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End Games

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Mignone and Fuller talk about the hot topic of end-games

Editor's Introduction: Every Saturday, we feature a debate between two writers here. If you have any ideas, do not hesitate to post them in the comment thread linked at the end.

Garrett Fuller: End-Game content has always been a touchy subject for gamers and developers alike. Many RPG video games have been based on leveling or questing to the end and defeating the big boss. MMOs are different; you level or build skills to reach a point where you can not advance any further unless the developers add new content. Right now raid content, player built areas, and PvP all run the end-game of the most popular MMOs on the market.

I do like PvP as an end-game resource. It can be ever changing and fun to always compete against other players. The key is for developers to come up with new fun scenarios for people to take part in. Raid content is one huge pain in the ass. I do take part in raids on WoW, but mainly because there is little else to do. Doing a raid one or two times is not so bad, but having to repeat the process every single week for months is just plain boring. What happened to the open world of MMOs? Where players could run around out there and find great things to fight or encounter without having to carry on a huge raid.

Frank Mignone: Ah, I knew we’d get to this topic eventually. End-game content…if that is not a contradiction in terms, I don’t know what is! For me, when you reach the ‘end’ of the game…move on to another game, a new adventure, make new friends, or bring the old ones along. I think people don’t know how to break up with their MMORPGs once the love is gone.

That being said, let’s talk of what this should be as an event that rewards the player for their loyalty in playing the game so long to reach this point. Frankly, I play Single player RPGs for the player-centric story that cannot be found in an MMORPG, which is not centric to any one player by its nature. If I get to the end of your MMORPG, give me some story. Actually, give me a LOT of story, and make me feel really important in my achievement by making me the center of attention. With Final Fantasy XI, there were lots of missions that has cut-scenes that did exactly what the single-player games did, put me in the center of the story. Unraveling the story was a big motive for me to level my character, so I could access harder missions and learn more of the story.

When did the concept of epic stories and being the main hero in your version of the game get replaced by endless raids with people who somehow got duped into thinking they aren’t allowed to leave once the movie is over? Frankly, end-game content should be your clue that it’s time to leave soon. Whatever they make the content, play it, move on and reward other game companies by playing their games. The reality is, we all play the games for the journey they give us, not the destination…it seems we’re forgotten this aspect.

Garrett Fuller: While we all like the journey that games provide, MMOs have really become two pieces to one game, the grind and the end-game. Now, don’t get me wrong leveling a character can be a lot of fun and should be a major part of any MMO. However, the end-game is what everyone strives for. Epic loot, huge battles, large team raids have become a mainstay in many MMOs. So why not make them better for the players. Every game wants to keep their players; the key is better end game content. As a player I would not switch games just for the sake of trying something new. If a title comes out that I am very excited to see then I would definitely give it a try.

I do think the destination of MMOs should be considered by developers as a much more important part of a game. I really like the things I am hearing for Warhammer Online and the plans they are making for players to stay with the game once they’ve reached the peak of development. The bottom line is players love to compete. I know many video game players who don’t play MMOs because they like journey games such as Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. If the journey is your taste then those games are out there. For MMOs there needs to be a playing field that allows for competition in its many forms.

Frank Mignone: I think I just expect more from the end of a game after all the time I spend getting there. So far, it’s been like walking from Florida to Niagara Falls only to find someone shut it off. Epic loot, for what? I should have been able to get those 10 levels ago when I still have 10 levels to go! Frankly, it does little to help me at the end of the game, when all I do is engage in endlessly repetitious raids that never actually conquer anything or arena fights that never change (are these the epic battles you are referring to?) How about faction grinding for some end-game entertainment. Whoever invented faction grinding should please get out of this business before someone shoots you, I fear for your life, mate.

Who wants to play in a world where nothing interesting happens, no massive story to really be a part of, no world altering events to fight on a grand scale? If a game actually had those things, who wouldn’t want to be a part of it! I have a game full of thousands of people that I can’t share in anything with them on an epic scale? Imagine in the final end game of Lord of the Rings Online, when the whole show is close to over, everyone with a max character can participate in the defense of Minas Tirith or Helms Deep. You could do it solo, or with a group, or with a raid of 100 people. See, to me that would be worthy of an epic end-game event (or even an instance).

Certainly not the pitiful gladiator-style endless arena hell that I fear will become a hallmark of end-game boredom. End-game content in World of WARcraft should be the actual, honest to god WAR, front lines, territories changing sides, control of territories giving factions certain tactical advantages. It would be a nice change to have anything you do actually matter for something besides useless arena combat that earns you useless honor points that can earn you useless gear for more useless combat for more useless points.

Garrett Fuller: I do think there is still some good end-game content in games. DAOC being one of the best examples of what end-game content could be. The war in that game was ongoing day and night and it was fun. Raids can be fun too if done correctly. Still I would not say players just go along for the journey. It is like everything else in life. You practice at sports day in and day out to compete against other teams or individually. You study in school and work hard to compete for jobs as businesses compete for customers. Governments compete for power every day. It is just in our nature. Sorry for the philosophy, back to games. I think that World of Warcraft dropped the golden goose egg on end game. Now they are hurrying to get the expansion out before games like Warhammer, Conan, Star Trek, and Star Gate come along to right the wrongs. For now we’ll just have to wait and see the direction MMOs take over the next several years. It will be a critical time for games and players as the competition mounts with more games coming out on the market.

OK gang, time for the readers to join the debate. What do you love about end-game? What do you hate? Where do you think developers and players alike can do better? Have at it!! See you all online!

You can comment on this debate here.