Dual Wielding: A series featuring two bloggers writing on one topic and answering the question, “If the pen is mightier than the sword, what happens when you dual wield?”
Don’t miss out on Ironweakness’ take: Dual Wielding: Depth versus Diversity.
First things first
I’m excited to start this project in cooperation with Ironweakness over at Waiting for Rez– it was his suggestion in a tweet to prompt each other for topics to write about and an idea i instantly fell in love with. Ironweakness and i share some attributes, the biggest of which is our reason to blog/restart blogging more regularly: when Massively’s closure became known and imminent, we started to wonder where the community might go- we both felt the loss in MMORPG coverage would be big and while we certainly wouldn’t aspire to be a substitute for a site like Massively, we wanted to keep the conversation going and stay in touch with the larger MMO community- so we (re-)started our blogs. In a sense, i think this project fits so well with our motivation to blog. So thank you for suggesting this, Ironweakness, and i hope we’ll have many interesting topics to write about as well as interesting perspectives. Today’s topic is one that seems to be more prominent these days- for me personally, but it appears that in a bigger picture, this is something that touches on the greater MMO community, as well.
Should you play one or many MMORPGs?
Stickiness of MMORPGs is a big topic these days- not only am i always returning to this line of thought in search for maxlevel, guilds and communities, but there were some articles on Massively Overpowered skirting this topic, as well. Then there was the MMO Hobo and his very recent post wherein he asked if we, as players who might look for “the one” MMORPG to play, might shoot ourselves in the foot by joining multigaming guilds. I think this topic is very broad- you can view it from so many different angles, but i think you could boil it down to one big question- what do you want to get out of your MMORPG playing experience? Do you play this genre as “games” or do you play it for the virtual worlds they present, the social ties, the community? I believe most MMORPG players want to play “the one” MMORPG- i don’t have a poll up, but my guess is that in the end, we’d like to have that game back that allows us to dive in and play more or less the same MMORPG for years. Sometimes, we’ll look at a game that will be released in the close future and think that this time, it might be it. And it rarely is.
I’ve seen times when i somehow, without expecting it or giving it a deliberate effort, will stay with an MMO for 2 or three months- Final Fantasy XIV comes to mind. But there always comes a time when i want my experience to differ, i want something else out of a session. And this is a strong reason to go with multiple games.
If nothing’s perfect, why not mix it up?
The MMORPGs we have are surprisingly good. I don’t look at “success” much, because i think in this regard, the releases of the last decade failed to deliver on their expectations and World of Warcraft, while being the most successful MMO, isn’t the best in my eyes. And while we often lament every new release to be a “WoW clone”, by which i think we mean “themepark MMO”, they’re not as similar to each other as one would think.
And these differences make switching between different titles an attractive option- first, you get to use all of those “special weekends” and events like the release of an expansion, a meaty patch or something and see for yourself how they fare. Then, you’ll always have a choice in combat mechanics, depth, even different economies, atmosphere and general gameplay experience. In some games, questing is pretty much all you do (Lotro), in others it’s the same but delivered in a different way (TSW), you’ll have a somewhat lighter atmosphere (FF14, Wildstar) or the more grimdark experiences of Elder Scrolls Online or Age of Conan. There’s polished content without much of a story (Guild Wars 2, and yeah, i know it’s lore-heavy, but i think the story is not presented very well in-game) and story-heavy questing (SWTOR), involved crafting (FF14, EQ2), standard crafting (WoW, Rift, Lotro) and hands-off crafting (Neverwinter, SWTOR), and i don’t even touch on how the game’s paces differ from, say, EQ2/FF14 to something like Wildstar or Neverwinter. For me, playing multiple MMORPGs makes sense because i don’t want to play the same game when i want to play. Sometimes i want a very relaxing and slow atmosphere, sometimes i like to get more involved and these are the times when “action combat” is a major point of decision making on what to play. Wildstar, for instance, with its very involved combat and high mob density is a fun game, but one i can’t play for longer stretches of time. Lord of the Rings Online is quite a slow game, it’s very relaxing, at least in the early zones, but the combat isn’t very engaging. One game that, in my opinion, gets the mix very right, is Guild Wars 2- it’s a fun game, but not too stressful. GW2 has the downside that i seem unable to find “depth” there.
