What Do You Consider Content?

July 25, 2012

Yesterday, while browsing for some news on MMOs I must have suffered some sort of brain fart, because I don’t know how else to explain how I ended up in The Secret World forums. While there, a particular thread caught my eye — someone new to MMOs was expressing concern over the several “lack of content” complaint threads that were starting to crop up, and they were wondering just how well TSW holds up in this area compared to other games at launch. Oh dear. To be a newcomer and to find themselves in the general discussion section of an MMO forum. But anyway, I digress.

I think the answer depends. Firstly, I believe anyone should be able to play a game however they want without being crapped on for it. Whether you prefer to chisel away at the content slowly versus holding marathon gaming sessions is no one’s business but your own. But those gaming habits will determine your experience. If a game has 200 hours of content, someone playing 2-3 hours will probably never lack for things to do, as opposed to someone who plays 10 hours a day who will probably tap out that content in about three weeks. Players run all over the spectrum and there will always be some at both extremes, so these “There is not enough content!” threads at MMO launches are nothing new.

But I think the more important question is, what do people consider as content? Is it just quests and dungeons? Or is it more?

It occurred to me that what I may consider content, some people don’t. Speaking for myself, I consider “content” as generally anything I would actively need to put aside time to do. Last night, I calculated my /played to come up to about 105 hours and I’m only about halfway through the Scorched Desert in Egypt. That works out to about 30 hours per zone. It seems like quite a lot, but I’m afraid it might lead people to believe there is an abundance of missions or quests to do in TSW.

The thing to keep in mind is, I tend to try and do everything before moving on to the next zone. “Everything” includes missions, both main and side quests, but also activities like exploration, lore hunting, achievements, the whole shebang. It could mean running instances to PvPing to simply standing around “doing nothing” but cycling through each NPC’s dialogue options.

On the other hand, some players who are ambivalent towards things collecting lore items or talking to NPCs and who partake in those activities casually or only when they come across them incidentally, can argue that stuff like that adds flavor, not true content. Fair enough. Others will point out that repetitive activities don’t count, like dailies or dungeon grinds, and there I might even have to agree.

In the end, it comes down to the kind of gamer you are. Granted, I’m nowhere near the end of the game so I don’t know for sure, but I’d say if the number of zones plus the quests and instances they contain are all you’re willing to consider content, then TSW probably does not have as much as other MMOs like World of Warcraft, or Rift, or Star Wars: The Old Republic at release. That said, TSW isn’t for everyone. The more I play the game, the more I get a “niche” vibe pouring off of it.

So if on the other hand you’re the type of gamer who likes to poke their nose into everything, there will be lore items to find and read, NPC monologues to listen to, rare mobs to hunt down, outfits to collect, achievements to complete, nooks and crannies to explore, weapons and talismans to craft, and the list goes on. I’m aware that not everyone will agree, but that’s all content to me. TSW is about more than just a quest and dungeon grind and there’s really no reason to rush to a “cap”; I believe they made it so every aspect of the game is meant to be savored, a special treat for those who enjoy delving completely into unexplored worlds.


  1. To me “Content” is things to do, there’s also 2 types of “Content”. You have your “Fresh Content” which would be new quests, zones, things to do, and your “Repetitive Content” which is the grinding, repeating instances etc. All content starts as Fresh, then becomes Repetitive, it’s the way of all MMOs.

    The difference between a Good MMO and a Bad one is the time it takes the Fresh content to become Repetitive. EQ2 took ages to get dull, whereas Rift took a few months, SW:TOR on the other hand, 3 weeks for me.

    I really think developers need to focus on player created content over the “Curated” style they seem to fill their games with. I spent hours building Fishtanks, Battle Arenas, Floating Islands and generally keeping myself amused in EQ2’s unsurpassed Player/Guild Housing system, whereas I’d finished all the quests in Rift after a month or so, and was finding going through them again a tad tedious on an Alt. SW:TOR on the other hand became very tedious very quickly (didn’t help myself by being a Light Side Sith Inquisitor).

    • I have to agree, when I hear people say “There’s plenty of things to do, like dailies to get gear or hard modes of dungeons to run”, I think that sort of pushes the limit of what I would consider content because it essentially boils down to doing the same thing over and over. Alts are sort of like that too — in the case of SWTOR, while I realize each class has its own unique storyline, you still have to go through all the other shared quests along the way.

