Oversaturation Leads to Not Caring

Today’s mood: Nonchalant

A lot of blogs (too many to link, alas) are buzzing like a poked hive with the big news that Everquest Next will be no more.

Wildstar’s prospects don’t seem to be in ascendance either, with the news of a sizeable reduction in force.

What hit closer to home for me was news that Colin Johanson was leaving ArenaNet and GW2.

There’s been a very positive spin over the whole affair, but for the more jaded of us, there’s always a glass half-empty side as well.

Let’s face it, people don’t decide to leave a company if growth is in sight and things are going well. There are always niggling bits that push people out the door too. Maybe it’s not-so-great relationships with bosses or colleagues, work environment, family pressure, a pet project that got canceled, responsibilities that got taken away, new responsibilities being less easy to cope with than the old, no forseeable growth opportunities or openings to climb the career ladder, whatever. Not saying that any or all of the above might necessarily apply in Colin’s case, but who knows, right?

I do think HoT was a gamble that seems to be backfiring on Anet quite rapidly. (Launched last August; discontented rumblings throughout Jan-Mar.)

Reading between the lines, we see a bit of a scramble for extra revenue this quarter. Shared inventory slot bundle for $35? Glider wings of different color variations, $10 each? “Hey, guys, we’ve decided that March is going to be a whole month of discounted gem store sales daily! Keep logging in daily! Maybe you’ll see something you like!”

Translation: Daily-log in metric is falling.  Revenue is falling. We have a first quarter report to give to NCsoft soon.

Anecdotes suggest many casual players across various guilds have ceased logging-in over the past weeks and months.

Personally I’ve been seeing attendance at Oceanic TTS Teq and Triple Wurm shrinking. The Oceanic leaders called some kind of important community meeting yesterday. I’m kinda waiting to see the minutes to see what was decided.

Why couldn’t I attend and hear the discussion firsthand?

Ha. The exact same reason world boss raid attendance is shrinking, of course. I was doing the new content – Salvation Pass raids – and locked into my closed group of ten peoples (give or take 3-7 fillers.)

Presumably at least 50% of the people who would otherwise be filling up a TTS instance have been drawn away by  ten-man instanced raids, leaving the rest struggling to keep taxing in PUG fillers for world bosses or HoT zone events.

The inevitable divisiveness is upon us. The community has been fracturing into smaller and smaller bits, and I heartily doubt it’s ever going to recover.

We’ve been moving away from things that draw a server community together – megaservers, guild missions in the open world that can pull others in and let people meet, WvW server loyalty crumbles as the game mode diminishes, no large Living Story zone events like the Marionette or Lion’s Arch rescue, towards things that lock smaller and smaller groups of presumably likeminded people into instances. Players would now rather not play with others who don’t think like them. They would rather not waste time teaching new people stuff. Strangers are useless noobs who would drag the group down.

It’s been an interesting progression of emotions for me this past week anyway.

I’ve realized I can’t muster the energy to fight or complain anymore. I sounded the warning trumpets early on, and they were ignored and/or it was already too late to steer the oil tanker in another direction.

Certain Reddit veterans have taken up the grumbling about story being locked away in raids, while others are happily disagreeing with them. There’s rants about raid challenge – too much, too little, whatever. There’s people hating on raids, there’s people loving raids. Unsoweiter.

I have decided to resolve my dilemma very simply. Wallet vote. While the state of affairs that I personally disagree with continues, I’m not paying a dime for anything.

I like seeing new content. So as long as my current raid group holds up, I am also content to trundle along and see if there’s any chance of progressing further or no. Success or failure is up to the group as a whole. Patient play and practice will see the group through, assuming no critical fractures or drama – which would be also out of my hands and beyond my control.

The really interesting question I asked myself this morning, while I had breakfast: “If my current raid group falls apart, would I be willing to make the effort to find yet another raid group?”

At the moment, all signs point to no.

I have tried quite a few raid groups and most of them are incapable of rising to the challenge.

Nor can I seek out any more hardcore raid groups because those would be way too much stress (not to mention, they wouldn’t take a mic-less player anyhow.)

Most importantly, now that one has, more or less, gelled together into one static raid group, it has now become an in-group, out-group thing. Presently, I no longer care about the fates of anyone or anything outside of the nine other people, so to speak.

My time has been locked up /here/ and I can’t be /there/ or anywhere else. TTS world boss raids lack attendance? WvW needs people? Sorry, I’m raiding and it’s going to take up the evening. So… guess you’re outta luck.

If the raid group dies, I become yet another rudderless ronin once more.

It is -conceivably- possible that I could apply to join yet another group, undergo the gelling process once more and reattach to yet another nine people.

Or most probably, I would ask myself what would be the point of attaching to a game whose direction is drifting off god-knows-where or is pointed towards a destination I’m not interested in going anyway?

And then de-attach completely.

