A View From Atlas Park: True Confessions of a Dabbler

In last week’s column I developed a rough model of player types based on time spent in game against their achievement focus and came up with four player categories – Powergamers, Gadabouts, Dilletantes and Dabblers. Having outed myself as a Dabbler, I feel it is only fair that I warn other CoH players about me.

It’s not that I’m openly hostile, or a griefer, or love to pull enemy mobs onto my unprepared team and give them all free trips to the hospital. I am (he says, disgarding all modesty) not a bad CoH player. But having only a small amount of time per week to get into Paragon City means that I am unable to play CoH “properly” (ie the way I’d like to).

I’m already under a few other constraints in terms of playing CoH. Firstly, I live in another country that sits about 14 hours ahead of North American / Austin time, meaning that when I’m waking up, most of you are going to sleep. This means I miss peak times, when getting a team is at its easiest. (Hello from the future, by the way.) Secondly, until very recently, I had a dial-up connection, which meant that I was slow to get into a mission and there was no guarantee that I wouldn’t drop out midway through. However, I have just got broadband which has (firewall kinks and bugs aside) made the play experience a lot cleaner.

But it is my lack of time to play that really drags my character down. I’m looking to take him all the way to level 50, but that’s probably going to take about two years at my current rate of experience collection. Don’t get me wrong – I do love the fact that you can spend an hour or two in CoH and achieve a small something (ie complete a mission or two, maybe even level a bit). But it’s not always enough. I’m unlikely to ever take part in a task force since I just can’t commit to 4 – 6 hours in one play session. I generally miss big events since I’m not playing in peak periods. And I’m not likely to ever start an alternate character since I don’t even have time to fully play my main!

These are just minor whinges that I can live with since they effect only me. However, I can feel especially bad when my short-term dabbling impacts on a team I am with.

Sure, pick-up teams are only weakly connected, with people dropping out and / or joining all the time. But that isn’t an excuse for shirking your role or not taking them seriously. Although I’m not overly-bossy (he says to himself) I will take charge if no-one else will. I do try to be fair about it, but I know I can only play for a mission or two before I’ve got to go. I personally hate feeling like I’ve left a team in the lurch by having to quit out at the end of a mission (I rarely have to quit out in-mission, thank god!), especially when they all stand around and go “Now what?”. I feel responsible to my team-mates and hate quitting before I feel like I’ve given them their due (especially if they’ve finished one or more of my missions with me).

I also don’t have the time to deal with indecisive or stationary teams. You know the type – they stand around wondering what mission to do, where to hunt or are waiting for a friend to show up before they start the mission. I’m not immediately going to leave a team if this happens (that would be rude of me) but I also have a limited patience for it – the clock is ticking and once it runs out I’ve got to return to real life.

In my case, it can sometimes feel a bit lonely in-game to be a Dabbler. I’d like to have a regular team / supergroup to play with, but I can’t guarantee that I’ll be available to play at any set time, making such meetings hard. Also, given the rate of my character’s level progression, I’d probably be a long way behind the average supergroup level in no time. Sidekicking system or not, I really don’t want to be slowing anyone down – I want to contribute, not be a burden.

The frustration with being a Dabbler doesn’t come from the limited amount of time that I have to play each week. It comes from not achieving goals that are in the game and from not feeling any sense of progression. CoH is great for putting a lot of small goals in front of you (through missions and story arcs) which help to disguise the overall objective: to reach max-level, unlocking all powers and game features. For this Dabbler, this end-game seems at times like an near-impossible journey.

However, to give up would mean that I would not be able to see all of Paragon City, meet (read: fight) all of the villain groups and create a story around my hero. It may indeed take two years, but at the moment I really want to get to explore Dark Astoria, beat up some Rikti and join the short-ish list of heroes who have hit max-level. Between now and these events actually happening, my resolve may waver or my free time may evaporate completely. But as long as I’m still having fun (and can live with only being able to dabble in the Birthplace of Tomorrow) I see no reason to cancel my subscription to CoH.

– UnSub [email protected] 18 August 2004

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