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The Race.

September 18, 2008

Do you hear it? That distant horn, blowing stronger and stronger until your eardrums wiggle uncontrollably? The horn that calls to you, beckons, drives you forward. The horn that marks the start of The Race.

The Race is my pet term for the phenomena that happens at the beginning of any MMO launch, where players rush in the gates, then feel the compulsive need to flat-out sprint toward the end game out of fear of getting left behind. Left behind what? This isn’t the rapture, it’s a video game. Some yahoo is going to hit rank 40 in about 110 hours of non-stop, red-eyed gaming and be a minor game celebrity for six seconds. I’m not quite sure what Mr. Yahoo thinks, but I can assure him that women are not going to be throwing ovulated girlie parts at his feet because they want his awesome genetic legacy to live on. He’s just the first of several folk who think that the game “hasn’t really started” until they hit the highest peak.

So obviously nobody’s going to keep up with that, apart from a few insane hardcore guilds and their incredibly angry spouses. But there is this unsaid, palpable fear of getting left behind the main pack in those first few weeks, especially your guildies and friends who you want to team with.

Listen, I hear ya. I always feel the pressure of The Race when I first start a MMO, and I hate that queasy feeling I get when I’m not playing and knowing that, by the minute, my guildies are hopping up the level ladder faster than a frog on fire. I don’t care so much about being at the top as being eligible to team with them and participate in fun events — that require you to be a certain level. It’s like going to an amusement park with older friends who are tall enough to go on all the rides, but you don’t pass muster, and you wind up making a vague wish to an automated fortune teller to “be big” and then you’re a middle-aged man with hemmoroids.

It makes you kinda insane. You push yourself to play more, when you promised that, this time, you would balance your gaming time with your real life better. You skip content, skim quest text, and give yourself an ulcer trying to follow the most efficient path to keeping up with everyone else.

The good news is that feeling goes away, sooner or later. Like any race, chances are that there are always people in front of you as well as behind. Like any race, sooner or later it’ll be over, even if that means hitting that brick wall at rank 40 where they can’t out-level you or the content any longer. I knew a guild in WoW that hated The Race so much that they introduced guild leveling caps — once you hit a certain level, you just couldn’t level any futher that week. It kept the group together and happy.

I’m not calling for that, but I’m not letting WAR’s dash to the top get to me. At least, I’m going to say that publicly. We have guildies deep into tier 2 and looking at tier 3 while I’m just finishing up tier 1 content. Listening to some of their reports as to things you have to accomplish to get the gear that’ll help you the best has me scribbling notes and wondering when I’m going to find time for it all.

But I remember — it’ll come. I just focus on one character, max her out to 40 before starting any alts, and get in a good position where, from then on, I can do anything with the guild that’s happening. Until then, it’s just one step at a time, my pace.

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11 comments

  1. “This isn’t the rapture, it’s a video game.”

    LOL.. great line!


  2. Rofl, so true so true.. My friends.. some of them anyways, are already feeling like this. I remember a quote I saw somewhere on the blogosphere that was pretty funny: “A brick wall doesn’t hurt as much if you don’t sprint towards it”


  3. Hehe, I’m actually trying NOT to level, and this is the first time I’ve ever felt like that about a game. I hit 12 last night and was quite sad that there would be no more Nordenwatch… at least for that character. But I still feel like I didn’t get to see everything in Tier 1.

    And I’m forcing myself to read quest text, go off the main roads to try to find random stuff, and just soak it in. Capturing keeps, battle objectives, and all that can wait until later. Once I hit 40, that’ll pretty much be my life, so the lowbie levels are mostly dedicated to PvE when possible.

    At least I have the option to go back and try to find the stuff I missed. 😉


  4. This goes in your classics folder. Awesome write up!


  5. Love your blog, Syp! It’s as informative as it is funny (that is to say, quite a lot), and there’s always something good to read. So I’m de-lurking after a very funny post to wave a flag for you and demand you keep up the good work. *cheers, waves flag*


  6. I have some friends like this, but WAR is one of the first games where I don’t feel like I need to race to the end-game before I can start actually, well, playing the game.

    Scenarios, PQs, etc are all fun while leveling, and I’m actually more scared that if I did powerlevel, I’d be stuck in scenarios queues with long timers, doing PQs by myself, and no one else around…


  7. My problem with WAR is that it levels too fast (in T1 at least). You can’t spend any time in PVE or PQ or scenarios at the same time. I can’t stand coming to a cool looking PQ/Chapter and find out my RvR gear is already better.

    Guess I need to take it easy on the scenarios and do more RvR that levels slower. It does look very promising for alts however. I could see taking at least three through each area without doing some of things more than once. Awesome game!


  8. I really agree with Sithlet, this has been a really fun game to PLAY right from the start. I am starting to figure a few things out and I may just delete my Orc and re roll it to goof around.


  9. I agree with everything you say here, and yes, am feeling the pressure.. but trying to be bigger than it!


  10. I usually rush through the game and don’t bother to stop and read quest text, and I did exactly that in the Open Beta. After a while I started reading the Tome of Knowledge and quest text, and I realised I was missing something.

    So when I play the actual game I will savour every moment, to read every quest text, every Tome of Knowledge entry. It will take time, but it’s not wasted.


  11. Great post. This is so true. This really reminds me of the feelings that I had during the start of WoW. The sense of adventure and excitment that gives way to the feeling of being left behind.

    Then the inevitable feeling that you missed a lot when you rushed to the level cap because all your friends were doing it. If the end game is supremely fun and interesting then I guess it suplants some of this, but to me that first experience in the early game holds a special place in my heart that the end game never will.

    With WAR I think the Tome of Knowledge will be a huge help, and it will be nice later on to page through your Tome remembering all the great stuff you did along the way.



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