Focussed versus Interconnected Gameplay

Recently, a few of us got to try the Evolve Big Alpha.  I’m not entirely sure what the practical difference is between Alpha and Beta testing anymore, but the content we got felt fairly finished.  The point, I believe, was to stress test the servers.  As expected, we spent a lot of time waiting for a match make, and the game crashed several times, but the few games we got into were a lot of fun and left me wanting more.

When I thought about whether or not I wanted to actually buy this game on release, I had one concern.  Are we getting a Left 4 Dead or Team Fortress 2 style match based game, or will the single player campaign give us more?  I believe the plan is the former, which will probably mean I won’t be playing come release.

I’m not sure that I can really call this a criticism though, more of a musing.  Focusing on game play will, no doubt, result in a tighter, more enjoyable experience for fans than if they tried to hatchet the matches into something bigger.  But it did make me think about interconnected game play and why I so easily dismissed the idea of a standalone experience.

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

Now, my favorite type of game is a good RPG.  I get bored of games very easily and hardly ever finish them.  And yet, I’ve been playing World of Warcraft for ten years (on and off).

It’s no mystery really, because WoW is my clearest example of well made interconnected game play.  Initially, it was all about leveling up, getting the gear and beating the boss, with optional versus matches that involved capturing the flag or camping resources.  Not a massive scope and I never did max out in vanilla.  I was always a collector in WoW, and over the years that has become more and more of a focus.  When I’m bored of fighting the bad guys, I still log on to do holiday quests, get obscure achievements, tend my farm and collect and battle mini pets.  I even do archaeology and fishing sometimes because it’s relaxing.  I am unbelievably delighted with my Garrison.

WoWScrnShot_111614_213558

It’s beautiful O_O

There’s no way Evolve can be sanely compared to WoW, but the point is that I can see myself enjoying it a lot and then getting suddenly, and terminally bored and never playing it again.  I’m not sure what would convince me to buy Evolve, but I do have some ideas.

The Mass Effect online co-op kept me coming back while I played the main game and for a good while after.  If it was tacked on as a bonus, I never would have looked at it.  The trend of attaching a multiplayer mode for ‘re-playability’ was trailing off at this point, perhaps because players had realised that they could go back to a decent online game that was purpose designed instead.  But Mass Effect did a decent job and, on top of that, they tied the online game into the main story, if tenuously, through ‘readiness’.

Get ready...

Get ready…

Initially, Warframe was the game that I compared to Evolve.  Granted, you’re playing against the computer, but it’s a co-op match-making shooter with a bunch of classes, so it felt pretty close.  What kept me coming back to Warframe wasn’t the matches, but the meta game.  I was gathering resources, working towards building a new weapon, or a new body to use.  I had a guild hall where my friends could pop in and hang out… or just decorate.  I wouldn’t have played just for the meta game either, but together, all these elements made me feel like I was a part of something.  I could easily see this format working for Evolve.  It’s a science fiction, so moving from planet to planet would make sense.

Expert Slice

And now we have Overwatch, the new shooter announced at Blizzcon.  Once again, the matches are going to be the focus, and it sounded like the designers are going to stay away from anything that might muddy that.  I get that decision, but game play, no matter how good it is, won’t keep me coming back the way diversionary experiences and a good story would.

So maybe the point of this post is to remind myself that, although I can’t invest myself in focused game play, it doesn’t mean I can’t respect it.  Even so, I can’t help but wish that I could unlock battle pets while playing just dance or earn a new mount in WoW with steam achievements.

– Shiv (Siobhan)

SiobhanShiv is an artist who was raised on every type of game and make believe.  She grew up rescuing fuzzy animals and the occasional princess, slaying monsters and competing with her older brother.  Now she’s a fan of befriending monsters, playing co-op and getting lost in a good story.  When she’s not gaming, Siobhan works as a 3D artist in Brown Bag Films and enjoys anime, writing and crafts, which is increasingly involving costumes.

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