I mean, the process is almost complete anyway. I’ve stopped caring about the game as a whole. I’ve stopped caring about my server. I’ve stopped caring about the general game population. I’ve a teeny bit of care left about my mega-community and my personal guilds that is steadily crumbling as I stop attending the events held by them in order to run raids.

I definitely shouldn’t give a damn about any semblance of lore or story because it’s going to take a good half a year to get revealed every so slowly, and blocked by massive obstacles called raid bosses. If I see it, I see it. If I don’t, I don’t. Whatever.

Really interestingly, I’ve stopped worrying about the whole “competence” angle ever since Vale Guardian died.

Remember I had/have this little personal hangup and insecurity over whether I’m seen as competent in the eyes of others? Seems to be a number of reasons why this has become less critical, all of a sudden.

One, I managed to kill VG in different groups. So I’m evidently playing at a sufficient level that won’t automatically cause team wipes. This satisfies the baseline level of my insecurity.

Two, even if you’re competent, if too many of the group isn’t competent (yet), you aren’t killing VG or any other raid boss anyway. So personal competence does not correlate to raid boss kill success. The solution is merely plenty of group practice and/or teaching/coaching and addressing specific mistakes/issues (assuming the people in question are open to improving and won’t go defensively apeshit on you, which… can be a bit of an ideal dream.)

Three, apparently as I de-attach from caring or being passionately invested in a game, I also no longer care about whether I’m seen as an expert player or not. I mean, who do I have to impress? Nobody whose opinion I care about.

(My personal standards seem to be set much higher than the average anyway, so I may as well just listen to my own internal compass.)

I have “The Eternal” title now. Honestly, I’m not actually going to ever set foot into any PUGs that would ask for it to be displayed. Fear of strangers and toxicity is way too high now.

The only real meaning the title has for me is the memory of the nine people who came together to specifically help get me the title even after they already had theirs (and managed to not die, one by a thread, literally, he was downed as Sabetha died. Possibly another hero teammate managed to keep rezzing too.)

So I guess, six months later, I now have the answer to the question “What’s going to come out of the other end, once I fall down the raiding hole?”

A sort of separation aloofness, that can be perceived as a mild case of “elitism” by some.

A load of not-quite-burnout, but definitely detachment from the game.

P.S. I think it’s important to clarify what “not caring” means for me in this context, because the phrase often conjures up the image of a petulant individual throwing a tantrum and ragequitting, or someone with a trembling lip mumbling “I don’t care” while signaling with all their body language he or she patently does.

At the moment, it is very much an insouciant nonchalance, with a side sprinkling of resigned indifference.

In my mind, GW2 has taken a sudden drop in status to secondary game, and it seems the amount of importance I invested into it has also dipped as a result.

I still show up for raids, I still try my hardest because that’s the right thing to do when you’re participating in organized group content. If a kill happens, hooray. If a kill doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world. It just means more waiting until the next time.

In between the actual mob fighting, during all the waiting and organizing and scheduling that would drive the sane mad, I just stand around AFK, swap screens and try to squeeze in as much alternate game playing as I can (Path of Exile is much better for this than Stardew Valley, since I can instantly drop from the former, while the latter only saves game progress per day.)

It’s better than taking delays like a personal affront, I should think. This maintains my mood to pretty cheerful levels all around and I end up looking at most things with equanimity. I like being mellow better than my youthful days of super-serious intensity.

In other news, my Path of Exile Perandus League character has just hit level 63. (Yes, I’m a noob. Yes, I take my time.)

He’s been doing pretty well with a dual Righteous Fire totems + Searing Bond build. It’s very gear-independent, I’m still sitting on highly backdated level 40 something gear with the barest minimum of slotting (Increased Burning Damage on the totems, is about it).

The Blasphemy gem is my new favorite thing (for some definitions of new, I think it was introduced quite some time back.) It can automatically apply curses slotted to it, as an aura, at the cost of some mana reserved.

Since Righteous Fire totems use no mana whatsoever, I’m running Flammability as an aura, that doubles as a very handy mob radar/spotter for shadowy areas as nearby mobs instantly light up with a glowy orange-red symbol on their heads.

I’m juust starting to feel the pressure in the Merciless areas, from insufficient resistances, armor and %life increases. So that’s my current focus, run around the lvl 60+ areas, kill stuff, hope some nice-linked on-level gear drops that I can upgrade for better resist and +life and hit the %life nodes on the skill tree each level from here till maps.

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5 thoughts on “Oversaturation Leads to Not Caring

  1. bhagpuss says:

    Interesting take on things. Of course, by my standards, even at your current, insouciant, not-caring level of involvement you are still taking things WAY too seriously. They can add all the raid crap they want but I will never feel remotely obligated – or even interested – to go and look at it. I do think it was a terrible idea, though. I bet they bitterly regret it now. I wonder how much it has to do with Colin’s departure – although reading between the lines of his effusive goodbye note on Reddit you might wonder if banging his head on the promotion ceiling might have had more to do with that choice.

