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[WISP] The Division

(e.g. Why I Stopped Playing: The Division)

I can show you precisely the moment I decided to stop playing The Division:

TheDivision-BossSponge

I’d like to read the Tom Clancy book about taking 6+ bullets to the face…

There is nothing particularly special about this “boss” character. I had actually died to him once already, as he has a machine gun and is able to just keep firing for like 30 seconds as he walks around your cover and mows you down in a realistic way. Having respawned, I was able to safely stay at my pictured elevated position. I was compelled to take this screenshot because I just shot this dude 5 times in the face with a sniper rifle, and he still has a sliver of “armor” left.

I have had a tone issue with The Division almost from the beginning. This is not a game where you are shooting zombies. You are not even shooting infected people behaving erratically. You are shooting “looters” or “Cleaners” (who are trying to burn the infection out) or gang members or prisoners who broke out of jail. Granted, all of your enemies appear to be killing innocent civilians or otherwise impeding efforts to maintain law and order. But… The Division (thus far) made no attempt to even address the wholesale slaughter of people trying to survive in a government quarantine zone.

TheDivision-Beauty

A very, very pretty quarantine zone.

I bring this up because “motivation” is hugely critical in cover-based shooters for me. The core gameplay in these games is so banal and simplified, there is often nothing else to go on. Stay in cover, peek and shoot. Leave cover, die. The Division technically has some additional elements like special powers, and is definitely geared towards small-squad teamplay, including a trinity of sorts.

But otherwise? Peek and shoot. And 100% of the missions up to the point I stopped playing had been about killing people for vague reasons. Even when you are rescuing hostages, there is no sense that A) the hostages were actually being ransomed, or B) the hostages will be better off going back home.

I was actually going to quit playing two weeks ago, but Alex posted this live-action video in the comments. That was… kinda compelling, and set me in the right frame of mind for getting back into the game.

…at least up until I kept encountering these predictable boss characters, with their predictable face armor which takes a half-dozen sniper rifle rounds to remove.

I understand that the game is a looter shooter, and things are not supposed to make too much sense – not quite sure how a new holster is somehow giving me extra armor, but whatever. It would be quite the boring game if the first rifle you picked up from the body of an enemy was the same one you used throughout the entire experience.

But… I just can’t do it anymore. The Division just piles up too much unsupported nonsense and my suspension of disbelief cannot bear the weight. And if I don’t respect the setting and don’t care about the story, there is zero reason to play a cover-based shooter. So I’m not, anymore.

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Cynical Dynamism

No, really, I was not going to bring it up again. Through a series of coincidences though, I read this post by Bhagpuss (referring to GW2’s upcoming Sea of Sorrows event):

The press release is fascinating, showing, I think, just how extraordinarily difficult it is going to be to balance a genuinely “dynamic” virtual world with customer expectations of a commercial product. Taking ANet’s description of the event at face value, there’s an intrinsic and apparently insoluble problem and in just three-paragraphs they hammer home relentlessly precisely what it is :

we want to make sure that you are not missing out”

“an Event in Lion’s Arch that you don’t want to miss”

“make sure you will not miss it”

“this will only run once, so make sure you will be there!

Whether the event will live up to the hype, whether it will be truly world-changing, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is the insistence that this is something all Guild Wars 2 players must not miss. That raises expectations that simply cannot be met in full. A lot of people aren’t going to be there, no matter how much they’d like to be. The balancing act between building excitement and fostering resentment is a high wire to walk, that’s for sure, and the fall is steep on either side.

Then I received an email notification about this comment from João Carlos:

I am sure Azuriel will go crazy bitching mode when she knows about the one time events at 16-18th…

But I am sure GW2 at XFire will go up that weekend.

As an aside, if I were not actually a dude, I think I might have been offended by the “crazy bitching mode” characterization.

Anyway, mere minutes later, I browse down to NoizyGamer’s latest Digital Dozen post:

Event Aftermath – Another trend is that following in-game events interest in a game tends to decline.  Two games that held in-game events on 28 October saw the Xfire community spend over 20% less time playing those games on Sunday.  Vindictus fell out of The Digital Dozen after a nine-week run with a 22.1% decline following the celebration of the Nexon game’s second anniversary 27-28 October.  The second game, Guild Wars 2, experienced a 21.2% decline with the end of its Halloween event.

So, I would respond to Senor Carlos by saying: I would hope GW2’s XFire numbers go up the weekend of the 16th. Because, ultimately, I think that is sort of the entire point of having these Dynamic Events By Appointment, vis-a-vis to drive engagement and capitalize on gaming news-cycles.

Even if they really are being earnest when they say it is all about making the world feel alive, it begs the question of “what is the world missing, that it needs one-time events to feel alive?”

In any case, this is not an ArenaNet-only thing – every seasonal event in MMOs basically amounts to the same deal – and I am not even saying developers spicing things up is necessarily bad. These sort of events simply hold zero interest to me, even if they were not starting at 3pm EST (are they timing it for the schoolchildren?). I never considered showing up for a raid at 9pm on a Tuesday evening particularly dynamic, and I have to wonder how many scheduled one-time events someone can consume before the suspension on their disbelief finally gives out.

If you made it past 1, you are doing better than me.