MMO Obligations

Life is full of obligations. It’s not always fun, but we have to put up with it because that’s life. So it’s weird that, as MMO players, we so often set up so many obligations for ourselves in our free time.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few weeks playing SWTOR for the Dark vs. Light event. I keep trying to write about it, but “I did solo dungeons repeatedly until I couldn’t stand it, then I did some story quests” didn’t seem like it would make for a very interesting read. About a week before the event was over, I finally made it to the Eternal level, which was my goal. That’s the highest I was ever interested in getting, because I basically just wanted the extra companion (it looks like it’ll be the Chiss Jedi, which is the one I was really hoping for, since Chiss are one of my favorite Star Wars species). I’m excited for this, but the last few days, as much as I’ve been enjoying Knights of the Fallen Empire’s much improved cinematic storytelling, I’ve been really wanting to get back to some other games (both MMOs like WildStar, Marvel Heroes, LotRO, Elder Scrolls Online, and non-MMOs like the Master of Orion remake and the new Pokémon), but I keep having to tell myself that I can play these games when Dark vs. Light is over, because I’m running out of time. In other words, if Dark vs. Light wasn’t a thing, there’s no way I’d be playing SWTOR right now. Marketing wins again.

And it’s not just time-limited events that create obligations in games. We also set up a lot of guild-centric activities and obligations as well. Raid nights, guild meetings, guild bank contribution–most guilds don’t make these things mandatory (and if they do, they’re probably elitist jerks I don’t want to be in a guild with anyway), but, whether they are or not, there’s an unspoken feeling that you really should, because otherwise you’re really just leeching off of the guild without contributing anything.

Subscription fees create a kind of obligation to play on a regular basis as well. It doesn’t make sense to pay $15 for a game and then play it less than a game you’re not paying monthly for. Companies know this, of course, which is how we got into the weird spot we’re in right now where almost every MMO out there is free to play with an optional subscription to entice you to stay (some are less optional than others, as in SWTOR’s case).

Feelings of obligation can be stressful, which is ironic given that we play games to get away from real life and its obligations. It’s what keep many of my friends out of the genre. But, just like many obligations in real life, things that require obligation are also rewarding. I now have a set of +50% XP boosting armor, a new companion and a crapton of (mostly ugly) cosmetics because of Dark vs. Light. Raiding, while it takes a lot of coordination and commitment from a lot of people at once, as well as the frustration that comes from relying on other people, provides an experience that you simply can’t get anywhere else, not to mention a chance at some shiny new gear. I guess it’s a cost/benefit thing, and, for me, the benefits of MMO obligations outweigh the costs.

SWTOR’s 12x XP: An Altaholic’s Dream

Ricoshay Relaxing
I think the last time I subscribed to a game was early 2012, and before that circa 2009. Now, I’ve suddenly been subscribed to two different MMOs in the span of three months. Fittingly, the last game I was subscribed to was SWTOR, and now BioWare is once again taking my money. This time, however, the Game Tax comes with the perk of a huge XP boost to the class story rewards that allows players to level to 50 exclusively through their story from now until the expansion hits on October 19th. As much as I love the charm of a lot of the sidequests in SWTOR, I have to begrudgingly admit that I agree with everyone who’s saying that the story-only leveling is actually a really nice experience. It feels more like playing a single-player RPG; one main story with only as many sidequests as you choose to do. It’s also great because I can play as many different classes as I want and don’t have to replay the same quests I’ve just done. So far I’ve almost finished my powertech’s class story, and my sorcerer is in her mid 30s. I’m planning on finishing off my operative next, who is around level 40.

A lot of the reason why SWTOR has never stuck for me is that I want to play every class, and I want to simultaneously be at endgame right now and experience as much of the story as I can. So basically this is exactly what I’ve always wanted. I’m not sure if I’d recommend it to someone who’s never played the game, as it kind of rushes you through the learning stages of the game, but as someone who’s played off and on since the beta and dabbled in all of the classes at one point or another, it’s great. I’ve seen some discussion among players of just scrapping the sidequests and keeping the class story XP boost on all the time, probably only for subscribers. I have a hard time being excited about this, because there are a lot of memorable quests and quest lines outside of the class story that I would miss–who can forget the Black Bisector series, or the first time you became a Revanite?–not to mention all of the light/dark decisions, companion affection, and gear drops we’d miss out on (I’ve been living on almost nothing but commendation gear since I subscribed). I know they’re reworking the leveling process for the expansion, but I don’t think they’ll be so lazy as to just leave the boost on all the time. The best solution I’ve heard is somewhere in the middle: boost the XP payout of all of the quests (both class story quests and traditional ones) by 3-5 times and leave them all in. This way you’re still progressing at a more normal rate, but you can pick and choose which quests you want to play. Either way, I’m sure the leveling experience will be better. And if it’s not, they’ll be giving you an insta-60 with the expansion (free with a subscription) so you can skip it entirely. I’m planning to use mine on a Sith Juggernaut, since my old main character was the mirror class on the Republic side, but my new guild is mostly Empire. I’ve never done the Warrior’s story, though, and I’m told it’s pretty good, so it would be a shame to skip it. We’ll see.