What’s wrong with gear progression? It’s a big topic these days, the so called ‘endgame treadmill’. Gamers are up in arms over the idea that Guild Wars 2 has a ‘vertical treadmill’. I chuckled when I saw the uproar, three months is just about time for the new paint to be off a MMO, but as I delved deeper into the meaning behind the brouhaha, I was puzzled. My question is who cares? I don’t know what RPG anyone else was playing over the last two decades but gear progression is the name of the game. Cool sets of armors, that sweet sword that can only be gotten by trading a really nice sword halfway through the game. Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Dragon Age, Diablo, you name it they all had it. I understand gamers want progress or innovation with regards to the structures of MMO’s, or at least they say they do, but why with regards to gear progression? It’s a time tested method of proving that all that time and hard work is paying off.
I’m currently playing The Old Republic, finally about to reach level 50 after six months on and off and likely 100 alts. I’m scoping out the PVP gear because it looks sweet. Of course I am what else am I going to do at 50 solo? It’s not like this is a fundamental change from the last decade of play. FFXI had Sea, which required a vast chain of quests and bosses to kill to open up. It is still the game I look at when seeing progression done well. Progression should be as difficult as possible without being cheap. No ridiculous drop rates or nonsense of that sort, just hardcore difficulty. Hitting the level cap in FFXI was just the beginning of endgame; from that plateau was gear progression, skill progression, sub-jobs, housing features, area unlocks, you name it SquareEnix had it and it was a masterful game for it.
I understand at some level that gamers have a veracious appetite for new content and that not every gamer has the same idea for game content. Some gamers don’t care for PVP and some disdain Raiding; it’s why developers turn to gear progression. It’s a sure-fire way to please the highest percentage of people. We play RPG’s, if not gear progression then what purpose is endgame? We might as well just pack up go play some Call of Duty. On some level this strengthens the perception of MMO gamers as whiners. Guild Wars 2 gives away everything except for the kitchen sink, and yet this is all it takes to turn the tide of popular opinion. I haven’t played Guild Wars 2 in a while, and I’m not likely to rotate back to it until after FFXIV drops, but when I do I hope people are still enjoying the game. I feel sometimes gamers are like Lucy telling Charlie Brown that this time I won’t take the ball away when you try to kick it, and developers being developers think to themselves this time will be different; it wasn’t very funny for Charlie Brown when Lucy took the ball away before he could kick it and somehow I don’t think it’s very funny to developers.