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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: Terrible, Horrible Vertical Expansions

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  SBFord

Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 13992

 
OP  11/21/13 7:22:05 PM#1

Vertical expansions, those pesky expansions that create barriers to entry for new players starting at ground zero. In our latest Tourist, we take a look at the phenomenon and offer a unique perspective. Read on and then leave your thoughts in the comments.

At some point, loot gets a silly too. In 2035 we will be roughly level 24468 with 1.5 billion health for healers and a picture of a brick wall for tanks. DPS numbers will be so high that you need two monitors to use Recount. That’s the path WoW took us down. Silly, ridiculous inflation the likes of which now call for “item squish,” a system that lets you keep big numbers on your gear but pretends they’re a whole lot smaller. It’s a mechanical retcon brought on purely through vertical expansion.

Read more of Chris Coke's The Tourist: Terrible, Horrible Vertical Expansions.

Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

  Guler

Advanced Member

Joined: 3/14/05
Posts: 148

11/22/13 11:18:30 AM#2

Couldn't agree with this more. Old content, equipment and skills becoming obsolete is a frustrating experience. Nothing sums that up better then Warcraft in which from level 1-80 currently levels you up so fast equipment you get becomes obsolete within the hour, all so you can rush through to whatever is the current expansion.

 

In Warcrafts defense I do like the idea that they are going to have dungeons that scale with level, and made heroic versions of past dungeons. This seems like a good way to add vertical progression while not removing content.

 

All to often in MMOs they start with a huge core game, with lots of areas to explore and quest in. Then comes the first expansion and the previous areas are no longer worth adventuring in due to the new content providing better gear, better exp, or whatever. My issue with this is the expansions are often much smaller then the core game was. So an expansion that raises the level cap may add new zones to the game, but by the time you subtract old content that is now irrelavent you end up with a smaller end game world.

 
  BadSpock

Hard Core Member

Joined: 8/21/04
Posts: 7768

Logic be damned!

11/22/13 11:52:55 AM#3

One thing is true and will always be true about MMOs - change is constant.

Stop thinking along the lines of "it sucks people don't get to experience these things when they were fresh" and start thinking "I'm glad I got to experience these things along my journey in this game."

What's worse still is "people should have to go through the same hurdles I jumped through!" Nope, wrong.

Change is good, new things are good, new things often replace old things.

Such is life, no issue what so ever.

 

Stat squish and jump to new content (90 boost) are both incredibly wonderful and well thought out things.

Really shows why they are the ones making billions of dollars and making millions of happy subscribers, and most here are just troll'n.

Now Playing: Destiny, WoW

  SnarlingWolf

Novice Member

Joined: 6/23/09
Posts: 2728

11/22/13 12:57:12 PM#4

Most games accelerate the old levels as they raise the level cap. So to look at a game and say "100 levels, that will takes 4evar!!!!!" is not really the correct way of looking at things.

 

Asheron's Call launched with 126 levels, many many years ago it changes to 275. By your definition it would sound like that would take forever because it is a big number. You can make 275 levels happen quickly, you can make 10 levels take forever. The number itself is utterly meaningless. For the record leveling in AC is very quick these days. If you follow the starting path you should hit level 45 is in a matter of hours, faster if you have help.

 

This article almost screams of what is wrong with MMO gamers these days. "Feel the pressure of needing to hurry up or feel left out" why? Why do you feel the need to hurry? Enjoy the game at your pace, level at your pace, explore at your pace. Don't be that gamer that NEEDS to be doing the latest/greatest and NEEDS to always be maxed out. Stop and smell the roses, they ain't so stinky.

 

I've also found people to over-exaggerate when they say ghost towns in just about every MMO I've ever played. People complaining that the world is dead as I run past 4 different players doing stuff and join a group for a dungeon run.

