Sunday, May 27, 2007

Use of real time in virtual worlds

When I'm logging into World of Warcraft nowadays, it is more often than not to just do a transmute with my alchemist, once a day. Meanwhile most of my alts in Lord of the Rings Online are camping scholar work orders, which they can get every six hours. The common thing is that my progress in these areas is limited by real world time, not by anything I do in the game. Being offline I still advance, and in both WoW and LotRO I also gain rest xp bonus by just waiting. EVE Online even has their complete skill system being based on real team, it takes so and so many days to gain a skill level, whether you are online or not.

The advantage of such systems is that they are the ultimate of fairness. Each of us gets 24 hours per day, no more and no less. And our monthly fees to the game company are also based on real time, so for once everyone gets what he paid for. The only way to get more transmutes would be to make an alt and level him up to the level required for transmutations, but most people would consider that excessive.

The disadvantage of that is a certain disconnect. I didn't really enjoy gaining skills in EVE; gaining skills by doing something is so much more rewarding than gaining skills by waiting. And the transmutes in WoW or the work orders in LotRO are a simple matter of logging on, doing your thing, and logging off again. There is no sense of achievement in that.

I think that games like World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings Online strike the right balance here: Real time is mostly used for minor tradeskill things, and doesn't have too much of an influence on your main progress in the game. Only the waiting time on rest xp bonus influences your level progress, and that is something which usually ends helping those that need it most. A system like in EVE effectively puts a real world time limitation on your leveling progress, and that is not that good. Would you want to play a game that told you "Sorry, you already leveled once today, come back tomorrow"?

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