Wednesday, February 21, 2024

A Different Kind of Fun

On more than one occasion I've had ex-military personnel explain to me what it's like coming down from being on active duty. I'm not talking about whether you've seen combat, which is a whole other matter, but just the routine of military life. By far the biggest difference between military and civilian life, they've said, is dealing with the freedom to do whatever they want.* They're so used to having their lives planned out in detail that the concept of "eh, do whatever" becomes foreign to them. 

This isn't exactly a new phenomenon, given how monks' lives were planned out in meticulous detail back in the Middle Ages ("Hellooo, St. Benedict!"), but I was thinking about this tendency toward specific goals and rules as the crux of the difference between Classic and Retail World of Warcraft. 

Or, in an MMO versus an RPG, such as Baldur's Gate.

It's... not too far off, if I had about 30 fewer
pounds on me. Alas that this is about as "aged"
as I can make a toon without turning them gray.
And yes, Lucius is the name of my Cleric from
that now ended D&D 3e campaign, although this
fellow is a "I hit it with my sword" Fighter.

When I finally broke down and bought BG3 as part of the Winter Steam Sale --likely the last sale on that game for a while-- I started playing the first Baldur's Gate again and got as far as reaching Baldur's Gate itself. The siren's song of temptation finally proved to be too much for me, and so I created ol' Lucius above and started poking around. 

In the case of both games, there are obviously some differences --the different D&D rulesets notwithstanding**-- but in general there are timers involved in-game that keep you pushing forward. In the original Baldur's Gate they are more overt and party driven, such as having to get certain quests done or else party members will either leave or attack you. In other RPGs, such as The Witcher, if you try to collect quests and try to get everything good and ready before you "continue" a quest (such as what you'd do in an MMO), you might discover that the timer for that quest has already expired and you've got some NPC mad at you for dithering when they needed help.

The concept of just wandering around and doing whatever is pretty much lost on the player, as the story is paramount.

By comparison, Retail WoW is very forgiving. You can do quests (or not); you can do dailies, run dungeons, raid, etc., but there is very little that's actually required of a player when you play the game. And unlike an RPG, where once you kill enemies others don't respawn after a set timer, you can pretty much go ahead and deal with whatever whenever you want to.

The irony is that all of those items in-game in Retail WoW become "required" by the player base, who enforce a "correct" way of playing based on whatever the min-max numbers say, so it ends up that we, the players, turn a self-directed environment into a regimented game all by ourselves.


And, of course, that mentality has trickled down to WoW Classic, where I am resisting it's pull with all my might. 

I think it needs to be said, however, that after some sessions with Baldur's Gate 1 and 3, I've discovered that it is very freeing to login to WoW Classic Era and just, well, hang around without needing to actually do anything at all. Once you tell the collective min-max crowd to go piss off, playing an MMO such as Classic Era is, well, fun in a way that story driven MMOs and RPGs aren't. 

That's not to say I suddenly don't like RPGs, but it's a different kind of fun than that found in WoW Classic Era. Sure, Era can feel kind of empty in terms of "things to do", but sometimes that's exactly what you want out of a game. And sometimes you want to do some things here and there that you can't do in Classic/Classic Era but you find in Retail. Or another MMO. And then, you want a story that keeps you moving, and there's one of several RPGs to choose from.

It's all different, and that's okay. And I think I need to be reminded of that on a regular basis.

*A very distant second was dealing with all the rules. And the bureaucracy. If you thought academia or government had a ton of arcane rules and regulations and absurd bureaucracy, wait'll you meet the military. Of course, being in the private sector my whole life, I often say the same thing to people who bitch about "waste in government", and they're offended for some reason that capitalism hasn't wiped that waste out. I'm personally of the opinion that it's just a reflection on human nature, and you just have to live with it.

**I'm still having issues dealing with Short Rests that exist in the modern game. I'm so used to hoarding supplies such as healing potions that the concept of a Short Rest --where you can get a bunch of your hit points back twice in a day-- before you need what I'd term a "regular" or Long rest is confusing me. I try to figure out how to win an encounter without needing as many healing potions or spells as possible, but the encounters are designed for people to expect those "mini mass heals". 

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