Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Why picking a radio station reminds me of how I play my MMORPGs

Seriously. I got in the car today, started on the moderately long and not actually all too tedious drive to work and - of course – as soon as I got in the car my favourite rock radio station came on. Good music, too. I was pleasantly surprised (and it shows that I was a tiny a bit late, as I usually end up with the traffic news – less amusing but potentially more valuable).

So idling along slowly (yeah right – late, remember?) over the first bridge we (that is not the royal we, that’s me and my car) got to the end of the song. And the adverts started (there is another hint just how late we were… usually they manage three songs after the traffic news before they start to annoy me inform me about valuable customer opportunities). Now this is early morning and before the first cup of office coffee, so I am calm and relaxed (and too tired to properly care), so adverts can be ignored.

Shield Block, Demoralizing Groan and onwards towards the traffic lights with all the elderly shoppers no distractions at all and listen with half an ear to the weird bloke telling me about buying a BMW. Yeah right – like I choose my cars based on radio adverts. I mean… I pick by fuel economy, storage capacity, child seat fixture availability, ease of cleaning and not by some fancy silliness like power and speed and fun and … I definitely need my morning coffee.
And then it appears. The advert about broken car windows that I hate enough to momentarily pull me out of my trance. The voice of the actor is incredibly annoying, the “story” is so utterly stupid – it’s enough to actually change the channel right there and then.

My lovely and highly modern car stereo has – after all – the capability to store six! (6!) radio stations. At once! So I get to flip through numbers 2 to 4, finding more adverts, whiny sing-song music, horrible new-fangled stuff, traffic news for a different city and finally something moderately melodic.

And where does all of this take us – and what on earth is the relation to WoW?

Well… I figured (still before coffee, mind you) that this is how I pick my MMORPGs as well. I stick with the default, the one that comes on in the mornings every day. At the moment that is World of Warcraft, but I’m a COF* already and the default used to be Ultima Online and Dark Ages of Camelot and Star Wars Galaxies before.

When the program gets bad enough – and only then – do I start looking for something else.
Hasn’t happened lately, to be fair. I’m still quite happy with the things to do, even though ToC and Onyxia are getting a bit boring and the hard modes are a bit too hard for us. It happened before, though – the total and utter lack of quests in the original Ultima Online eventually made me look at other games. I could only tame dragons and decorate houses for so long, it seems. The new combat system in Star Wars Galaxies made me run away screaming. Gone was the fine system they had in place, revamped with icons so washed out that I could not tell them apart any more – gone the happy ripping and shredding of innocent carnivores on distant planets. Same with my World of Warcraft break after I first reached 60. Raids (were there two? I seem to recall there was only Molten Core, really) were out of my reach, and the 5-mans (that were 10 manned) were getting tedious and boring after a while.

Much like the default rock station, the games come back, though. After flipping through a few of them, I tend to end up back where something is good enough – or at least “usually” good enough. New content helps, obviously – anything to catch my attention (so basically: If I am tuning in to your MMORPG, please don’t subject me to whiny sing-song music). If it holds me there depends on the rest of the content, but the first few seconds are really quite crucial. Which is worth a new series of posts about starter areas (maybe sometime) – but which more importantly makes me wonder: Do I really only change games when the old one becomes to crap to bear? When was the last time I checked out something exciting and new? Does that happen to anyone else?

* Crusty old fart

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