Massively Overthinking: Designed downtime in MMORPGs

    
37

In a Daily Grind not long ago, MOP reader Armsbend said something I thought just cried out for discussion. After noting that he had a guild member who used to spend hours rescuing friends’ corpses from in-game disasters, he criticized the way some MMOs seem to have intentionally built in these timesinks: “We long for yesteryear, but at the same time so much of game design was created around wasting our time to stay in their game over other games,” he observed.

In gaming parlance, that’s literally the definition of designed downtime, is it not – the idea that developers are padding out a game with intentional reasons for you to stop your chugging along a path and take a break without actually logging out of a game. We might be charitable here and say that not all designers have that conscious goal of monopolizing all our free time with boring bits, although we certainly know of some using psychology wizardry to do just that. But the end result speaks for itself.

For this week’s Overthinking, I’ve asked our writers to reflect on the concept of designed downtime in MMOs. Is it a good thing? A bad thing? A plague on all MMOs? What’s the worst example in MMO land, and what’s the most appealing?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): It depends on the design goal. For example, when crafting has daily stamina or timers involved in a game without item decay, it feels like the goal is to prevent you from playing at your own speed. With item decay though, it helps prevent flooding the market which ruins the economy.

Body runs I feel were one of the better MMO downtime tools, especially in PvE. They made death during regular play sting, but rarely was it that painful once you had an idea of your own abilities. And if you messed up or were new? It gave you a reason to reach out and be social. I actually met some of my favorite MMO players because of body runs, and I’m still in contact with one of them. That was almost 20 years ago, yeesh! I think that says something.

Andy McAdams: I might be a little in the minority here, but I like designed downtime. For me, it makes sure I don’t rush through everything at breakneck speed and forget that playing the game is the fun part. I can sometimes get so focused on my in-game goals that I actually ignore when I’m not having fun pursuing those goals, or that I would really rather be doing something else. Designed downtime provides that check for me, that moment of pause and reflection to say, “huh, you know maybe I can do something else for a bit,” and so I do. I know people will argue vehemently against this, but my favorite designed downtime is a taxi service. I like instant travel to exist, to be a special event or something that takes consideration to use. Taxi travel can feel burdensome, but it can also (if done right) add the immersion and the feeling of being part of the world. Riding the taxi in Wildstar and listening to the robotic cabbie chatter at you as you lounged in the back seat was a joy.

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): I don’t mind designed downtime as long as I don’t recognize it as such. That means it’s been well integrated and is not detracting from other parts of the game that I enjoy. But the moment I roll my eyes at the thought of leveling yet another legendary weapon or closing yet another Psijic portal (purely hypotheticals, of course), my brain has started to realize that what I’m doing isn’t enjoyable any more. It’s at this point that I begin to resent being forced down a path in order to get to the “fun stuff”. Too many of these revelations, and I may decide to find another game altogether.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I’ve written a lot about designed downtime in the past, not all of which I even agree with anymore. The term used to make me exceedingly salty because I associated it with a certain subset of games that purported to seek to create a social environment but seemed obsessed with baking in a lot of waiting in the hopes that it would inspire social play – instead of, you know, building out actual social systems like housing, PvP, and trade that would definitely generate social play, and social play of a higher caliber and stickiness to boot. That drove me nuts.

But the game I directed most of my ire at has changed so much since then it seems pointless to continue harping on it now. So instead, let me point you all to an old Raph Koster blog in which he talks about social loops in Star Wars Galaxies. Though he doesn’t use the term designed downtime explicitly, it’s a good descriptor for some of the gameplay in that title, and even better, SWG has both really great examples and really terrible examples to learn from.

“In SWG, we were designing in loops instead: sending players out into the wilderness, then bringing them back. We wanted people to bump into each other in ‘water cooler’ areas, and we wanted there to be ‘third places’ in the world, where you voluntarily went for your downtime because you liked to go there. Because of this, our building list included things like bars, theaters, parks, areas fully intended to one day host player weddings or guild induction ceremonies, and so on.”