 

 

Does this mean I think all content development is handled correctly? No. I think we need to be expanding MMOs into areas that aren't just kill for better loot to kill tougher things for better loot to kill tougher things for better loot.... But at the same time I think gamers need to change their approach to the genre and stop seeing it as something to consume as fast as possible, to max out above any sense of journey or adventure, and then to complain that there isn't anything to do. Then when a company gives them more to do they complain about vertical expansions that give new players TOO MUCH to do. I mean come on now.

 

And to close, I don't like WoW, so these statements are not in defense of anything WoW related.

  GameByNight

Columnist / Podcast Host

Joined: 9/08/09
Posts: 85

11/22/13 1:56:11 PM#5
Originally posted by BadSpock

Stat squish and jump to new content (90 boost) are both incredibly wonderful and well thought out things.

Really shows why they are the ones making billions of dollars and making millions of happy subscribers, and most here are just troll'n.

 

Like I mention in the article, these are solutions to problems that needed to be addressed. Still, it remains to be seen how well instant 90s are. Where is the attachment to the character? How much quicker is the journey for even new players who say "this takes too long" and make their first "real" character an instant 90? Shortening the journey to just the expansion content is a lazy solution. It might work but it is certainly uncreative. It also reinforces the message that the real game begins at high level. 

 

Stat squish I agree with. Again, retcon, but better than letting things get even more out of hand. 

Writer of The Tourist, Tripping the Rift, and co-writer of Player Versus Player
Host of Game On: ESP Edition
Blogger at GameByNight.com

  DamonVile

Apprentice Member

Joined: 11/22/05
Posts: 4909

11/22/13 2:03:21 PM#6

It works great if you have the budget to keep it going. It is sort of building your game as a house of cards though. If you don't get the money to keep the content rolling your game dies because people get bored.

Eve is a much better example of a success than wow imo. Wow works because of the massive number of ppl that support it. We've all seen what happens when a company tries to duplicate it and falls short.

Eve skill based system with player driven content will probably out last wow and has done it with a far more realistic long term budget.

  GameByNight

Columnist / Podcast Host

Joined: 9/08/09
Posts: 85

11/22/13 2:07:18 PM#7
Originally posted by SnarlingWolf

This article almost screams of what is wrong with MMO gamers these days. "Feel the pressure of needing to hurry up or feel left out" why? Why do you feel the need to hurry? Enjoy the game at your pace, level at your pace, explore at your pace. Don't be that gamer that NEEDS to be doing the latest/greatest and NEEDS to always be maxed out. Stop and smell the roses, they ain't so stinky.

 

I can get behind your idea of stopping and smelling the roses. Really, I love leveling and being *in* virtual worlds more than most people. 

 

In general, though, this idea of rushing to the endgame can be laid whole heartedly at the feet of MMO developers. The continued emphasis on raiding and heroics and providing the best rewards for high end experiences sends a very clear message: leveling is a transient experience before you get to the "real game." Vertical expansions are 100% an acknowledgement of that. We shouldn't be so quick to blame the consumer when the prevalent mentality is so without question developer driven.  

 

You mentioned Asheron's Call, so I'm sure you have seen the radical shifts in design philosophy. Today we might attribute it to meeting what players want; too many of "them" and not enough of "us" old time players. But the shift did not begin with us. It began with Blizzard's designs, for better or worse, and the market simply reacted. 

 

In most of my writing, I speak in a general sense. To be clear, I am rarely and endgame player. I do enjoy it but I spend most of my time enjoying the journey. Honestly, I know that for me, spending too much time in endgame often makes these games feel like jobs after a while. 

 
Edit: Just wanted to add, for the most part I agree with what you're saying. I just disagree on the blame game and believe vertical expansions are a good indicator of long-term impacts not being fully considered. 