The downside: you won’t set roots
So for almost every mood you might have, there’s an MMO waiting to give you the wanted experience. Only, it’s just not one game and if you don’t have a lot of time, you’ll be having trouble being where the buzz is. It’s also kind of hard to immerse yourself when you play half a dozen MMORPGs at roughly the same time- you’ll forget skills, current goals of your character, the story and other things. It might also be tough to get in touch with a good guild- and a good guild is essential to enjoying an MMORPG.
Now, this might not be a problem for someone who’s able and willing to play 20+ hours a week- a player with that mindset could juggle more than two MMORPGs just fine, i think, although i believe even then it might be more difficult to make friends ingame. MMO devs have been criticized a lot for making MMORPGs less social- by adding dungeon finders or even PUG raids- but i don’t think we can put the blame for our less social experience solely on the devs- it’s within our responsibility as players to be more social- the option isn’t removed from the games, we just aren’t forced to connect to other players anymore. If it were a dev thing, especially games like Guild Wars 2 and Rift would be very social affairs- both provide huge opportunities to form bonds with other players- and yet we don’t.
If you want a home, choose it
There was such a great opinion piece on that on the olden pages of Massively, but i can’t find it anymore. What Eliot Lefebvre wrote in his opinion piece basically came down to this piece of truth: if you want “the game”, you shouldn’t wait for the perfect fit. You shouldn’t think that the “next game” will make everything work out perfectly for you. He made a somewhat dangerous connection to a relationship- and the mindset of going to a date with the expectation that you’ll only date the partner three times or something instead of going all-in for a longterm relationship. If you’d want a shorter, more superficial relationship, that would be fine, but if you’re looking for a longterm partner, you should meet them with that in mind. (Edit: Thanks to Eliot for providing the link to the article– it’s a great read.
I agree- but having started with great hopes in Guild Wars 2 and Archeage, i can attest that even when something looks good on paper and makes you think you found the game, it can still be screwed up in a million ways.
I would argue that if and when you choose to play one MMORPG exclusively, your experience will be much better, because you can dive deeper into the game mechanics as well as interact in social groups within that game. You’ll be there for content additions, you’ll sometimes log in and “just chat with guildmates/friends” and so on- you won’t do something like that if you’re playing too many MMORPGs at a time- because before you log in just to chat you’ll be launching something else. On the other hand, if you’re a “time-hardcore” player, MMORPGs might not provide you with enough content to play in your time- so maybe you might be able to juggle more than one MMO and guild- and then there’s the topic of “play-to-finish” MMORPGs which are basically all about the journey and not-so-much about endgame (The Secret World comes to mind). If a game really doesn’t provide you with any activity you’d want to do, switching to another one might not be such a bad idea. But this is a problem for players who play a lot, really. From my point of view, TSW, for instance, would provide me with enough questing and story-related stuff for…well, maybe for its whole lifespan.
I wrote about reasons to play only one MMORPG earlier- in fact, it was one of the first posts on this blog. I think many of these reasons come into fruition now when you read about how more and more bloggers make their way into Final Fantasy XIV- others are there, there’s even a free company of (not only) bloggers somewhere, they stick with the game and have a great experience others want to have, as well. If you think about interesting blogs to read, at least in my opinion, it’s written by people who mainly stick to one MMORPG and can provide deep info, interesting, different ways to play and experience “their” game. Their excitement and dedication is infectious, they stick with a game long enough to alter the experience in these games beyond the obvious while us game-hopping individuals only see quests, quests and quests.
So you’re saying playing only one MMORPG is better?
No, i’m not exactly saying this straight- i think our experiences would be better if we stuck to as many MMORPGs as we can realistically handle. That number would differ from player to player. I’d say that if i were to choose one MMO to play with my ~10 hours a week, my enjoyment in this MMO as a “virtual home” would grow, i’d have more interesting topics to write about here and maybe would even be able to form friendships in that game- all of this isn’t possible when you divide your 10 hours to 4 MMORPGs at a time. Someone playing a lot would possibly be able to handle that number.
But still, as noted earlier, the games are quite different to each other, so much so that only one MMO wouldn’t fit into all our moods. So i guess my suggestion would be to “choose” one main MMO that you play for depth, social ties and as a “virtual home” and spice it up with some other games that offer different experiences. Also, i’m somewhat in agreement with Isarii right now: maybe don’t join multigaming guilds if you want to find an MMO home. But i don’t want to open that can of worms right now.