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Reader Comments (58)

Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 11:05AM Jef Reahard said

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@Shirogetsune

It's a mix of both, imo. More people sticking with a particular game lessens the perceived anonymity, which in turn makes for more agreeable company.

I'm not really blaming anyone per se (or if I am, I'm also blaming myself since I put most hoppers to shame with my gaming infidelity), I'm just laying it out there as part of the cause.
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Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 11:11AM Shirogetsune said

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@Beau Hindman

I guess I don't remember EQ that well, since I was around 16 when I started playing it and stopped 3 years later. The cave in EC was a common gathering grounds, but I suppose I don't remember a huge case of zone or world(did they even have world chat?) jerks making the game unpleasant. Regardless, that's just my experience. I don't remember the jerks like we have today until I started World of Warcraft.
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Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 11:14AM Beau Hindman said

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@Shirogetsune Oh, I was juts pointing out (to Jef as well) that communities did not suddenly become "bad." IT would be more naive to believe that mean people were invented by more modern games.

Beau
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Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 11:28AM Jef Reahard said

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@Beau Hindman

I agree, they didn't suddenly become bad. They became bad gradually as more people came into the space and took advantage of both anonymity and the fact that there's really no gameplay incentive to get to know your neighbors and form community bonds.

Which is fine, btw, people are free to do what they want and I'm not arguing otherwise. I'm simply pointing out that widespread adoption of the transient gaming lifestyle does have consequences, and not all of them are positive.
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Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 12:07PM Beau Hindman said

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@Jef Reahard Surely you're not suggesting that since, what, WoW days (6 years ago) that the majority (or a great deal) of players are "transient." Nah. That can't be it. It's simple human nature.

If you invite over a dozen people, sure, behavior will probably be a little more civil. (Or people will just talk bad behind each other's backs!) If you suddenly have 12 houses and 100 people in each house, the odds are more weirdos will slip through. This has nothing to do with those people being less dedicated or more transient, this has to do with math. It's just bound to happen.

Beau

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Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 12:17PM Jef Reahard said

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@Beau Hindman

No, I'm not suggesting that at all. In fact, I'm hoping that my observations are wrong and that more people are putting down roots, both for the reasons I listed earlier and for more design- and game/world-related reasons like Valdamar discusses in his lengthy post below.

In my experience though, game-hopping is pretty widespread.
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Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 12:22PM Beau Hindman said

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@Jef Reahard It is, I'll agree. Still, free games were not as common, nor seen as "normal" back then. The first real successful ones didn't really even appear until something near 7 years ago. So, game-hopping was not as common simply because it cost money.

Of course, I see your point not being about if it exists, but that it might be bad. I tend to think that it's just a force of nature.

Anyway, over Twitter I have decided that the true problems with MMOs arrived when people started using "O.o" or ">.
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Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 12:25PM Space Cobra said

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@Jef Reahard

"The other thing I have to disagree with doesn't really have to do with MMOs, but it's an important topic, and that's the assertion that renting is on equal footing with owning. Renting doesn't give you equity or tax breaks, both of which can build substantial wealth over time."

See, I would sorta disagree with this on several levels, not just what Beau said, but that's another topic.
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Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 12:28PM Jef Reahard said

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@Beau Hindman

Lol, fair enough. Great discussion btw.

/tiphat
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Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 1:34PM StClair said

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@Beau Hindman
As they said on USEnet back in the early 90s,
"Imminent death of the net predicted."

Substitute "game", "community" etc as you like. :)
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Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 10:39AM Scuffles said

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I think the MMO tourists are far more harmful to the industry than people who enjoy multiple MMOs simultaneously.

Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 10:53AM N620AA said

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Good topic. I started out with World of Warcraft, it was my first dedicated MMO (I had a short stint in pre-CU SWG, but I was a bit too new to online gaming to truly appreciate it for what it was). I was "faithful" to WoW for nearly three years, because honestly, there was a lot of stuff for me to do. I had never tried raiding, I had never geared up a character at the cap, and so on.

However, I found that as the end of WotLK rolled about and I was in BiS gear months before the next content update, maybe I had "beaten" the game. After my guild collapsed due to drama and I found myself without a "home," I decided it might be time to see what else was out there.

I tried LotRO when it went F2P, and thought it was good fun. I played for about a month, but when the leveling really started slowing down (after Rivendell) I decided to move back to WoW. Cataclysm was due out in a few weeks anyway, so I stuck it out.