    From my perspective, mainly doing dailies, World Bosses, working through all the Specialist Weapon collects (on the Bo now) and playing a lot of WvW, nothing much has changed at all. I would definitely agree that population at any specific event is lower, but it would be, wouldn’t it?

    Firstly, there are more events than there were a year ago. A lot more. Not only are there raids but there are four new maps with four new meta-events that roll 24/7. And Silverwastes. If there aren’t as many people at Teq or TTT that figures, because a) they’re old news b) most people who wanted anything specific from them got it long ago and c) they are no longer even close to being the best way to earn gold.

    As for ANet ramping up the Gem store, well it’s the cycle, isn’t it? We’re six months out from the last box they could sell us and 6-12 months (let’s be optimistic) away from the next. That income stream has to be kept flowing somehow.

    Then, the content drought is real. Now we are on an expansion cycle, and since they made the really, REALLY bad move of focusing on raiding, there are no resources left to provide new content for the 90% of players who will never raid. That’s inevitably going to lead to people not logging in as often, or at all. And there’s competition as well – Blade and Soul, Black Desert, The Division – that’s a lot of directly competing games to have released in the first quarter of 2016.

    And yet, the world is still busy and buzzing. Given that we’re now well on the downward slope of the between-expansion interest curve I’d say the population is holding up as well as can be expected. It will dip a LOT more than this if they don’t come up with some content before the next xpack, that’s for sure. But, when they do, there will be a huge surge again. There’s no re-subscription hurdle, just the choice of buying the box or not, and if they’ve learned anything from HoT they should be better able to pull the right levers this time around.

    For myself, if Mrs Bhagpuss wasn’t still playing GW2 exclusively and extensively I’d probably be spending 85% of my time elsewhere now, waiting for things to get interesting again. Because she is, I am about 65/35 with GW2 taking the low end. Which is good. I’d rather play more MMOs than get stuck in one. This last three years has been an aberration in that respect.

    I have no fears about GW2 going out of business any time soon. It’ll be there when I want it for a long time to come, I’m sure. On the other hand, if I was interested in WildStar I think I’d be playing it right now…

  2. Syl says:

    I didn’t know gw2’s shop had become this ‘expensive’, was it always like this? In light of recent cash shop debates about BDO, I am surprised to find equally high items in GW2.

    • Jeromai says:

      Depends on your definition of expensive. Were there ten dollar items before? Yes. But not so obvious quick reskins that are released because people are likely to buy them anyway.

      $35 was quite a price hike comparatively, usually only used for bundles of stuff, but shared inventory slots were something new, and I think they knew it would sell. I do feel that it’s a sudden grab for more revenue this quarter though and that they seem to be pulling out all the stops to do so while still remaining on the semi-ethical side of the line.

  3. Aywren says:

    “Players would now rather not play with others who don’t think like them. They would rather not waste time teaching new people stuff. Strangers are useless noobs who would drag the group down.”

    This is what I was afraid the game would become. The exact opposite of what it was first intended to be. I’m not happy to hear about it, but I’m kinda relieved I got out of the game back when I got the hunch it was heading this direction. 😦

    • Sylow says:

      In my eyes, this is not what the game has become. When getting into any event as casual player already in the old world, it felt like that for me. Whenever I was at an event I never saw before and notices that just like me some other people died, I also had to see that instead of people giving advice, the chat usually filled up with hateful comments.

      So it’s nothing new, although I considered it very surprising in the old game. I mean, in an open world fight, a low-value beginner is still more valuable than no player at all, so the mechanics there don’t even encourage toxicity. Only the raid setting actually encourages toxicity. After all, everybody performing worse than you is one of those keeping you away from your reward. And everybody performing better than you is likely to take your spot at the next raid time, as the number of slots is limited. So in a raid you head out with nine enemies to overcome a challenge.

      Mind you, I know there’s friendship and friendly people to fight against that. Also mind you that this only applies to pickup groups and very success oriented guilds. The guild I am member of in GW2 contains many casuals and most of us don’t care for the raidgame. When being at events the atmosphere in the guild chat is still nice and polite even when things go south, while the map chat at such occasions almost always turns sour.

      That all being said, I am not that much surprised that this is happening in the raidgame of GW2, where I found that players even in the open world setting often enough display hostility.

      In contrast, I still am fascinated with the community of TSW, my other MMO, where the “endgame” since launch are 5 and 10 player instances. Despite that, i rarely notice hostility but rather experience the community to be friendly and supporting weaker players. For a while i credited this on the token-based loot system, but while this might be influential, it can’t be the deciding factor, as GW2 also has personalized loot and still suffers from toxicity in such gated content. Once i actually understood the reason for the difference in the communities, i’ll go preaching to all MMOs, to upgrade accordingly, but i wouldn’t bet on this happening any time soon. (Or ever. )

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