The Daily Grind: How much time is a satisfying play session for an MMO?

    
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Croooooooooooooooow (Jupon)

Back in the days of Final Fantasy XI, if I didn’t have at least three hours to play the game I rarely would bother logging in. I loved the game, but odds were low I was going to get anything accomplished if all I had time for was half an hour of play; it’d feel like an appetizer at best, not a satisfying play session.

Strangely, this feeling hasn’t actually changed for me through the years as much as you might think. At this point, I want at least an hour and a half before I’ll consider a play session worthwhile, despite the fact that I can get a lot more done in the same amount of time. While three hours in FFXI might get me most of a level, I can easily level up twice in World of Warcraft in half that amount of time… but if I only have time to get most of a level there, I’ll feel like I didn’t really have enough time to play.

But this might have more to do with my own way of planning out my days. What do you think, dear readers? How much time is a satisfying play session for an MMO?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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StarDruid

These days I can’t even find a game that let’s me spend as much time as I feel I need to be satisfied. Most just feel empty & dead, and all the so called content is boring as hell. MMO simple have gone no where at all in the last 21+ years beside fancy graphics. I’ve ended up back on a Wurm Unlimited server since at least the crafting can keep me entertained, and I can work with others to build something like a city. Doesn’t help I work a job that I like enough but work 11pm to 7am and have little to do for those 8 hour. I’m really just a warm body there in case of an emergency or the participant needs me. Sadly I’m ADD and get bored easily if not kept busy. These days I’d be happy with a sandbox MMOrpg that the dev team only built the dungeons/monster etx) and let the player base build all the cities, weapons etc. Give crafter like myself a purpose that would mean something beside feeding stuff to pointless MMOrpg pvp all the sand boxes f
ocus on these days.

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Carebear

In old mmos i can play for many hours and not even notice! In modern mmos once i complete the daily tasks/whores after 30-40 min i want to logout as i lose the will to play longer..

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McGuffn

An hour. Any more is overkill

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Sray

Personally, I’ve stopped playing anything that I can’t accomplish something (ie. complete a match/mission) in under 20 minutes. It’s not that I don’t have the time for longer play sessions, it’s that I hate feeling like I’m committed for a long stretch of time. I’m perfectly okay with logging into a game intending to spend 20 minutes that turns into 3 hours; I’m not okay with logging into a game and finding that I need at least 45 minutes to an hour to get anything done.

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Lethality

You realize this is wholly incompatible with virtual-world gameplay, and the reason the genre has stunted?

Why do you look to MMOs if all you have is 20 minutes? Why do you expect that to work out?

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Sray

If you ask me, MMOs have stunted because of the insistence on pissing away a player’s time with a bunch of time wasting junk meant to foster a sense of commitment so as to keep them on a treadmill. We live in a world where there are far too many options for entertainment that are competing for our limited time to deal with games that intentionally keep pushing back the goalposts so as to instill an overdeveloped sense of attachment that keeps the player paying ad infinitum. And that is the reason I haven’t played MMOs for quite some time now.

God forbid that there are multiple design models used for building MMOs: some that use long form gameplay and some that go for short form.

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Lethality

Why do they need to go to the trouble of creating an entire virtual world with systems to support it for “short form” gameplay? That’s what other games already do, and if that’s all you’re needing to get out of it, those are better games to play. Not to ask MMOs to neuter themselves into the state they’re in currently.

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Sray

I’m going to repeat myself because it’s clear that you believe that MMOs can only be done one way. God forbid that there are multiple design models used for building MMOs: some that use long form gameplay and some that go for short form.

MMOs have been built to appeal to pretty much one single type of gamer, the long form gamer; but what if they built them for audiences who wanted short form game play as well? What would happen is that we’d get games that appeal to different, separate audiences: you would no more have developers of “your” game trying to appease gamers like me than the developers of “my” game would be trying to appease games like you. That would mean variety in MMOs. Variety in MMOs would mean the genre was in a healthy, non-stagnant state.

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Lethality

Did you read a word I said?

Building an entire world and systems to support it is WHOLLY UNNECESSARY. You want a small, focused experience that you can spend 20 minutes in? Every other genre is over there —->

But to do a virtual world, no… there is only one way. And time commitment is a part of it.