Cata rolls about, and after hitting 85 about a week in, I found myself really burned out on the process. I was in greens and blues again, had no guild to raid with, and none of the guilds on my server were attractive to me. So, I decided to give FFXIV a try (crazy, I know). I liked it, still have it installed and play it to RP with friends and slowly level my Pugilist.

And then along came RIFT, which is very familiar for me as a WoW player, and yet different enough in terms of story and universe to reignite my interest for this breed of MMO. I've been having a blast with it, and will probably sub up there and cancel my WoW sub, seeing as I only log in a few hours a week to help a friend's guild out.

So, I suppose I've joined the transient ranks. I think I'm half-hoping for an MMO to captivate me like WoW did when it introduced me to MMO's, which I doubt will happen again... so, I might as well look around and explore new worlds, read quests, and not get tangled up into the endgame grind that ended up killing WoW for me.

Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 10:57AM DarkWalker said

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I agree with the reasoning that transient players are a big problem at launch, although it should fall on the publisher's shoulders to find a way to handle it without inconveniencing the players too much. Single world/shard games (like EVE and STO) and games that let players jump around servers as they please (GW1, perhaps also GW2), IMHO, are the best ways to handle this.

I'm not completely dedicated to any game, and even when I'm playing one game exclusively I still like to go after other game's news. My main limitation is that I won't pay more than 2 subscriptions at a time, so game hopping along subscription based games is fairly limited to me.

A reason I love Hybrid games is because I can try them any time I want, and often can still play my character from time to time even when I lapse the subscription. It's much easier for me to try a F2P game (or to go back to it) than to try a paid game. It's why I'm playing (and subscribing) LotRO today; wouldn't have tried that game if not for the F2P option, otherwise I would have stayed with WoW.

BTW, I see subscribers as renters, and players of subscription-free games (including F2P players, and those that bought lifetime subscriptions) as home owners :)

Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 11:05AM docsid said

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Interesting article as I consider myself a transient. I simply don't have the focus and patience to stick to a single game. I also tend to be a solo player the vast majority of the time as I really only like to explore a world. endgame means nothing to me as I've never reached endgame in any game I've ever played.

Although the gaming aspect of the article was great, I would suggest you keep your economic and social theories to yourself as you clearly have no idea what you are talking about. With regard to you your "ooh homeless people are icky" comment, perhaps if legislatures would actually fund mental health and drug treatment services, you wouldn't have the rampant homeless problem. Instead, particularly in these right wing states, they have continually de-funded and under-funded such services since the early 1980's. Where do you expect the mentally ill to go?

Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 11:18AM Beau Hindman said

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@docsid I didn't say homeless people were icky. I said spider bites are. Also, I said that they were annoying in downtown Dallas. I did not say anything about mental illness or suggest what the local government should do about it.

Beau
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Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 11:09AM Kalex716 said

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While i maintain my 'residencies' with EVE online, and my beloved first MMO, NexusTK...

I don't feel bad about playing an MMO for a month or two, enjoying my time there, and then when i hit a wall or get bored leave it. For me, that month or two, or even a weekend is seen as time well spent (and i do try and 'spend' in support always as well).

It's funny, while in college i was an everquest1 player, and a wow player for many years. Dedicated and didn't stray at all, and I wished i could find a product that demanded that type of interest from me again, on the other hand i don't feel slighted by the inverse of it (being a transient) either. Its nice to get out what i want (fun) from a game, and not feel weird or compulsive about "falling behind" when leaving it.

Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 11:13AM Valdamar said

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Beau, the problem will come if your playstyle becomes the majority playstyle, then most MMO developers will cease to produce deep engaging MMOs (arguably it's happened/happening already) to serve the new majority playstyle instead.

The attractiveness of producing MMOs for the super-casual log-in-once-per-week-for-an-hour crowd should be obvious - for MMO publishers in particular - you don't need to develop as much content, because most players won't get through it anytime soon, which means a much lower development budget and faster development cycle with less risks attached - producing ten lightweight MMOs for $5m each to suit the transients would spread risk so that if 1-2 of them fail it has less impact than if a publisher's single big $50m flagship MMO flops. Plus for publishers/developers there's the attraction of cash shop sales to transients who are unwilling/unable to put in the time to earn things and are all too willing to buy them.