Writer of The Tourist, Tripping the Rift, and co-writer of Player Versus Player
Host of Game On: ESP Edition
Blogger at GameByNight.com

  User Deleted
11/22/13 2:10:51 PM#8
The buzz of an expansion is the expansion, not the old game. You ever notice how the old content picks up when the buzz of the expansion wears off. That old content isn't waste, but what is, is waiting for friends to play through it. When your not in a big hurry to level cap, you can go back and enjoy the okd content rather than blow through it.
  Kilrain

Hard Core Member

Joined: 12/25/03
Posts: 514

11/22/13 2:19:45 PM#9

Remove levels entirely and focus strictly on content. Providing fun things to do is more important and character progression through levels and restrictions. If you think about it, progression could simply be the experience. Starting a fresh game and not having a first dungeon or a last dungeon. Just a lot of dungeons that everyone can explore and run at any time. Items that anyone can acquire. Going out on a big adventure to get that rare material required to craft an item sounds more fun to me than grinding out 1000 copper swords in order to be able to craft the bronze one that you need. Make that journey difficult and time consuming.

Then, any new content added to the game can be experienced by any individual, regardless of how early or late they've entered the game.

professional web programming and design.

  CrazKanuk

Elite Member

Joined: 10/06/09
Posts: 1447

11/22/13 2:25:41 PM#10

You know, I think that the difficulty with the argument, or complaint, about vrooming it level 90 is only that an expansion, at its core, is aimed directly at those who are already playing the game. There is still the, progressively decreasing, barrier to entry for those who are just starting out and, I would hope, that those people would go through the content. 

 

Here's the difficulty, these games are inherently designed to consume our lives. So you know that starting a new character is never trivial. We can talk about how "quickly" we can level, but in relative terms, any MMO takes longer to level one character to max-level, at break-neck pace, than the entire length of many SP RPGs and, sometimes, even entire series'! So what happens when I wake up tomorrow and say, "Ugh, I'm really not digging this Paladin any more." Well, sorry, you're basically stuck with it. The larger problem is that you might not even discover what class you really ENJOY until you reach the mid-way, at which point you're probably over 100 hours committed. Sucky. 

 

Now, if the content provided had separate quest lines for each class, then maybe I could be convinced that there is enough value in going back through and enjoying the content from 1-90, but that's a HUGE endeavour too. So is a 1-90 token really that big a deal? Meh, someone bypasses content, but chances are that if you haven't already been playing the game for a thousand hours, you really don't know what you're going to enjoy doing anyway. And for those of us with thousands of hours sunk into a game, you better damn well believe that I think I should get a token to roll a new high-level character to try out instead of starting out at level 1. Not that it's really stopped me in the past. 

Crazkanuk

----------------
Azarelos - 90 Hunter - Emerald
Durnzig - 90 Paladin - Emerald
Demonicron - 90 Death Knight - Emerald Dream - US
Tankinpain - 90 Monk - Azjol-Nerub - US
Brindell - 90 Warrior - Emerald Dream - US
----------------

  Xiveil

Novice Member

Joined: 8/15/06
Posts: 11

11/22/13 2:43:28 PM#11

Aren't we forgetting something *really* important about that instant 90? That it's limited to one single character. Letting ONE character skip that content to play with their friends.  Yes...they  miss out on a lot of great content.  However I know 0 players with 1 character only.  They will experience it at some point.

 

I take it as more of a "Hey, did you miss the last expansion or two and want to come back and play with your friends? Start with them at 90!" Seems like a good plan. Otherwise how does "come back and play with your friends!.....after you catch up...and they are already max level..." sound? Not so good...

 

Smart marketing.

  SnarlingWolf

Novice Member

Joined: 6/23/09
Posts: 2728

11/22/13 3:00:57 PM#12
Originally posted by GameByNight
Originally posted by SnarlingWolf

This article almost screams of what is wrong with MMO gamers these days. "Feel the pressure of needing to hurry up or feel left out" why? Why do you feel the need to hurry? Enjoy the game at your pace, level at your pace, explore at your pace. Don't be that gamer that NEEDS to be doing the latest/greatest and NEEDS to always be maxed out. Stop and smell the roses, they ain't so stinky.

