What Keeps You in a Game?

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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.

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3 Comments

  1. The idea of throttling crafting through a mechanic like labor is a must in an MMO. Unfortunately, ArcheAge uses labor as a bludgeon to substantially differentiate between premium and free members and has the low labor cap to push you to log in. I thought that this lesson was already learned with Zynga games like Farmville. If you obligate players to frequently log in to avoid losing production, then you will burn them out. Labor is a must have mechanic, but ArcheAge implements it with the wrong philosophy in mind. It shouldn’t be a game play gating mechanic, but a mechanic designed to replace making a player wait to craft/mine/gather. We don’t play to sit and watch a progress bar move. Having our crafting throttled by labor should make the timers disappear. They are now extraneous. Labor is a better system to accomplish rarity than the limits of player boredom is. Hopefully, a future crafting system will get this right.

  2. @Bhagpuss:

    “I would probably go back to FFXIV if they removed the requirement to group to progress the personal story or removed the requirement to do the personal story to progress the character. ”

    An enthusiastic high-five to you! That’s EXACTLY why I quit FF XIV too. If they ever make it so I can advance solo I’ll be back in a flash. I like playing this one on the console and just kind of puttering along, doing my own thing. I totally accept that I won’t see a lot of instanced dungeons if I only play solo, but (as a fairly low level example) making me group with strangers just to get a mount just pushed me away.

    With ArcheAge it was losing my land; once that happened I know if I ever went back it would be to start a new character and just play it as a pure questing game, totally ignoring all the things that make it different (the land ownership and stuff).

  3. Sometimes it’s fairly easy to tell why I’ve dropped a game cold. In ArcheAge it was one of the reasons you gave: “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 “. That was exactly what happened, except it hit me the very moment I filled my labor bar for the first time. I logged out with it full and never logged in again because I knew that from then on every session would involve me making decisions on what to do with that labor and I’m really not big on having to make decisions.

    I had to think quite hard about whether to stop playing FFXIV but in the end it was another of the reasons you list that made my mind up: Forced Grouping. FFXIV is a good MMO but any MMO would have to be a LOT better than that for me to put up with forced grouping. That’s a mechanic that should have died a decade ago – indeed I thought it had. I would probably go back to FFXIV if they removed the requirement to group to progress the personal story or removed the requirement to do the personal story to progress the character. Otherwise, not worth the hassle.

    Most times though I stop playing an MMO because something more interesting comes along and distracts me. Those MMOs I could pick up again any time and often do.

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