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Mixed Drink Contentment

One game is bound to get boring sooner or later. The premise of Raph Koster's book, A Theory of Fun, offered a good explanation as to why: The brain completely learns what the game has to offer and then the game becomes too easy and boring. However, I've found a couple ways to compensate for this natural process. First, there's actively focusing on paying attention more, which directly combats the brain's natural tendacy to ignore things once it figures they've been learned. Second, and this is what this blog entry is spurred from, there's the diversifying the game load between two or more games.

There's certain ups and downs to playing multiple games at once. Trying to play too many games at once, I've decided, is overkill. I really can't properly appreciate several games when I'm switching between them. Hard working game developers have put thousands of hours of their lives into making this the game, I ought to slow down and find what they've added. However, only playing one game at a time is problematic when that game is lacking in some way or another, which is probably inevitable. Nobody's ever developed a game that can completely satiate all of one's mental desires. Playing multiple games that satiate different desires, however, can be quite satisfying. Like a mixed drink, there's a big difference between a satisfying Dr Pepper/Coca-Cola Mix and a grody Graveyard of everything in the drink dispenser.

I'm currently playing both Phantasy Star Universe and Neverwinter Nights 2, and I'm finding this to be a pretty good mix. Between those two, I've a pretty good basis of play to diversify between. First, there's the background genres, sci-fi and fantasy, the two classic genres of optimism and pessimism synced in harmony. Second, there's the gameplay focus, PSU being a somewhat action-based RPG play while Neverwinter Nights is a somewhat more strategic number crunching game that can be paused (at least in offline mode). I could probably draw more differences, but the point is that this is a pretty good load for me right now so I'm feeling pretty content.

Specifically, what I've been up to lately is Network play in Phantasy Star Universe and a both the single player game and the network game in Neverwinter Nights.

Phantasy Star Universe is considerably more grindy in Network mode than I initially anticipated. I've discovered that the main focus is in obtaining the best possible wieldable item. This bolsters the amount of power output of my character considerably, allowing me to access new and more dangerous areas. However, the flow of Metesa (the currency in the game) is quite heavily regulated and thus far I've been losing the race to keep my weapons fully upgraded before outleveling them. Grinders, which upgrade the weapon at a risk of destroying it, help to bridge the gap a bit... but they're still really no match for a full star-rating upgrade. Through synthesis I did manage to get a top-of-the-line line shield (the PSU equivilent to armor), but I haven't noticed a big difference in what it could soak. Still out of my obtainable reach are vital things like armor slot upgrades and more bullets.

My activities in Neverwinter Nights 2, however, are a bit of a mess. I've got a friend who seems to only be able to tolerate CRPGs when he plays them online with others. I'm glad to have the company, but the way that the NWN2 campaign flows is somewhat dialogue heavy and I feel pushed by the other members of the group to go through it without properly savoring it. It creates a disjointed feeling that I don't really feel like I know what's going on, where I'm going, ect. I'd be okay with that pace had I finished playing the campaign through once so know the story like the back of my hand already, but alas, this is not the case. I have also been playing the game offline, but this is creating a conflict of trying to remember where I've progressed in the offline game. Maybe I should play a different class offline to create a central association to mentally track my plot progress offline versus online. However, having looked at the alternatives to the Monk I'm not sure there's any I'd particularly be interested in at this time... melee characters are relatively shallow, and I'm feeling oddly repelled from spellcasters for some reason. I wonder if I hate this game already or if my lack of contentment has more to do with just not having enough time to properly savor it.

So, that's what I've been up to this weekend and probably will continue to do so until I severely bore myself of one or the other game. It's really more than enough entertainment to last me awhile... I should probably focus a bit more of my effort toward my school work. I'd like to get back on board the City of Heroes train when Issue 8 rolls onto live servers, but I can't see where I'd have the time.
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