What is your favorite thing about MMORPGs?

Think about the last MMORPG that you really enjoyed.  What was it that made you enjoy it so much?  I’ve played, or tried at least, almost every MMORPG out there, but I’ve only truly enjoyed a handful.  The ones that I truly enjoyed I ended up sticking with for years.   This got me thinking about the MMORPGs I stick with for a few months, or less, and I’ve identified the pattern:  They’re missing the heart and soul of what I enjoy most.

So what do I enjoy most?  Leveling up.

I enjoy leveling up more than anything else in MMORPGs.  It’s my favorite part.  I thought about whether I liked PvE more than PvP, and couldn’t quite narrow it down from there.  I thought about getting gear, dungeon crawling, raiding, and all the things we find ourselves doing in these virtual worlds and I realized that it kept coming back to leveling up.  I enjoy watching my character develop.  I like starting out as a newbie and becoming something greater by putting in time, effort, and going through the motions of the process.

Leveling up brings with it lots of little things.  I like going through different pieces of armor and constantly upgrading.  I like collecting things and wondering if they’ll be useful down the road.  While leveling up I like how my character can go to different places, see different things, and have most all of them matter.  When you’re done leveling there are usually far fewer places to go and if you don’t go to them then you often feel like what you’ve done in-game is a waste of time.  I never get that feeling while I’m leveling up because it seems like almost everything contributes to the process in some way.

Dungeon crawls are fun and I’ve often spoken about why I am fond of them.  I even thought that perhaps exploring and killing monsters in dungeons was my favorite thing to do until I realized that this was one of the things that fell under leveling up for me.  I stopped and thought about why I liked dungeon crawls and realized it was all about progression.  Leveling up in a dungeon is far more satisfying to me than doing one at max level.

I spent years leveling up characters in EverQuest.  I was completely ignorant of this “end-game” idea back then.  I put every second of my thought into exactly what my character was doing at that very moment and never once thought about the future.  I didn’t think about specs or whether or not I would have a guild to do raids.  I didn’t think about gear beyond whether or not what I had was good enough to kill these hard monsters I found in a camp that gave good exp.  There was a certain purity to the gameplay in those days, and it wasn’t even my first “MMORPG” (I started further back in the first graphical MUDS, before the term MMORPG existed).  Although I know that some of this has to do with that “first time syndrome”, I know that a game with a meaningful journey can still duplicate those emotions for me – it’s just few and far between that I see one.

If I ever had the chance to influence a game’s design, I would want to figure out how the “end-game” can take on and exemplify the parts of the leveling experience that I like the most.

What is your favorite thing about MMORPGs?

  • Hmm, no it’s definitely not leveling up for me. I think if it was, I’d probably do it faster or look forward to it more. One of the things that deflated my opinion of LOTRO was the announcement they’ll be increasing the level cap.

    The moments I recall best from the MMOs I’ve played have mostly involved seeing something new for the first time, usually when I’m together with friends. That trek across the landscape as a group, exploring “dangerous” territory. It’s related to levels, for sure, because it’s usually been when we were low level newbs to the game.

    The other great times have been working together in small teams crawling through dungeons. It works best if there aren’t respawns or too many mechanics designed for repetition, but instead good challenges that make you feel like you’ve conquered the place when you’ve reached the other side.

    And finally, there have been these occasional amazing times when a group of us have made up our own gameplay within the world or something has happened unintentionally that was clearly not designed that way. Sometimes it’s organized (scavenger hunts, etc.) and sometimes it just happens (corrupted blood plague! Oh geez someone just killed Lord British) and sometimes it’s just goofing around (hey look at this mob run back and forth between us if we stand right here).

    So my favourite things would be:

    1. Exploration of a rich world that surprises me as I encounter new places, creatures and gameplay.

    2. Cooperative gameplay that doesn’t suffer too much from being stretched for repetition.

    3. Emergent gameplay, which tends to emphasize the social aspects of the game even more.

    My opinion has formed around what I like. I think lately developers have tried too hard to control their worlds and not enough time just throwing content into it. Give us toys to play with, give us lots of them and then let us muck about. I’m not saying it needs to be sandbox, I’m saying stop stretching everything so thin dammit.

