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Paragus Rants

Rants, reviews, and interviews from an MMO veteran and guild leader.

Author: Paragus1

Rant: The Endgame

Posted by Paragus1 Monday January 30 2012 at 1:02PM
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Rant: The Endgame

Endgame seems to be a hot issue on the site these days, especially with the release of TOR and people starting to reach the endgame.   It's a topic that comes up everytime a new MMO comes out, and honestly it is probably one of the most important aspects of any MMO.   Ironically it is one that people following upcoming games don't really seem to stop and think about when they start sipping the kool-aid for the next MMO they are looking at.

MMO's are games that most players want to play for the long haul.   The developers are in most cases charging us a monthly fee, so it's in their best interest that we as players keep playing for a very long time.  This is fundamental to the MMO genre, but for some reason developers seem to be missing the boat here, and players drinking the kool-aid never stop to look at whats at the bottom of that glass they are drinking from.



The current theme park model of MMO that we have seen come through here the last few years seems to be the most vulnerable to falling into the trap of a bad endgame.  Think about how many years these guys are spending making these games, and the insane amount of cash being throw around to make these MMO's, especially in the case of TOR rumoring to be several hundred million dollars.  Yet with all this time and money being poured in, these developers are using these resources in the most inefficient way possible in terms of how they make their content.   The time and money spent making these scripted one time quests on the linear railroad, compared to how long it takes us to complete them is a horrible formula for long-term retention.  It's not that the theme park can't do this, it's just that the approach lately has been way off.

I always read on the forums here and even in the articles about talking about that guy who rushes to the end game and to enjoy the ride.  Well I am that guy, and allow me to tell you why exactly it is that I do this.  Countless AAA flops have come down the pipeline the last few years and we all fall victim to them.   My guild members get the MMO itch so we jump into the next big thing.  I want to know...no...I need to know if the endgame is viable for long term play.   Not just for myself, but them.   If I get to the endgame and it's paper thin and severely lacking, I need to let them know.   Each one of my members is investing dozens and dozens of hours into this game to get there, and if it turns out to be a bust, they need to know about it.   Dozens of hours multiplied by dozens of members is a crap ton of time I can be saving people.  If this can be discovered by the end of the free month it's even a more compelling case because I can save my friends the cash as well.



Spare me the bullcrap about enjoying the ride.   The ride in the modern theme park MMO is nothing more than running from quest hub to quest hub down a linear hallway, listening to some derp of an NPC spew some nonsense on how he needs me to collect flowers 30 feet from him, or come up with another excuse why 10 rats need to die.   It's not enjoyable, it's not a ride, it's a tedious series of chores masked as "quests" that are not epic or meaningful.  If I am going to be doing chores for some mythical payday at the end of the tunnel, I need to know that is was somehow worth it.   I want to know that at the end I can participate in something bigger and interesting while having some way to push my limits and advance my character.  If there's nothing there and I can spare my friends the pain, I will.

Look, if you are going to spend years making this game and it's only going to take me 2-3 weeks to get to the endgame, I don't think I'm being unreasonable to expect there to be something to do.  These games are supposed to really get going once you hit the level cap, not end.  If I wanted a game to over at max level I could play another number of single player RPGs and spare myself the fee.   But these aren't singleplayer games, and there is a fee usually.  See where I am going with this?

There are thousands of us playing on a given server in any given MMO and developers just aren't tapping into the best source of content they have, us.  This is where the developers are really failing because people like to compete inherently. This is also why I am such a strong advocate for PvP to be a major feature in MMOs, not tacked on as an afterthought.  Getting that character you have been fine tuning and putting him against another thinking person is content that keeps on giving.   All the developer needs to do is intelligently approach how to create an environment that encourages people to keep fighting.  


On the flip side you have the PvE focused games that fall flat in the endgame department as well.  These guys are releasing PvE focused games with a miniscule amount of end game PvE content, or the content there is so easy that a moron can faceroll right through it and complete it without being seriously challenged.  If your MMO is all about PvE and it's not challenging, you will never be able to create it at a rate where players will instantly devour it, and it won't be meaningful.  In older PvE MMOs like Everquest or even FFXI, there is a sense of accomplishment and a badge of honor when you were sporting that hard to obtain item.  Competition between players exist just as much in a PvE focused game as in PvP focused ones. If that desired item is growing off a purple epic tree that anyone can pick one off of, it really isn't as exciting or appealing is it?  The entire concept of welfare epics needs to be replaced by challenging content so that there are bragging rights.


