It’s often said that in level-based MMORPGs, the endgame represents a completely different gameplay experience than that which precedes it. Some developers have gone as far as to say that it’s at the level cap where the game actually starts - which is ludicrous if you’ve spent over a hundred hours grinding through content just to make it there. Nevertheless, MMORPGs are necessarily built around the idea that once you progress through the conventional level progression, you’ll need some sort of activity to keep you engaged for the long haul, and that’s where the endgame comes in.
A lot of seasoned MMO players might be jaded about the concept of endgame, having seen the same patterns emerge in the forms of reputation grinds, raid grinds, PvP grinds, crafting grinds, and grind grinds. Without being overly cynical, we can easily understand the developer impetus to create repeatable content that encourages you to stick around long after your character’s level progression is complete, because there’s no revenue stream coming in from people who have left the game. Still, this strategy doesn’t mean that endgame can’t be interesting or worthwhile.
Most types of endgame activities fall somewhere between the two categories of PvE and PvP, with a further but murkier distinction of hardcore and casual. On the PvE side of things, there are usually dungeons and raids geared towards dedicated, hardcore guild communities, alongside more casually-oriented reputation grinds, daily quests, and small-group instances. For PvP, it’s not uncommon to see guild vs. guild tournaments and territory control, with the option to drop into impromptu open-world PvP or small instances and arenas. Some kind of gear and/or horizontal character progression is usually tied into each of these types of endgame.
Crafting, player housing, exploration, and roleplaying are also often presented as gameplay alternatives at the level cap. Some of the most powerful weapons, armors, and items are usually only available through the highest tiers of crafting professions, which sometimes also tie into the types of decorations and features that you can put into your in-game house, whatever form that may take. Additionally, more and more games are making space for rewarding exploration of the game world with achievements, events, and hidden collectables, and encouraging roleplaying between players and their communities.
Personally, I tend to prefer a mix of story-based content with casual PvP, where each provide some sort of reward track that gives my character a sense of skill and gear progression. I’ve done the raiding thing, avoided crafting, and tried my hand at the hardcore PvP grind, and none of them seem to be able to hold my attention for any appreciable amount of time at level cap. I do enjoy content that advances a game’s narrative, and appreciate a good punchfest now and then, most likely because neither of these feel too much like a grind, although they may be comprised of repetitive components.
What are some of your favorite types of endgame?