  • I really like playing in a party taking on fun challenges together, whether it is PvP/RvR or PvE. It’s always nice to either do an easy run of a dungeon while having a beer and joke around when doing some trash pulls, to being very focused and alert while taking out apposing players through strategy. I wish that there was a wee less solo play, or at least give out nice rewards for doing group quests. The public quest system in WAR really helped bring that togetherness feel for me that was missing in some other MMOs that I played.

    I also like doing a bit of exploration around places, like searching for some hidden visual gems (like that nursery in WoW with the little babies).

  • Leveling up is probably the part of MMOs that I like the least; and that includes all of the character progression-type activities/goals that you lump underneath it.

    My favorite MMO activities involve getting placed in a challenging situation that I have to overcome either with a group or on my own. In WoW this was progression raiding, whereas in Ryzom it is the act of gathering materials from hostile critters without getting overwhelmed and killed.

    The higher the chance of imminent death, the happier I am, generally speaking.

  • Grouping is easily the most fun I have these days. A tight, skilled group attacking new and challenging PVE or PVP content and being locked in to what’s happening as a unit – that’s really the edge MMO games have over offline games (which of course have their own major advantages). Group content does get boring after heavy repetition or if everyone has to spend lots of time reading up beforehand, which is a big part of why raiding has never really clicked for me.

    Second is finding a challenge beyond that intended by the designers. Usually when I’m capped in beta and go places I shouldn’t. I’ve enjoyed beta more than release in the last few games.

    I used to really love leveling and exploring, but that’s kind of worn off.

  • I have to agree. End game is fun, but nothing holds my attention, makes me want to log in every second I can, and keeps me thinking about the game like leveling up does. Eventually all end game content becomes a chore, leveling always has that appeal of achieving something.

    I think the problem that end game faces is that you can’t provide never ending character progression with out making an ever growing void between the ‘hardcore’ and ‘casual’ players. The industry has decided that a ceiling is the only (best?) way to allow slower progression people to stand a chance against (eventually) against those that play a lot.

    If a game could find a way to make meaningful continuous character development with out alienating later comers or casual play styles (WoW has does this via level caps combined with complete a reset on each expansion) it’s going to attract a lot of people. I think that’s part of Eve’s success, although Eve’s model does provide a fairly stiff barrier to new players now that it’s been around for a while.

    The next game I’m looking at is Aion. After playing WAR I’m very much looking forward to a longer and more meaningful leveling process. How they handle end game character progression will determine if I play it for an extended period of time.

  • PlanetSide. Everything about it was perfect except balance between Empire-specific weapons/vehicles. Truly the greatest PvP MMO ever made (better than UO IMO).

    Oh SOE, why did you destroy that which I loved most?

  • It is definitely levelling up.
    And you are not alone, there are surveys and studies how many WoW players for instance actually raided. Many were done with their char the moment they hit the level cap and levelled an alt.

    This is why the vertical levelling is still popular nowadays, despite all the flaws and problem that eternal and neverending +x level progressions bring.

  • This said, I am still for a more horizontal progression and experience. Guild Wars comes to mind, without the grind abominations they introduced in some later expansions.

  • What a wonderful encapsulation of what’s unique about a good MMO! I completely agree, and I don’t often say that these days.

    I love levelling up. It’s really the be-all and end-all fo MMO gameplay for me, and it’s MMOs that make that experience rich, complex and rewarding that grab and hold my attention.

    After ten years, it’s still what grabs me and still what I do when I play. I’ve never really played “end-game” in any MMO. I tend to level at least five characters simultaneously and often a lot more than that. And the ones that do reach the level-cap usually retire, allowing more time for the rest.

    What I really like is a lot of detail in the levelling process: I like to have to struggle to get money, to have mediocre gear fairly easy to obtain but good upgrades be scarce and to matter, to have limited bank and bag space and have decisions on what to save and what to sell.

    I like a lot of choices of where to level ( I hate predetermined levelling strategies). I like a lot of housekeeping; spell reagents, repairs, food and drink, trainers that must be visited for spells or skills. I especially like long and dangerous journeys to get to trainers and vendors who sell or teach rare skills or items.

