Busywork in games

In every PvE heavy game, the content and the pace comes in fits and starts. Some new content is patched in and playerbase collectively says, “Woohoo!” and rushes off to do all the exciting new patch-related things.

Some people rush through more quickly than others. But eventually, towards the end of the patch cycle, most players have gotten over the initial thrill and are settling back into their normal playing pattern.  That is, the default way they play a favourite MMO when there isn’t anything else to do. So that would include any regular events like weekly raids, or alt nights. It might include gathering, crafting, or auction house maintenance to keep the gold supplies up.

In the IT trade, we call this the null cycle or the idle loop – it’s what the CPU in your computer does when ticking over, waiting for a user interrupt, and trying to save energy.  I wonder how much having an actual default weekly/ monthly schedule in a game keeps people ticking over when the new content runs dry.

But the question is, do you start inventing new things to do when you’re in an idle loop so as to keep the hours played roughly similar? For example, are you more likely to play alts or start a new in-game project rather than just logging off or playing a different game? Do you look into particularly time consuming achievements because you want to spend the same amount of time in the game as when a new patch is out?