Today I'm going to answer some Reader Mail from Berzurk:
I played the original EQ for about a year, and I took a break for a long time. I just last week got into WoW, and I am loving it. I have been scared, however, that it may end up ruining my life. My g/f doesn't like video games much, and I'm about to get a new job to help pay bills. I can't, however, give up my passion for MMO's. It's just my nature.
I did have one idea though. In your opinion, do you believe it would be beneficial to just play for a set amount a day on WoW, instead of hours at a time? I know that life comes first, but I almost always have about 2 spare hours to myself everyday. Do you believe that maybe an hour a day would be a decent amount of playtime?
Berzurk, Human Warrior, Lvl 8, Stormwind City
Because you are aware enough of the addiction risks in playing WoW and have already proposed a solution, you are definitely on the right track to playing WoW without it hurting Real Life. You can play WoW for an hour a day and have fun, but there are limitations to what you can do in WoW with that schedule of which you should be aware.
The original Everquest was a lot of fun for a while, but it wasn't so great for casual gaming. Traveling, grinding, camping, mana/health regen, experience loss, corpse retrieval, hell levels, difficult soloing all added up to a lot of time spent doing not so fun stuff. I played EQ for two years and I know I wasn't able to play it for just an hour a day. I think you have already found that WoW is very casual gamer friendly, in comparison. There are many alternatives to trekking it across open land and the boats are infinitely faster. (Don't even get me started on the boats in EQ.) There is certainly grinding to be done in WoW, but on a much smaller scale and often with a nice quest experience bonus at the end of it. In fact, for a game with the word Quest in it, EQ didn't have too many working ones in it while WoW provides quite a few in each zone for some pretty fast leveling accompanied by some nice lore. WoW quest bosses are either triggered or are on fast spawn cycles and the fact that groups can share the quest loot makes spontaneous cooperation with strangers a much better alternative than racing to a kill -- and no killstealing makes this even more enjoyable and less of a timesuck. All classes in WoW are viable for soloing, though some are better than others, which makes time-limited gaming easier since you don't have to find a group.
The way WoW handles death and rest are a great improvement for the casual player over EQ. Your corpse can't expire. You have an option to get a res from a Spirit Healer so you don't have to go resurrect in dangerous territory. And there is no having to regain lost experience (or levels). Death takes up much less of your valuable playtime and Rest makes it even easier. Staying in an Inn or a capital city when you log out means twice as much experience for all kills for a while when you come back -- which means less time spent getting to the next level of content.
There are things you have to give up playing just one hour a day, however, such as instances and, depending on your goals, you may not be getting the most fun for your 60 minutes. Here are some questions and suggestions for maximizing your casual gametime:
Do you like lore? If you do, like I do, there is lots of interesting lore to be had. Taking the time to read the quests and watch the scripted results will really enhance your enjoyment of WoW. And there are even books you can read while you explore. Don't take the time to read those, however. All of the lore contained in the books lying around Inns and libraries are actually online and can be read at your leisure when not in the game. If you don't care about the storylines, (or you read fast) make sure you turn on the Instant Quest Text option in the Interface Options of the Main Menu.
Do you like exploring? You get experience from exploring the map, so go off-trail in level appropriate zones to discover new areas. Of course, going off the road will get you more aggro, but more aggro equals more kills equals more experience, so go for it.
Do you like roleplaying? One thing I miss about playing EQ and City of Heroes is the likelihood of the general populace to do at least a minimum amount of roleplaying. The unforeseen (by me at least) drawback of servers dedicated to roleplaying is the disdain for roleplaying encountered on non RP servers. If you are into back-stories, typing in-accent and staying in-character, join a RP server for a more immersive experience. Just ignore the bored griefers who make noobs on RP servers to mock your fun. Instead, silently pity their lack of girlfriends and exit general chat until your next session.
Is getting there more important than the journey? If you don't mind "spoilers" and not discovering things on your own, then try a leveling guide. A good guide will include maps and step by step instructions to maximize your time in each part of a zone. Since many quests can be completed at the same time, using those guides can really reduce the time you would otherwise spend going back to the same place to get similar stuff done.
Do you like dungeon crawls? You are out of luck on this one. Instances take longer than an hour unless you are being run through by a high-level. You will encounter some mini-caves throughout your questing, but instances take a couple hours at least to complete and that doesn't include the time required to get a group together.
Do you like PvP? If you don't or like it just a little, then stay off the PvP servers. From about level 20 on, you spend your questing time in contested zones and getting ganked takes up a lot of extra time. You can always do battlegrounds when you are in the mood for some player vs player action. If you do like PvP, at an hour a day, I would still recommend staying off a PvP server. But do bring up characters that you keep at level 19 and 29 so that you can always have someone to shine in the battlegrounds for your alloted hour.
Overall, you can have fun in WoW on just an hour a day and it sounds like that would be the best schedule for you. Regardless of the way you enjoy your gaming time, make sure you maximize your rest. Make at least 2 characters, always park them in inns and big cities and juggle their play time. You can keep their experience bar blue and almost halve your leveling time. But I also recommend setting aside a 3 to 5 hour session every week to two weeks to enjoy the extremely fun instances WoW has to offer. If you are having trouble getting your non-gamer girlfriend to let you have that extra time, try some of the techniques I have described previously or at least encourage her to find a hobby to enjoy while you enjoy yours.
Welcome to WoW!
Robin Torres juggles one level 70 Tauren Druid, multiple alts across multiple servers, two cats, one toddler, one loot-addicted husband and a yarn dependency. After years of attempting to balance MMOs with real life, Robin lightheartedly shares the wisdom gleaned from her experiences. If you would like to ask Robin's advice, please email Robin.Torres@weblogsinc.com for a possible future column.