Koster wasn’t gleefully inserting downtime to slow down your advancement, like making you meditate for a minute between every fight; he was effectively inserting a player interaction nexus in logical spots along a planned gameplay loop that managed to feel freefrom. So when you came back to town to bank or catch a flight or pick up more missions, you would also stop into the cantina and rest up to heal your battle wounds and fatigue, surrounded by a whole secondary community of cantina-rats providing both social and mechanical services. Aside from the potential for this to go awry on underpopulated servers or be derailed by botters, it worked on multiple levels to create social intersections between player groups, to flesh out the player ecosystem and create fresh bonds between combatants and noncombatants.

On the other hand, SWG also did supremely annoying things like make you wait 10 minutes for a shuttle, often with several hops to get where you were doing. The lengthy travel, presumably inspired by long boat rides in games like EverQuest, sparked roughly the same social interaction as people who get on an elevator at the same time, and it’s over as quickly as it began, so what was the point again? Wouldn’t it have been better to spend all those minutes actually roleplaying or hanging out in a medical center patching people up? Perfect examples of how a single game can get it so right and so wrong. The idea isn’t bad, but the implementation can make or break it.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX): I play Black Desert Online, and two of the major instances of designed downtime is from the travelling and the processing. I like it. It forces me to get up and do something healthy, get a bite to eat, clean the house a bit, take out the dogs, etc. When I play Final Fantasy XIV, all I did was tank. I got instant queues and since I didn’t need to travel anywhere it was very easy for me to lose track of time and play myself to exhaustion because everything was so instant. That doesn’t happen for Black Desert Online; when my bags are full, there’s my stopping point. It gives me a chance to change my pace and decide if I want to keep playing that day. It also encourages planning ahead; I need to know what I’m doing in the game at that moment so I don’t waste any time. Of course, there’s ways around it, people would “park an alt” where bosses spawn so there’s no travel time between places, but that needs an alt. For me, I plan ahead, but when I’ve got like all day to play, I appreciate the downtime because it’s a good stopping point to do some self care. So for me, it’s good.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): An absolute plague, and I promise that’s not my salt coming from my Legends of Aria CMA. There are a couple of these wasted timesinks that I don’t hate too much if it provides a sense of immersion — the boat rides in Final Fantasy XI or the train trip through Lorville in Star Citizen — but forcing me to waste my time to revive and retrieve my stuff simply because your came couldn’t be fussed to include even a vague gauge of how well I can stack up against a threat isn’t clever or hardcore, it’s laziness in a thin “difficulty” shell.

Okay, maybe a little bit of salt.

Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): My first reaction to this is to say, “Yeah! Designed downtime is the worst!” It’s basically the MMO equivalent of limited lives and unreasonable difficulty in games from the ’80s and ’90s; it’s an outdated mechanic designed to keep you feeding quarters into the arcade machine or keep you from realizing how short your NES game really is. So many people have solved this problem in other, better ways, why should I put up with it?

… And then I realize just how much time I’ve been putting into Oldschool RuneScape lately (mostly on mobile), which is literally Timesinks: The Game. Watch your character turn steel bars into cannonballs. Watch your character chop down teak trees. Watch your character stab inches-deep water with a harpoon and somehow retrieve sharks. Even the combat is just watching your character perform the same action repeatedly, with no input from you, until stuff dies. It’s all designed downtime. Yet somehow I get satisfaction out of watching those XP bars fill up. Yes, RuneScape was my first MMO, so nostalgia has a lot to do with it, but there’s a certain — dare I use the phrase? — “sense of pride and accomplishment” that comes with doing something super boring so long that you can do it better than anyone else.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): This is a trickier topic than you might first assume because not everything that takes time is designed downtime. I’m not for intentionally inserted time sinks that serve absolutely no function than to waste our time, but there are things that take time that help to immerse us into the world and are parts of gaming. I mean, unless you bring us a game where all travel is instant, all combat can be resolved with a single button press, and you’re automatically at the highest level with the best gear, there’s going to be some time and effort involved. I think that we would simply like the game to respect our time and deliver an experience that feels fulfilling and is productive with as little procrastinating as possible.

