What Keeps You in a Game?
Not too long ago I was playing ArcheAge and I was convinced that this was ‘the game for me’. I purchased a multi-month subscription and leveled my main up to 40-something; where I promptly logged out one day and then never logged back in (minus one exception, I did log in when there was a promotion ongoing, I wanted the mount). What is it about games that draws me in? What changes about them that makes me question why I even began playing?
The first question is quite easy. I love a robust world. I love being able to explore, doing quests, and a crafting system. I love player housing and player created content. What I don’t like is end game, and the closer I get to that end game the less likely it is that I’ll continue playing. What changes about the games that makes me stop? Well, it’s not something about the games themselves so much as the fact that as I continue to play I get closer to the ‘end game’ whatever that may be. In most cases it’s a world that I simply don’t want to participate in. I have no interest in raiding and it’s rare that I want to group. I’m tired of running daily quests, and I dislike that dailies have become the crutch most MMOs use to convince players to log in each day. What I need is something to convince the casual player (me) to continue playing so that it doesn’t feel like a grind. In most cases this ends up being either 1. alts, 2. crafting, or 3. Some sort of mini-casual end-game like housing, collecting pets, mounts, or achievements. Problem is, there’s so much competition for these things that I can easily log into 5 or 6 other MMOs and find the exact same things in a world where I’ve already established my characters.
Lets look at ArcheAge in specific. I really disliked the whole idea of having to constantly log in to make sure that my plot of land wasn’t going to vanish. It made it seem like a task, and I worked really hard to get that piece of land when there were so many others trying to get land, so the idea that it could vanish so easily was quite upsetting. Then there was the fact that I couldn’t purchase more land unless I camped it and battled other characters to earn it, or spent a huge amount of money to purchase it. I didn’t want to have to wait months down the road for content that I wanted to do ‘now’. Add to that, labour. If I was ever at the cap for labour I felt as though I was wasting it, and that I must log in to use it up and make sure that I was always optimizing my character in that regard. Eventually it just became draining. Finally, there was the fact that I was quickly approaching end game. I felt that I was ‘behind’ everyone else, that I was constantly going to have to play catch-up, and that there would be little to no ways for me to actually catch up unless I participated in those tasks which I decidedly did not enjoy (grouping).
So I stopped logging in. Once I lost my plot, it was easy to cancel my subscription and stop playing. Take away one thing that I felt like I had ‘earned’ and the lure of the game goes down drastically. Make me feel obligated to log in (muck like work) rather than excited, and I’ll be less likely to log in. Make it seem like a chore, instead of fun. That’s what these systems did to a casual player like me.
That’s not to say I won’t ever be back, I did log in a few days ago because a lot of friends on twitter were excited about the game and I of course wanted to feel like a part of that excitement, but the instant I logged my characters in and realized they no longer own land, no longer have extra storage, and were so far behind that it would just be a lot of work to ever get caught up, I logged right back out.
That’s not how you keep me playing your game.