Monday, January 4, 2016

Crusader Kings II, Europa Universalis IV, and Victoria II - 30 hours

After nearly 30 hours, I finally reached the year 1000 in Crusader Kings II. That means my noble house has been around for 231 years, and I still have 453 to go. I think I might have bitten off more than I can chew with this whole "Grand Campaign" idea.

Don't get me wrong. The game so far has been fun (except for those parts where I was on the verge of despair) and it's certainly been interesting, I guess I just didn't appreciate that it would be such a commitment.

I guess I should have known. I'd already played the game for more than 120 hours and had yet to complete a full campaign. I guess I just thought it was a result of my normal fickleness. "I want to play a republic." "Now I want to play as a Muslim." "Now I want to try out the Norsemen." And so on. Surely changing my mind about what exactly I wanted to play was sufficient to account for the disparity between my playtime and lack of completion. . .

Except, now that I've made the decision to stick with a single dynasty all the way to the end, I can't help but notice that this game is really freaking huge. I knew going into this that 20 hours wouldn't be sufficient to get through the whole time period, but I figured that by 30 hours, I'd at least be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

That has not proven to be the case. At the rate I'm going, it will likely be 90 hours just to get a save ready for Europa Universalis IV. Part of me wants to stick it out, just for curiosity's sake. What will House Strawberry be like 400 years hence, after 20 generations of politicking and treachery?

The really tricky part here is that the longer I play the game, the less I'll be able to stop. At 30 hours, I'll still have 60 left to go. If I only had 30 hours to go, it will mean I've invested 60 hours into my game. I strongly suspect that it will feel like an incredible waste to throw away such a large amount of time.

Of course, that's really just a sunk cost fallacy. In theory, it is most rational to keep playing Crusader Kings II for as long as I'm enjoying myself, and then stop once I no longer enjoy myself. Except, as you might have gathered from reading this blog, I'm not always rational about these sort of things.

So the question I have to answer is - "is this game worth playing for another 60 hours?"

I honestly don't know. When I think about the scope of the work ahead, the 20 generations as yet unborn, and all the backstabbing and betrayal that I'll have to experience (both as perpetrator and as victim), the thought exhausts me. But when I think about the very next thing I have to do (figuring out a way to get out from under the thumb of West Francia so I can forge my own destiny as King of Andalusia), I think maybe I could stand to do "just one more thing."

If I could view the game as just one thing after another, a series of situations that have to be resolved, but only one at a time, than it seems digestible.  There are lots of games like that, where I'd play individual "matches" that would be short in themselves, but then, because they required such little investment, I'd play dozens or hundreds of them, spread out over the course of years. Those little matches can quickly add up (see: my 370 hours of Civilization V)

Perhaps that's how Crusader Kings II is meant to be played. Not as one huge, 90-hour marthon, but as a series of shorter games that just all happen to take place in the same world.

I wanted to play Crusader Kings II as a lead-up to Europa Universalis because the idea of an epic story that spanned multiple games appeals to me. I really wanted to experiment with the save converter, to make my permanent mark on the game world.

What I realize now is that I divided the games wrong. I counted Crusader Kings II as one, when I really should have counted it as at least 3.  There's an epic, game-spanning storyline all right, I was just foolish to think I could (or should) do it all at once.

Since I really don't want to admit defeat on this project, I am not officially calling it quits with my Grand Campaign. I am still resolved that when I play Europa Universalis IV, it will be on a map imported from Crusader Kings II. However, I think I will take my time, playing a generation or two week instead of trying to do all 20 in a row.

This will, I think, save my sanity. I'm by no means bored of Crusader Kings II, but playing it is definitely an emotional roller-coaster. When you're up, it feels great (indeed, I just got done achieving a major victory with my most recent ruler), but such highs always come with a price (now I'm playing as his vastly less competent heir, and I have to sort through the aftermath). That, more than anything, is what turns me off a marathon session.

I figure, if I break it into chunks, I can't get too emotionally invested in any particular win or loss.

The plan, then, is to continue playing Crusader Kings II . . . one day a week. The rest of the time, I will proceed with normal on the blog. The thread about the campaign will be updated accordingly, but I'll only post about it on the blog if something really notable happens. When I finally get to 1453, I'll then play Europa Universalis IV using the save converter. Since it never had a timeline expansion, it should not take nearly so long to get through.

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