Endgame is one of the most important MMO features, and for some reason it's the one the developers seem to be talking about the least.  If you aren't talking about it and showcasing it, then I think you're hiding something.  The endgame should be explained right next to the other "next gen" features because it is the sales pitch as to what I am buying for that monthly fee.  This is why I will rush to the endgame, and for the sake of my friends and guildmates to see what's behind the curtain.  If there is nothing there you can bet your ass I'm going to tell everyone I know that your joke of a ride isn't worth taking because it goes to nowhere.  We see this happen over and over again and yet these guys keep spending more and more money on the same failed formula.  It doesn't matter what fancy big name IP you try to dress it up in, it's the same empty crap and it's why I think we are going to continue to see the monthly fee fade into obsurity.

 

Paragus Rants
Co-Leader of Inquisition

Livestream Channel:
http://www.twitch.tv/paragusrants

Inktomi writes:

Hey para, great read and you are right. Thanks for reminding me of the Ark Angel fight from FFXI. Still was tough at 90 with a group. Now that was content!

Missed are the days that you had to wait for moon and weather to do a raid. Not missed are the days of waiting 4 hours for Fafnir to have it tagged by a bot.

Some EG content has improved in certain games, but most is rehash of other content that was already done and done some more.

Thanks for telling it as it is.

Tue Jan 31 2012 1:04AM Report
toddze writes:

The people that want difficult PvE are in a minority now. They just want it handed to them and that ruins the game for any type of long term playability. IMO FFXI nailed PvE on the head, such a shame XIV didnt follow in XI's footsteps. Would have been a overwhelming success like XI was. But yet they tried to apease the casual crowd and look what happened.

Tue Jan 31 2012 9:45PM Report
Paragus1 writes:

I agree completely.  I thought FFXI really nailed PvE that was challenging in all the right ways.  Square-Enix seemed to forget all the best parts of FFXI when they made FFXIV (auction house), and somehow managed to keep the horrid UI. 

You know else is in a minority right now too?   MMO's that have moderate retention levels past 3 months.

Wed Feb 01 2012 12:39AM Report
lappas writes:

Your article is pretty much spot on. I tend to burn through to max level like there is no tomorrow. Mostly for the same reasons you do. I desparately need to know what is end game is and wether it will sustain me for a longer period.

 

I maxed out on SWTOR in 2 x weeks. I then stood around the republic fleet looking for action....sadly there was none. Hell, no guilds were even recruiting on my server. Try and get a group together for flaspoints....forget it. I'm not prepared to stand around for hours waiting for a group.

 

I would rather spend 2-3 weeks to assess end game, rather than taking my time only to find out that end game is appalling. For me, this is purely a time management issue. My time is important to me and I need to see some value for time invested. Due to the lack of social interaction and world events/interactions, TOR really gave me no choice. There was nothing in the game that was pulling me into new and interesting directions. So, in effect, I was almost 'forced' to level as quickly as I did.

 

For once, I would like to see developers focus on end game 'first' and work backwards from there. End game now seems like an afterthought which is a little sad. How many titles do we see released with poor end game, or no end game? More than I care to mention. Yes, it will get added in 'later' via patches/updates. Sorry but for me there is no 'later', there is now or not at all.

 

Sadly, this all incorporates recent trends into the casual gaming market. (You can blame iOS for this). And it will get worse before it gets better.

 

BW had almost 7 x years to get this right and they failed miserably.

 

Cheers.

Wed Feb 01 2012 4:51AM Report
SethDrone writes:

Well said, Paragus.  Hopefully at some point a developer will go back to the fundamentals of what an MMO is.  I still remember UO's advertising as a "persistent online world". 

It's unfortunate that the mindset has changed from building a functioning world for players to inhabit to creating a bunch of boxed in Counter-Strike maps and pasting them together.

Wed Feb 01 2012 12:42PM Report
SuperXero89 writes:

I have a level 50 in SW:TOR, but I try not to complain about the endgame too much since there's only about 5 or 6 other level 50s in my guild.  The rest are still playing through all the classes to find out which ones they like the best.  There does seem to be more people in the fleet center looking for hard modes now than there was about two weeks ago, but even those people probably dedicated all their play time to one class and were able to put in large chunks of time here and there.

The endgame really does suck, but I don't complain about the problems at endgame, because I freely admit to powergaming my way to the level cap.  Instead, I'm sitting back running a few HMs here and there but mostly playing alts.  In a few months, we can form a more accurate image of SW:TOR's endgame.  I do admit that it's ironic that the majority of the time spent developing an MMORPG is spent on content that players will spend the least amount of time on.