    I like the levelling process to BE the game, not to be preparation for the game. EQ, EQ2, Vanguard, LotRO, WoW, among many others, offer this in spades. Games that try to rush you to a steady-state endgame, like Guild Wars or WAR are a lot of fun for a short time, but after a few weeks I’m done with them. The levelling games I play for years.

  • I like character progression the most, or the idea of becoming stronger so that one day I can win. Not that i always go around dreaming of max level. I usually set achievable goals, like being able to kill something faster, or to kill something that was’nt meant to be killed alone.

    If I do not feel like im the one choosing what my character does (immersion) then I can’t see the point in winning.

    Take wow they are at tier 8 or 9 now and i feel like a donky runing after a carrot. I remember when i saw my first High Warlord i wanted to be just like him and because of that i pvp’ed alot. Now i can’t stand pvp because there is nothing cool to become. Im no longer “immersed” with the game.

    So i guess immersion is the most important for me.

    Team play is also fun. I see 2 types of team play:

    One where my team goes exploring and challanges itself with all the new content. Random pvp(PK’ing/Gank’ing) also falls under this catagory and all of it only remains fun untill we feel like we have won.

    The other type of team play is about becoming better(improving your skills as a team) so that one day you can win and claim to be the best, this one last longer and can be compared to leveling.

    sorry if my point is unclear but english is hard when you are sleepy.

  • I loved challenges. In EQ my little premade group use to travel around and find raid content we could do with 5 people. It had nothing to do with levels or gear, just overcoming the odds.

    Clearing Plane of Fear with 5 people was one of my most enjoyable momments. We would sit together in RogerWilco and discuss what we could do for a challenge. We had some of the best gear and of course max level.

    It was absolutely the most amazing thing to play the game for the challenge, not the digital rewards.

    I miss that. Games now use the gear as the carrot to get people to play content. I preferred when the game was more about the challenge, and the gear was just a tool to get there. We didn’t kill Avatar of War for his gear, though it was good, we killed him because he was a challenge.

  • Definitely leveling,grouping for dungeons crawl or exploring with guildies is the most fun part.Devs always say that the game start at end game.Unfotunately it’s where everything stops for me after running the same instances for weeks.

    I’m looking for a game which can blend both vertical and horizontal progression which will make me want to log to play.

  • Wouldn’t be leveling for me. That is actually a tough question. I like choices and decisions, along with the dynamic/growing content that MMO’s offer.

  • Leveing up is a biggie for me too – it gives you something to aim for and a goal to achieve. Plus, they are usually a lot more manageable in terms of time. Like I could play a MMORPG – any one, including EQ – and make some experience in an hour or two whereas something like a raid usually takes a good 4-5 hours. I find that too much for me.

    I also really enjoy the social aspect of the games. Chatting to people, grouping, doing open dungeons. It’s a big draw to me too.

  • Something I would really like to see is sort of a lateral character progression. DFO and MO sort of have this. A character made on day 1 can group and be productive along side someone who has been playing for 12 months.

    Still have character progression, but this would focus the game more on “fun” rather than, get the next level to get to the next dungeon to get the next level.

  • I love that it’s a nearly entirely new field in which the rules are still being written.

    I love the idea of problems being posed to groups of players — either structured groups, like raids or guilds, or groups of players motivated by an unseen hand of the market, incentives, or outright fun.

    I like the ever-present possibility of emergent gameplay, where something happens because of the design of the system that no one could have expected.

    And most of all, I love the potential for wonder, the sense of amazement and awe that these games bring.

  • Leveling is a mixed bag for me. Normally I hate it beyond hate. I hate it because for me changing some text, sprinkling in some lore/story doesn’t change the fact I still have to go kill 10 of these, then you send me back to the exact same spot to kill 10 of something else.

    BUT…. I did just finish the WotLK death knight quests and that was the most fun I have EVER had leveling. And that was an example where even though I had to “kill 10 citizens” it really didn’t feel like the other quests. I was immersed in the entire death knight storyline.

    BUT… I then had to go to BC to lvl him up from 60-70 and I haven’t logged since. I hate having to rerun the same stupid content with another character when I have already done X times before.

    The new WoW patch may let me give it another try thou. The thought I can level in PvP will give me that option as well as PUG some dungeons. So we shall see.

