Fixing the Journey Fixes the End-game
We talk a lot about end-game in the MMO industry. We talk about making enough content, making it sufficiently rewarding, etc. What we don’t talk about is perhaps one of the biggest reasons I used to play MMORPGs for a much longer period of time.
I want something to work towards. I like knowing that there’s something still out of my reach. That’s why I’m okay with the idea that only a small percentage of people (1%) will ever see end-game content. What I’m not okay with are the reasons why people never end up seeing the content.
Getting to the beginning of the end-game is too easy in today’s MMOs. I can get max level in WoW, FFIXV, and just about any other game in a couple of weeks. I’m ready to begin the end-game, and I’m faced with one of two realities: (1) I want to participate but I can’t, or (2) I can participate. If you can’t participate you become frustrated, and if you can participate you might even run out of things to do. The problem here really isn’t with either of the realities — it’s with how you got to the point of facing them.
I think it should take months, even a year to get max level. I think the journey to get to the point where you’re faced with the reality if hitting a wall has to be so long that only 1% of the people even think about it. I’m not saying it has to be hard, punishing, or any of that. I just think the journey ends too quickly.
I look back at the original EverQuest and I see a game that took me 6 months to solo level a Necromancer to level 50. I played almost every day, and I had a lot of fun. I actually hit level 50 a few weeks before Kunark (expansion) launched. In that period before Kunark I was able to do a few of the raids (hard dungeons, really). When Kunark launched I was once again at a place where the “end-game” was another 3+ months out.
There were months and months of fun to be had on the way toward the end. I was always working towards becoming better, but I wasn’t doing it so that I could get to the end and face the reality of either not being able to do content or running out of it. If I never once saw the hardest dungeons it didn’t matter to me because the experience on the way was just as fulfilling as anything in the end.
I believe that when someone reaches the end-game they should never be faced with wanting yet being unable to participate. This artificial barrier exists to make modern MMO end-game feel out of reach. How silly is that? Most people make it to the max level but only 1% see the content. It should be that 1% reach the max level and all of them can see the content.
Making the journey matter more fixes a huge part of the problem.