Let me preface this whole thing by saying I haven’t had much time or energy to play lately, and the free intervals I found to play felt too short to make a meaningful play session, especially because lately while I’m playing anything I have been randomly interrupted several times during one session.
In addition, I’ve played far grindier and time-sinking/time-gated games, like Warframe, Path of Exile, and WoW through many of its expansions and even a few other more typically grindy games like Black Desert Online (actually moderate for an Asian MMO).
Lately I’ve been catching up on my Grim Dawn leveling when I have some moments, since I can easily pause to accommodate for any interruptions to gameplay - in addition, since my saves there are permanent I can definitely return any time to pick up on where I was…
This following section could certainly end up being longer, but I tried to stick to my main points, which you will find in expandable bullets.
Retention of progress
Currently one of my bigger demotivators is the same as it was in pre-release; the idea that if I stop playing and if I forget to fuel my main base where I have all my “important” stuff, I wont feel compelled to play again for a while, as any “progress” I make may ultimately be pointless. I do accept this is part of the game though, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t put me off sometimes.
Yes, I do keep my levels, I could easily get back to gem tools and basic forging and so on. But the idea of organising everything, getting coils, setting up a workshop area, etc, again, does put me off.
I am also slightly bothered by the fact that if I can’t play for some days, someone else may claim some land I would have liked to claim; I won’t resent or dislike the other person for it. They have every right to claim that land too. But I’ll certainly blame myself for not having claimed it myself earlier on, and possibly end up feeling frustrated by the idea of having to move somewhere else, where I might remember to first claim all the area I’d possibly want.
And the truly biggest demotivator for me, I think, is simply how slow doing things feels, often. If I want to make decorative lanterns or bricks, I need to remember to plan in advance to gather all the things for that, after which I normally don’t feel motivated to build as much anymore. I still think that crafting in general is too much behind a time-gate that is only there to artificially lengthen the amount of time you spend gathering/playing the game, but really, what I’d like to be doing, is some gathering and more building. And I do like mining, anyway. The short of it is, yes, there’s a grind and I expect there to be a grind, in an MMO Sandbox, but I feel the balance has never been right yet with the game.
I think there are other small things that put me off a bit too…
Portal network reliance and cost of warping
While I am highly appreciative of all the portal networks that I use, especially Aenea’s, I do not like the idea that I’m relying on someone else’s network even if I contribute to it; what if the other player had to stop playing for some real-life reason, or simply because they themselves got frustrated or bored with the game? I still feel that this is only an issue for me due to warping costs. Because coin can only come from objectives or other players, basically, if I desperately needed to do a few warps between T6 and T1 worlds, I’d be completely unable to do so.
And maintaining a portal network is time consuming, so I wouldn’t want to do it myself because of the time and attention to portal maintenance required to maintain such a network.
Too much 'pressure' on playing
Lately I’ve been thinking, if testing is always up, why don’t I just play on testing then? Sure, the rewards of progress are pointless and easily cheated by spawning stuff in, since then every trivial task is removed and I can actually just build and “roleplay” progress if I feel like it. But I won’t feel any pressure from the game, and I can actually just enjoy building for a bit until I get bored, which really, is what I usually want from sandbox games that have building as a core feature.
I guess this is a bit like what some people would call a creative mode, which to be honest is not really what I want, but what might feel like a decent compromise to actually get to do some nice building and chiselling.
Honestly, I would simply prefer the old mention of isolated/locally hosted private worlds compared to this, since then I could just play the game proper but with a less time-grindy balance. That was one of the main selling points of the game for me back when I got into it in pre-release, and the idea of potentially modding in new decorative blocks.
So anyway, if you really wanna dumb down those points, in essence I feel my problem with the game is the same as it has been in the past for me; it feels like I have to dedicate too much time and too much thinking space in my head to feel like I accomplish something or build something the way I want, which is my favourite thing in the game due to the chiselling.
In the end, the triangle of reward vs effort vs time balance still feels off for me in Boundless. In such a ratio triangle, or relationship, I would place Boundless not a lot into the effort area but heavily into the time area, while not completely neglecting the reward area, as many parts of the game would feel quite rewarding, were it not for the time sinks.
And that puts me off, despite everything I do like about the game, and is the main reason I have not written a review for the game in all the time I’ve played it; as every time I felt like writing a review, I felt like writing one about the negative points related to time gating and time sinks present in the game.