So for the past few weeks I’ve been puttering around with Mechwarrior Online. I think there is a great game there, but it has this steep learning curve. So much so I’m not sure if I’ll take the plunge.
I used to pooh-pooh simpler computer games. I’d revel in crunchy games with lots of working parts and huge manuals to go through. I mean it. I used to play Falcon on my old DOS 486. The manual was this thick technical bulky thing. Wolfenstein 3D had it’s place on my hard drive, but somehow I found it fun trying not just to master, but learn how to play these other simulation games. Mechwarrior online has a lot of crunchy bits to it. ECM, weapon groups, NARC beacons, it reminds me a lot of the old Mechwarrior computer games of past. Problem is now I’m just not that interested in making the effort to play these games. It’s just too much time to learn all the icons, commands, and understand the principles of the game. It’s just not that much fun any more.
I also regularly delve into World of Tanks. There is some meat with this game. There is a lot of background mechanics with how shell penetration works. Sighting the enemy, radio communication, and camouflage, not to mention how different the various armor plays, all take a bit of time to master. Still the game was very approachable initially with simple arcade controls for moving and shooting. And even if I didn’t do great in a match, I felt like I could contribute to a win.
MWO has a completely different feel. The learning curve for simple operation of your mech is pretty huge. Sadly, if one player is not pulling their weight, it can drag the entire team down. So this compounds the pressure for learning the ropes as quickly as possible. You need to get matches under your belt to learn the game, but at the same time hampering the fun of those that know what the hell they are doing. After scouring through online guides and watching training videos, I began to wonder if it’s worth the effort.
It dawned on me then that I’ve become that guy wanting simple games. I have limited free time and want to spend that having fun and playing, not spending all my time trying to learn new systems. This has also crept into my RPG habits. I used to love trying out all sorts of new systems, but lately I’ve gotten to this saturation point where I want to stick with things I know. I’ll branch out but only if the rules can be printed on a matchbook. Revisiting Champions and the Hero system or GURPS is not something I am so keen on, whereas something new like Dungeon World seems something right up my alley.
For game designers, I think this is a huge obstacle. How do you make a game approachable, as well as have enough meat in the mechanics to keep it interesting. Make it too simple and folks lose interest. Make the game too difficult and folks won’t even bother trying to learn how to play. For MWO, I think they’ve stuck to their guns and made a game for fans which like the crunchy technical stuff, that have the time and desire to learn how things work in the game. It’s not something I’m keen on, but my gaming tastes have changed. I’ve come to realize I’m starting to enjoy the dumbed down version of games more.