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The Daily Run

Whatever I feel like writing about!

Author: Maisson

Is Player Progression in Today's MMO's Lacking Something?

Posted by Maisson Tuesday December 4 2012 at 11:49AM
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There are two types of MMORPG's currently, you have either "theme park" or "sandbox". What is the difference? Just in case you did ask, which is unlikely, but never the less the "theme park" style is like strapping yourself to a theme park coaster and you just need to enjoy the ride of a linear style game where you gain levels and are directed to go this area or that area, but how you get there is up to you. A "sandbox" style allows you to do what you want with out level restriction as there are no levels, usually your character is defined by skills not levels. You are given some basic skills and you need to figure out what you want to do as there is no quest leveling hubs.

What about progression in both of those types of MMO's? When playing a theme park MMO your progression is either all or mostly vertical. This means you will have forward progress on leveling going from quest hub to quest hub and from zone to zone based on current character level, which can only go higher. Your crafting will follow suit and can only get higher in level as well along with gear and weapon levels. Now what happens when you hit max level in both leveling and crafting? Most of the time you will have to venture towards vertical gear progression which is the same as leveling your gear through various dungeons and raids. What happens after you have the highest gear level? You either will wait for the next major content patch or expansion pack to be released or if there is what is called horizontal progression which means you are gaining either skills (also Alternate advancement) or simply learning new craftable items. In some games they will have housing and so forth allowing you to decorate it with items that you can work on getting, but again you will max out some where or get bored of doing the same thing over and over (dailies come to mind when I say that.) .

All "theme park" MMORPGS fall into this vertical progression path. In my opinion it seems this is a major fault of a lot of these games being released may have great vertical progression at first but have no real horizontal progression to entertain between new content patches or expansion packs. When I talk about this with some people they always seem to refer to WoW being able to do it. I agree they were able to create a successful and highly populated theme park, however my rebuttal towards this is they also had progression going very slow for the original game, meaning it took the average player 6 months to a year to hit 60 and hardcore players 3 to 6 months. Then the dungeons and raids were very difficult and you were repeating wipe after wipe until you defeated a boss and it was rinse and repeat each week. At this point you have grown to invest in your character for almost  over a year or more. That is a lot of work that you invested in, making it harder to leave a game or why you end up returning sometimes. Now in these new MMO's I see hardcore players being able to hit max level within a month sometimes weeks (this includes WoW with all the changes they made) and the casual player within a month or two. Now they have to either wait for content, which with a new game may be awhile, or go find something else to do, which is either play something new or go back to your old MMO.

This scenario above can easily be avoided by two things:

1) Make leveling progression slower and take longer to achieve max level, which may require more content out the door, but will allow for content patches to be released in a timely  manner.

2) Make  horizontal progression available as well. This will allow players to do other things while waiting patiently for another patch or expansion.

As for the "sandbox" type it has its own progression issues as well except it is the opposite of the theme park. It has plenty of horizontal progression, take EVE for example, this is a sandbox type of MMORPG. In EVE you can do almost anything you want, such as be bad or good, be a merc for hire or pirate, attack anyone you want. Crafting is unlimited as you can make your own blueprints and hire other players to collect the materials for you and so on. There is no major vertical progression in the game except learning higher skills to use stronger items and weapons. There is no real hand holding or quest hub to bounce from. You will obtain missions from NPC agents at space stations or from other players. 

So the sandbox, based from my example above, will give you basic tools and skills and then you are own your own with the exception of a small tutorial which may be available. You will need to figure out what you want to do an how to accomplish it. The most common issue that arises in a sandbox type of game is new players don't know what or how to do something (just remember Google is your friend), which in turns causes them frustration and they leave.  So the lack of major vertical progression hinders a lot of new players, especially the players that started  there MMO path with a them park based game such as WoW.

What do you think about progression in MMO's today?

mysticaluna writes: I think it is a shame we don't have many horizontal fluff options because of the overpowering obsession with shiny loot and vertical progression grinds... There was never any need for dailys, reputation should be earned by quest chains and dynamic fun events that are not repeated , after all since when does it make sense that a prized chicken escapes the coop every few days or so, infinite times? Oh, she's never done that before, return a few days later, oops can you help me save my prized chicken for the 10th time? Lol...  Mon Dec 10 2012 3:24AM Report
mysticaluna writes: Obviously, they would need a lot of horizontal to remove daily grinds because they are a huge waste of time, but if games would no longer waste time trivializing old content and adding levels every expansion or so, we could concentrate on adding content instead of pointless levels... How about scaling zones like lord of the rings online for solo, trio, or a full group? As well as scaling difficulty levels... why don't games keep a set cap from vanilla and just scale all future content so all casual/hardcore can enjoy it? If gear was the same I'd get the prettiest gear because that's me, stats don't matter... Which, is why I get a lot of use out of transmog gear and I solo old raid zones for it!  Mon Dec 10 2012 3:31AM Report
Maisson writes: Scaling would be great as you can look at going to lower zones and still getting some XP out of them. I think they need to get rid of dailies as the same quests over and over. If they want to make dailies than make about 100 or so quests and you get a random one each day at least it would be interesting. Horizontal progression is a way to keep players entertained while the next patch or XPac is released. I also think all dungeons should scale to level and be random on the inside, allow for 30 bosses and you get 3 at a time and have them randomly generated along with the layout as well, like torchlight 2. Personally if I was designing a game, I would have content patches ready before game release, at least 3 or 4 and an XPac being worked on (half way done or further) this will allow more time to focus on content release at a faster pace. Tue Dec 11 2012 2:31PM Report writes:
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