Conundrum

As Syp notes, things have been extraordinarily quiet in the ‘sphere of late. Obviously, I haven’t found much worth writing about recently and I try to keep from rambling, so that’s led to saying very little! As I’ve only been doing this “blogging thing” for a little over a year (on and off), I’m not sure if this is a natural lull that occurs annually, or if it’s just a symptom of the current “wait-and-see” situation we’re all in. With few recent or near-term releases, and several big titles just over the horizon, it feels like everyone is just holding their breath.

Not that I haven’t been playing games; my renewed enthusiasm for LotRO continues unabated and I’ve been delving into some older titles that have sat neglected in my Steam Library. However, I’ve let my subscription to RIFT run its course. At the point where I ran out of time, I hadn’t logged into the game in weeks, so even though I feel that I missed out on a good portion of the game (I was never able to hit the level cap, or even get out of Scarwood Reach), letting go wasn’t actually much of a loss. Not that I didn’t enjoy the game, and there is a lot about RIFT that I find fun and compelling, but it just couldn’t compete for my limited time.

In reality, for the last few months I’ve found myself in a bit of a tough spot when it comes to gaming; not only have Real Life and Work become increasingly dominant, but I’ve found that on one hand the time available for gaming has been coming in smaller and smaller chunks,  and on the other my staple games have become less satisfying.  Again, not that I’m not having fun, but I constantly find myself looking for something different.

(The last three months have also taught me that when one undertakes a gaming-related project, it (ironically) leaves very little time for actually playing games! Hopefully I’ll have something more tangible to show for all of it soon. As for a silver lining, I’ve become intimately familiar with Python. So I guess there’s that.)

With most of my free time coming in small doses, my primary activity in LotRO has been to grind out remaining deeds in the “low level” areas; it’s easy to step away for several minutes when one is standing in the midst of a field of Grays who pointedly ignore you. Until you walk up and stab them, at least. However, I’ve once again found myself playing single-player titles far more than anything else. I picked up Bioshock 2 for a song on Steam, and continue to chip away at Oblivion and Dungeon Siege III. But mostly I’ve been playing Left 4 Dead. Which, in my mind, is indicative of my ongoing conundrum.

I’ve found that I’m looking for something more long-term than a single-player experience; certainly that type of experience is more tailored to the individual, but there is a factor in MMOs that is hugely appealing. It’s the, shall we say, “permanence”, though I have trouble assigning the status of permanent to anything purely digital – I’ve worked in IT for too long and know how easily these things can go *poof*.  Or rather it’s the persistence of an MMO; the idea that the things we do last, even in the smallest ways, beyond our time in the game. Mostly I attribute it to the social connections; no one in Oblivion cares if I come, go, or die and never boot up the game ever again. Not so in an MMO in which we’ve invested thousands of hours. It’s almost inevitable, by design or by incident, that we will establish relationships with other people, and that has an effect beyond the game world, no matter how small.

Even if it’s only in the pursuit of Achievements, such as in Left 4 Dead, I’ve been looking for something greater than a moment-to-moment experience. But I’ve also been craving drop-in/drop-out, immediate-action gameplay, yet I need something which also allows for easy pauses, which MMOs don’t exactly provide.  So L4D is seems to be the best option at the moment – it’s easy to get in and get out, have some fun, it’s full of action, and I have goals beyond “Survive the next wave of undead”.

Still,  I’m craving something that just doesn’t exist:

  1. an online world,
  2. with Other People,
  3. that isn’t entirely focused around slaughter,
  4. where I can jump in and out with an hour to play (or less),
  5. and where it’s okay if I step away for a few minutes.
  6. (And make it compelling and deep, in visuals and story, please!)

It’s a tall order, I know. And one I’m not likely to see filled anytime soon. And I’m rambling, so let’s try to make a point here…

What would do it for me would be if LotRO was a little less themepark and a little more sandbox; deeper crafting, better housing systems (or better yet, player-made structures/towns à la SWG!), and more exploration that doesn’t involve leaving a trail of corpses like so many breadcrumbs. Something for me to do in the world that doesn’t involve killing Orcs, or necessitate several hours investment (also spent mostly killing Orcs).

But all of that is just wishful thinking. Until then, I’m stuck with bite-sized content and the occasional extended session with the kinship. Not a bad place to be, but not exactly what I feel I’d most enjoy.

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