Monday, October 22, 2007

Read any good books lately? While playing?

My level 42 druid in the original Everquest, when out of mana, would need exactly 15 minutes of meditation to get to full mana again. But at least he could teleport to various continents. My other characters, if they just missed the boat going from Freeport to Butcherblock would need to wait a full 20 minutes for the next boat to arrive, and that is not even counting the time needed for the trip itself. And there were lots of other features in EQ that made you wait, like a quest NPC spawning only every 8 hours, or a mob I once camped for 16 hours, which spawned every 23 minutes, but had a very low chance of dropping the mammoth cloak I wanted. The developers stated that all this "downtime" was intentional, so groups would have opportunity to chat. But if you were soloing you often ended up reading a book while playing.

Modern games have little or no downtime. In World of Warcraft you get up to full mana in a minute or two, the longest wait for a boat is 5 minutes, and the longest flight path is also just over 5 minutes. The only really slow-spawning mobs are those you need a raid for to kill, anything you are supposed to solo respawns within minutes. WoW doesn't give you much opportunity to catch up on your reading. The only games that still have significant downtime are those which have traveling as part of the gameplay, for example EVE Online. Going once across the galaxy in EVE takes a long time, during which not much happens, except at the gates.

The faster gameplay without downtime waiting periods has obvious advantages. If you wanted to read you could always log out. But sometimes I wonder whether it wouldn't be good to slow down a bit. For example the emergence of voice chat is partly due to the fact that the games are so hectic now that there isn't any time to discuss tactics with typed chat. Maybe not to book-reading slowness, but at least having combat slow enough that tactical decisions matter more than button mashing. What do you thing, are the games you play too fast, too slow, or just right for you?

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