Downtime in MMOs

I was thinking about down-time in dungeons within MMORPGs recently, or the lack thereof. It’s just not a thing any more in most games that your character needs any rest after fights, even after a boss. At the start of Battle for Azeroth on my Shaman or Priest I was finding that mana was a bit of an issue after any large group of trash mobs, boss fights were likely to use most of my mana if I didn’t risk running out. Very quickly into the expansion, however, gear upgrades negated all that again, we are back to the new-normal that mana isn’t really an issue.

Although I have no interest in mythic+ dungeon running, it appears that it is popular enough if guild chat is anything to go by. The speed-running element of these means that any attempts to re-introduce a more varied or measured pacing to dungeons would fail. The playerbase is long-since used to speed-running and are even encouraged to do so for greater rewards these days.

We as a group of friends can chose to run slower, and since we don’t bother with mythic plus there’s no timer to rush us ever on. Still it’s hard to resist the almost baked-in norm of speeding through. I miss the downtime not just for a bit of a break between pulls. It was also breathing space for some in-situ roleplaying, or just chatting and joking.

I didn’t really experience the older MMO style (e.g. Everquest 1) where such breaks were part of gameplay. The idea of ‘camping’ an area to grind mobs doesn’t really appeal on an intellectual level as it sounds like it’d quickly get dull. Yet I do imagine that the camaraderie and RP potential for such gameplay might make a welcome change.

It’s why I lamented the loss of the campfire mechanic in Tera the last time I returned there. That was a perfect downtime system – good shared area buffs from the various charms that you could throw on the fire and an in-built max health buff just from sitting for a minute or two. Not long enough to get bored, but long enough (IMHO) to allow space for chatting or RP in a game that – by its design – is more frantic and full-on than most.

I can remember vaguely how much more downtime there was in World of Warcraft when we started. Eating after almost every fight on my baby Warrior wasn’t that much fun when he tried to quest solo. Wand auto-attacking because my Mage had run out of mana mid fight didn’t feel that great either (though weirdly I miss wands as ranged weapons now). There can be more of a balance in MMORPG game design. Do we really need to be constantly gogogo’ing all the time? Is it any wonder we blow through new content so fast? Shouldn’t we heed the Pandarens and “slow down” a bit?

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6 Responses to Downtime in MMOs

  1. Marathal says:

    I belonged to those that wished a tank would do line of sight pulls, waiting for everyone to health and mana up. I always have the cheap vendor food that gives you enough to cap off. In Pandaria they added in the dungeon runs with a timer, groups used Invisibility pot to skip mobs, it was go go as fast as you could. And it went against everything I had been taught those first years playing. But everyone seems to like it. So I don’t bother. I haven’t even run a heroic dungeon in BfA, still have a few Normal I haven’t run. This whole new currency reward will benefit those who raid, or do Mythic +7 or higher. For me it means nothing. I will accept that I’m not playing the game they want me to.

  2. Shintar says:

    The funny thing is that I loved the first speed run I ever worked on, which was the one for the Armani War Bear mount in 10-man Zul’Aman back in Burning Crusade. That was a very specific challenge that we undertook once a week and that required us to optimise the way we worked together as a group, which made for a real bonding experience.

    However during Wrath, what with how easy heroic dungeons were, at some point running fast just became the thing to do everywhere, and the attitude associated with it almost came across as contemptuous: you were going fast because this content was beneath you, you didn’t need to wait for anyone, any extra second spent on it was wasted time.

    Maybe Mythic+ with guildies manages to recapture some of that old fun of tackling a challenge as a group, but years of having to deal with horrible attitudes from gogogo-ers in pugs has certainly soured me on the concept.

    • Alunaria says:

      That is a good observation. I dislike the M+ rush, but I loved the Armani War Bear Mount ones, I never thought of that before. Maybe my whole mentality has changed.
      Slowing down seems to be the key to enjoy things better, at least for some. Myself personally; when I arrive to “the party” everything is fixed and smoothed out way more, than if I was speeding, that’s for sure.

  3. I’m not a fan of downtime, but I’m not a fan of rushing, either. I’d prefer a happy medium wherein one is always or almost always moving, but not going flat out doing everything humanly possible to shave half a second off the run time.

  4. Telwyn says:

    Challenge in dungeon runs I’m happy with, just not the “run as fast as possible” aspect, which Mythics encourage. Sadly so do the Island Expeditions, which we were hoping would be a remake of Pandaria’s 3-person scenarios, but so far at least they’ve disappointed me personally especially because exploring every nook and crany of each is heavily discouraged by the AI team and the race for resources – no real downtime is possible there either.

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