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Finding a Balance in Gaming

Playing video games was never something I thought about as a full time job, even when it became my full time job. It was still always fun and while I did have to start looking at things slightly different (as in, I had to pay more attention to things like zone names and mechanics) it was still never really a job to me.

Until I started running out of time to simply do what I wanted, and needed to concentrate on specific games, for specific things. Then it hit home, I would have to actually budget my game time, and figure out a schedule in order to accomplish thing I needed to do.

At any one time over a two month period (because work publishes their magazine once every two months) I play between 6-20 games. Six of those games are my ‘typical’ games that I write about on a steady basis. Those games are EverQuest II, EverQuest, Vanguard, Wizard101, Fallen Earth, and Aion. I have very little ‘wiggle room’ when it comes to those games because they’re what I play to supply a salary, and while I do have creative leeway (I can chose what aspect of those games I’m writing about) it’s very important that I am involved as much as I can possibly be.

All work and no fun makes for a very boring life, so of course I have other games that I play. These games fluctuate depending on my mood and my interests, and that’s where the whole ‘Nomadic Gamer’ idea came from. Right now the games include EVE, and Lord of the Rings Online, as well as a little Allods, and Runes of Magic. Then there are my non-MMO games (which I do still try to find time to play) like Torchlight, Dragon Age, Sims3, and console games like Darksiders and White Knight Chronicles. I rarely ever manage to finish a game before moving on to something new, and since I’ve only played games for the last seven years it’s all pretty new to me. My brothers were the ones growing up with the nintendo and playstation and all that stuff.

There’s other interests I have that I need to allot time towards as well. Things like photography, reading, writing, being a guide, you know the basics. Coming up with a schedule for gaming is not something that I find very fun but something that I need to do out of necessity. The down side to all of this is that my schedule involves me gaming during day time hours and while there are lots of European friends around for me to talk with, it means that in order to hang out with the majority of my friends I need to also game during the evening hours (which is when I’d typically like to take a break from gaming altogether and go get something else done).

This year marks my 2nd year working for Beckett, and I have JUST finally found the balance for me. It has been a long time coming. Some times I would grow very frustrated and I wasn’t sure if I could do it all. Of course it takes barely a gentle breeze to upset that balance but hey at least it’s there!

How do others who play multiple games work on their own balance? Do you use a schedule or simply go where ever the games take you? Are you perhaps one who subscribes to games via lifetime subscriptions so you’re not hassled with a monthly sub and the guilt that may come from not getting in enough hours? Let me know in comments!

Thank you, and happy gaming!

Spheres of Progression

Something that excites me about a few games is that they see an opportunity to become something more than a group and grind or a race to the PvP endgame and take it. I’m talking about the games that offer different and interesting ways to progress, beyond the classic “kill ten rats” style adventure treadmill. Today I wanted to call attention to a few of my favorites.

My favorite example of this is Vanguard, which is a game that suffered from great drama but also offers great rewards to those willing to look past that. Vanguard has three progression paths which it calls spheres, and the reason I think it works so well is that the mechanics of the game were designed to accommodate them from the beginning. In addition to the adventure path Vanguard has a fully developed tradeskill path, complete with quests and levels and a strategically satisfying method of crafting. Unique among games I’ve played is the third sphere, Diplomacy which plays as a card game tied to storytelling and allows for interaction with some npcs that would otherwise seem to be just filler for cities in a meaningful and rewarding way. Each of the spheres has levels and equipment, and Vanguard goes a step further with an inventory system that allows you to manage your clothing for each sphere separately and then let the game trade between them as needed. You can approach Vanguard easily as a new player and never touch the adventuring side of the game, I really believe the experience is that rich.

Some games grow into an additional path, by popular demand. I would place the development of Everquest 2’s tradeskills in this category, and the things that Domino the tradeskill developer has done to encourage players is truly amazing. With the addition of tradeskill epics in Rise of Kunark and with the last two expansions featuring long quest progressions that offer a way to experience the new content through the eyes of a craftswoman tradeskilling in EQ2 is easily as rewarding as the adventuring side of the game. Kudos to them, and wishes for many more ways to use crafting to explore and shape the world of Norrath in the future.

Some games have multiple paths not because they are designed to have them, but instead because they are designed to be a sandbox for player innovation. EVE is a game that by virtue of its skill system and specialization in ships and equipment allows players to train to be combat pilots but just as easily the same character could train to be a miner, or a merchant or even an inventor. The possibility to carve a niche for yourself in the game are limited only by the amount of time you are willing to put into learning the skills and making the effort. Your hard work is sure to be rewarded.

What are other examples you have, and how have multiple progression paths in games affected you?