The Casuality of Time
Time is precious. Time has been a bit of an issue for me over the past couple weeks, so it seems only fair to address it directly. As you can tell by the blog’s name, I consider myself a casual player – but I want to take a minute and explain what I mean by that, so I’m not being misunderstood. There are two categorizations of players, hardcore and casual.
- Hardcore players:
- Have nearly unlimited time to play. They can withstand 8+ hour gaming sessions.
- Spend what time they have outside of a game researching and theorycrafting about the game.
- Are globally competitive in their play: seeking “world firsts,” tournament wins, etc.
- Commit to multiple gaming sessions a week, usually with a guild, raid, arena, or battleground team.
- Casual players:
- Typically have very limited time to play.
- Are playing the game to have fun, they’re not expecting to win any prizes.
- Actually may also spend what free time they have outside of a game researching, if not theorycrafting, about the game.
- Have so many other demands in their lives that gaming for multiple hours, multiple times a week, is very unlikely.
The lines blur between these, but the largest dividing factor is time. I’ve frequently heard that hardcore players are “awesome” and casual players “suck” – and in all honesty I hope that’s the case because with that much practice time I certainly hope I could reach top-tier playing. However, we’re all playing the same games, and in most cases, it’s the money coming in from casuals that funds the development for hardcore content. Prior to WoW introducing the Raid Finder feature, something like less than 5% of the 10+ million subscribers were raiders. There are such things as casual raiders, but without even considering that, that means 95% of the subscribers were casual. Sorry, folks, we make the virtual worlds go ’round.
As for me, I actually do spend a ridiculous amount of my non-game free time on game-related blogs, podcasts, and twitter feeds. I’m trying not to turn into one of those smart-phone zombies that isn’t paying attention to what you’re saying in my face, because something just buzzed on my phone. I’m trying, but it isn’t always working. This is where things start to fall apart for me – time.
I’m not going to go on and on about how I have a life and the hardcore players don’t. I respect that they can manage their time more effectively than I can, and get what they want out of it. I’m busy spending time with my young children and my pretty wife, trying to knock out life’s errands once the kids are in bed, and somehow trying to work on building things in my garage, and navigate a full-time career. There’s a veritable ton of things to read, too – I just got an e-ink Kindle, those are really nice. I don’t get a chance to relax all that often, maybe twice a week, for somewhere between 1 and 3 hours. That’s it. I can’t realistically commit to a multi-night raid team, my life is too unpredictable.
This is how time comes into perspective for me. It’s very expensive, it’s very cherished, and I want to enjoy it. I don’t want this:
Yeah. That’s an image from Star Wars: The Old Republic. There’s something strange about the loading screens that makes them seemingly take all day (it genuinely is on the order of 3 to 4 minutes, no matter what your hardware specs are). The problem I’m having with SW:TOR is simple: it takes too much time. It takes about 4 minutes to load in. It takes at least 2 minutes to scooter-ride to your questing destination, and by the time you’ve knocked out a few quests, or run an instance with a couple friends, you’ve spent nearly two and a half hours.
I realize SW:TOR’s big selling premise is that they focus on the story. This is done through having voice-actors perform while you wait. They blab on while you just sit there and dumbly stare at the monitor instead of participating. Sure, you can turn on subtitles (I did) and press the spacebar (I do, frantically!), but this is really what you’re paying for in the game. You’re supposed to like being read to, as it draws you into the game-world and should feel more immersive.
In World of Warcraft, the loading screens take under 2 minutes from launching the launcher to standing in-world. From there, portals in your main city can take you to the zones where the quests are instantaneously, and then you’ll have to fly to finish getting to specific quests, at least in “end-game” content. Otherwise, you can join a dungeon-finder group or a raid finder group, and be queued up to join other players. While you’re essentially standing in line, you can continue doing whatever else interests you in-game, like daily quests or gathering/crafting. A lot of the waiting portions of the game are spent doing other things, so the loss of time isn’t as noticeable.
Wow comes in more digestible chunks as well. Questing dailies can take anywhere from a couple minutes, if you do the ones in your capital city, to perhaps an hour if you do all of the Molten Front dailies. Dungeon runs take about 20 minutes these days, a huge improvement from the 2+ hour marathon they were back in The Burning Crusade expansion. Raid Finder runs usually run about an hour, sometimes a bit more. If you have time to dedicate to raiding, that long-time-sink still exists. If you don’t, there’s still plenty of other things to do. I can choose what I want to do in game based off of how much time I have to play. Choices are very, very, good.
Diablo III, however, beats both of these games from a time perspective. It takes seconds to dump my inventory trash and hop a portal to where I left off. Getting to the action is extremely quick. There’s no waiting in line. There’s no journey-across-the-open-terrain requirement to make you think the world is big. You stand on a teleporter pad, and POOF! you’re stabbing things. Or, in my case, gently ushering your dimwitted frogs in the general direction of the bad guys. They hop elsewhere. Often.
If you’re playing with friends, you get their banners in your home city. Click on their banner, and POOF! you’re right beside them in whatever dangerous spot they found. There’s almost no time waiting around in this game.
Diablo comes in chunks of time that seem like they’re about 20 minutes. That’s a perfectly great time slice. If I don’t even have 20 minutes, I’m probably going to read a blog or check WoW Insider. If I have an hour or so, I feel like I’m really getting somewhere, because I’ve knocked out at least 3 sections. I can squeeze in a lot of killing in 60 minutes, since I’m not wasting time traveling, or senselessly checking my companions’ task lists to make sure they’re not freeloading off of my fly spaceship. You heard me, Qyzen!
My poster-child for best use of time-saving elements, though, is Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. I know, it’s a bit dorky, but the time-saving elements were amazing. You could teleport to any island you wanted. If you got in your boat to sail to another island, you were out adventuring, blazing cannons at the ghost ships and EITC frigates. The instances never felt like they were more than 15 minutes, you were in, out, and life was good. On top of all of that, there was a very sparse amount of buttons (like in Diablo), so there wasn’t anything to learn, you just have fun. I’m a huge sucker for that franchise, and I think they did a great job making a time-critical casual game. I still consider renewing my subscription, but SW:TOR, WoW, WoW MoP Beta, and Diablo are all WAY more choices than I can handle these days.
One other thing that I noticed while playing PotCO, there are a lot of parent/gamers out there. My guild on PotCO was almost exclusively parent/gamers, and so far, the blogs I’ve enjoyed the most are also written by parent/gamers themselves (more on that soon). As parents, we completely understand that the monitor squealing in the background means you have to go, no questions asked. We don’t want to waste our time on loading screens, or driving across the countryside. We’re here to kill things, steal their stuff, and relieve some stress from the fact that a decent night’s sleep is now considered a bucket-list concept.
Sorry it took so long to get another post out – but time is precious.