Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Kongai: Not Playing

Today, for the first time in a long time, I passed up the opportunity to grab the latest card. I'm not sure if it was because Flash Powder is horribly useless or if it's because it's the last card missing from my deck. Maybe I've held off out of some sense of jaded nostalgia. A deep-seated urge to leave things unfinished and uncompleted. The same urge to cut matters short and run towards something new that's plagued me for so long now. Collecting all the cards has been the only thing keeping me going for weeks now and, maybe, finishing that card album off would drain away the last bit of my interest along with the last of my inertia. It might mark and end that I don't want to come. The conclusion of a path I wanted to travel and the start of a journey I never wanted to take - the one of fond memories tinged with sorrowful partings. Picking up that last card, I wonder, it might be the last thing I ever do with the game. And by putting it off, I might somehow be able to keep those fires – of passion and interest - burning for just a little while longer.

Or, maybe, Z-Rox just twists my nuts and I wanted to find a better game to play.

Obviously, I haven't been playing much lately. Just haven't had the time, really. Not to practice. Not even to get in a few not-so-quick matches just to keep a toe in. But, more than anything else, I'd been waiting a patch. Something to shake up the game so that I wasn't just seeing the same characters in the same decks time and again. Even if they were fair (Which, mostly, they weren't. There's a reason everyone was using them, after all.) then it was just boring. Nothing to see but Constantines and Yoshiro's and whatever else was popular at the time. And nothing to do but play what everyone else was playing because that was the best chance to win.

A quick stop in at the Kongai lobby today to check out the results of that long-awaited patch and I can see I'm not the only one who's wandered away. The place wasn't as dead as it had been in the worst times of the beta but it was close. It was bad enough wading through the endless cycle of getting kicked to find a scrimmage or the lengthy minutes waiting to get a rated match when there were enough people playing. Now when there's hardly anyone, it's not even worth the bother. A competitive game needs a certain critical mass. A basement level of active players involved. You need enough people playing and thinking and caring about the game for it to grow. Not just in terms of customers but also competitively. Skilled players can't hone their skills if there aren't enough opportunities to go around. Metas can't mature. Innovations can't develop. People can't get better – they can only think they are as an ossification of ideas and community sets in. It's the flow of players new and old, the constant cycling of ideas and strategies, that makes a game thrive. And, at the moment, I'm sorry to say, Kongai doesn't seem to have it.

Now, I could point the finger of blame here, decry every misstep and wrong done to so bring down the game. I could talk about botched releases and a lack of support or crippling bugs and long delayed patches, poor balance and poorer design and any of the other dozen things that have no doubt already long been talked to death by those who still care enough to try and figure out what went wrong. But I won't.

I'm just sad that things look so bleak.

Maybe things will turn around with the latest re-release of cards and the tempting promise of new characters and expansions to come. But I don't think my level of activity is going to change any time soon. I realize that by opting out and depriving everyone else of the games that I would play that I'm just being part of the problem. But I don't care. And that, really, is the problem.

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