Why not adopt a top down design approach?  Put the largest amount of effort and polish into the endgame zones and go down from there.  The low level areas could still be polished albeit fewer in number, which is a trade-off I'd gladly take if that meant endgame was fleshed out at launch.  The problem is that players are progressing faster than most MMORPG devs expect them to, but the reason they progress so fast is because it's so easy to level up.  Leveling in WoW was never time consuming in the sense that Everquest was time consuming, but it certainly took a lot longer during release than it does now.  The problem is that new MMOs have adopted modern WoW's leveling curve but they lack the content.  Players rocket to the cap and have absolutely nothing to do for months.

As for content difficulty, I am always amused by this argument.  Many times people bring up WoW's incredibly easy endgame content, but those same people lose credibility because they don't actually show any of their accomplishments.  How many normal raids have been cleared?  How many heroic mode bosses have you downed?  How long did it take you relative to the top guilds on the server?  If it's truly as easy as you make it sound, why doesn't everyone have equal gear?

Of course, you might say, "well, everyone does have the same gear thanks to welfare epics!" but the hardest of the hardcore raiders still have superior gear, it just doesn't look any different than the regular raid gear.  That is why I think, in the end, it's just an ego thing.  You want to stand out and be noticed as an elite player when you step foot into your respective faction capital, and even though your gear has better stats, the fact that it looks exactly the same as lesser gear means you can't feel superior to everyone else around you.  I can't take anyone who believes that way seriously.

Thu Feb 02 2012 3:01PM Report
t0nyd writes:

 PC gaming has turned into the automobile industry. Devolpers churn out generic content for the first 99% of the game just to funnel the player to endgame, where the developer can then begin churning out even more generic content with less regard for level, gear, etc. This instance if for level 80's wearing this specific set of items, for this specific number of people in a group or raid, doing exactly everything I want you to in which order I want it done in. Once opon a time,  roleplaying meant to roleplay. Now roleplaying means to farm/grind for hours mindlessly to get the specific items that you need to accomplish a goal. Where is the roleplaying or creativity in this? Deus Ex is more of a roleplaying game than the last 5 MMORPGS that  I have encountered.

  Games today are created just like that iphone or ipad that you love, on an assembly line. Gaming used to be about creativity and imagination and now it has been turned into " what color honda civic do you want, I gots em all". It all comes down to creativity VS money. its much easier to churn out the same nonsense over and over again than to take a risk on something new. Almost the entire first person shooter genre proves this.

Developers are  busy working on that assembly line churning out the exact same thing they created 20 seconds ago, only this time its colored red and bears a slight resemblance to a movie I watched as a child, one with lightsabre's in it.

Sun Feb 05 2012 1:09AM Report
Nihilist writes:

Sadly I don't think Bioware cares all that much about MMO features.

 

Engame consists of 2 pretty easy weeekly raids, and 2 daily pvp quests. I have been in 2 fairly hardcore guilds and most people won't be playing past this 2nd paid month because they have done everything donzens of times now.

Bioware spent all their time and money making 8 single player stories in one game. By making it an mmo they can collect a monthly fee and prevent piracy thus giving them a nice little star wars cash cow.

 

Sun Feb 05 2012 10:53PM Report
Qix213 writes:

Agree 100%.

Seeing as Deathmatch, Capture the flag and other multiplayer modes from FPS's work so well, why not Horde mode from Gears of War and other FPS's.  Seems to me that this kind of co-op would be better suited here than in the FPS genre if anything.

Tue Feb 21 2012 10:53PM Report
Soultice writes:

Level 50 sith inquisitor and did not even try to power level her.  The end game in thisgame is a joke.  Sadly bioware has a good pc game they are trying to collect a monthy fee for.  If you ever played GWars this game is basically set up identical to it with sharded worlds and a main HUb (space Fleet).  Then Bioware expects you to pay a monthly fee for it.  Bah I left.  Why pay for this type of set up when you can stil play guildwars and not pay a dine to play with others.

Bioware has yet to fix the bugs in some of the instances.  At least in Guildwars they had many hubs for you to meet people at.  I did really like the pet system and again hey blew it when you cannot use them in groups or raids, such a waste of time. 

 

Bioware should have sold this as a pc game.  That is all this is solo to max and solo some more do some weekly quests and nothing else happening.   If your not in a guild your petty much screwed for raiding.  Well your actually pretty much losing in raiding as people are leaving big time now. 

Thu Mar 01 2012 5:01PM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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