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Community Spotlight: PvP, Raids and Endgame

Community Manager Laura Genender takes a look at one of our new User Blogs that deals with the idea of PvP and raids as endgame for MMORPGs.

PvP, Raids and Endgame
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The casual gaming population has done nothing but grow, as new populations enter our midst and as the original "hardcore gamers" settle down with husbands/wives and children. This large population has a huge effect on what developers decide to put in their games, and what attracts the most player: for example, the casual player often isn't a fan of long grind-sessions for leveling up, and often doesn't have the time for hardcore raiding. With the casual uprising comes the need for easier soloing, faster levels, and a more accessible endgame.

In his blog ,"The "Semi-Casual" Gamer, user cmagoun explores some of the issues of endgame material pertaining to those who don't necessarily reach the "end" of endgames - max level - and discusses some of what he would like to see, as a semi-casual gamer.

Cmagoun begins by stating that he's looking for something different than the norm: raids and PvP aren't that interesting for him. Unfortunately, this eliminates the majority of MMOs from Cmagoun's radar.

"I do wonder what fraction of the MMO population feels the same way I do," Cmagoun muses. "They love the low and mid-level game, but the high level game leaves them cold. Reroll or quit."

Cmagoun, in an earlier entry, describes his level of interest dropping as his character level rises in several games:

"...it is that vague feeling that starts to creep in somewhere around the mid-40s - the feeling that the character is mostly complete...Alt-itis follows and I am onto the next character as quickly as I can hit the "Quit to Login" button. And for developers, this is a scary moment: each new character created represents a chance that the user will decide to try a new character in a new game."

As it turns out, I am perhaps Cmagoun's perfect opposite. I am a true video-game monogamist; rarely have I created alts (though City of Heroes costume creation was just too fun to pass up). I've just never had that drive - sometimes known as altaholism, altitize, etc. I'm a raider, a sometimes-PvPer, and in reading Cmagoun's posts I was interested at the points where we agree, and the points where we don't.

Cmagoun says, "The endgame must advance the character in some fashion."

This is a place I completely agree with Cmagoun - whether it's raid loot, flags, PvP renown, alternate advancement, or whatever else, I want to be progressing my character that I've spent so much time on. Unlike Cmagoun, though, I'm not willing to create a new one if my oldie maxes out: if my central character is "done", I'm done with that game world. Luckily, games are getting better at offering multiple tiers of advancement beyond "max level": alternate advancement in EQ, subclassing in Lineage II, and raiding in multiple games have kept my attention.

"The endgame should feel epic" Cmagoun continues. "I would hate to reach the upper levels of a game only to find that I am doing the same 'kill, gather, fetch, deliver' quests that I was doing at level one. I want to carve out star empires, fight dragons, put the big beatdown on some nasty demonkind."

Again, I agree with Cmagoun, but perhaps not exactly from the same angle. The endgame should feel epic, in my point of view, and I think some of the end-game prestige is wearing off as time marches on. Developers are seeing us enjoying the "epic feel" and decide to dole it out sooner - perhaps I'm a complete masochist, but I enjoy working for my prestige and heroic moments. One example of endless frustration for me has been Lord of the Rings Online. At level 1, within 5 minutes of starting the game, my Elven character ran into Elrond. And this just doesn't sit right with me.

In fact, I don't want to see Elrond at level 2, at level 3 - maybe, just maybe, I can see him from a distance at level 10. But running into major characters so early in the game made it feel less special to me; something that was handed over, not something that was earned.

Cmagoun's next point, "The endgame should feel important. Once you reach the upper echelons of a game, you should feel like an important character in the game world....Note that there is a difference in my mind between epic and important. I think today's endgames do ok on the epic part."

While I too would love to feel like a special and important player in the game world, this is a very tricky accomplishment for the game developers, a puzzle they haven't quite solved. Thousands - or millions, in the case of some games - of players coexist in a single game, and without creating millions of epic endgame sequences, how do you make one character feel special versus another? Game developers are starting to use instances to let players effect the world, and some games are allowing competition over specialness, such as Lineage II's Hero System.

"I'd rather not respect my character for the endgame" says Cmagoun, and I mostly agree - yet a small part of me must admit to picking special gear or special skills for PvP or raidplay.

And how could I not agree with Cmagoun's final point: "It would be nice if the endgame did not end up becoming a canned fight."

I would like to add one point to Cmagoun's list that I think both hardcore and casual players can agree on: I like diversity in my endgame. I don't always want to raid, I don't always want to PvP or work on alternate advancement. For me, the perfect endgame gives me choices of raiding, grouping, questing, etc. I think EverQuest does a great job of this, with a mix of raids and Alternate Advancement progression points. I earn gear, I earn raid flags, and I hone my character's skills.

Cmagoun's newest entry begins to detail his bulletpoints of what he'd like to see. He started the entry with: "The endgame must advance the character (or player) in some fashion."

He makes a suggestion for a Legands Points system that encourages players to reach max level, but also encourages them to reroll. I think this is a great idea to bring out the inner-alter in a lot of us, but I'm still skeptical on how effective that will be as a stand-alone retention system. I loved God of War II to death, but I didn't replay it in a new costume or with the Goddess of War avatar. It wasn't worth it to me to repeat so much content.

I suspect that Cmagoun's future updates will continue to address what he would find enjoyable in an endgame, and I look forward to seeing his continued ideas.