You can, of course, read that as a natural consequence of any game you play for an extended period of time. But I think there are reasons that this is hitting now, when I know full well that if I wanted to there are definitely things I can do in the game. I do not want for content by any stretch of the imagination. So why, then, do I not want to play that content? Why now? What’s different about this situation?
I think some of the issues – perhaps not all, but some – can be understood by taking a look at the beast tribe quests added in this patch. More specifically, what wasn’t added with this patch, something that was normally brought along with a new beast tribe quest line – a second best tribe quest line. The Vanu Vanu have a single track of daily quests and you get three per day; they’re meant to help leveling along, in part, so you don’t get ever-escalating tiers of quests but just get three per day to do in a very steady order.
And there is where troubles begin, oddly.
Previous patches usually included two separate beast tribes with a fairly straightforward structure. You had six quests available per day, and you could use all six of them on the highest ranks of a single tribe, or you could split them between the two tribes available. The former option meant you capped out on a single tribe faster, but had to do a bunch of additional work on the other tribe. The latter wound up being slightly faster overall, but you wound up advancing each tribe more slowly.
A grand choice? No. But it did allow for you, as a player, to determine how you wanted to go through this content. By making for only one path with only one right answer, it’s no longer possible to make that choice, and the net result is that you have content with a smaller individual footprint but a longer tail. You have only one path, and it takes longer to walk, like doing both tribes individually back-to-back.
Why does that bother me? Because, I realize belatedly, I’ve always much preferred doing my full allotment of daily beast tribe quests and getting through both tribes faster. Even though I’ve never really wanted the rewards.
If I had to formulate a working theory, it would be this: By diminishing the amount of time needed or encouraged for an individual task in the game, the designers have made it easier for you to find yourself bored and move on. And I think that in a subtle fashion this has run its way through large portions of the game. There’s just as much to do as there has ever been, but subtle choices in presentation make it harder to sustain interest and keep going.
Doing a full set of six beast tribe quests itself isn’t a huge issue one way or the other. What it does impact, however, is how much time I spend playing to accomplish that. A full set of tasks means that I’m playing for an extended period of time, which means I start thinking about the other things I want to accomplish and planning around those. Then I start inventing more projects because I’m already playing, so I might as well stick with it.
Halve that time, and it reduces the required investment. And I’m looking at a longer tail, where each individual day’s effort contributes less forward motion. It’s a shorter walk to shrugging and saying that it’s not really that important and I’m not going to log in just for that.
The functional removal of leves hasn’t helped matters, either. Yes, leves are still in the game, but the 50-60 leves are only obtainable and redeemable in Ishgard proper, slowing down movements. A full outlay of temple leves, which are the only ones that provide a meaningful chunk toward the next level, wipes out your leves as a whole for several days. You can get only three at a time at most, and while temple leves are supposed to be larger and more elaborate, in practice it just means doing the same thing a few more times. So it’s more time for less actual content to do and more irritation, and there’s a real sense once you do it that it’s not worth logging in just for that.
It’s a subtle effect running through a large amount of the game at the moment, I fear. Not bad design, not even boring design, but design that emphasizes a certain degree of of extended content compared to letting you set the pace. There’s a sense of disconnect, and it feels as if many of the projects players could undertake solo are now sharply stymied on a daily basis.
I like running dungeons. Given the option, I know my choice for leveling is always going to be running leveling roulettes and clearing out leves. But at this point, with leves functionally pointless, I feel as if my options are more accurately presented as “run your leveling roulette, then wait until tomorrow.” It’s a removal of options, and while it may not functionally change a great deal, it still leads me to ask myself whether I want to log in simply to complete one half-hour task with a very constrained availability.
There’s definitely content in place. I can even understand a push to make sure that the content is more accessible for people who don’t have a couple of nightly hours to devote to that content. For the players with less time to do something on a daily basis, subdividing things thusly can be helpful. Heck, I imagine there are people who prefer content arranged in that fashion, not beholden to a single clock.
But for the way that I enjoy playing, the most recent patch offers me very little in terms of reasons to stay logged in and engaged if I don’t have something planned. That leads to me not logging in or planning as much, which only exacerbates the problem. I’m hardly of the mindset that this means doom or anything of the sort, but it does make me think that perhaps a bit further consideration is warranted before patch 3.2’s content is released.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. As always when I write a column that’s a bit different than usual, your feedback is particularly valuable in determining whether or not this was a successful experiment. Next time around, I want to talk a bit about obvious places for the next expansion to go and which ones seem most likely.