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Some Random Gaming Thoughts

I still think MMOs pretty much suck. I thought about playing an alt in LotRO and even indulged for a little while, but the sheer weight of realization of the grinding that would have to be done to bring the character up to snuff just made me depressed. Where the heck did this "game as work" thing come from, and how do we kill it? So it's reached the point where if I'm going to play at all, I only have two characters worth investing any time in because they're the only ones who've come even close to keeping up. Granted, MMOs are hardly hotbeds of interesting character development, but this still seems mighty limiting. I know, I know, players would balk en masse about a more level playing field and would never stay without the carrot of the next power-up to chase, yadda yadda yadda. Maybe. But honestly, if you gave me a Middle-earth-themed Second Life and had a simplistic mechanism for going out and killing orcs, I bet you'd have just as many longterm players. Put as much effort into making good story content as you do into balancing raids, you might be pleased with the result.

I know, dream on.

In other news, I still think D&D 4E pretty much sucks, but for different reasons. I'm also concerned about what effect it's having on the gaming industry. Bookstores that shoved all RPG stuff but 4E off of their shelves, are now shrinking those same shelves as the demand for 4E seems to dwindle. I suppose it may be the economy in general more than 4E, but for all people bellyache about $30-$40 books, it's still cheaper entertainment dollar-for-dollar than going to the movies, and probably cheaper than MMOs, too. (I couldn't swear to that part without some extensive math.)

By contrast, I'm digging Call of Cthulhu more every day. This is a game that hasn't significantly changed its mechanics since the Reagan administration, and yet still has a devoted following. And of the "Big Three" of old-school RPGs (D&D and Traveller being the other two), it's the only one that's still recognizable in its current form. D&D has turned into a rules-completely-decoupled-from-setting miniatures skirmish game that you can also roleplay with if you really want to (in the same way you could roleplay Monopoly if you wanted to); Traveller has been redone, re-redone, retro-undo-redone, then burned down, fell over, and sank into a swamp. (Seriously, does anybody actually play Traveller any more? Or do old guys simply remember it fondly as that game where you might up and get killed during character creation?) Call of Cthulhu, much like the Big C himself, occasionally sleeps beneath the waves, but never truly dies.

It is true that it's not making a ton of money and Chaosium seems to perennially have trouble paying the printers — but as far as I can make out, all from rumor and hearsay, I should add in fairness, that has more to do with how Chaosium is run as a business than anything with CoC. And look at all the other companies that are making money off of the same mythos. Steve Jackson sells Cthulhu tie-ins. Robin Laws has made a whole new line from his own Cthulhu RPG. CoC is a zero-budget success story on a massive scale; imagine the cultural penetration it might achieve if it had a marketing machine like WotC's?

What does it all mean? Heck if I know. I was happy as a bug in a rug during the 3.0/3.5 era, and while I'm glad that lives on in the form of Pathfinder, my actual interest in that whole genre is at a low ebb. But there is some kind of internal shift going on, that has been in motion since the announcement of the cancellation of Dragon magazine. What "gaming" means to me is changing, and my relationship to it. I don't know what it's changing to at this stage, the same way my writing and art are in flux; it's probably all related in the swirling miasma of my subconscious.

-The Gneech


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 25th, 2010 03:04 am (UTC)
Seriously, does anybody actually play Traveller any more? Or do old guys simply remember it fondly as that game where you might up and get killed during character creation?

Mongoose Publishing is the current license-holder for Traveller, and there is a fairly active community (and over at Citizens of the Imperium, there's an active community for pretty much all other editions of Traveller - I don't tend to go over there very often because it tends to be fairly divisive). So yes, people do still play Traveller. Under the current edition, however, you won't get killed during character generation... unless your group is playing by the optional "Iron Man" rules.

If you're a fan of the old Classic Rules (LBB) Traveller, MongTrav is probably the version which comes closest. It's still pretty fun.
May. 25th, 2010 06:06 am (UTC)
You didn't mention SL... lol ;D
May. 25th, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
i picked up keep on the shadowfell to run a one-shot from last night-- after you panned it, i figured it would be a good way to see 4th ed warts and all-- and i had the weirdest experience trying to buy it! as near as i can tell, local gaming stores are now places where people go to play games-- mostly card and miniatures games, i think-- rather than to buy them. the one near to me was friendly, but didn't have kots in their tiny printed-merchandise section. the two i tried in virginia beach over the weekend both were full of people who stared at me as if i were crashing a meeting of a guild of assassins without giving the password. when i asked for d&d stuff they waved me to a tiny shelf that was a veritable museum of gaming (i found 3rd edition champions stuff, things my friends worked on in college, as well as d&d 4th ed). in both stores.

eventually i found it at borders.

my players had reactions much like yours to 4th ed: very videogame-y, not enough roleplay. the first two fights don't have any pits, though, so they didn't complain about that. :) (in any case, making a virtue of what sounded like necessity, one of the pregen characters i gave them is entirely built around moving people around-- a telekinetic psion-- so would probably have in-character fun tossing people into pits.)

interestingly, it did seem to be the case that players of characters with lower chances to hit with their powers had less fun, in general; which i'm sad to think kinda argues in favor of the all-pcs-have-about-the-same-chance-to-hit ethos...
May. 25th, 2010 07:48 pm (UTC)
Actually, there's a significantly revised version of it free for download from the Wizards' site ... but according to the review I read it's just as broken in different ways. Go fig!

-The Gneech
May. 25th, 2010 08:05 pm (UTC)
The gaming-store-as-place-to-game phenomenon has been pretty widespread for many years now. I remember playing M:tG at a used-bookstore that sold a number of games (mostly M:tG) back in, um, '92? And Jyhad at two different game stores in '96-'97, and miniature wargaming in '99. The miniatures wargames and CCGs are (a) the most popular and (b) the biggest money makers for the gaming industry.

Which makes peanuts compared to the MMO industry.

I think the real problem isn't that players think MMOs are work, but that players think tabletop RPGs are work. Which both are, in different ways, in the sense that anything you don't feel like doing for its own sake is work, even if you'll appreciate the rewards of having done it later. But more people are tempermentally suited to the work and rewards of MMOs than to those of tabletop RP. :/
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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