 

I can get behind your idea of stopping and smelling the roses. Really, I love leveling and being *in* virtual worlds more than most people. 

 

In general, though, this idea of rushing to the endgame can be laid whole heartedly at the feet of MMO developers. The continued emphasis on raiding and heroics and providing the best rewards for high end experiences sends a very clear message: leveling is a transient experience before you get to the "real game." Vertical expansions are 100% an acknowledgement of that. We shouldn't be so quick to blame the consumer when the prevalent mentality is so without question developer driven.  

 

You mentioned Asheron's Call, so I'm sure you have seen the radical shifts in design philosophy. Today we might attribute it to meeting what players want; too many of "them" and not enough of "us" old time players. But the shift did not begin with us. It began with Blizzard's designs, for better or worse, and the market simply reacted. 

 

In most of my writing, I speak in a general sense. To be clear, I am rarely and endgame player. I do enjoy it but I spend most of my time enjoying the journey. Honestly, I know that for me, spending too much time in endgame often makes these games feel like jobs after a while. 

 
Edit: Just wanted to add, for the most part I agree with what you're saying. I just disagree on the blame game and believe vertical expansions are a good indicator of long-term impacts not being fully considered. 

But it did begin with players. When UO, EQ and AC were the big 3 on the market, their combined player bases was less than 1.5 million players. That showed a genre that was hitting only a niche audience.

 

Blizzard saw this and designed in a way that would speak to more gamers and they exploded onto the scene and got to a point where they had what 15 million players or more? They saw an audience that wasn't being served and they gave them what they wanted. Gamers responded in mass by flooding WoW. Other developers looked and said "Well that is how the gamers want their MMOs made" and so they began to copy WoWs designs.

 

If WoW had released and players went "A rush to endgame and then Raids? No thanks" and they didn't give Blizzard billions of dollars, then this genre wouldn't have gone in that direction. But gamers as a whole definitely stood tall and said "Holy sh!t! Take my money now!!!!" and the rest is history.

 

Like I said earlier, I'm not a big fan of WoW and I don't currently play it and only played it for a short stint to check it out. However, I fully recognize that their success showed what gamers wanted and I'm not the least bit surprised that their model became the standard design of other companies who wanted to recreate that success.

 

WoW did vertical expansions for years and it kept increasing their playerbase over and over. Why wouldn't everyone follow that model? Again, if players had not liked that approach to expansions and had all left WoW, no one else would do those types of expansions.

 

 

I know how my ideal MMO would play out. However, I also know that the majority of mainstream gamers would shun it due to the difficulty, time investment, and the fact that they would have to stop and figure things out. So I don't blame developers for not making it, I blame gamers for only wanting such simple, bland, repetitive game styles.

  Kuinn

Hard Core Member

Joined: 1/10/11
Posts: 2092

11/22/13 3:32:04 PM#13

I've been waiting a long time for a mmorpg where you dont gain a ridicilous amount of power while leveling. It's stupid imo, the world and leveling could be designed in a manner that the whole world feels useful at all times, and not this basic themepark model where the last zone is completely useless the moment you finished your quests there.

 

I'd love to see a mmorpg where progression happened more like in Planetside 2. You have a TON of stuff to unlock and upgrade, but you can still beat a guy who has all the upgrades in the world using a fresh toon who has no upgrades at all. In this kind of world the first zone you stepped your toes on would never become completely obsolete, the "lvl1 skeletons" could still kill you if you fooled around like an idiot.

 

It would have so many other positive effects like being able to defend your self in world PvP against higher level players, who currently one shot you in any generic themepark mmorpg if they are 10 levels higher than you. If you needed to farm something, you could possibly do it in your favourite zone rather than some place you absolutely have to do it in, because it happens to be the only option for your level, etc.

 

It's completely possible to create a leveling system (and world) where you unlock a ton of meaningful stuff and levels without rendering past content useless and making your char look like a demigod in the eyes of 5 level lower people.

