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Gaming To Hell In A Handbasket

The trials, tribulations and musings of an MMO veteran trying to find the next holy grail.

Author: Strayfe

"Endgame" Killed The Game

Posted by Strayfe Wednesday March 18 2009 at 1:35PM
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You know those shiny, bright-eyed optimists who always tell you, "It's not the destination that matters, it's the journey"?  Apparently they were all abducted by aliens and forced to eat their own shoes during the 11th hour of MMO production, because mentioning this concept to a developer, or expecting something similar will get you tarred, feathered, and left to stew among the lower denizens of purgatory, faster than you can say, "Time vs. Reward."

Game developers have taken to forcing their players on scavenger hunts for fun, with MMOs reduced to nothing more than a checklist of things that must be completed before playing the game has a point or a purpose.  Oh, how I used to loathe my friend, who happily informed me, as the drool dripped down his chin, "The game starts at 70!", referring to that awful genre-pigeonhole, World of That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named.

I put up with it, for some god-awful reason, as I chugged down the gaming equivalent of an asparagus milkshake, under the assumption that I would be receiving a billion bloody dollars for my patience.  The thing is, when I finally finished it, and I got the unquestionable right and privilege to actually begin playing the game, I found that the billion dollars was more like $100,000, and some of it was missing... and a bit more of it was counterfeit.  Yeah, it's nice to have some extra money, but ultimately eating that asparagus milkshake was just so awful, that I stared at my paltry 75k in disdain.

Let me return from the land of metaphors for a second.  I touched on it briefly in another article,  but it seems to me that developers are so focused on "Endgame", that they forget to make the game itself.  Why is it a pre-requisite that you suffer through hours upon hours of mind-numbing clone-quests, pointless vapid grinds, and uninteresting crap, before you actually make it to the GAME part of the game?

Using WoW as an example, would it have been so hard to make a couple raid instances for level 50?  Or 40?  Or 30?  With, perhaps, some items that could serve as status symbols for rewards?  Mount decorations, maybe?  Titles?  Honor points?  Hell, anything that might serve to break up the quest grind.  It would even serve as a primer for the more difficult raid content toward the end, giving players some experience and some idea of what they can expect when their toon is actually worth a damn.

But no, the game remains the most top-heavy title out there, and ironically, the most popular, with people seemingly willing to ignore the drudgery for the promise of a pot of gold under the rainbow.

Most gamers don't know it, but when they ask whether or a not a game is a grind, what they're really asking is "Does playing this game have a purpose before X level?"  More often than not, the answer is no.  I cringe to think that, perhaps I might be asking too much to expect a GAME to be FUN from level 1.  That's the sad, sorry state of affairs the industry is in, where I boot up that mega-title for the first time, and expect to be completely bored and uninterested for the foreseeable future, until I reach that magic number (usually the level cap) when the game is MEANT to be playable.  *cough* *cough* *choke* Blah.

Off in the distance, I hear fanboys, devs and proponents of this type of gameplay, with dollar signs for eyes, and spiderwebs for brains.  They're saying in one unified voice, "This is a business!  Endgame exists to keep the game going when you've been playing it for a year or more, to keep you paying them so they can improve the game and the content!" 

I facepalm as I consider that statement, as it's delivered for the 52nd time, in the 11th different way. 

Developers, gamers, there are *gasp* OTHER options for holding peoples' interest long term.  Customization is the best route to doing this.  If a player feels like they have room to adapt, to try new things, to try multiple things at once, they will be far more inclined to play long term, than if they are taken by the hand and led from quest hub to quest hub, with no more interaction than opening up the ignore menu to squelch Qouhesuofhu and his wow7gold spam.

Here's a thought.  Why not make a game bottom-middle heavy?  Encourage players to go through the low-mid level content multiple times, in different ways, with different rewards.  

WoW players have done the same quests so many times, that they know the game by heart, and have written GUIDES to leveling that they can sell for money.  If your game is so easy and dull that it can be figured out, and guides can be written for it detailing the best ORDER to do the quests in, and which ones to skip, there's a serious problem.

Content should be dynamic throughout the game.  There should be multiple options for progressing at any given time, multiple quest hubs with varying and different rewards, which each have strengths and weaknesses in different parts of the game.  Give players choices, and they will replay that content to see what they missed the first time around.  Give them multiple choices, and they will replay it again and again.

In this day and age, with all the ideas floating around for MMOs, I simply can't fathom why devs continue to repeatedly create the same game. 

And yet... ironically, those devs and companies with new and innovative ideas have implemented them so poorly in many cases, that many potential players have retreated from the concept of dynamic gameplay, into their little own little worlds, where MMO crossing guards hold their hands while they cross the street, and sandbox games are the stuff of hushed whispers after they've gone to bed.

Wanting to buy one GAME.  No END required.

 

 

dcostello writes:

 I'm not sure if you are confused with your own opinion or if you simply messed the order up in your sarcastic quote, in the beginning of your blog.  "You know those shiny, bright-eyed optimists who always tell you, 'it's not the destination that matters, it's the journey.'"  Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you arguing that it truly is about the journey, not the destination.  Either you messed the sequence of words up as I stated before or your sarcastically opposing yourself in your introduction (which would be pretty funny because I've never seen that happen before).

Wed Mar 18 2009 2:55PM Report
Hhussk writes:

Some good comments.