  • I like the pickup experience, not so much levelling itself. A good game to me has a lot of events you can do pickup with strangers. If it’s a game where you have to have static groups simply because it’s too difficult to trust random people, I dislike it.

    I think the best thing for me would be pickup large scale events, where you can hop in and work on the large scale to fulfill a goal co-operatively with many people.

  • I liked leveling for the first time in WOW, it felt like an adventure. The quests were pretty good. I like questing when it doesn’t feel like your questing; I like when it feels like your actually part of a story. My favorites now are the phasing quests in WOW, it felt like you actually changed the world around you, I wish they had something like that in Warhammer, unfortunatley it would proabably be bugged and never work right.

  • So here are some things in my MMO history that have stuck out and should be duplicated.

    In no particular order off the top of my head.

    1. When Kazzah got into Stormwind. How freaking cool was that. Watching the video on that had me so fired up. Really felt the world was alive and dangerous. And WTH don’t more MMO’s allow these awesome random encounters to happen more.

    2. WAR public quests that pit both sides against each other. The chapter where Order and Destruction had to pass through a hole in the wall to get to enemy was a perfect MMO PvP experience IMO.

    3. WW2 Online: Real world protecting spots that you could see lost on a map gave me a real feeling of zone domination. Add dogfighting with real folks overhead and looking through binoculars to see enemy tanks heading in was an amazing experience.

    4. Wow AV original battleground. Before it was a race to kill the general, some amazing battles where you tried to collect stuff to level the NPCs while fighting, while sneak attacking…it was just good. It had a real EPIC battle feel to me and when you won it felt bad arse.

    5. Any 40 man dungeon where you did win. Yes it was a Pain in the arse to get 40 folks to work together, but when it did it was very satisfying.

    6. WotLK Voice acting. It’s time to drop the bubble text on NPC’s.

  • My favorite aspects of the MMO genre are without a doubt the sense of vastness. I can remember my first experience in an MMO was in WW2 Online and when I first connected I found myself watching a bunch of tanks and trucks move towards a enemy town. I was so amazed that real players were all working together in 3D (versus RTS games I had played in the past.)

    It was simply breathtaking and will never forget that experience. My second most heartfelt moment in gaming was in SWG. I really didn’t want to ruin my thought of the Star Wars universe so I withheld urges to play for a couple months. I said what the heck and bought the game though, and upon loading into Tatooine, I realized that this game had me sold. I quickly ran into the desert and spent weeks and weeks real life time just exploring on my own. I found a Wookie in the desert randomly harvesting beetles and decided to team up with him. We would spend countless hours talking and telling stories. I went from theoretical “noob farmboy” to getting one of the first jedi on our server. The experience will never leave me as I miss SWG to this day and count it as the best MMO I have ever played.

  • My favorite is dynamic fights like in DAOC. My second favorite part isn’t so much leveling, but the process of earning new abilities such as DAOCs realm points setup.

  • The fondest memories of MMOs comes from grouping with others, for better or for worse. If i try to remember something it’s always grouping.

    Not the end-game loot groups, but the ones going through for example Spindelhalla, Dartmoor in Daoc; Maraudon, ST in WoW (for some reason Redridge mountains and the orc fort comes to mind as well as the fort in Arathi).

    Yeah, leveling up was always the most fun. Getting new abilities, being psyched about getting to use them and feeling the huge difference they did to your gameplay (not the ‘+0.01% to X’ crap, but like when you get certain talents or abilities for the first time).

    The Keep raids in DAOC i remember fondly. i still remember my heart racing as i ran around with my level 39 cleric healing level 50s, blasting off my aoes to try to uncover stealthers. man that was fun.

    PvPing as Horde in Duskwood was an amazing experience too – before the battlegrounds came in, and you had to work hard for your HKs. stealthing around stabbing gnomes. then getting blasted by a lvl 60.

  • If you want to make an MMORPG where the leveling up never ends, you just need to make the entire focus of the game for the player to die.


    Like, the higher level you are and better gear you have when you choose to sacrifice yourself, the more honor points you get or whatever.