The worst time sink that I routinely encounter are reputation grinds. I like these systems on principle, but the amount of reputation and time required to max these out and get rewards is usually stupid long. Cut them in half and make them more reasonable, and we will talk. The best time sink is scenic travel, especially through zones that carry memories for the player.

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): I have mixed feelings about designed downtime. I think it comes down to a matter of the types of downtime and the pacing of the downtime. I have noticed that a lot of modern games have a frenetic vibe, with people running through dungeons like their pants are on fire. I have played casters in a bunch of games where mana potions exist, but I have never found an actual reason to use one because the mana regeneration rate is that high. That keeps the fights moving along briskly, but sometimes I would actually like to talk to the people I meet in game. There’s no time for that in a lot of those situations..

I am old and played EverQuest (the original) for a long time, and that’s at the opposite end of the spectrum. It was largely TimeSink: The Game, and when I subscribed for a month to jump onto one of the progression servers, I discovered that I just can’t deal with that at this point in my gaming career. Even on the regular servers with all the quality of life improvements, the pacing is still very slow compared to what I have become accustomed to. That’s part of what EverQuest is, but I have different expectations in 2019.

I would like to see a game where the downtime and the pace are such that I can have actual text chat conversations with people at least occasionally, without being so slow that I wander away from the game to go watch some paint dry. I think it helps to have a lot of optional activities that are slower paced and take you out of the main thrust of the game (fishing, for instance), and a mix of features that keep the required downtime to a comfortable minimum without speeding everything up to the ridiculous pace of the supersonic dungeon sprints.

I feel like I want to say something about quick travel vs. autorunning vs. manually running all over the map, but that’s a particular kind of downtime that might be an entire discussion unto itself.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): I have some problem with the designation “downtime.” Downtime implies that the activity is taking a break from playing the game, and I hear it used in gaming, that specifically means combat and/or hard-core progression. Is the fighty combat stuff the only thing considered playing the game? Are we trying to say only fast-paced adrenaline rushes count? Why isn’t participating in non-combat activities considered a part of playing the game? Why isn’t fishing considered playing the game? What about traveling to explore areas? I could go on. Those are more about playing a game to me than combat. But it is definitely a stigma I see over and over again: People are even accused of not “playing” a game regardless of their hours involved just because they choose activities other than combat.

Now, if by designated you mean being artificially forced into an activity instead of my choosing when I want to participate, then yes, I am not at all a fan of that. If I am in the mood to go harvesting, then I don’t want to be gated by having to complete some sort of combat — or combat level — requirement to do so. Conversely, if I want to go all blast-and-bash on mobs, then I’d like to go go go and not be told, oh wait, you first must level up inn-sitting for a total of 300 points!

That doesn’t mean that progression can’t have a sprinkling of alternative activities mixed in. Say you need to gain entrance to a new dungeon but first must collect a few materials by harvesting. An organic weaving of non-combat and combat is ideal for me — as long as you aren’t gated completely by an alternate activity. There need to be other dungeons or fights you can participate in still if you just don’t want to harvest for that one. And you need to not be completely prevented from advancing in story or progression until you do it! If there are alternatives so I can participate in different activities when I choose to, I am satisfied — and way more likely to spend lots of time in the game.

Oh great.

Samon Kashani (@thesamkash): I’ve got to say I’m not a fan of designed downtime. I’ve only got a couple hours at best a night to get my game on, and I’m not about to be happy spending any amount of it not enjoying the game. I know lots of you are thinking of designed downtime as sitting on the boat waiting to sail or something similar, but I’m thinking of it in terms of terrible matchmaking. Bear with me here. Let’s take some arena PvP matchmaking.

