Juggling MMOs – timeouts and reminders

Having multiple MMORPGs to play is great in terms of keeping myself entertained regardless of burnout, a sudden whim for variety or the odd server downtime. This September my gaming time has been more limited, not terribly constrained, but I’ve found myself mostly just playing WoW with a bit of Everquest 2 on the side. In a sense that shouldn’t matter, I’m not paying any subscriptions at all at the moment (I play EQ2 as F2P currently and WoW via Token) so there’s no nagging feeling I should be playing this MMO or that MMO because of “value for money”. But the games are designed to be sticky in other ways  and that can be a pain when you play so many, even casually.

A model for auction houses everywhere...

A model for auction houses everywhere…

The biggest issue I face is juggling auction items. Unfortunately not all MMOs have adopted EQ2’s rather civilised broker system – items put up for sale stay there until you decide otherwise. None of this constant cycle of 48-hour max postings that then bounce back and clog your mailbox. I’m sure there are some complicated virtual-economic reasons why limited-time postings are good or something but from an admin point of view it’s a nightmare. At one point earlier in the summer I was actively playing LoTRO and Wildstar and I was posting a lot on both games onto their respective auction houses and it became a regular chore, even when not playing, to cycle stuff back onto the auction house. Of course, I realise that if I want my stuff to actually sell then some regular engagement is needed, even in EQ2 that’s likely to be true. Prices fluctuate of course so if I fail to keep an irregular eye on the market then my timer-free broker posts will sit there, quite possibly with a wildly inflated and out-of-date price-tag. But still it’s always a pleasure coming back to EQ2 and finding a chunk of change sat in my broker window for collection along with a neat summary of what sold and when.

4 days left - bit too close for comfort?

4 days left – bit too close for comfort?

A secondary issue that is related is that of mailbox item retention. Most MMOs have a pretty draconian mail expiry system – if you fail to login for whatever arbitrary timeframe, say a month, then any messages (and attached items) in your mailbox may expire and vanish for good. For many, many years a standard ritual in our house just before going on holiday has been to cycle through MMOs and characters to check nothing will expire while we’re gone. It’s another minor element where Everquest 2 scores highly since mail never seems to expire – there’s a count of how old it is but my characters have some very, very old mails in their mailbox.

This can be an inconvenience from the administration perspective of course, but it can also be a real downer from a character history/lore point of view. Some games make use of the mail system to have NPCs send you ‘in-character’ messages; SWTOR uses this a lot, WoW has on occasion also. It’s a real shame that both games forcibly delete these story-snippets. I did contemplate screenshotting them on my original SWTOR character but that quickly became impractical. In WoW there is an option to create a letter item copy of any such mails in your character’s bag but that was a quick way to overload your character’s bank space – a partial solution but not as simple as allowing longer term storage of the mails in the first place.

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The third item that can be a bit of a pain for MMO juggling is housing upkeep. Games vary a lot here, some like Wildstar or SWTOR do not have any upkeep to pay (at least not on the property itself). EQ2 offers a middle ground – if you fail to keep payments up you’ll be locked out, but the house and its contents are there waiting for you when you pay again. I’m not as familiar with LOTRO’s system but it seems to be similar although you have to pay a restoration fee of the money owing to regain access. My characters with housing in both games have more than enough money to pay their housing fees for years before running out, so the existence of the fee isn’t such an issue but I do sometimes have lengthy absences and having to remember to pay ‘the rent’ feels rather too much like real life for my virtual hobby.

So overall I prefer games that do not expect me to keep reminders or schedules of when stuff will expire. Data storage is cheaper than ever, and not all MMOs have these needy time limits on features, so why keep them?

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