From World of Warcraft to Pocket Legends: How Mobile is Getting it Right for Casual Players
Editor's Note: We're excited to welcome Ben from NativeX, sharing his experiences and expertise in the gaming industry!
I actually quit WoW years ago, but I'm just getting around to writing the story.
It's ironic how addicts always start out saying "I wouldn't say I'm addicted" or "I can quit whenever I want" so I guess the logical way to start would be... I wouldn't say I was addicted to World of Warcraft. However, at one point in time in my life I practically played every night. Jokes aside, I only had one max level character with 30-40 days spent in game. To you non-WoW players that sounds like an extremely long time, but I assure you, that isn't that bad.
Prior to WoW I played Final Fantasy XI, and prior to that it was EverQuest so WoW wasn't my first. I've always had troubles staying interested in games so you can imagine how ADD I get with MMORPG games and their huge worlds. I started playing the original WoW (WoW gamers call it Vanilla) with some friends of mine, but also tried Shadowbane and Guild Wars among others during the same time. I couldn't even play Shadowbane because I'd be dead within a minute of logging into the game. This seriously pissed me off and I quit the same day as installing. I can't remember why I didn't stick with Guild Wars... which isn't a good sign.
WoW... A Love/Hate Relationship
I tend to bounce around with games. WoW was so appealing initially because of my friends. After playing for months I became immersed with the lore, history and world. At this same time grinding became tedious, I was constantly getting ganked (killed by other higher level players), some friends dropped out of the game and my other friends reached level 60 (which was the max level at the time).
This is where I started having a hard time staying interested. I started taking breaks from the game and even cancelled my membership a couple of times. I loved the game but felt like I couldn't ever enjoy it because it took too much time to play. Gaining a level seemed to take forever, and I was really getting sick of other players killing me. I had enough!
I was maybe gone from the game for a year until I had to travel an entire month for work alone. With no friends around I decided to reinstall WoW. This time I chose a Player vs Environment (PvE) server versus a Player vs Player (PvP) server so I wouldn't get ganked. This changed everything for me. I loved the game considering I could actually experience it. I even got to the end game content of Vanilla WoW and Burning Crusade (first expansion) and was playing probably an average of 5 nights a week.
Back then I had never heard of the Bartle Test, but I wasn't choosing the right experience to fit my gaming psychological profile. I'm a total social explorer, and only want to PvP when I felt like it.
During my 2-3 years of playing 5 nights a week I had a lot of changes in my life. I met a beautiful woman, bought a house and married that same woman. (I know, I know... I'm shocked she stayed with me too.) During these changes my WoW time was on the decline. I was now only playing a couple nights a week until my wife was pregnant. My free time was about to get drastically shorter, and I couldn't spend hours committed to raiding with a group of people that I didn't even physically know.
I decided to quit... cold turkey. I just uninstalled WoW, and cancelled my subscription just before the baby was due.
Mobile Gaming... What a Joke, Right?
My son was born and I got my first Android device (Samsung Epic 4G) around the same time. I started downloading games but I hated "casual" games. I didn't want to build some city with cute graphics, have a virtual farm or manage a zoo. I wanted adventures, battles and epic loot! I disliked "casual" mobile games, but at this time I was judging "casual" in the term of context, not the amount of time it took to play them.
Enter Pocket Legends
I was on a gaming site one day when I stumbled across a trailer for Pocket Legends. Pocket Legends is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) like WoW but catered to short sessions versus the hours upon hours WoW required. It was as if the guys at Spacetime knew about my changing life, the emerging mobile market and said "Don't worry Ben... we've created a game just for you." This completely changed my perception on casual.
If you haven't played Pocket Legends, then download Arcane Legends (on either iOS or Android) and give that a go. It's from the same developer (Spacetime Studios) and has only improved on the solid foundation that Pocket Legends built.
I was now rocking my newborn son in the middle of the night in one hand and was questing in Pocket Legend with the other. In fact, if I was trying to get my son to sleep I was most likely also playing Pocket Legends. Don't judge me. :-)
This was also the first F2P mobile game that got me to spend money. I was always tempted with sales and new equipment so I think I purchased virtual currency three separate times.
A Casual MMO, You Say?
I never thought a casual version of WoW could exist, but as I get older I see more and more value in creating meaningful experiences that can be digested in less time. Don't let "casual" scare off you hardcore players who are reading this. I too enjoy longer gaming sessions when I can. Just because you can have a meaningful experience in minutes doesn't mean this game can't be played for hours. In fact, if I was playing PL during the day I often played for much longer than I anticipated.
This Is Not Goodbye, This Is Redesigning
Some people reading this might think, "This poor guy... he's on his way out of gaming/MMOs and doesn't realize it." Wrong! We're all witnessing drastic changes in technology. Games and gamers are just adapting with new technology. We're entering a time when we shouldn't live with parameter constraints. Think about servers... companies were required to have their own with a set bandwidth or limit of space. Now everything can be hosted in the Cloud and scale with use. Servers aren't going away, they're just adapting. In the same sense why should I be required to set aside an hour to game if all I have is 15-20 minutes? Why do I need to be anchored in front of my TV? Why can't I get a game on the platform of my choice (because of exclusivity)? Games (when applicable) should adapt to the player, not vice versa.
I'm not here to tell you consoles are dead, "AAA" games are doomed, publishers are going away or there aren't as many hardcore gamers anymore. I just think games can be more successful if we provide gamers with a scaling game design for the various platforms or technologies that are available. Keep this in mind with your next game and you might be surprised.