      Player created content is huge. I don’t play EQ2, but if any game I was playing had that kind of system in place that could keep me busy for ages.

  2. Pllayer will define content as whatever makes them want to continue playing the game. This is as you pointed out, subjective. I think you’re right in discussing content in terms of hours /played. Between people’s varied interests and their ability/willingness to “consume” subjectively interesting content at a given rate, we get a wide variety of opinions on whether a given game has “enough” content.

    • I saw the other day someone who complained about the game lacking content, but then not only did they they admit to not caring about filling up the ability wheel, collecting decks, doing the achievements, exploration, lore, etc. they even admitted to not doing 50% of the QUESTS. I think it was because they wanted to keep pressing ahead to later zones. Anyway, I can understand not being interested in the other stuff, but quests? They’re like the meat of the game. If rushing ahead is so important you would skip half of that, I really can’t say I understand.

  3. I think to me there is both Content with a capital letter, and content. Everyone can see the big C, that is the dungeons and zones and the quests associated with them. Then there is the little C, the less tangible and more esoteric “fluff” elements. These are the achievements, collections, housing, cosmetic items, and interesting places to explore.

    To me, Secret World has both in spades. The problem is we are so used having a big damned billboard pointing out in neon where we should go and what we should do. The Secret World does not hold your hand, or give you a path at all. All of the really good content, is usually found from exploring and stumbling across that severed limb, or abandoned cell phone. If you are not the type of player that likes the little C, then chances are you are going to miss out on about 50% of the total Content.

    Pretty much TSW is a niche, and it is exactly what you make of it. If you go into the game looking for that golden path that will make sure you visit every bit of content on your way through a zone, you will find it completely missing. But if you are willing to let yourself get completely lost in the atmosphere and minor content, you are going to stay entertained.

    I just finished the main story line on Monday night, but I feel like I pushed my way to it, because the writing was just so amazingly good. It was like a book I could not put down, and I had to see the end. I feel like I still have so much stuff left to do, things to find, anima points to gain. But on top of that, I know there will be a fresh stream of new content coming down in hopefully monthly episodic packages. Everything about the games “ending” tells me this is the case.

    • Yeah, pretty much niche. Probably why in some of the not-so-favorable reviews of TSW I’ve read, what the authors often claim bother them are actual advertised features of the game. For example, one review I read complained that the information required to solve investigation quests are not common knowledge and that having to exit the game to look stuff up in google gets on his nerves. Hmm, I think he may have missed the point there. The very fact that TSW incorporates an in-game browser for your researching needs says it all. Or how about those who get frustrated when the quest indicators in TSW lead you to a general area but then leaves you to figure out the rest? Well, that was their intention.

      I’ll be curious to see how you fare in the next week now that you’ve finished the main story, though it appears from your comment that you still have a boat load of stuff to do. And yeah, not to mention the monthly updates.

  4. Here be Spoilers. Oh yes. Most likely minor, but I’m not *entirely* sure as I’m a mere laggard who has only just poked his character’s nose into the Savage Coast… ***Spoilers***.

    So last night, I was wandering around the nooks and crannys of Kingsmouth trying to find the bits of lore I needed to fill out the missing pieces of the story of that infamously doomed vessel ‘The Lady Margaret’, whilst repeating the odd the quest or three to fill out the inner ring of the pistols skills and get the costume piece for completing that skill wheel segement.

    And, having discovered a couple of the missing lore pieces — which for those unfamiliar with the game are represented in world as glowing yellow squares with a honeycomb pattern, presumably because the text of lore is written in the voice of the Buzzing bees that crawled into your character’s mouth in the first cutscene of the game — my character came to find herself below the bridge where the Orochi Group guys hang out. Out of the corner of my eye I spied a minor quest icon I’d never noticed there before. It was in a row-boat beached under the bridge, and was entitled ‘The Captains Playlist’ and it spoke of treasures thrown overboard.

    Well, clearly I have to fire up iTunes to get the necessary song lengths required to work out the map co-ordinates of the treasure (you can tell its a minor quest because it straight out *tells you* what the song titles are and that you’ll need the lengths). The upshot being my character spends the next five minutes slaying her way through Draugr to the dulcet tones of Men Without Hats on iTunes singing ‘The Safety Dance’ as she makes her way to a location on the othere side of the map, where indeed there is a clicky object just about visible below the waves. I click, and get the indication to have my character call Dragon HQ on her mobile and send in her report.