I know why everyone is cloning WoW. It's because WoW is making the most money. And yes, its all about money.

This is what happens. A creative person or group comes up with an idea that makes money, and then all the sucker fish come out and latch on to the same series of concepts.

It is cyclical. There will be new gaming generation fairly soon. The gaming community is currently looking for it.

Wed Mar 18 2009 5:11PM Report
MadnessRealm writes:

To Hhussk : We all know that the MMORPG industry are cloning WoW :P It's basic knowledge.

To Stayfe: I have yet to find a MMORPG with a real ending. No MMORPG wants the game to be over so why put and end-game when they can simply release expansions :s I know it's sad but can't do much about it. Beside, most companies simply add a new boss with every expansion, basically saying that they think boss = endgame....which is wrong in the case of MMORPGs. Sadly, making a SP RPG similar ending in a MMORPGs is risky and if not done well, it may simply make the players leave after the story is over (thus the release of new expansions).It's a  Vicious circle the Linear-based MMORPG industry can't run away from.

Anyway, only games with real endgame are games which are not exactly considered as MMOs (Diablo, Warcraft, Lunia etc). Otherwise it can only be found in Single Player RPGs which really sucks.

Wed Mar 18 2009 7:01PM Report
Velexia writes:

I'm working on just such a game myself, that focuses on the journey, rather than the destination.  Unfortunately for the gaming community, the design stage won't become the development stage for at least another 3 years.

Thu Mar 19 2009 12:43AM Report
kopema writes:

No MMORPG starts out with raiding for the same reason that  no other cult starts out by shaving your head.

Thu Mar 19 2009 3:59AM Report
Vexe writes:

The army must be messed up, then.

Thu Mar 19 2009 6:55AM Report
Vexe writes:

And Skin Heads.

Thu Mar 19 2009 6:56AM Report
Vexe writes:

I agree with this blog at the very least about the early levels and customization. I'm still playing CoH after all these years mainly because I can keep testing out new powers and looks. Also, having things like low-level raids would be great for breaking grinds and making an early level player feel like he was worth a crap. I, for one, am soooo attracted to killing really big or flashy villains. It's really satisfying. It would be so nice to be able to do it early game AND late game. Variety is also good.

Thu Mar 19 2009 7:00AM Report
daltanious writes:

Well ... for myself I can say I have been enjoying Wow from lv. 1 up to  lv. 60, 70, 80. Nearly with all my alts (10, one for every class) althrough first is usually always special. :-) And I'm one of that players that does not care about "endgame". To me experimenting with various classes, builds, .... game is all about. When I have leveled (nearly) all my alts to max level, usually game continues when next expansion pack is out.

 

With other games (all, and have played a looot of them in my life) ... i usually lose interest in playing before reaching with single alt max level. "Champion" in this was defunct TR, which I resisted to play entire week (out of month) of free play, before deinstalling it for ever.

So, as long as there is wow and expansions ... i have nothing to worry about. :-)) Far on second place, but still good, for me are Aoc and War ..... and then list more or less ends.

Ok, maybe it is just me ... maybe I would care much more about raids, if i would be actually able to play them. But I have slight problem with sight and all that blinking and special effects from 10 or 25 players gives me a real headache. But again doing on endgame few raids over and over .... not sure how fun can be. Like I very rarely partecipate in daily quests more then few times.

Fri Mar 20 2009 3:32AM Report
Tenebraeee writes:

  As a member of a raiding guild in WoW focused on progression (Time consumption like being part of an amateur sports league in itself) I can say that I love the challenge and competitiveness of endgame raiding, but have grown weary and tired of the levelling process.

  Blizzard has done a good job of remaining vigilant in developing new challenging endgame content for PvE guilds that are interested in this, but raids are really only a small part of the entirety of the game for which most has become tired and empty.  Although there is plans to revitalize the classic WoW universe with new content, the extent of which will have to be seen; as end-game is the game of WoW levelling is just the tedium to get there.

  The tedium should change, and allowing players so much flexibility at all times; and with the recent addition of the 3.3 patch gearing doesn't involve recruiting or finding players nearby who are interested (admittedly a frustrating and sometimes futile endevor), but pressing a button that will teleport you to the random dungeon of your relative level.   It is further cementing the fact that, for the most part, the game starts at 80; that everything you do is just a process to get there before you can start 'really' playing.

   But this really 'shouldn't' be the case.  I know there should always be motivation towards the eventual endgame, godlike abilitys you shall possess once you're geared, skilled, and an expert in the fine details of your class.  Having more raids designed for a variety of levels (perhaps with scaling abilities, hp, and damage based on the make-up of the raid) with some specialized weapon and armor epics that don't pale to the common items of your next expansion. (maybe weapons that would level with you, i.e. gaining abilities and stats based on the role, spec, and abilities you commonly use would be fun, worthwhile, and all-together neat for lvl 40, 50, 60, 70; better than the mere stat scaling currently available on heirloom gear).

  Blizzard has tried to respond to people's complaints about the difficulty of endgame by dumbing it down so nearly any decently geared squad of goons can master the mechanicsin an hour, or by just giving away high quality gear eliminating much of the profitability of tradeskills unless you're tirelessly rich, serving the tirelessly rich.)

 

  I know everyone thinks they can do it better, but I just don't like it, don't like it at all.

Tue Feb 23 2010 10:56AM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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