes unbearable… they are ultimately missing the best part of the game experience.
By the time they commit and download the game… they have missed the game in its heyday if you will. They have missed the times when everyone is excited to be doing something, even to the point of begging to do it. They have missed a time when we did not quite yet have figured out what spec did what, and what ability worked the best. They have missed a time when every loot drop was full of possibility, and we never knew what wonder might be lurking around the corner. They have to become excited in a time period when everyone in the guild surrounding them is becoming progressingly less excited.
I always feel the worst for the feet draggers. They are sold a tale of an undiscovered continent, but by the time they actually commit to getting the game they are delivered a depleted territory instead. I have a number of friends who will hem-haw and drag their feet trying to keep from committing to anything new that comes around the corner…. only to eventually end up buying it and wondering where the magic went. The magic is always spent in the hazy days of launch and the weeks leading past it, and that experience where everything literally IS magic and new… is worth any sticker price.
After the initial wave of pioneers have faded away, or at least returned to sustainable play times… we have a period of the guild that I like to refer to “Pax Guildana”. A quiet peaceful time when those of us who enjoy soloing, cast off the flurry of activity that a launch brings on and return to piddling around with some friendly guild chat to bind us together. This is the quiet after the storm, and usually remains this way until the excitement builds about a brand new launch on the horizon. As much as I love the thrill of being a pioneer into a brand new game world… I like this as well. I like logging in to a peaceful and friendly guild chat, not really knowing what I am going to do that night… but more than likely doing something completely devoid of stress.
Dungeons and group activity still happens, but more out of a sense of needing to get someone this or that thing… or through a quest, than out of the sheer excitement of doing them. Then one day someone comes to guildchat, talking about how they have discovered some new and amazing continent littered with riches everywhere the eye can see… and the process begins to build again. The first waves of scouts leave the mainland and soon after the second and third waves are off exploring this new land, plundering its bounty. This of course… leaves only the foot draggers to hold down the fort hoping that the excitement will return. If the basecamp was built well enough… folks often WILL return… but not in every case.
For me right now, Rift is my home base and Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn my forward camp. I can say that my intent is to keep it this way… but at no time can I ever really say for certain how things will change. Sometimes the forward camp becomes the new home… and we discover a new territory on the horizon. Other times we fall back to home only to find out the new territory was fallow and uninhabitable. For the time being, my intent is to play these two games and enjoy each of them as much as I can. However with so many games on the horizon… at least one of them… Elder Scrolls Online… a game I have been anxiously awaiting for what feels like years. I am not sure if Final Fantasy will become the new home, and we will embark from it for the shores of Tamriel… or if that adventure will be sent out from Telara.
Regardless of from where the ships launch, I know that they WILL launch… and likely launch again for Wildstar. As much as I try and claim that I don’t have interest in a certain game… I too often get caught up in the thrall of the addictive nature of a big game launch. Having seen these events play out all too many times… it is just too enticing to not join in the fun. As always I feel horrible for the foot draggers… because they never get to experience a game in its purest form… but instead are always resigned to get the slightly used version of the game in the process. I keep thinking one of these days… one of these games they will get hooked on the launch process as well because they will jump into it whole heartedly with no reservations. It will only be then, that they truly understand why people jump from game to game.
Well I need to get on the road, but before doing so I need to pack my laptop and feed the animals. This Friday I have traded the super awkward coffee for a super awkward meeting. Not terribly looking forward to it, but we must do what we must do. I hope you all have a great weekend. Tonight I will be participating in something NDA restricted, so tomorrow morning I will have to come up with something interesting to say… that is in no way related to what I did last night. Hopefully inspiration will find me between now and then.