Explorer-Achiever type gamers like me would burn through such lightweight MMOs fast, in weeks, and the pure Achievers would be through them in days.

If that became the norm then what would it do for the server/game communities in MMOs when the churn of "dedicated" players is measured in weeks rather than months and the transients are only spending 1-2 hours per week in each game? The passionate-for-one-game players are gone in weeks and not around long enough to develop add-ons and character planners, or to write blogs, update wikis and run events - all the things that help to keep an MMO alive over a long period - something that should even be important to the transients if they want to keep visiting the same worlds (albeit in very short infrequent bursts) over a course of several years and using the community-developed features of the big MMOs.

This is partly also why I worry about the rise of MMOs linking to social networking sites (Facebook basically) - if the "community" develops on a social networking site, then why would players bother trying to engage with the community on their server in-game or in a single MMO as a whole?

The fast levelling in modern MMOs (which panders to transients) makes things even worse in some ways - players just don't stick around. The close-knit communities of EverQuest and DAoC are a thing of the past in modern triple-A MMOs and the rise in transient players is making it even worse.

Lets face it, it's not as if transients/tourists contribute much to an MMO community apart from keeping the newbie zones relatively well populated (which I will admit is, in itself, useful - I like to play alts :p ) - if you're jumping between a dozen games per week you're not really getting enough time in each MMO to meet other players and develop close ties over time - or to develop the close cooperative skills required for large player events such as raiding.

I am the opposite of the transient - I focus on one MMO at a time and generally I stay for 6-9 months, unless the game is especially deep and I really like the community then I will stay for years (EverQuest & CoH only, so far), logging in every day, usually at the same times (which makes it easier for other players to rely on me, knowing I will be around at certain times - and makes it easier for my friends and I to meet up and schedule the rest of our lives to fit with the game), playing for 15ish hours per week in total, all in one MMO at a time.

I don't always raid (and then only casually nowadays) - I'm more into smaller groups of no more than 10 players than 20+ player raids - and I don't always focus on a single character although I usually like to get at least one character to the level cap before I go too mad on alts (not that it has worked out so well in RIFT as my regular character I play with two of my friends is L39, my regular duo character with my best friend is L39, and my solo character is L25, heh - I got to L42 in beta on my own in about half the time I've spent on my L39s each, lol, but playing with friends regularly is important to me).

So can you understand the fears of a player like me, Beau? - that the MMO industry is reaching a point where MMOs are not being made for gamers like me anymore - and the overriding fear that no other genre or type of game can really offer what MMOs have so far given me - so where do I go if/when MMO developers start developing games for you instead of me?

But I used to be transient, over ten years ago - there used to be a type of game I only played for a couple of hours per week before jumping into a different game - and I loved the variety of worlds I could discover and the fact that I could actually make progress in 5-6 games per week because the games were so lightweight - and it didn't bother me that I wasn't in each game long enough to participate in the community, because the games I was playing had no community...

... they weren't MMOs

... they were single-player games - tailor-made for people who only want to play in short bursts and who cannot commit long periods of time to a single game - tailor-made for transients!

And for those who say single player games don't scratch their social itch, well that's what game services like Steam and Xfire are for - you can be social even while not playing with other folks - I know, I've done it - you need never be alone while gaming ever again.

But when I was a transient back in the 1980s and 1990s I always craved more, a deeper experience that would last longer - I craved a game where I could develop and progress a character over months and years rather than hours and weeks - where I could explore a huge world rather than the on-rails experiences of single player games - a game that would last me longer than 30-40 hours and which would be updated with new content over time, not just the occasional expansion but constant updates - and I found what I wanted in 1999, in EverQuest, and I became an MMO gamer - and I would argue that MMOs were created for players exactly like me who wanted to commit to a single game for long periods - take that away from us and where do we have to go?

This is why the emerging trend for transiency worries me so much - I want deeper MMOs with more content and longevity, not lighter casual fare that panders to transients.

I know it's a trend I cannot stop, and this comment will have no impact on that - but I wanted to try and make you see my perspective, Beau, seeing as you spend 99% of your time on this website pushing the casual free-to-play transient agenda so hard that I think deep down you want everyone to play MMOs just like you do - maybe so that you don't feel you're missing out on that deeper experience by not being able to commit to one MMO at a time (like I and many others do) - in your own words, and I quote: "In some ways, I am jealous of this constant lifestyle. The reliability of such a playstyle is tempting, but in the end, I know my wanderlust would get the better of me."