Now there’s a ton of different matchmaking algorithms that games can employ, but you’ll know fast when you are in one that is driving your overall win-rate to 50% no matter the rank/class/league you are in. If I’m playing solo or even a duo queue and suddenly realize I’ve won the last, let’s say, 4+ matches in a row, well strap in because the next 4+ fights are going to be absolute trash. If its a game with full teams versus solo queuers, prepare for those next fights to be filled by full teams. To me, this is designed downtime. The matches likely won’t be close, and there’s absolutely nothing I, playing solo, can do but grin and bear it. Well that or git gud.

Tyler Edwards: I have few kind words for any game that intentionally wastes my time, to the point where there’s little for me to say on the matter beyond quoting the immortal words of Mr. Horse: “No sir, I don’t like it.” I’m all for stopping to smell the roses. I’ve spent plenty of time in MMOs just standing around, or wandering aimlessly, taking in the sights. But that should be my choice when the mood strikes me. It shouldn’t be forced on me by developers just so they can delay my progress (and presumably make more money off me).

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
luxundae

Downtime is something I quite enjoy in the real world. Often it’s just a few stolen moments sitting on the couch reading a book, or grabbing a beer with friends, but sometimes it’s a meditative train ride between cities while staring out the window at the rain, or an hour spent listening to bad pop while making a big vat of curry so we’ll have lunches for the next week.

Downtime is an integral part of my real life, and I consider it to be an integral part of any true virtual world I’d want to take part in. I don’t want to be in a fully engaged mode all the time. I don’t want to be in an adrenaline-fueled click rush all the time.

I don’t want to be *artificially* prevented from engaging in that when I’m ready for it. “You can’t open that door again because you already opened it once today” does not reflect a real world.

But I certainly wouldn’t mind some mechanic that encourages me to chill and do other things. Some measure of how stressed or exhausted my character is, where recovery comes from indulging in meditative past times, guilty pleasures, or downright vices. (Those familiar with the Blades in the Dark TTRPG’s system for achieving things through incurring stress and then needing to indulge vices to reduce stress might see that I’m cribbing a lot of this from people with far more game design experience than I have.)

Not only would that result in me being more engaged with a virtual world that felt increasingly real, it would also encourage game designers to actually put interesting downtime environments into their game. Bree’s comments on SWG are great. They created gameplay loops that anticipated downtime and thus spent real time and energy on things like cantinas. Imagine if all games had this. Rolling hillsides and gardens to walk through, mechanics for painting them at different times of day in different weather, poetry and music, bars and clubs, kitchens and banquets, theater and movies. No need to make these secondary mechanics that all simply result in percentage buffs to combat. Make them part of the real [virtual] game world!

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

Much of the missing downtime elements are due to people whom scream i only have 10 minutes to play because i have a life and kids and a family and a job so i have to feel like i just ran a raid in 10 minutes and feel like i accomplished something or i’m not playing. I understand that point completely. So why design any downtime in games at all nowadays.

Imagine that today? Sit down to play SWG 10 minutes later you’re not even close to pulling the trigger on your first mob for your mission, heck your not even remotely close to your location, a week later you finally arrive at the mobs cause you only play 10 minutes a night.

It’s easy to understand why it all disappeared.

It also comes down to that really, time, some have allot, some have less, i know the feeling of wanting to jump on squeeze in a few minutes and that feeling of getting something done. I have more time now and is why i prolly can handle swg downtime as in traveling 30 minutes instead of being there in 30 seconds or less, i love that part of that game, travel, exploring and is why i do it, and i have the time to do so.

