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Another Run Down Funk Alley

My free time has come to mirror my work schedule: random and spontaneous.

As a substitute, I don't work regular hours.  The day before yesterday was a split shift, the day after just 4 hours, today I have off, tomorrow will be another 4 hours.  Today, I have to day off... probably, I might yet be needed, and herein lay the spontaneity.  Next week will be completely different.

It's a bit jarring; when you have a full time job, you can be a creature of habit.  I cannot, and I'm not sure if that's a blessing or a curse, because it's not like habits are necessarily good to have, it's just easier because you have a pattern of knowing when you should be doing what.

In the present, I am facing that I seem to be utilizing my free time poorly.  A few days ago, I was wondering what the heck I'm doing with my free time and, what with how this week has went, I still have yet to figure out exactly what's going on.  However, following that last blog entry, I was feeling introspective enough to do quite a bit of re-reading of old blog entries and have pieced together a realization or two.

My altaholicism - inability to decide on which "alt" to play in a roleplaying game - would probably be considerably easier to handle were I to simply decide on a role.

From what I hear, even recent versions of Dungeons and Dragons have adopted MMORPG class roles these days, with some classes being clearly labeled as "Controller," for example.
There was a point in which I would play a wizard-like character because, being a geek, I enjoyed the idea of overcoming challenge with sheer intellectualism.  An EverQuest Enchanter even moreso, by manipulating the fight instead of merely burning things down with brute force spells.  In time, however, I came to realize that cunning is more or less the same thing as intellectualism, but more fun - a rogue-like character, then.  I also came to learn that I enjoyed protecting others - a tank-like character, then.  Or a healer, even, considering I discovered that wisdom is not only distinct from intellectualism but even more important in the long run.

That's everybody; I've found a way in order to personally identify with every single class in a given RPG and, consequently, I universally identify with none.  This removes the foremost and easiest way a person has to decide on a class to play.

For example, were I simply content with being a wizard-like character when I was trying to beat Skyrim, I'd have chosen a Winterhold mage, thumbed my nose at the other guilds, and probably have broken Alduin under my heel inside a quarter of the time I spent on Skyrim.  Instead, my first character was a sneaky, bow-using, conjurer who trivialized absolutely everything the game could throw at me.  I then moved on a number of other fighters and mages and whatnot, bored of every single damage dealing method in the game, and even tried a method that does not involve directly damaging enemies at all before discovering that trivialized things even harder.  Now, I'm completely bored of Skryim.  I retread the content that the game offers so many times that the only surprises left for me in the game would be at the farthest reaches of the most obscure quest lines.  I'm never going to beat this game, it would be too boring to even try, and there won't be another game of Skyrim's gravity for half a decade.

So what if I simply laid out a clear hierarchy of preferred character types?  In other words, if I could solve, once and for all, what kind of character suits me the most and then, Hell or high water, play only that kind of character.  This whole tragedy could be avoided.  If I had to take a shot-in-the-dark at my priorities, it should probably be something like this:
  • The most fun character - though tricky to divine which that would be, one should be ever-mindful of the fact that the point of games is to entertain one's self, so to choose the character that's best for the job simply makes sense.  This is complicated by the fact you will get bored of them over time, and also that one game's implementation of a given role in a party can be significantly more or less interesting than another game's.  To an extent, the most fun character will include aspects of the following categories as well.
  • The most interesting character -  In lieu of being unable to figure out what character I will enjoy the most, I could at least try to figure out which seems the most novel to me.  This should be the character that is the most immune to becoming bored of over time by nature of being something significantly less digested for my brain to chew on.
  • The most challenging character - In the event I can't figure out what the most fun or interesting character is, perhaps I can figure out which character is the most challenging.    It stands to reason that more challenging characters are harder to master, and consequently should take me longer to bore of.
Something like that.  I wish I could say this was a done deal.  Well, on to the next realization...

It may be time for me to quit mainstream gaming, cold turkey, forever.

I have been computer gaming since the days of the Commodore 64.  I have noticed before that I seem to prefer unusual games like Minecraft or roguelikes and whatnot.  However, I think the last blog entry really highlights the main reason why: not only is there not much new under the sun for a person who has been playing computer games as long as me, but mainstream game development methodology will deliberately avoid novelty.

Any game developed to make money, at significant development cost, can only hope to do so by standing on the shoulders of giants.  It's the only way to advertise these concepts to investors, by showing them past successes, and to an extent a (software) engineer can be forgiven to believe that the most efficient way to build a better mousetrap is to innovate on a past success.  The only trouble is, I've played those giants whose shoulders they stand upon, and bored of them, repeatedly, for every product that has attempted to innovate atop them.  Consequently, you've chosen to stand on a foundation of ruin!
Reblogged from this blog, which seems to have some nice stats overall.
So here I am trying to play Neverwinter and Warframe, and I realize that the problem is not that they are all third person action RPGs.  No, the problem is I'm tired of 3D, or rather games which were based on designs whose entire purpose was to showcase that 3D was interesting.

Somewhere, deep within the genetics of these games, is Wolfenstein 3D, a game whose gimmick that the heart of their game was built on was just being 3D!  It was one dynamite gimmick in that it was a great foundation for several video game consoles and innumerous games, but there reaches a certain point in which any gimmick will become tired, and then developers need to start asking whether this gimmick is right for their game.

Unfortunately, they don't even bother asking because they're building on foundations with so many layers of games that they forgot the Wolfenstein 3D layer on the bottom that held everything up!  Well, I don't really care for this gimmick anymore, it might stand in context but not on its own anymore, so maybe you need to question how 3D relates to your game before expecting me to do it again.

In this case, I think Warframe did a better job of that than Neverwinter, because the former is a unique property based on the idea of 3D action combat while the latter is Champions Online attempting to be Dungeons and Dragons which is not 3D: it's a pencil and paper game!  But the trouble with Warframe it's just a 3D action game at heart, as much Wolfenstein 3D as Mario 64, and so it still flounders with long term appeal for a hardcore gamer like me even if it is somewhat bolstered by genuine creator's inspiration.  (Minecraft, interestingly enough, basically is a 2D square-based building game with an added dimension - you cannot have a more gameplay-centric use of the third dimension  - I wonder if that's related to its overwhelming success?)

I can not criticize Marvel Heroes on the same grounds because, even though the engine is technically 3D, the gameplay is not descended from Wolfenstein 3D, it's descended from Diablo.  But do you know how many Diablo clones there have been?  Well, if I stick "Isometric, Action, Role-playing" into Mobygames, I end up with a list of 144, and I don't think that's a complete (nor completely accurate) list.  Do you think I want to play a variation of the same game 144 times?  Well, maybe I will because I have no other choice, but I'm not going to like it as much as the first one!

Last month, between Marvel Heroes and Neverwinter, I have spent $120 of precious entertainment dollar.  I'm not getting it back.  I had some fun with the games, I guess I can't fault them there, but probably on the order of $10-$20 apiece (10-40 hours) not $60.  I should have tried harder to find something I have not already played to death.  This industry just makes it so hard to do because, thanks to their adhering to the tried and true, I've played virtually everything to death before I even installed it for the first time.

Maybe my mood will improve tomorrow.  But, for now, and the past few days, I had a very difficult time getting myself to play anything.  It's a sad day when a person who had spent 30 years of his life just playing games would rather do something else.  I am even tired of Internet forums right now, and I found a supposedly well-received anime and am finding it somewhat blase.  Maybe I really do need to get down to that gym.
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