Justify it further however you want - you're helping the industry, sure! Ultimately we both know we'll go on playing the games exactly the way we individually want to - but the differences are that I'm not in a position to sway the opinions of other gamers, and the way I play MMOs isn't a direct threat to your playstyle, as you can go on dipping in and out of deeper MMOs without ever getting to the end of them and you seem happy enough doing that - but when you start evangelising about the transient playstyle and trying to encourage everyone to jump around between MMOs (like you did in an article last week) I just can't help but see it as a threat to my playstyle and see the damage it could do to the genre as a whole if the majority started playing the way that you do and developers started pandering to that - I certainly couldn't get the more focused MMO experiences I crave out of super-casual lightweight MMOs developed with transiency in mind.

And here's my bite-size conclusion (yeah, I know, I was a long time getting to it!):

If everyone played MMOs the way you do then I doubt MMOs would exist in the way you enjoy them at the moment - I think every MMO would become so lightweight and disposable that perhaps even you might not be satisfied with them. Just think on that, Beau, the next time you start preaching the transient playstyle to the masses.

(And you can thank the time it is taking to download/patch RIFT on my brand new PC for me having the time to type up such an overly long response to your column, heh - unlucky!)

Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 12:54PM Space Cobra said

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@Valdamar

I am going to try to tackle this: While I do understand your fear, I think this is how things are going and it is not necessarily a bad thing.

You state :

"If everyone played MMOs the way you do then I doubt MMOs would exist in the way you enjoy them at the moment - I think every MMO would become so lightweight and disposable that perhaps even you might not be satisfied with them. Just think on that, Beau, the next time you start preaching the transient playstyle to the masses."

But then you want deeper and richer worlds. I can make the argument that these worlds won't be coming from corporations. I mean, what is "deep game play"? It is a subjective term. You want to play in a virtual world that you want to lose yourself. Kudoes. But big corporations are not necessarily going to pursue that. "Back in the day", college students made very deep MUDs that were compelling. IMO, things on a personal level get more time and attention and that links to independent publishers of MMOs.

The way I see it, I get "snapped to reality" when certain in-game tropes make themselves known. So, I gotta grind things? I have to kill so many certain type of NPCs to see a particular item drop? While you may find depth in various good things about certain MMOs you like, I can find different things that don't feel or play right. Games are allowed to be frustrating, but really, don't overdo it. But again, human differences say my level of reaching frustration is different from yours. While some grind is okay, games are supposed to be fun and bosses that use cheese-tactics in raids bug more people than just me.

You seem to say you may be the average MMOer, I don't think you are. Yes, you point to your guild and the communities you are in. All well and good, but the vast majority don't post, They play. You also rely on the "stereotype" of player, saying Achiever-Explorers would burn through content within a very short amount of time. Trouble is, you have to be well-equipped, one way or another, to even explore a whole MMO and avoid high-level monsters. I don't level to max in 3.5 hours (and this is an EXAGGERATION used for effect) and I know many many others who don't. It can take me months or years, and that is with history of playing one game over a period of time. Maybe I am disenfranchised, but if I am, so are many more players.

So, my wanderlust starts to kick in. I have to wait and grind/level up to explore that continent, but it can get boring, so what to do in the meantime, play something else. Maybe I will wind up at the other game. While, it may be easy to say, "I want it all casual and on a silver-platter", that isn't entirely true.

But maybe I am not the only one is this is what is working on your fears? Maybe you see the industry catering to people who want a break from real life but don't want a separate job of pushing keyboard buttons in dull, senseless, play. Maybe the majority of players are different. Maybe there needs to be a new MMO world, but will this ideal ever be made to your or my or anyone's satisfaction? What I like, you may not and vice versa.

There will hopefully be always, more than one type of game and I hope that includes MMOs. Having a virtual world is nice, but it may not be my ideal (I've always preferred Sci-Fi to fantasy, for example). So, there is a schism, even if a fantasy game is fun, I will always look and wantonly want a great Sci-Fi game. And really, there are differences of opinion of how to present virtual worlds.

You can't please all the people all the time. (PT Barnum)
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Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 2:08PM Valdamar said

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@Space Cobra
I certainly agree with the quote on your last line.