If i really wanted, i could spend an entire evening just playing if i chose to do so, but i don’t i have other “stuff” (hobbies if you want to call it that, obligations) i could blow it off no one is going to say chit to me, but if i don’t do it, as in focus on it, it’ll never get done. We all have responsibilities and why games exist so we can escape, if even for 10 minutes, i’m lucky in that i’m able to make time for a couple hours a night, and sometimes wtf i do spend the whole night, lol, and never regret it.

Vaeris
Reader
Vaeris

I spent many an hour in SWG in a med center in Dearic on Talus healing peoples wound damage as they came in. It was rewarding to help folks, hear about their adventures and how they got hurt, and to get them back out there again. Tips were nice too.

I know staying in one spot would bore most modern players out of their minds, but I’d love to see a game put that kind of play in again.

Reader
PanagiotisLial1

Also games in the past that had long term buffs

So you could buff people that visited town to help them go out there and manage that boss that killed them – especially newbies

Reader
Fervor Bliss

The only one I truly hated is forced to find a group to advance. Roll something original or unpopular wait hours for someone to take pity on you. better to just quit the game. (luckily learned this early on)

Vaeris
Reader
Vaeris

I don’t get this “wasting my time”. I mean, I understand the words…so I guess it boils down to people who see a “game” versus people who want these MMORPGs to be a “world” with as many realism bits as possible. Waiting, like I tell my kids, is a part of life. No point in getting upset and indeed those are times to reflect on the task at hand or just the universe in general.

I get some/most folks must have/crave constant stimuli and feel like they are missing out if there isn’t a carrot in front of their nose that is in constant motion. That’s not me, though, and I relish stopping and enjoying watching a bee hop from flower to flower knowing that carrot is going to be there now and 10 minutes from now.

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

It’s pretty much what you and schmidt mention, it’s a tough one to explain as i never feel as if i’m wasting anytime when i’m in SWG:L, even 15 minute tac drop, where any other game i’d certainly feel as if i’d just wasted 15 minutes.

I can be a at my destination within minutes in legends, yet i’ll blow 30 minutes traveling there and not think twice about it? I’d not stand for that in any game in recent memory.

Maybe a huge part of this is that i’m playing SWG:L and that’s it.

I’ve no interest in any other game atm and i don’t plan on playing any other game for the foreseeable future. So there is no perceived time lost. If i had other games on my mind i’d be looking at that 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there as time i could have spent in another game.

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

There’s a difference between travel that feels interesting or engaging and actual downtime, at least for me. If travel is interesting or eventful then I will typically spend the time to get there the slow way instead of fast-travelling, at least if playing solo.

If travel is repetitive, uneventful, or worse yet non-interactive — like WoW’s taxi services — then I will very much want to avoid it, though, to the point of potentially leaving the game if I’m forced to waste too much time with that kind of travel.

One caveat, though: the first time I pass through some in-game place with time to spare I will typically explore every virtual square inch of it, going as far as to map it if no good map for it exists yet, meaning the next times I pass through it I will have nothing new to see or explore unless the place has actually changed. This quickly makes uneventful travel repetitive to the point of boredom for me. And travel in MMOs typically is uneventful, unfortunately.

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

If i’m to be perfectly honest, i like the mindlessness of traveling in SWG if that makes sense, it’s an escape of sorts to me. Don’t have to overthink anything just travel, hit the open road kinda, lol.

Vaeris
Reader
Vaeris

That’s a major point of why I like traveling in Asheron’s Call and SWG. Travel was interesting because both games had large open worlds filled with things to find in them. You could find all manner of things from dungeon portals to POIs just running in a random direction in AC. The fact that the RNG/loot table was fairly random also helped in that you didn’t feel the need to camp/grind one area. You could get a very nice drop on random mob in middle of nowhere between points A and B of your run.

SWG was heavily for me the exploration of all the corners of a planet. The POIs were fun to find and the various player communities (Player Cities) were fun to encounter and see the creativity displayed by the owners.