 

Dont like what I'm saying here? That's fine, you should be more than happy for the selection of current games for you, but for the sake of variety, lets hope some new open world mmorpgs embrace sidegrade upgrades and more calm approach on gaining power while leveling up on some future games.

  LittleBoot

Advanced Member

Joined: 11/08/13
Posts: 336

11/22/13 4:04:57 PM#14
Originally posted by Kuinn

I've been waiting a long time for a mmorpg where you dont gain a ridicilous amount of power while leveling. It's stupid imo, the world and leveling could be designed in a manner that the whole world feels useful at all times, and not this basic themepark model where the last zone is completely useless the moment you finished your quests there.

 

I'd love to see a mmorpg where progression happened more like in Planetside 2. You have a TON of stuff to unlock and upgrade, but you can still beat a guy who has all the upgrades in the world using a fresh toon who has no upgrades at all. In this kind of world the first zone you stepped your toes on would never become completely obsolete, the "lvl1 skeletons" could still kill you if you fooled around like an idiot.

 

It would have so many other positive effects like being able to defend your self in world PvP against higher level players, who currently one shot you in any generic themepark mmorpg if they are 10 levels higher than you. If you needed to farm something, you could possibly do it in your favourite zone rather than some place you absolutely have to do it in, because it happens to be the only option for your level, etc.

 

It's completely possible to create a leveling system (and world) where you unlock a ton of meaningful stuff and levels without rendering past content useless and making your char look like a demigod in the eyes of 5 level lower people.

 

Dont like what I'm saying here? That's fine, you should be more than happy for the selection of current games for you, but for the sake of variety, lets hope some new open world mmorpgs embrace sidegrade upgrades and more calm approach on gaining power while leveling up on some future games.

I agree, levels should be small incremental improvements that give you little advantages.  A max level character should not be able to wipe out a whole army of low levels, that is just ridiculous.  They should win, perhaps relatively easily in a 1 v 1, but if a few ganged up on them then they should die.  

As stated above, this sort of approach would mean the entire map could be useful to everyone all the time and you would avoid empty zones or slightly manipulative, bullshitty mechanics like mentoring or matching levels to zones.  

  Asinine21

Advanced Member

Joined: 3/25/11
Posts: 18

11/22/13 4:06:07 PM#15

I don't think the author's intent was to decry the whole rush to end game drive of vertical expansions, but rather emphasize that this model of progression makes ALL previous zones, and even a good portion of the expansion's zones completely obsolete. There is very little reason outside of doing an achievement to even set foot in those zones, ever.

The later expansions increasing the rate of leveling only furthers the "ghost town" of lower zones since it reduces the amount of time you spend in the lower levels and further decreases your chance of seeing another living soul before reaching level cap. It really takes the MM out of MMORPG when you don't encounter another player outside of a capital city for 99% of the game. WoW allowing you to instantly level a character the old cap is an acknowledgement of this phenomenon and is a band aid on a problem they brought on themselves with items being the only form of progression and reward for playing the game, and that the scaling on items to make equipment from anything but the latest content completely worthless only compounds the issue. Anything but the best of raid rewards from the previous expansion will be discarded with the first set of quest rewards from the new one.

People rush to the "end" because that's where all the rewards for playing are, and where the majority of players will be simply because the game is designed that way.

 
  Xthos

Apprentice Member

Joined: 4/18/10
Posts: 2651

11/22/13 4:10:19 PM#16
I don't have a big problem with vertical progression, the problem imo is that the level progression often is not in sync with the gear rate.
  muppetpilot

Novice Member

Joined: 7/07/12
Posts: 53

11/22/13 4:20:53 PM#17

The whole "insta-90" thing is optional, not mandatory.  I keep wondering why so many folks in these forums don't seem to understand that simple point.

Now, that being said, if they wind up selling leveling passes or something similar in their online store, I believe at that point it would become a problem.  But honestly, for the WoW players who already have 7 or 8 max-level characters, what in the world is wrong with them being allowed to bring ONE toon to 90?  It's not the level cap; 100 is.  And if you can't figure out how to handle a toon within 10 levels or so, you probably shouldn't be playing MMOs anyway. 

