Back in meatspace, I started a new full-time job this week. This is good news for a whole host of reasons, but there is one downside to this change in my life: less time to play my favourite games. Now, those of you with busy jobs and children may laugh at me stating the obvious here, but fact of the matter is that I haven't actually worked full time in many, many years. I got quite used to being able to manage my own time, and to have plenty of it, so this is actually... kinda hard.
First off, playing two MMOs at the same time feels like utter madness now. I'm still messing around in Neverwinter and have some goals that I'd like to achieve in that game... but now that I find myself reduced to thirty minutes to an hour of playtime in the mornings and maybe two hours in the evenings (if I can actually stay awake), I suddenly really don't have the time. I suppose it works for people like Syp because he has no problem with logging into an MMO once a week and considering himself an active player, but I really want to be more involved than that.
I've also been thinking hard about just what to do with my limited time in SWTOR in specific. Operations will continue as normal for now, as my group runs on Friday and Sunday evenings, but as for everything else... hmm. I used to do a lot of just "hanging out", logging into various characters to check whether I suddenly felt inspired to do anything with them. Now I feel like I really don't have the time for that anymore.
Organised group content aside, I think that most things you can do in SWTOR fall into one of three categories:
1) Roaming around different planets and playing in the outside world, whether you're doing missions, hunting datacrons or whatever,
2) Instanced small group content for which you queue up and which doesn't take overly long (flashpoints, warzones), and
3) General faffing around on your ship or on the fleet, which includes riveting activities such as browsing the GTN or working on your crew skills.
Point 3) is the one that's easiest to fit into my new schedule, because it usually takes little time. Sending your companions out is literally a matter of seconds, and since I'm not a GTN mogul, listing what few items I want to sell doesn't take more than a couple of minutes either. However, while doing these things can be a nice little cherry on top of an evening of play, they don't exactly feel like very satisfying gameplay on their own.
Point 2) is a bit of a tricky beast because while it theoretically doesn't take very long, the queue times can, depending on the time of day. I've decided that this one is out when it comes to playing in the mornings as it would either not go anywhere, or worse, I'd run the risk of the start being sufficiently delayed that the whole thing ends up running past the point when I'd need to quit. It's a good option for the evenings though, when it's busy.
Point 1) is an interesting one. With the long loading screens, travelling between planets can be annoying, and even with speeders and quick travel, getting from A to B on a particular planet can take quite a long time. Add listening to voice-overs and having conversations with NPCs, and even something that at its core is a pretty mundane "kill ten rats" type of quest can turn into a pretty epic (and time-consuming) journey.
However, the one thing that solo-questing/adventuring has going for it is that you can stop at any time. It may not feel great to log off just before you're about to confront the final baddie of this particular quest chain, but it's an option, and the next time you've got another twenty minutes to play, you can pick things right off where you left them.
Taking all of this into consideration, I think it may be time to dust off some of my alts. While I never tire of praising SWTOR's levelling game, I have to confess that I've frequently found myself neglecting my alts in favour of running things like flashpoints and warzones on my max-level characters, finishing off quests and achievements while I waited in the queue. However, when I don't actually have the time to play like that, being on my max-levels isn't nearly as compelling. So it might be time to dig out some of those alts and start levelling them again, one half-hour chunk at a time.
And I'll still have weekends to take care of some of the more time-intensive stuff. (Right? Right?)