Some of you may recall a time when instancing pretty much didn’t exist. If you wanted to go after a raid mob you had to compete in the cut throat world of high end gaming. Sometimes you’d have to wait for a new expansion to get the last expansion’s top loot. It was a frustrating situation to say the least. Despite that, however, I don’t think competition in PvE is a negative thing. In fact I think it should become a necessity in modern MMOs.
In EverQuest II, after a few content patches, you had a healthy mix of contested raid and non-contested instanced targets. The best rewards were usually found on the mobs you had to compete for. Instance raids, however, still offered a good degree of gear progression. As time went on, however, the focus shifted. Instances began to drop better items and competition declined.
Why is competition important? As a guild leader it forced my members to focus more and play better. It wasn’t really us against the mob. It was us against the world. Every failure on a target meant someone else could take a finite resource from us. That was not something we wanted. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, the more instances that EQ2 got the rustier my raiders became. When there were only a few instances we were at our finest. I can also say that competition keeps members more active. Once we had totally defeated the competition on a raid and the new mob shine wore off interest began to wane.
Competition engages, energizes and focuses individuals. It changes the nature of the way we react and play. Not everyone responds to this but a large degree of human beings do. Take a mundane activity, make it a competition and see how much more people take notice. This is an aspect of psychology that MMO designers rarely leverage these days outside of PvP games.
Obviously there will be plenty of counter arguments that competition denies players content and loot. I’m not suggesting that it doesn’t. I’m also not suggesting that going back to an EQ1 style of game would be a good idea. I am, however, suggesting that competition has a place in PvE worlds.
I am now and have always been of the belief that PvE MMOs need instanced raids with varying degrees of difficulty. I prefer to see two, three and four group instances that all increase in required skill, tactics and gear along a parallel path. I also, believe, however that there should be a few contested targets. These should be challenging targets that offer the best rewards. That in itself is some competition. It wouldn’t be enough, however.
One of the most amazing things that EverQuest II does is that it tracks everything. For a small additional fee you can see who hit what level first. You get all your rankings. You know who got an item for the first time. I am still pleased that some of the most amazing items in that game I got first on my server and pretty early world wide. It kept me going and it let SOE make an additional buck or two a month off me. It just didn’t extend to guilds and I think that was a mistake.
Why don’t we have this sort of system? I would love to see modern MMOs track even more data. It would engage me a whole lot more than just guessing our position against other guilds and reading the arguments on the board that guild B is the best even though they’ve barely done anything of note. With the end of each major content patch and expansion a ranking would be compiled and stored forever. The debate will be over and a new “round” begins! Here are a few things I’d like to see tracked per server:
The first (and every) time a raid encounter is legitimately defeated. Anyone caught exploiting will have their achievement removed and everyone else is bumped up one.
The first ten times a superior quality item is received on a server.
The first time a substantial quest is completed.
The first five times an extremely difficult trade skill product is created.
With that data you could then do periodic checks. Imagine if once every three months the server itself would release the top ten guild rankings. Those categories would be:
The most server firsts in the period.
The most times a particular encounter was defeated in the period.
The most “first time superior quality item drops” received in the period.
The most first time trade skill productions in the period.
Of course you’d also have the final compilation of those different categories into who “won” the period of time. I honestly think that would excite a lot of players. You could even expand that into categories. This doesn’t have to be based on raiding. You could track anything and everything! From casual to hardcore your guild could be ranked in the category that you want to compete in (Sodality would compete in microcore).
The most important thing, however, is that this information should be very obvious. I envision that the guild would get a trophy, so to speak, that would never disappear as long as the guild existed (and even if it went away it should be archived in a hall of fame of some sort). It could be a simple note in the guild window that says: Number Two Overall Raid Guild, January – March 2009. I know that would keep me logging in. I’d always be trying to improve my guild’s rank. You could even expand further and have those categories let the guilds compete on a game wide level. The possibilities truly are endless and from a database perspective it isn’t that hard to implement.
Ultimately I think you could track all sorts of data and rank all different aspects without actually pitting players directly head to head. In this way no guild could deny another the game’s content unless the developers allowed it. Will we see this sort of thing? I’m not sure. EverQuest II started a system like this but nobody picked it up. 38 Studio’s does, however, have a lot of EQ2 talent. I am curious to know what everyone else thinks though. Would you like this sort of system? Would it keep you playing or bum you out? I look forward to finding out!
Originally posted on Epic Slant