    This time though, I don’t get a reply back in the voice of the Dragon faction, neither the generic ‘we will be filing this information in the circular file’ version, nor a longer quest specific reply. No, this one time only, my character gets a reply from the voice of the Buzzing bees, the voice of the lore I’ve been chasing all evening, telling her that they’ve hacked the Dragons’ phone lines and so they can’t be reached right now, a thing which surely she doesn’t mind, does she sweeting?

    Hmmmm, hmmmmmmmmmm. Hacking ‘phones’ eh? Hmmmmm.

    You know, the lore of The Lady Margaret I’d gathered? Suddenly I found myself taking rather more seriously the bits claiming any difficulty in understanding it being down to narrator not having finished altering my character’s brain yet. And I’m now wondering what exactly *my character sees* at those locations where I see yellow honeycomb squares, and she gets a transmission of lore directly into her head, and what the hell do they mean by that when the *bees* that have crawled into your mouth constantly call you ‘sweeting’? Bees that seem to have a relationship to a rather large tree that might be needing to reproduce sometime soon.

    How much of everything is my character hallucinating. Did she ever leave her bed in that first cutscene at all?

    TL;DR: Coolest gaming experiences I’ve had in yonks.

    But, what of that was actual content? Most of it’s entirely in my own head, whether the oddly different experience of slaying Draugr to Men Without Hats, rather than a tension building soundtrack, or re-jigging my entire view of what’s going on with my character, when objectively wasn’t I really just grinding skillpoints, achievements, doing a fetch quest, and killing ten rat^H^H^HDraugr along the way?

    • Wow, thanks for you comment. It literally gave me chills while reading it. I never thought about the game like that before. This is what is so amazing about TSW…it completely sucks you in while you’re playing, but also plants a seed in your head where you’re constantly thinking about it even outside of the game. I’ve never had so many “meta” experiences with an MMO before.

      I know exactly which quest you’re talking about too. I got that one, and I found it highly amusing that I had to go and look up durations of modern era pop culture songs. But I must have missed the transmission you spoke of afterward, because I finished the quest and that was it. What you described was way cool though, now I feel I missed out on it.

  5. My perspective comes from years of playing D&D. Whenever a new book came out it was typically full of fluff and crunch to different degrees. The fluff was the flavor text, the world setting, the descriptives and so on. The crunch was the classes, the abilities, the feats, the skills, the spells, and what-have-you.

    Typically we would devour the crunchy parts first to see how they worked and what you could possibly do with them. Over time though, it was the fluff that kept me poking through the books. The fluff gave the crunch context that I desperately needed and loved taking in.

    When it comes to MMOs, those principles are still there. Fluff and crunch are both content that matters but it’s all about choosing how fluffy and crunchy your own experience is. I always choose maximum fluff and crunch. I know someone who plays Star Trek Online just for the fluffy bits (she maintains she’s not very good at combat). I know someone who played Star Wars Galaxies for the gameplay and didn’t give a damn about the fact that it was Star Wars.

    It’s a buffet style gaming experience out there and we each prefer different dishes and portion sizes. There’s always plenty to do, it just comes down to whether or not people choose to do them.

    • I like your crunch vs. fluff analogy. Of course, now you’ve made me kinda hungry. Mmm, marshmallow fluff…

      But anyway, I get what you’re saying. I like to pick and choose my buffet style gaming experience as well. For example, crafting isn’t something I generally do until after I’ve finished leveling. Or as another example, PvP. I’m really not into that aspect of MMOs at all, but I would still acknowledge it as “content” even if I’m not interested in it.

  6. I’m similar in terms of what I consider content, the little things tend to count as content to me. I consider running old dungeons in WoW content, for my transmog addiction. I think that’s the lure of older games, they have so much to do, hence the pull back to EQ2 lately, tons of content. But I think TSW is on a good foot starting out and adding monthly ‘issues’ seems like a really good direction.

    • I’m with you there. The little things, the fluff, is what keeps me going after everything is said and done. I usually gobble up the quest content, the stuff that keeps moving me forward in the game, and then during my off-times work on the fun stuff like pet collecting or outfits, etc.

  7. Damn good post! I personally believe gamers have become impatient and are so focused on getting the to supposed end game content.

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