Earlier this year, Kotaku ran a piece on how to make your favorite games feel new again once they’ve gotten a bit stale. Since Kotaku cover lots of games, its suggestions included things that don’t necessarily apply to most MMOs, like running without a minimap or refusing to level up, but there are also some widely applicable ideas like challenging yourself to a permadeath character or streaming your gameplay in front of an audience.
What do you do in your favorite MMO when it starts to feel a bit stale? How do you recharge and refresh the game for yourself? These are the questions I posed to the Massively OP writers for this week’s Massively Overthinking.
Brendan Drain (@nyphur): In most MMOs, if I get bored of them I just play something else until I get the urge to jump back in or a friend wants someone to play with. We have so much choice now in MMOs and other online games that there’s not much reason to stick around if you’re not having fun. That said, when I get bored in a fantasy MMO or there’s nobody online to play with I’ll sometimes just go off exploring for a bit of fun. I like to sneak through zones that are much too high level for my character, try to climb on top of buildings or switch off the UI and take a romp through the wilderness.
EVE Online is the exception, as I’ve played since 2004 and always manage to find something new to keep myself interested. On my main character I flip between Faction Warfare and wormhole exploration every now and then, and when I get bored of that I have an industrial character for mining and manufacturing and a pirate character if I want to be a bit of a space bastard. There are so many things to do and each of them gets changed in some way every six months or so that I never get too bored of EVE.
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): With single-player games, it’s pretty easy for me: I mod. I mod the crap out of my games, basically making them into new games, tailored to whatever I want. That’s a little harder in MMOs, although I have sunk an incredible amount of time modding my UI in games where it’s possible, like World of Warcraft and Ultima Online. For other games — actually, for all games — I make a list as I go of everything I want to do and try in the game, all the unique systems I want to test out, the locations I want to visit, the classes or skill combos I want to try, the neat stuff I want to buy and wear. (Obviously, not all of these apply to every game!) I try to make it through that list before giving up on a game that’s growing stale.
Sometimes it works. For example, when I resubbed to UO over the summer, I was pretty bored the first month, and then I remembered I wanted to try the new housing tiles, and I became immersed in rebuilding my house, which got me back into crafting, which got me back into hunting for materials, and suddenly I was hooked again. But sometimes it doesn’t work, and that’s OK. Sometimes only a break can repair the staleness, and I no longer fear taking breaks. If the game is good, it’ll have more stuff for me later.
Jef Reahard (@jefreahard): There are too many games that I haven’t played for me to spend time on old faves, regardless of how much I loved them. With single-player games, I beat the campaign, save my screenshots/FRAPs, and uninstall.
When MMOs start feeling stale, I quit. Most MMOs these days are stale from day one and by design, so I don’t stick around longer than a couple of weeks if the devs can’t be bothered to implement the features that earlier MMOs had. Yes, that is a(nother) Star Wars Galaxies reference; deal with it or make me a game that has all of its options.
Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Strange enough, what almost always works in my case is to break my first commandment of MMO fandom: to read the official forums. Often I get into ruts and routines in how I play MMOs, and by poring over the forums looking for guides and seeing what others are up to in the game, I’ll get new ideas and new goals that will revitalize my experience.
Matt Daniel (@Matt_DanielMVOP): I’m more or less in Jef’s camp on this one. I usually don’t play single-player games long enough for them to get stale, and if I do, I usually just move on to the next game on my to-play list rather than trying to come up with self-imposed rules to try to freshen it up. Likewise with MMOs, really. If I get bored, I’ll take a break, play something else for a while, and come back to it later.
MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): I guess I don’t really play games if they feel stale to me; if I don’t feel like playing, then I don’t. It’s not as if there aren’t other games out there to poke into for a bit (I’ve got a hard drive stuffed full of them!), not to mention all the real-life projects I have. If something doesn’t fit my mood for the moment, I just play something that does. The main time games lose their luster for me is when all my friends and comrades stop playing, and then no amount of trying to make it “fresh” would matter because the element that is missing is the people I enjoy playing with!
However, while still playing games, I have been known to give myself various challenges to spice things up a bit more. But that isn’t because I felt things were stale: It just means I have a devilish streak and like to try to do things that I shouldn’t be able to! The challenge itself depends on the game and just what exactly strikes my fancy right then, be it wanting to beat something that should be too tough, reaching a place I shouldn’t be able to, randomly roleplaying with strangers who aren’t expecting it, or what have you.