Does the Gaming Experience Require a Bell Curve of Play or a Gamer Profile Preamble?

So Elementalistly of Lowered Expectations put up a post a few minutes ago talking about the now-infamous one-hour impression of Rift. In the post, Elementalistly uses Age of Conan as a prime example of how one hour of gameplay does not accurately portray a good impression of a game.

For those of you who haven’t played Age of Conan, let me explain. The first 20 levels are essentially known as the Tortage Experience, in which your first hour defies most of the common traits we tend to ascribe to MMORPG’s. For instance, there is rarely a Question Mark indicating a questgiver, and the action is fast-paced and exciting because you’re trying to escape to the city of Tortage from a shipwreck. The game is voiced well, and it really feels like a polished game.

The problem with that image is that once you’ve completed the Tortage Experience (which takes more than an hour, usually), the game suddenly switches you over to a world where the MMORPG tropes exist in full force. You lose the voice acting, questgivers are everywhere, and a lack of content exists for people who do not want to simply kill ten rats.

Now, as an innocent thought, I told Elementalistly that due to his post, I felt guilty about spending only four or five hours playing FFXIV, most of it spent actually crafting more than anything else. To this, he replies through two tweets:

Should people then need to suffer more than 1 hour of FFXIV and it’s horrid gameplay? OUCH…

FFXIV is perfect proof against my point of spending more than 1 hour in an MMO to understand it and learn it…DAMMIT!

If FFXIV’s current state is a point towards the idea that one shouldn’t force himself to suffer through an uninteresting game, and Age of Conan is an example of how more than a passing glance should be given to games to get a better impression of them, I am left with a question in my head.

Does this mean that there should be “bell curve” to determine the best way to get an impression of a game?

By this bell curve, I am referring to the idea of writers needing a predetermined number of hours or a set point in the game met to achieve what could be considered an acceptable impression.

Obviously this sounds preposterous. While we could, as a cultured and civilized people, institute such a thing, it would have little bearing on the fact that every person is different and thus responds differently to particular stimuli.

Take for instance my earlier coverage of Darkall. Truth be told, I LOVE this game, but I keep stopping myself from playing it because the game brings up too much tension in me.It simply does not agree with my sensibilities despite the fact that I respect the game immensely for being its own sort of awesome.

While we may not need a bell curve of play, what might be better would be some sort of profile of the gamer playing X game and writing about it. For instance, if you’re the type of person who’s allergic to peanuts, and you’re asked to review a peanut butter spread, you’ll probably die right after posting that said peanut butter spread is poison. Sure, people will think it’s poison, and your point will be made because you’re dead, but that’s probably because you have an allergy to the bloody stuff to begin with that they don’t know about.

I’d think that being upfront about your preferences and letting people know that they don’t have to take your word as fact would be helpful in stemming the tide of people being up in arms about a one-hour impression.

Of course, as I said, that’s just my impression. It’s up to you to see if you should heed my words or be up in arms over it.

9 thoughts on “Does the Gaming Experience Require a Bell Curve of Play or a Gamer Profile Preamble?

  1. I’m not an MMO developer, but I play one on the Internet XD

    The big problem with MMOs, especially these days, is that they have to throw out as much up front as they feel that they need in order to hook the players, but they ALSO have to keep something in reserve to drive people forward. It’s a formula that EVERY game uses, and which has used since EQ, so we can’t blame this design on WoW.

    That being said, as anyone who’s job it is to experience MMOs as part of a high profile, funded network blog SHOULD KNOW THIS in his or her DNA. Anyone who’s done more then crunch numbers for the gear in one MMO should recognize the pattern. You can’t experience everything you need to know about an MMO in the first hour because the devs MUST hold some stuff in reserve in order to give players incentives when they get into the usually BORING mid-levels.

  2. I think a lot of commenters got it right when they said Jef should have said “I did not spend more than an hour in the game, but I could tell it was not my cup of tea”…then shut up.

    I do agree with this post though. Example: I have never played STO or EVE and never will, as I know I just do not enjoy Sci-Fi games (even though I HAD played Tabula Rasa and liked it)…so, I will not give an opinion except on what I know.
    Jef knew he did not want that type of game, and should have stated as much…but he did go on to give input as if it mattered. It didn’t.

    FFXIV, even though I feel it is utterly shoddy work, does have a visual quality that kept me trying to enjoy it, and I got more than an hour…but, I feel it is a lost cause.
    I DID complete AoC (i.e: hit max), and even raided for the first time in my life in AoC…but, I will never return.

    I still stick to my comment of taking more than an hour…but, apply that curve. Are you even interested in the game in the first place???


    • Thanks for the comment man. I was thinking along the lines of…

      If you’re gonna write, make sure people know what you’re about before you give your thoughts, and play the damned game till you get tired. πŸ˜€

  3. I would agree that this would be a non-story had there been a statement about how this person prefers the play style of X game and that is why he found no enjoyment from Rift.

    When it comes to non-MMO games, if I am unable to find the fun, i.e. the game is not hooking me in then I’m just going to stop playing the game. I don’t like having to work at trying to enjoy a game, I already have a job. With that said, I do know that MMO’s are a different beast.

    Still, if there’s nothing hooking a player in even after an hour, it’s hard to fault them for not wanting to invest the time into the game. That’s how it was for me with Darkfall. I did play the game for almost a couple hours, and initially there was the excitement of the newness of the game, but after awhile I realized I just prefer the more theme park style of MMO. I also think Darkfall is a poorly designed and ugly game, but that’s fodder for a different post.

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