Pace of play pressures

An MMORPG expansion lays bear a particular problem of the genre, the incessant peer pressure to be pushing forwards as fast as possible. Some games may encourage or demand this more through game systems or update schedules, but I think it’s more of a shared community issue tied to certain playstyle preferences.

The evidence for this is in the rush to level cap in most MMORPGs, or the requirement to have such high item levels so soon after the launch (e.g. 340 by launch of Uldir raid). There were videos posted less than 24 hours after the launch of Battle for Azeroth showing characters hitting level 120s. Less than a day after it came out officially for an expansion that, in theory, needs to last us around two years including the two or three more meaty patches we’re likely to get. Within a matter of days some guild members were running heroics, I didn’t record how quickly the mythic runs started, but they’ve been going on a while. The constant subtle or not so subtle pressures to hurry up, go-go-go, skip the video, etc do get to me at times – even if they rarely affect me directly they create a certain atmosphere in-game.

Rares and shared tapping are fun open group content, but they add to the pressure to rush around.

I’m a fast reader, I know some people who are not, for them quest-based MMORPGs can devolve into a chore – trying to keep up with those who read faster as a constant factor of gameplay can’t be that much fun. I do miss the “quest text as cutscene” from Star Wars the Old Republic here, it helped to mitigate this issue. The quest ‘text’ is absorbed by all at the same pace – the pace of delivery of the voice actors. It’s a more evocative and immersive way of doing this. Also it can curb the tendency among us to constantly be accelerating our pace while questing. I think it’s only natural to start speeding up if you’ve been playing a while, especially if playing as a group since the content is so easy to blast through.

I start out in a session always reading the text and giving the game my whole focus. But I’ve noticed there is a temptation to start to skim-read quest texts, maybe due to tiredness or a certain boredom with ‘samey’ tasks. It’s hardly surprising in Battle for Azeroth because the quests are so very dense this expansion – one quest opening up three or four, that lead on to another three or four seems the standard. So much quest text in a relatively short space of time does get overwhelming. I imagine a lot of these quests could have been combined somewhat, with the appropriate increase in XP and other rewards to match, or perhaps string quests out into longer single or dual quest chains, perhaps?

There can be lots to read

I can’t remember feeling so rushed when playing SWTOR, ever. The cutscenes for quest delivery, completion and, sometimes, for intermediate steps always helped to measure the pace of play – in a positive way I would say. Of course there are players who just space-bar through them, I remember reading about such behaviour regarding the early flashpoints that were cutscene-rich, but then I always played the game’s group content with guildies or close friends. It’s no different from my husband and my awful experiences of later group content in Final Fantasy 14 (ARR), which in pug groups inevitably involved skipping cutscenes we’d not watched because it was holding up the group – or missing out on fights entirely if we chose not to. “Just go and watch them afterwards on Youtube” does not make up for the pressure to miss, and enjoy, them at the appropriate moment as designed by the devs.

Interactive cutscenes are a major plus in SWTOR

Personally I have no experience of “skip the cutscenes” as an issue in Secret World (either incarnation) since I’ve only played that with friends, but I imagine it could be if people speed run missions for AP/SP? It’s the other MMORPG that takes a different approach to quest delivery that I’ve experienced, so it’s the other game I’d naturally compare to the standard quest text model for this post. It takes a very measured approach to task assignment also, you can only have one main quest active at a time. Most quests have multiple steps as well to make them more involved and time-consuming tasks – that hub full of a dozen quests in World of Warcraft (some locked behind others) might be one or two NPCs in TSW with three or four missions only, but the gameplay time to complete them all could well be similar.

I would never skip a cutscene in Secret World

It’s a nebulous issue that to some is probably a non issue. Since playing the expansion in WoW I feel I’ve noticed it more than I did during Legion. Have the devs designed things differently this time in terms of quest flow? In any case, as I’ve tried to illustrate above, the issue isn’t purely caused by game design. The playerbase, and trends in gameplay style, are likely to be equally behind any perceived pressure to speed up.

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3 Responses to Pace of play pressures

  1. Bhagpuss says:

    Hmm. I feel almost the opposite about cut-scenes. There are exceptions – The Secret World stands out – but by and large voice acting in MMOs is so poor that far from adding to immersion they actively mitigate against it. When most of my attention is directed towards trying to work out what accent the actor thinks they’re doing or wondering how anyone could get a line reading so badly wrong – and be allowed to do so by a director – I find myself pulled right out of the imaginary world into this one, where the guiding factors behind quests are budget and competence or the lack thereof, not adventure and fantasy.

    Conversely, allowed to just read the text, my imagination soars. I hear the right voices and – vitally – the line readings that make sense. I read all quest text the first time through in every game and if I’m in a dungeon with quest text or cut-scenes I just ignore any attempts to hurry me along. That, admitetedly, was very hard in FFXIV, which is one of the (many) reasons I don’t play it any more.

    WoW, however, has another problem for me. I loathe the default font and that appalling faux-parchment background they use. I found it very difficult to read and even harder to enjoy. MOving to the GW2UI add-on, which replaces the entire thing with a far more modern and pleasant interface, makes a massive difference.

    #2 as per usual

    • Telwyn says:

      OT: as I believe was discussed in the Discord for Blaugust, some recommend creating a WordPress account (or Blogger in my case) just for commenting to avoid the woeful state of cross-platform authentication thesedays.

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