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Sray

Did you read anything I wrote either? You’re defining MMOs solely as the same thing they’ve been for over two decades, which is why the genre has grown stagnant and the term has become marketing poison. I’m saying that they can be more.

MMOs can be worlds filled with short form activities that naturally lead into one another: activity A naturally leads into activity B, and then into C and so on; and each one of these activities takes five to twenty minutes to accomplish. There is nothing about that type of design that is contradictory to building a virtual world. Right now MMOs are built almost entirely around long form activities with little natural flow to one another, which creates few opportunities to log out, but every reason to do so when they come along because of how long you’ve spent in game. I’m talking about building an MMO around smaller activities that create frequent opportunities to log out, but little reason to do so because of how little time you’ve spent in game. There’s nothing about short form gaming goes against the idea of virtual worlds: it’s just that no one has done it yet.

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Lethality

We have differing views on this, obviously.

I understand what you are describing, but the problem is from a game design standpoint it’s too splintered.

What you’re talking about is a “lobby” world for lack of a better term, filled with mini games that contribute to some greater progression.

Sony’s FreeRealms pointed in this direction… but it was a disconnected experience (no pun intended!). It was just a bunch of players doing things, rather than reacting and influencing the world itself.

I’d argue having short form activities *designer defined* in the game is a bad thing, but *player defined* short-form activities are ok.

For example, you can log in and work on refining the lumber you’re going to need for that ship you’re building. That will take 20-30 minutes, and is meaningful progress.

But it’s not something the game set out for you, that will reward you with a piece of loot, a small stack of gold coins, and and achievement badge.

The things that do that are what has stunted the genre, and why I don’t think those short of splintered short-form activities are the right thing for a proper virtual world MMO.

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Utakata

“Why do they need to go to the trouble of creating an entire virtual world with systems to support it for ‘short form’ gameplay?”

My Goblins have one answer for that one: “Cha-ching!”

…for all your conservative views on gaming, you seem to forget the one Randian aspect of why players gravitate to the games you seem to be not interested in. It’s the current trend of the market, for good or bad. And this is why Sray-san’s position is more than possible. It’s an actual.

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Ironwu

Meaningless question as it all depends on the person, the game and what they are looking to get out of the session.

One may need many hours if the goal is to complete a full raid in a traditional MMO. It may be as little as 5 or 10 minutes to complete a defense mission in Warframe.

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Sray

It’s not meaningless: the question is meant to solicit subjective, personal answers from all the respondents, not some type of consensus.

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rafael12104

There is no set time for me. I mean, I quickly duck in, on occasion, just to check my high ticket items on the auction house and when they sell, it is a very satisfying session. All told approximately 5 minutes. Heh.

Yet, there are the multiple-hours when raiding and even longer sittings when new content drops which are very satisfying when uninterrupted.

And, when the stars align, and I’m playing a new game that I love without worry of work or other real-life pursuits? Oh, baby. “foegedda bout it!” You may not see me for a few days. LOL!

So, time isn’t the key for me. It’s more about what I’m doing with the time given.

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Fervor Bliss

Shortest is 15 to 20 minutes of crafting. Just a relaxing reminder.

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BalsBigBrother

Anything from 30 minutes to OMG ITS WHAT TIME? Though the omg ones are few and far between these days as they tend to leave me feeling wrecked for a couple of days after.

My game time has certainly shortened over the years and more often than not due to my ageing body than anything else. The mind is still willing to do the all nighters but the body is screw that and go to bed you idiot :)

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Tandor

My game sessions may last anything from 10 minutes to an hour or a little more, after that I either take a break or have other things to do anyway. Group camping in EQ for entire evenings eventually killed my interest in that sort of thing, for years now I’ve had more fun just dipping in and out of a game with my own chosen activity be it questing, crafting, fishing or whatever.

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Sharon Rager Guzman

FFXI back in the day would have required at least 3 hours to do anything. Not so much now. If i’m really enjoying a game I can get lost for hours but agree with the comment on feeling depressed afterwards. These days i’m good with 1 – 3 hours tops and that’s only maybe 2 days a week. I make a terrible guild member. Lol!