When you’re too undisciplined or just too enthusiastic about MMO gaming, then you end up bouncing around to a lot of titles like me. No, I still haven’t found the perfect balance for juggling games. I’ve tried dozens of strategies, but none really seem to stick other than “just play what you want right now and try your hardest to get around to all of the games on your roster.” That does not often go well, because some titles get preferrential treatment and some end up collecting dust.
But as I’m going through all of these games, I have come to separate them into two categories. The first is what I internally call the “invested” category. These are MMOs that have huge heapings of content, often from years of expansion and growth, and ones that require a lot of time and energy invested to play them right. Whatever “right” may be to me. Usually it’s putting down roots and really immersing myself into that character’s journey.
Let’s use Fallen Earth as an example from this category. Here’s a game that I love, a genre that’s pretty fun, and a world that’s just huuuuge. But it takes a long time to progress from scratch in that game, to harvest mats, to craft gear, to go anywhere, that I feel that just lightly playing it is pretty much pointless. It’s go all in or get out. That’s invested to me. LOTRO, WoW, EQII, RIFT, TSW — these are also invested MMOs. I could play them in little chunks, but I’d be miserable doing so. (And if it has a subscription fee? It’s automatically in this category because I can’t lightly play a sub game without feeling like I’m wasting my money.)
So I’m finding that I can only really handle about two invested MMOs at a time and make any sort of decent progress. LOTRO and TSW have me right now, with WildStar on deck next year. So while I might flirt with going back to these other games, I keep eying the long-term possibilities and asking myself, “Will this really be worth it? Will I really have the time?” And if that answer is no, then I have to put it aside, regretful as I may feel.
But the other category are my “buffet” titles. These are MMOs that seem designed to play without a lot worry about the long-term. They’re the carpe diem MMOs, the ones that are fun and easy to get into right now. They aren’t overloaded with content. They are structured so that individual game sessions can offer a breezy ride while giving me some good progression. Guild Wars 2, oddly enough, is a great example of a buffet MMO to me. Marvel Heroes, Neverwinter, and Star Trek Online are too. I mean, I could play them for long sessions, but I don’t tend to. These games don’t make me feel bad for playing in short bursts or sporadically either. If they’re games that are a little different or just experimental fun — like what I’m anticipating with Trove or Landmark — then great.
I think they’re also more arcadey on the whole — more focused on a flashy, Pavlovian experience with fewer buttons and less complications.
The buffet MMOs are the ones that I’m more eager to add to my gaming plate. I can load up on these, no problem, and not feel like I’m abandoning or neglecting any one of them just because I haven’t given them epic play sessions in the past week. Neither are better than the other, just cater to a different desire in me. Sometimes I want a full, rich meal of an experience, and sometimes I just want to pick over a buffet to enjoy a quick guilty pleasure.