Recently, I wanted to make a long post including points that I somehow dislike in my (otherwise liked) game. But the more I thought about what to include, the more I realized it all ties itself together into one big point.
I miss the small moments of joy and/or accomplishments.
My playtime usually starts with enthusiasm over a new promising update. Firstly I inspect all the new goodies in the Sandbox mode. Then I launch a new Exploration save. Play around for a day or two and then... just stop? I wondered why is it so and now I think I know. Most sandbox or survival games do not propel their players forward with a story or quests. Players have to find their own motivation to do sometimes mundane tasks like traveling or managing inventory. But in Ylands, I quickly get bored by mundane and I move on.
It will be easier to list some of the games I play instead of me trying to put together a vague description of those important "small moments":
Starting big, Minecraft. Players differ a lot, but for me personally, its two or three main things keeping me invested. One, mining. The small pockets of ore blocks underground are like small packets of joy. Two, easy building. Give me coffee, a week and I will make a breathtaking castle or laboratories. Three, growing my domain, my kingdom. As I progress, it is easier and easier to feel like a master of his realm.
Continuing, Subnautica. To keep it short, definitely the overall atmosphere and suspension when being chased or stalked on by something in the shadow. I feel like it's important to emphasize here that Subnautica is not a difficult game at all. But it makes itself look way more intense to the player currently playing it.
Next BI title, DayZ. It's a bit more difficult here because I do not think the positives there overweight the problems for me. But still. Being it multiplayer perma-death "walking simulator" I had some great moments of suspension and roleplaying there. Being ambushed in a port with a friend by bandits will forever be in my favorite gaming moments.
Staying close, MiniDayZ. It can be hard from time to time. So I look forward to the next village to find loot. I often just look forward with anticipation of a rare building being almost sure I will be pleased with goodies inside of it. Even common duct tape can be a lifesaver and I'm going to feel great after acquiring it.
In the end some honorable mentions even though not in the same genre pool. Real like FPS like RO2 make me feel good about myself after defeating other skilled players in a fair fight. Racing games like FlatOut2 or Midtown Madness (weird picks, I know) award me for that perfect turn or bumping into an opponent at the right moment. PUBG both for looting and outsmarting opponents. In Pixel Dungeon it all relies on pre-combat preparation and greatly awards you by good feeling (and utter destruction) for being ready for every situation and combining limited assets. Simple arcades like Tetris let more bricks disappear if I make the right move.
Why do I not feel the same joy in the Ylands even though I'm confronted with very similar situations as listed?
1) It's complexity, mainly in building. More freedom always comes with more responsibility. But... sometimes I just wish to build simple? I have about 3 rules in Minecraft about building (block palettes, symmetry and powers of two) and I strongly believe anything will then look good even if it was randomly generated. On the other hand, Ylands is always giving me more to choose from. More patterns, more materials, more colors, more shapes. I want to use the best block possible, in the best place possible, in the best rotation possible. I admit it may be me being lazy. It still means that my builds even with more freedom will never be so quick or so nice as the ones build in Minecraft. Even though the game has most definitely the potential to do it. One thing I would say is really lacking is terrain modifications in Exploration.
2) The loot is oversaturated and the progress seems broken to me. I get some of the little sparks of joy from unlocking new workstations and recipes. Sadly, it's greatly reduced when the workstation proves to be near useless for me. That happens because I already got everything I needed from the Places of Wonder beforehand. I'm not saying those PoW are bad things. But they are not anything random like an Easter egg to be excited over, they are way more part of the game even though they often do not fit the surroundings. I would way more appreciate them underground or under the sea only. Maybe also limit the loot of them or make it proportional to the intended game progress? I do not look forward to looting if I already have great loot in all aspects. I can imagine decreasing loot or increasing different aspects of items (tied with different game mechanics such as combat, movement, farming, researching, crafting, exploring, sports even?) so you are never satisfied and always hungry for some nifty new thingy.
Today, I played Ylands. In just two in-game days I was in full iron armor, had a katana, and two other powerful weapons and an inventory full of Zirconium. I was not specifically looking for anything, the weapons and armor were found in PoW on the first island I sailed to (no point in staying on the starter island more than necessary), which was the second tier, and Zirconium was at the entrance to a cave. I do not have really anything I wish to explore progress-wise anymore. Combat seems all about dmg and def. skills to me, ranged is sometimes fun but sometimes just waiting for it all to die (easy obstruction). Energy has not seen big upgrades since its launch - it is very basic (correct me if I'm wrong, not just there). So it all boils down to building myself a place to call home. Which gets tiresome after a while.
3) I do not know what The Spirit of Ylands is. Quo Vadis, Ylands? I have a hard time getting to know Ylands. Which is difficult to say considering I've been with Ylands more than four and a half years. At the start, I felt the potential. All was new and buggy, sometimes unbalanced (waiting an hour for nine ingots, if I remember correctly?). As I was slowly getting to know the game, I fell in love. Classy, calm, serene, and charismatic. Top hats, monocles, mustaches and sunsets in the color of industrialization. The game was about being washed ashore on a deserted island and slowly creating your own story (there was even an idea of one survivor dying and another character washing ashore after him to unravel its own story instead of respawning). Ylandium served as a mystical and powerful new element with its distinctive glowing green. The game seemed to be themed around magic meets ylandium steampunk. All of that is lost. Allow me not to phrase it as an opinion. I think the game slowly lost its scope by adding more and more different and most importantly not anyhow framed features. I do not understand the ylands world.
Who are we? Why is there a center island surrounded by others? Why are there many different NPCs all eager to trade with us or annihilate us? Why am I here? What am I supposed to do here? Am I a lone survivor or is it just normal that I'm here? Is this fantasy with all the different races? Did this world come through all the historical epochs as ours did? How are we supposed to create our own story in a world that doesn't seem to have its?
And why are those questions even important? I'm not immersed and I probably won't be. Most things in-game don't feel like a part of the world. I do not know where is ylands heading. Should I expect a farming update? Or space update? Or smartphone update? I'm lost. The atmosphere of the Ylands is lost for me.