“There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”
I’ve always found this saying to be quite disturbing. Yet when it comes to playing video games (or just living life for that matter), its message is one that I hold very dear. Since I started playing MMORPG’s, the genre has changed and morphed over time. More and more developers are providing content that encourages the player to get to the maximum level as quickly as possible. For example, there are min-maxers who do whatever they have to do to maximize their stats so that they can complete quests, dungeons, and other activities as quickly as possible. They tend to believe that if your gear isn’t maxed out in the same way, you will be incapable of satisfactorily completing whatever the task is.
This is a far cry from the times where creativity and unique tactical planning was not only acceptable, but a key feature in online games. For example, in the original EverQuest, there was a technique used by ShadowKnights (and sometimes Necromancers) known as the FD-pull. FD stands for Feign Death and this was a spell that if you were able to successfully cast it (in other words, don’t get hit on the way down), you would appear dead to the monster and it would run away after a set period of time. (Unlike in World of Warcraft, Feign Death in EQ lasted until you chose to get up. You could stay dead for hours if you wanted/needed.) Critical to the FD-pull technique, you needed to have an ability to snare an enemy as well. Much like MMORPGs today, enemies and monsters hang out in groups and attack en masse if you attack one of their number. In today’s min-max gear-based games, the strategy for groups of enemies is to fight them all at once. However, this was suicide in the original EverQuest because gear and stats worked differently. Hence the need for FD-pulling.
Here’s how it works: Your party camps out in a safe place with no wandering monsters. The ShadowKnight (SK) would find a group of enemies and cast a snare spell on one of them and then run toward the party. So you would have, for example, three monsters chasing you, but one can’t run as quickly as the others. Somewhere between the place where you found the mobs and your party, you cast Feign Death. Then you wait for the non-snared enemies to return to their reset/spawn points. Once that happens, your aggro or enmity is reset on those enemies, but not on the snared one, so you stand up and run toward your party. The snared enemy follows you and your party can kill the monster. It required a lot of practice and finesse to get it just right. It was a lot of work and required patience.
This was the first MMO role that I really learned. If I rushed or wasn’t paying attention, it usually meant death and experience loss for my ENTIRE party, so there was a lot of incentive to really learn what I was doing. In today’s games, people would never do anything so convoluted just to get a single target pull. And it’s not just the players. The developers of the games have made this mechanic impossible. In Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, if monsters are linked, there is nothing you can do about that except sleep one. The mechanics have changed. Now I’m not saying that the old way is the better way. It’s just different. To be fair, I enjoy being able to “zerg” things, too. (There are a few people who read my blog who need a definition of “zerg.” This means to just rush in and cause as much damage as possible without any clear plan of attack.) But my basic gaming personality is taking my time, being creative, and coming up with tactics to complete my objectives.
These are my current class levels in FFXIV:ARR. I have a plan and a playstyle that supports that plan. I’m trying to get Paladin (Gladiator) to 50 so that I can do end game content with my friends, but aside from that, I’m leveling everything else in a slower, planned out way. This goes double for the Disciples of the Hand and Land classes (crafting and gathering). Until you reach level 50, all the Hand classes wear the same gear and all the Land classes wear the same gear. And all the gear can be crafted by the Hand classes. (There are a few pieces of gear that you can get from your Grand Company that are better, though.) So I cycle between Hand and Land. I play a gathering class like Miner or Botanist so that I can gather the materials I need to craft their gear. Then I switch to the crafting class like Leatherworker or Weaver so that I can level up and create the gear. It’s a VERY slow way to level, but I spend almost no money on the Market Board or at vendors for materials and I don’t have to buy crafting and gathering gear from other players at huge markups with tax.
So on Monday, I was laid up in bed with a throbbing headache that didn’t go away for over 24 hours. I couldn’t sleep because the pulsing in my head would wake me up whenever I dozed off, so I decided to work on Botany and gather Walnut Logs for crafting. There were several other people in the area gathering the same stuff. Fortunately, gathering nodes are instanced per player, so you don’t have to worry about anyone getting to the node before you do. Your nodes are visible to you and you alone. Anyway, there was one guy that was trying to get me to buy gathering food (food you eat that would increase your stats used for gathering). He also wanted to buy my Walnut Logs. As I’ve raised Culinarian, I didn’t need food since I already had stuff I had made myself. I also explained that I was gathering the wood so that I could use it to level my crafting. I explained my plan for gathering and crafting, so he proceeded to tell me that I was doing things inefficiently and that I would level my Botany faster if I did guildleves. (These are like repeatable quests that you can turn in for large chunks of experience.)
It is ABSOLUTELY true that if my goal was to get Botany to 50 as fast as possible, I would use guildleves, but that isn’t my goal. Besides, I use guildleves to level my crafting classes, but I still need to gather the materials to MAKE the items required for the guildleve turn-ins. He thought I was crazy, but he left me alone after that. The conversation I had with him (which was completely respectful and not obnoxious in any way) made me think, “Sheesh, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, you know?”
Sometimes I really wonder what it says about our society that everyone wants to get as far as possible as quickly as possible. My sister posted a link on Facebook yesterday that listed 18 things that you should make time for. It included things like writing letters by hand or taking walks without your cellphone. We don’t stop to enjoy the journey as much anymore. Is the goal really so great? As a parent, there are days that I wish I had spent more time doing silly things with my son. He will never be little again. Min-maxing and getting to max level as fast as possible might be enjoyable for some, but for me, I like to take my time and enjoy the journey. It’s the only one I’ll get. I try very hard to respect that everyone’s play-styles and journeys are different. I just wish people would be more accepting of mine.