Some people don’t see that as “fun” or part of an MMORPG’s draw. They are only interested in putting the circle in the round hole, the square in the square hole and waiting for their cheese treat to drop into their tray. Single player games do that really well. The (initial) sell of MMORPGs were that they would be online “worlds” to explore. That’s what I fell for.

The repetitive part I get. I do think that developers should think about what dynamic content they can add that would reward players who explored areas a second or more time. I don’t mean achievements unless said achievements lead to making the character more adept at navigating the world (figuratively or literally).

Nephele
Reader
Nephele

Reading the different responses since yesterday, I think it’s pretty clear that people have widely different viewpoints on this topic. That probably means that no MMO is ever going to get it right for everyone :)

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

I believe the main distinction is between players that want the MMO to feel like a game and players that want the MMO to feel like a world. If you want it to feel like a game then you are likely against any and all forced downtime, while if you want it to feel like a world you welcome forced downtime that either increases the feeling of immersion or helps build social connections.

Vaeris
Reader
Vaeris

I think this is pretty much it. It comes down to those two subsets of gamers: those that want a realism laden experience and those that just think of it as a “game to play”.

Nephele
Reader
Nephele

I think you’re right. I fall very much on the “world” side of the spectrum myself, but I’ve known plenty of people who fall more on the “game” side too.

Vaeris
Reader
Vaeris

If they continue to try to be all things to everyone, I 100% agree with you. There in lays the value of being okay with being “niche”. If we had a single company make 2 games, or different companies focus on the “world” experience and on the “game” one, I think many, many folks would be happy. Right now it seems they try to sprinkle a bit here and there, and its generating more frustration.

kjempff
Reader
kjempff

Also people are not agreed on what we are talking about exactly as “designed downtime”.
Is it daily timeouts (such as can only craft this once every 24 hours);
Waiting for others (forced grouping, others travel time, waiting on their mana or buffs etc);
Or consequence (you f.kp up and now you get consequence so you may learn .. get back to your corpse .. wait 2 mins for rez effects or mana);
Or yet again an efficiency question (manage your resouces in a smart way and be rewarded with less downtime .. kind of a consequence thing too).

It is my opinion that you can’t have the sweet without the sour. Meaning that you cannot feel excited and accomplished unless you can fail and have consequence (all a part of that long “what is Challenge” discussion).
So you want to have it all at no cost, because you gaming should be fun ? it can’t be done because a meaningful gaming experience is part of the fun, and there is no meaning without challenge (which is why many are so bored with modern mmos, they just don’t understand why that is so).

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

One of the things i like in Legends is the insta travel x-wing, and not waiting for the shuttle, here is the thing, i don’t use them. haha :)

Seriously when i’m on planet i swoop 800m, 7000m, 15000m, exploring is huge for me in that game. OK truth getting close to log out, i’ll pop the x-wing or catch a shuttle to the nearest starbase or guild if on planet, to clean up inventory if i have time, then log out.

Thing is when we had to wait, that’s when you started to meet peeps, start recognizing people, in EQ2 standing there wondering how am i going to get all my stuff from my body along came the people i rocked the game to its core with for the next 4/5 years.

Wow came along and f’ed everything, and lets be real wow is great at being wow, not every game company had to become a lemming and stupify their games, had they stuck to who they are they would be extremely popular options today.

All they did was make every one say well if all your going to do is try and be like wow, then we may as all go play wow.

Had these companies showed some pride, confidence in their games showed some honor and dignity and not be a lemming, hey look at everyone jumping off that bridge, hey look at everyone signing up for facebook (oh and now that it’s public news incase you are unaware all your usernames(emails) and passwords are available in the right channels so best change that pronto, (or delete and stop finding out you’ve been a victim again well after the fact over and over and over again) all employees had that all along, and like it never leaked lol, many of his employees are greedier than he his, when will you all have had enough of this chit? I’m done trying to help you all out, it’s tiring tbh because i hate watching people being taken advantage of it makes me furious tbh witnessing you all being so wronged daily, hey, ok how about end it like this, 1) think about this, why is it all free? and 2) if i didn’t care i’d say nothing. The rest of your awakenings will be coming from headlines from now on, i’m done… again! lol. No serious i’ve had enough, the whole shitstorm and what they do to you all and how they treat you frustrates me and riles me to no end. uggg lost all train of thought, fuk me.

