It all started with me getting sick about 2 weeks ago. I was pretty sure the reason I got weakened was playing long hours every night and not getting enough sleep, so I simply stopped playing MWO while I recovered. During this time I distracted myself by reading a lot, going out with friends, playing other games and generally by not staring at the spinning wheel. At the end I felt much better, more alive and more energetic. I needed a forced "sickness holiday" to get away from MWO after all.
When I tried to get back in, it just didn't feel the same. It felt like I was not enjoying the game. Don't get me wrong, MWO is an amazing game. At its core it has unique and pretty complicated mechanics and it's really hard to master. The skill ceiling is incredibly high and it takes a ton of time/dedication to actually get there. When you try different things and go against the tide, you're always rewarded with personal improvement and more entertainment. So far doing just this kept me interested and has contributed a lot to my knowledge and pilot skills in MWO.
However, for me it's been getting harder and harder to actually get to the "fun" part of MWO and enjoy it. I've reached a some kind of "end-game limbo" which I can not get out of. Here's some reasons why:
- I've been playing almost exclusively in the group queue with extremely skilled people. When you're in this kind of environment there are only two kinds of matches. Either the matchmaker derps and gives you a bunch of casuals to stomp, or it occasionally gets bored and throws a legion of "play to win" people in competitive meta loadouts. The latter is of course always interesting, but it doesn't change the outcome. We either stomp (dare I say most of the time), or mess up and get stomped. There is nothing in-between and extremely close matches happen in every 20-30 matches or so by some miracle.
- Due to the aggressive nature of the group queue matches, they're extremely brutal. This also means the matches don't last long. In an environment where deaths occur in just seconds after someone calls "kilo CT", most of the matches are over in a range from 2 to 4 minutes depending on the size of the map. If the enemy can't resist the aggression and hold their ground, then it results in a feeding frenzy. In these situations your biggest problem is actually getting to the fight and fighting (=the most fun part of the game) before everything dies.
- The MM wait times in high Elo matches are simply atrocious. On a busy night it feels like playing MWO is more like reading Reddit, watching YouTube videos and looking at funny cat pictures interrupted by sudden MWO matches. In order to play yet another feeding frenzy match that lasts about 2:30, you wait anywhere between 3-5 minutes. More often than not(due to the groups we're running and the average Elo) we hit the 5 minute release valve. After a 4-hour play session, you realize that at least half of that is wasted on simply waiting to get a match. Just watch a high-Elo streamer and count how much they actually play versus how much they stare at the spinning wheel to get a feeling.
- When you want to free yourself from the shackles of the high-Elo group queue and throw yourself into the solo queue where matches are longer and TTK isn't as low; you are again, punished. Since the MM works by trying to match the average Elo of each team you tend to get matches where it throws you in a mid-low Elo team and calls it a "mid-high Elo team" afterwards. This means you are expected to shoulder the low-Elo part of the team all by yourself and maybe with another one or two fellas from higher Elos. This is fine if you run nothing but the best meta stuff all the time because you tend to get those awesome matches where you do 1000+ damage and 5+ kills and feel very good about yourself, but I don't. I enjoy running my Highlanders, Vindicators, Orions when I'm not tryharding it in the group queue and I am punished by bringing sub-optimal 'Mechs like these and experimenting.
- With the lack of proper end-game content, outside of combat, my enjoyment mostly comes from checking out new 'Mechs, new build combinations and new gameplay styles. On the other hand, I own 141 'Mechs (95% of the C-Bill releases with some variants sold) and I played the heck out of pretty much ever single one. I know each inside-out, the weaknesses and the strengths, what gameplay styles works and such. There is nothing new to try, and the new 'Mechs are locked behind a paywall for months (I can't afford to shell hundreds on these) and C-Bill releases occur pretty infrequently with sometimes months of droughts. Which means months with absolutely nothing to do. Sad, since PGI equated new content with simply more 'Mechs and maps.
- Out of my 141 'Mechs perhaps a 25% of them are "absolutely horrible junk", 55% of them are "workable, but I'd rather not be in it", about 15% of them are "good and enjoyable" while the remaining 5% is considered the meta. Quirks definitely helped mitigating a lot of the junk part into the "workable" category which created a lot of content by making existing stuff viable and probably helped mitigate my burn-out. Though, they still don't iterate quirks as fast as they should and have been very incompetent with some of the quirks (Vindicators anyone? When was the Commando removed from the game? When did you last see a Loup de Guerre? A non-Champion Victor? A non-Protector Orion?). The main content of this game is 'Mechs and by avoiding tier based matchmaking like WoT/WoWs/WT, PGI proclaimed that every 'Mech is inherently equal. They are not and most of them are not even close to the best 'Mechs. PGI keeping most of their main content unviable is simply mind-boggling to me.
- I (and my unit) tried CW to get away from this. It's the same and even worse. Instead of getting 2-3 minute stomps, the stomps instead last up to 20-30 minutes. This was enjoyable at first since I got uninterrupted gameplay and combat for actually more than 40-50 seconds per match. Though, most of the CW matches (and again in a unit environment) are extremely unchallenging. I personally don't enjoy clubbing seals who don't even have a grasp of torso twisting. As solo, the CW gets more interesting (and more frustrating) but then again by dropping solo you're throwing yourself into the ranks of seals this time, with limited ability to influence the course of battle due to respawns. Not to mention that CW matches, even though they're supposed to be tied to lore stuff, have absolutely no meaning in the game universe. I really don't give a flying fuck if we get a planet or if the enemy gets a planet. It's simply meaningless in the grand scheme of things. The amount of wasted potential here is just staggering. After all the buzz about "galactic conquest", PGI managed to come up with yet another meaningless deathmatch and C-Bill grind fest.
- Some people around me suggested me to go competitive and it's the only area where I haven't explored yet. I must admit I have a lot of prejudices about competitive play (lack of build/'Mech variety, boring tactics to ensure win, the prevalence of "legging" and most good teams being in NA which is extremely inconvenient for a EU player) and I don't have much desire to do it. Although I admit the recent 1v1/4v4 tournaments have actually motivated me to participate, this kind of small-scale combat tournaments are exactly what we need and they actually promote variety. You can finally see in 1v1 combat that the TTK is actually pretty decent. I have to thank Ardai for his amazing little tournament.
- The lack of community support. Call me self-important or whatever, but I've been providing a lot of content for MWO for the past 1.5 years in text, video and image form. Not even for once PGI acknowledged my existence or promoted my stuff despite having community managers (except the part where they saw the invisible wall article on Reddit). Russ doesn't retweet anything but "I just spent 500$ and I love this game!" type of tweets. I don't expect anything in return and this is simply a hobby, but I most of the time it feels like I'm talking to the void here despite putting in tons of work for each piece I post. I'm sure this is the case for many other content creators out there except NGNG, which work for PGI themselves anyway. On a side note, NGNG is actually the only semi-official entity to acknowledge my existence, but our relationship quickly went sour when I rejected to write exclusively for them and never recovered.
There it is, my main source of frustrations with this game which became only more apparent after I took a small break. I've been playing at least 4 hours each night for the past few months and in the end it feels like it hurt my enjoyment in the end. I really love the BMMU atmosphere we've built, but the thing that ties us together, the game itself seems to be something I have to suffer through to enjoy the company more and more lately.