And I love the author's reference to there being "10 people kicking around on the servers" by the time WoD comes out, as if some other game out there can even sniff the player base that WoW has.  I don't even play WoW and I know enough to avoid making statements like that.

  Kyleran

Bitter Vet™

Joined: 9/13/06
Posts: 19382

Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions. Pvbs 18:2, NIV

11/22/13 4:39:50 PM#18
Originally posted by muppetpilot

The whole "insta-90" thing is optional, not mandatory.  I keep wondering why so many folks in these forums don't seem to understand that simple point.

Now, that being said, if they wind up selling leveling passes or something similar in their online store, I believe at that point it would become a problem.  But honestly, for the WoW players who already have 7 or 8 max-level characters, what in the world is wrong with them being allowed to bring ONE toon to 90?  It's not the level cap; 100 is.  And if you can't figure out how to handle a toon within 10 levels or so, you probably shouldn't be playing MMOs anyway. 

And I love the author's reference to there being "10 people kicking around on the servers" by the time WoD comes out, as if some other game out there can even sniff the player base that WoW has.  I don't even play WoW and I know enough to avoid making statements like that.

He was referencing people who matter.

Arrogant, Condescending, Dismissive, Elitist, "Meany", you speak as if these are bad things?
Kyleran - Bitter Vet ™ since 2006
"This is the most intelligent, well qualified and articulate response to a post I have ever seen on these forums. It's a shame most people here won't have the attention span to read past the second line." - Anon

  CyberNigma

Novice Member

Joined: 11/06/08
Posts: 24

11/22/13 4:42:34 PM#19
Originally posted by BadSpock

One thing is true and will always be true about MMOs - change is constant.

Stop thinking along the lines of "it sucks people don't get to experience these things when they were fresh" and start thinking "I'm glad I got to experience these things along my journey in this game."

What's worse still is "people should have to go through the same hurdles I jumped through!" Nope, wrong.

Change is good, new things are good, new things often replace old things.

Such is life, no issue what so ever.

 

Stat squish and jump to new content (90 boost) are both incredibly wonderful and well thought out things.

Really shows why they are the ones making billions of dollars and making millions of happy subscribers, and most here are just troll'n.

Well, there's another side to that.  There are other games that do this, but I'll just mention one - Guild Wars 2.  You may or may not like the game itself, but ArenaNet has released tons of new content since the game was released, and none of it was vertical - never raising the level cap.

That follows what you are saying about constant change and missing out on stuff, WITHOUT constantly raising the level cap.  There is a lot of area that's left behind in areas that are prior to the level cap (even with scaling), but the 'change' they keep introducing is done only via change and not through obsolescence through level increases.  Parts of the world literally change (think Cataclysm in WoW).

 

WoW does something similar after each expansion (follow-up major content patches) without raising the level cap, but it's still vertical expansion in that it's based upon gear inflation.  With some exceptions where you can take a fresh level-capped character right away (Timeless Isle).

cybernigma Xfire Miniprofile
  shadowchaos

Novice Member

Joined: 4/17/13
Posts: 3

11/22/13 5:19:25 PM#20

I started playing WoW a little after pandaria's release. Imho, I didn't lose as much as people might think new players have. 

Same goes with the new expansion and the instant boost. It's always nice to know you have a high level character to advance along with veterans. But, that doesn't mean you can't make a level 1 and play from scratch. I enjoyed my first leveling to 90 and I still enjoy leveling new characters. I took my time to figure out lore and what happened/when it happened/ why it happened. 

It's never too late to start this journey. The real question is " do you really want to do it?". It can be devastating entering a community knowing that there are tons of harsh people and new things, which makes you a newbie to the game. But, as long as you want to do this journey, you can still do it, no matter how many levels you need.

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