Reader
Robert Mann

The problem isn’t downtime, to me. It’s the lack of other things that are interesting and worthwhile in terms of the game to DO. In our MMOs, when we aren’t fighting something or running along on our quest of choice (be that PvP, quests, dungeons, crafting something, etc.) we get to… jump? Sit down, play a few emotes, and yep, I’m getting bored already.

Where there’s things we could make up to do, there are other tools that work better for those purposes. Doing them in an MMO, as it stands, is not only inadequately supported but painful. Which means there’s no reason to do something in the MMO unless you really want to try to draw in random strangers.

And all that is to say that there needs to be far more to do, especially for those who want downtime from combat, in MMOs. Because downtime is not the enemy, we all need some time away from pressing forward ‘heroically’. XD

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
thalendor

I like a small amount of certain types of downtime designed into a game. Things like waiting for the boat in EQ and griffin rides in WoW can die in a fire. What I like to see is some level of intended downtime between fights. Nothing too long: maybe 15 seconds up to a minute to relax a bit and plan how to approach the next encounter. Case in point, as much as I like WoW’s Mythic+ dungeons overall, my one enduring complaint is how it’s set up to encourage you to make the entire dungeon one ongoing fight with every second spent not in combat time wasted. That just becomes exhausting.

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

From the first day I started playing MMOs I always had two things at arm’s reach when playing: a portable console and a stack of books. Any designated downtime longer than 30s will have me reaching for one or the other, and if I notice that I’m spending more time with the downtime distractions than with the actual game then I will leave it.

Besides, following my usual pattern, if the devs try to force me to socialize then I will refuse to do so: if I notice that the devs were attempting to make me socialize by forcing me to wait somewhere other players congregate, then I will intentionally avoid socializing while waiting. I don’t want devs thinking I somehow enjoy this kind of forced downtime and adding more of it.

About travel time and other kinds of downtime that can make assembling a group take longer: the end effect for me is that I will then refuse to group. I’m not completely against travel time, but having other players waiting for me to get somewhere, or having to wait for another player to get to where I am, means I will give up on the group before it’s even assembled. If it’s a group of real life friends I will instead try to convince them to log out from the MMO for a while and join me in some other game where we can instantly be in a group and start effectively playing.

(Incidentally, this is why nowadays I won’t even consider a game’s group content unless it has some kind of automated LFG/LFD system; while manually assembling a group, or searching for a group that will take me, requires me to stop playing while I get myself a group, a LFG/LFD system allows me to keep playing while it finds me a group.)

About waiting or otherwise wasting time as a consequence of death: I’m very much against this, and might even leave the game over it, though not exactly because of the wait. As I often say, if I’m not dying at least a couple times per hour chances are good I’m finding the game too boring; this means that if I’m playing in a way that I find enjoyable, then I’m dying — and having to go through the death penalty — a few times per hour. If the death penalty is annoying enough to become frustrating if repeated a few times per hour — or, worse yet, if recovering from it requires help from other players in any way — then I’m out.

Reader
Sally Bowls

I am obviously on the few artificial time gates side of the fence.

The market evolves. IMO, unless you are selling nostalgia, I think that a lot of the things that were viable – or even state of the art – ten or fifteen years ago may no longer be accepted by the mainstream market today. Time sinks, especially blatant ones not in other MMOs, non-HD Graphics or mandatory subs may have worked in the past but they are increasingly relegated to niches now. “You can’t go home again.

Mordyjuice
Reader
Mordyjuice

I’ve got limited time so designed down time just makes me designed to quit.