I approach things systematically. Doesn’t really matter what it is, that’s just me. Analytical thinker, habitual like a cat, planner, loner like a wolf - I tend to go my own way and welcome others to do the same. When it comes to playing MMOs I have my character goals that I pursue. I want to hit max level at my own pace. I want to make stuff (craft). I want to feel like my character is an active part of that world (quest and see things). And like every responsible citizen, I want to feel a productive member of that society. I’ll join a guild and find my place in the economic circle. This is what I do in every game and I find it entertaining.
With the exception of EVE Online, every MMO I’ve played has character level as a primary form of advancement, and I’m cool with that. EVE has skills which dictate what ships you can fly and how well you can equip them but in my mind, it’s all the same thing. I don’t approach EVE any differently than the other games I’ve played.
My levels, gear, content experienced, bosses conquered, crafting level, wealth accumulated, social circle and adventures, all roll up into the sum total of my character’s progression AND influence my perceived enjoyment. I can already tell by where this is going that it will invite Scott back to say that levels are the work of the devil, which is fine by me. *Smile*
I’m having fun in Runes of Magic. There’s no doubt there. However, there’s this niggling voice in the back of my head that keeps asking, “Why aren’t you advancing?” I’m doing stuff but that stuff often isn’t about leveling and in some part of my brain that’s wrong. Not wrong as in the game’s fault. It seems like my fault. When I admonish myself for not leveling and pull the parent-cop or boss-cop role and ask, “What are you doing with your time?” A majority of the time I can’t answer the question. I don’t know where the time went or precisely what I was doin’. I was clearly was doin’ something and having fun. I just couldn’t tell you what it was most of the time.
I’m sitting at levels 28/27 in a game that only today and maxes out at 50, feeling like I’m moving too slow. I think I’ve been so conditioned to level, that when I’m not leveling, I feel like a slacker. How crazy is that? I think the fact that leveling has been from my experience relatively easy in ROM, it turns into all the more reason I should be half way through 30 by now so get going.
The pace I’m following is more like my first MMO where I spent a lot of time smelling the roses and trying things out. I didn’t know about leveling, end-game, having nice gear, etc. I was like Julie Andrews skipping around with my wide-brimmed hat singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of muuuuuuuusic!” I find myself doing that again in ROM but the experienced gamer in me wants to race to the end. It says things like, “You’re going to get left behind, the lower zones will empty out, you’ll miss the advantage of being among the early crafters making the high end items, you’ll miss getting in groups to kill the world bosses and you’ll be a lowbie who can’t fight in the guild PVP sieges,” all of which sound like reasonable concerns.
Until now it’s been clear that a driving force in moving my character forward is leveling. I’ve wanted to play a game with more horizontal opportunities. One comes along and while I’m having fun dabbling sideways, it conflicts with the conditioning of moving forward. In games like World of Warcraft, most players don’t start messing horizontally until they complete the vertical tier. Even then, there’s not much sideways movement to be had other than grinding. As a result, many players create an alt to re-start the vertical climb again.
Then there's Wizard101 that I enjoyed very much. Similar to ROM and EVE, I can spend a couple of hours doing nothing but planning my next steps or hunting vanity items and still feel emotionally rewarded. And EVE itself, let's not go there on how much time you can spend shuffling stuff in your hanger, scanning the market, configuring ships and making skill training plans - all done tucked away in a space hanger and never firing up a ship. So much too do. So much that can be done that doesn't contribute to a vertical climb. After too much time on that passes I feel as though I'm not accomplishing enough and friends are leaving you behind. It really takes a different mindset to play a horizontal game plan without layering vertical expectations on yourself.
It's also a huge challenge trying to balance two very sideways games - ROM and EVE. I want to play both of them but that's not reasonable in a given week because they each required t-i-m-e if you don't want to do the jump-in-slash-and-bail, which I don't. Hmm, I need a plan. See how my brain works? *Smile*
So while I’m enjoying a game with lots of horizontal movement, my mind is playing tricks on me that I hadn't anticipated. I have to turn off the vertical-climb-cop’s voice and go with the flow. I’ve created something I’ve wanted to have in a game for a very long time – my crafting workshop. I craft there exclusively. I have guild members that craft there too for the convenience. I get lots of compliments on how I decorated the place. I think I’ve achieved something really cool. Yet the vertical-cop in my head keeps saying, “You’re only level 28. You suck!”