Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Secret Life of Proxies, On Pet Care

Wednesday, January 28, 2009
As the plague of lecture notes and compositions makes itself home in my daily life, time spent in Sword of the New World is spent almost entirely on AFK powerleveling my lower-level characters. Naturally, for an addict, I occasionally veer away from work that needs to be completed, checking up on my characters (who are doing perfectly fine by themselves, thank you very much) and trolling in clan chat with my share of awful puns and childish antics.

The path this game has taken has become a strange experience for me. What used to be an active, mad rush to create a few Veteran characters over the winter break has now become something akin to taking care of low-maintenance pets, like goldfish. I only check up on my characters every now and then to make sure they are not running out of bullets, and to make sure their own pet is fed, all the while waiting for another character to put through the humdrum, AFK leveling rhythm:
It's a routine not too dissimilar from managing and occasionally staring -- for some ungodly reason -- at a fish tank.

There are benefits to having a lot of level 100/Veteran characters, I guess: a high family level, an assortment of crafters, a walk-in closet-like selection of avatars, equipment spread so thin you'll never feel wealthy (okay, so maybe the last one isn't such a benefit). But it's a strange ploy (also, cash cow) on the part of the game's developers to allow for an inventory of many characters, yet making the grind take forever. Instead of reducing experience requirements for each level/promotion, they've implemented what I deem proxy-leveling -- the art of making the game do the leveling for you. When I first heard of the game in Korea, I assumed the hold mode and auto-defend function were a move to undermine botting. Experience tells us this is hardly the case. Even with the advent of pets, bots remain our uninvited cohabitants, as with any MMO. It's really just a way of throwing a time sink at you while you're not even playing.

To be frank, AFK leveling is a pretty terrible idea. Popular areas for AFKing are filled to the brim with idling individuals, milking their precious post for as long as their bullets will allow. Crowding leads to unhealthy brushes with other players, like strangers in a packed, muggy elevator. One might wonder if his characters would revolt when placed in such an environment without proper care or supervision.

Looking beyond patch 3.0 (eventually), there are sixteen or seventeen characters I'd like to level as much as possible (*crosses fingers for Hellena*). As the busyness of the semester waxes, that prospect seems dim unless I find an impressionable child to force into leveling my characters for me. Spinelles, quirky internet connections, and generally unlikeable folk make AFK leveling an overall subpar experience.

But I'd put up with it anyway, if only for this:

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