Relative Time

Einstein was right.

There’s an interesting argument to be had around the duration of an activity in relation to another.  The old “holding a burning pot vs a loved one” argument. Mega Man’s 25 screens/level format feels just the right length of engagement, while the time spent travelling between one location and another in Pillars of Eternity can feel like years.  Clearly, it’s based on subjective pleasure of an activity.  More than that, it often relates to player engagement.

Menial tasks are not engaging.  Very few people find pleasure from the act of cleaning a garage, though the end result is certainly pleasant and cathartic.  Games that focus on the menial busywork lose my attention quickly.  I certainly don’t mind fiddling with details, but those details need purpose and impact.  Back to PoE2 for a second.  I’m still stuck in the first part of the game because travel takes so damn long and does nothing for the game.  I’ve never had a random event, a ship battle, and only seen 2 isles to explore – all without combat.  Why pad on 2-3 minutes of non-interactive and repetitive gameplay?  Spider-Man has a ton of travel, but the act of travelling is chocked full of random events and interactive gameplay.  You learn the ability to fast travel long before you’ve completed the checklist of random events.

The disengagement from WoW relates strongly to this as well.  World Quests are even more menial than in Legion.  Dungeons (non-M+) could have been mistaken for MoP dungeons in many cases.  The world and story items are excellent, but they lack replayability.  I truthfully miss Suramar’s evolving story, or the Withered dungeon, or the Mage Tower.

MH:W’s missions are generally time-based – 50 minutes a shot.  Sometimes less if you’re on an investigation.  50 minutes that cannot be paused I may add.  When you start off the game and learning the ropes, very few battles go over 20 minutes.  As you progress, the larger enemies start taking a lot longer.  Either due to them having larger HP pools, or due to the combat mechanics requiring more patience.

Example is a recent Lavasioth fight.  30 minutes to hunt, and I wanted to actually capture it for the collection.  Capturing and fighting all monsters in the Arena unlocks extra gear bits.  He’s a bit of a bugger as his armor gets more resistant over time, until he goes back in the magma.  He also has a tremendously powerful fireball attack, so positioning is key.  Throw in a roaming Rathalos and you have a potent mix for long fights.  I ended the fight with about 2 minutes to spare.  Dung pods would have helped with the Rathalos.  Making the fight go faster still requires a better weapon (such as water-based), and overall better skill with using the weapon.  Considering I’ve just completed Nergigante, I need a whole lot more drops to widen my weapon arsenal.

Still, if I were to randomly capture 5 minutes of that fight, it would likely include a whole pile of dodging, rolling, striking, healing, and getting thrown around.  It would be more hectic than practiced, that’s for sure.  But every piece of that would be engaging to me.  Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly menial tasks in MH:W- like killing 8 Girros or some such.  But they are so rare, that they feel like reprieve from the walking death machines on other quests.

MH:W doesn’t do bite-size gaming well, since you can’t really leave a quest mid-point without losing all the previous progress.  It doesn’t try to.  It does moment to moment gaming very well, so that you don’t see the time go by.  Better than a whole pile of other games I’ve played in recent years.  I often find myself losing track of time, thinking I’m a minute away from my goal.  Then the dreaded “one more turn” thought comes in, and there goes 15 more minutes.  That’s an oddly good feeling to have – wish it applied to more things in life.


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