A Question of Time and Patience
Every couple of days or so, I log into Dauntless and spend an hour or two hunting beasties. I really enjoy the monster hunting but certainly feel that the quests, crafting and the general ancillary mechanics of the game still need working on. From what I can see the EU server appears to be pretty busy and there are certainly a lot of players in the main quest hub area. Yet despite this, I struggle at times in finding a group. It’s not that other player aren’t available. It’s that they seem unable to endure the five minutes it takes to form a four-man team. Often other players will join the group and immediately indicate that they’re good to go. However, I like to wait to see if we can get at least three players out of four, to improve the odds of combat going well. And it is this short period of waiting that seems to be a massive stumbling block for some. Hence it is all too common that some players will disappear within seconds of joining, if the game is not launched immediately.
As ever, this has got me pondering the nature of countdown timers, as well as time penalties and the whole matter of player patience in gaming. Despite the fact that match making software has to parse huge quantities of data simultaneously and still manages to collate groups within a reasonable amount of time (five minutes), players just don’t seem to have any patience. I’ve noticed the same phenomenon in other games such as Friday the 13th: The Game and Overwatch. Players will quit a group because it isn’t filling up quick enough for them, only to return a few seconds later when they hit “auto group” again and the software reconnects them. It’s curious the way that even a short wait is considered an anathema to some gamers. Often these will be the same individuals that will abandon a game, once they’re dead and unable to respawn. They’re obviously happy to forgo the XP they’ll receive at the end of the round, if they can get straight back into another alternative game. I worry that such an impatient attitude is a contributory factor towards the fractious nature of co-op games.
However, I cannot claim a position of moral rectitude on this subject as I’m far from a big fan of time penalties in games. Although I understand the logic of not instantly respawning a player back at the exact same location of where they just died, I always tend to grind my teeth while waiting to return to a game. I guess it’s comes down to the fact that the adrenaline is flowing, and you’re fired up to get back into combat. In such circumstances, measured and reasonable attitudes seldom prevail. Mercifully, I have mainly avoided most MMORPGs that have any sort of corpse run, death mechanic as I consider this to be an egregious waste of time and an unnecessary delay. There is a fine line between a sensible penalty brought about by specific events and pissing your player base off. LOTRO has a hybrid system that mixes the new with old school mechanics. If you are “defeated” you get one free “rez” on the spot which has an hour cool down. If it happens again you can either respawn using in-game currency or at the nearest rally point on the map. These have become few and far between in recent updates, resulting in further lost time as you ride back to your desired location.
Because time is the key to success in most multiplayer or co-op games as well as a finite commodity for most gamers, I guess that’s why its something that people are sensitive about. I often feel that if I only have a ninety-minute window to play an MMO, I want to use that time efficiently and ensure that it yields some results, or I achieve some goal. However, I am aware that such a mindset can slowly turn a leisure activity into a chore and leech all the pleasure from it. I’m also sufficiently old enough to have had the old adage “time is money” drummed into me. To a certain degree that is the case with the MMO genre if you subscribe or pay in some other fashion. However, as a carer and a grandparent, I like to think I can counter these feeling with a degree of patience that I’ve had to cultivate in recent years for practical reasons. It’s at this point I usually end a blog post with a quip such as “only time will tell”. However, in light of the discussion, I shall decline in this instance.