I'm not fooled into thinking I'm an average gamer, although I'd hope I was nearer average playstyle than the transients - I probably play more hours than the average, although I don't consider myself hardcore - some of my friends are probably closer to the average - still 15-20 hours per week, but they never go near forums or even gaming sites - but they're still loyal to one MMO for at least 3 months at a time. At least I hope they're the average.

My problem is that I like the polish of the big MMOs, as I've been testing and playing flawed MMOs for too many years to want to go back to them - but the big MMOs are made for the mass market audience and while I'd hesitate to use the phrase dumbing down, because I do appreciate more user-friendliness (in the UI anyway) to lower barriers and give less frustration, I just don't see why the depth has to be lost at the same time as the complexity (I like Blizzard's ethos - "easy to learn, hard to master" - it's just a shame they hardly live by it themselves anymore - in fact I think the only game I played last year where that tenet was true was Mount & Blade Warband and that's not even an MMO) - and we're certainly getting far more MMOs where lore, a rich world to explore, and variety of things to do other than combat are certainly becoming afterthoughts.

I don't want a sandbox, I don't want a theme park, I want a polished hybrid of both with lots of depth and variety of things to do and a large vibrant world - one where I can develop a character for months and years rather than weeks, even playing 25 hours per week (although in RIFT atm as I'm still in the first month or so I am probably playing 40 hours per week).

So its not as easy as sticking me in the sandbox category and writing me off, I do consider myself a mainstream gamer with fairly mainstream tastes - but whereas other gaming genres have gained depth and more open worlds and less linear gameplay as time has moved on over the last decade, it irks me to see MMOs moving in the opposite direction, towards more linear gameplay, with less things to do.

And yes I want more challenge in MMOs, or at least the ability to customise your difficulty level (like CoH does), instead of the cakewalk that MMOs are becoming in a bid to appeal to everyone - not because I want bragging rights, but because I enjoy a challenge. But I suspect the transients don't want challenge - it's probably a big enough challenge to them just remembering how to play each of the dozen MMOs they play per week and to remember what they were doing the last time they logged out.

MMOs are getting shallower - and I do partly blame the transient gamers for that - or at least the developers/publishers trying to hook the transient/casual market into their games.
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Posted: Mar 23rd 2011 11:35AM Space Cobra said

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First of all, thanks for saying Dallas sucks. ;) There is an old truism Dallas folks don't realize that the rest of Texas does and that is they tend to be a bit anal and competitive with other cities and very much show-offs, but there are "cracks" if you look beyond the pretty freeways and new football stadiums. ;)

On topic:

I am a different sort of transient and I come at this topic from a different angle. I've tended to be financially secure or crazy to buy tons of Jap toys and many games and systems. I have always been curious about many things and that includes, many different games and genres. Admittedly, I have bought many game (cartridges/CDs/et al) and haven't played them completely. At first, I made and effort to at least "get my feet wet" with all of them, but as time passed, I find it harder to even try them. This is especially the case with achievements; I like to be a completeist, so having uncompleted achievements bugs me a bit, but I am trying to ignore it now.

What I do notice, when comparing/looking at gamer profiles, many other people don't complete these achievements at all. So how dedicated are they to THEIR game.

I bring up consoles because, IMO, I believe I am a true hard-core gamer in a sense, I am curious and explore EVERY angle in gaming I can find. I understand limiting yourself to one game, but I like variety too much and I like learning about quirky titles that don't get mainstream press that do tend to get fans. I also am rare in that I could support 3-4 monthly subs if I wanted to, but at least I am wise enough to keep that paired down to 1-2 I may rotate, if I feel the need.

I've always been and embraced my "Jack-of-All-trades" in many areas of life, I may not be great at one single thing, but I know I can blow the pants off many casuals in a variety of games and real life in my knowledge and skills.

I actually think, there is a silent majority of gamers, those who don't post and just play games, who are truly transient or, at the least, play 1-3 games for about 2-3 months and move on. Really, why do many (console) games sell well? They can't all be the same guys who wait for the next "Call of Duty" and play nothing else in the interm?

It's not like I can devote myself to specific games, because I do, but really, I am too contemplative for some games; the pavlovian "chase for better gear" in WoW is a big turn-off, even though I promise to return "someday".

The world is full of different stuff, why limit yourself to it? It is not like you are actually married to these games and it emotionally needs you like a wife does.

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