  • It’s hard to describe, but I think it’s ‘mystery’. I judge it this way: when I know what the optimal choices are, the optimal things to do, then … I generally lose interest. It’s like reading a complete walkthrough for a game; afterward you feel like there’s no more point anymore. I like learning, exploring, figuring things out, and generally experiencing the game rather than calculating the best outcomes.

  • Quite simply, i loved levelling up in DF, in DAoC. From the entry mobs at 20 right the way down to the mobs that required a full group just the pass.

    In my whole time in DAoC the thing i had most desire to achieve was to see legion in the flesh – it never came to fruition but that goal kept me going a long time!

    Of coure i cant talk about DAoC without talking about PvP, and for me (and my Hunter)the feeling of a Relic raids have never been rivaled anywhere else! Being a Midgard player this usually meant defending but when your sat on at the top of a keep wall facing upwards of 100 players there was definitely no better place to be! And i truly miss that element in today’s MMO’s

  • I would probally have to say hanging out with friends or clan events.

    Without these 2 vital things I think that they would be a boring place to be. After all player interaction is the aim of the game.

    Questing is fun too 🙂

  • To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women !

  • Let’s go way way way back to the original Everquest. I loved the people I met along the way. I played on the VZ server which was team PVP. The community was great back then. The game was rather difficult and there were consequences (should we go deeper into Guk? Who is going to do corpse retrieval?) It was very exciting and I have never been able to get that feeling back with any of the other MMO’s that I have played so I quit playing them.

  • I love group based PvE content. For now that is WoW endgame raiding but I also enjoyed running instances while leveling up with others at an appropriate level for the content.

    Also, SW:TOR says hi Keen. From what you and Bioware have said, it will be as close to your perfect MMO as has been made so far.

  • For me it’s the leveling/building a character. And this is why I never bother getting a character to the ‘end game’ of most games. Instead, I’m much more likely to re-roll an alt to build them up.

    Once the curve gets bad enough that I see very little progression (level, gear, skills, etc), then I usually get bored of that character.

    I also enjoy some of the challenges that have been self imposed. Back in EQoA, we started a guild spin-off called Vertically Challenged. We enforced a level 20 policy of all Gnomes and Dwarves. Then we would take on the level 25-30 content 😉 Ahh, that was a blast 🙂

    Long term time commitments (raiding for instance) just don’t work for me. I also need to walk away from the keyboard at a moments notice, so I don’t like forcing groups/raids to stop if I go afk.

  • PvP. Hands down. I love fighting outnumbered battles. I love pitting my skills against other players. I enjoy the conflict, and the test. No scripted encounter will ever provide as much of a challenge as the unpredictible nature of another human being. There is no surprise in fighting NPCs, in time, it all becomes expected. Leveling and progression are fun, and can be entertaining, but it’s a side dish to the main course for me.

  • My favorite experience of all time in any MMO has got to be setting ambushes in WAR, regardless of level. I absolutely love getting my group to hide somewhere, waiting nervously for the enemy to pass (please, please, please don’t look this way), and counting 1-2-3 GO! Kill the healers!

    Once your group gets a synergy and trust going, even when outnumbered, you can become a force to be reckoned with… And hopefully a name that they will learn to fear.

    Am I a bad person?

    Small-scale open RvR with a tight little posse if definitely my thing.

  • @Keen

    I know what you are talking about, and I agree about it being one of the best things about MMOs. I wonder if it is not more of an artifact of the infancy of the genre. These days we have all these websites and such, and while they are useful they take away from that sense of exploration that we used to have in this genre.

    The other thing is that we have learned many of the tricks of the genre. You talked about that shield that you wanted, I think there are things like that in current MMOs, but we do not go to get them because we know that the time spent getting them would be ‘better’ spent just leveling up. I put “better” in quotes because it is about the perceptions of the player. We have become less focused on the world around us in these games and more focused on how strong our characters are. The game, as you learn more about it, becomes an exercise in efficiency instead of a question of how to have the most fun.

    People don’t ask “What is the most fun class to play?” or “Where is the most fun/interesting place to level up?” They ask “What is the most powerful class?” “Where is the most efficient place to level up?” I think it’s less a problem with the games themselves, and more with the attitudes of the players.

  • Years before I played online games, I embraced the idea of evolving my characters in table top games that were organized to become epic; campaigns that never truly ended. Back then, it wasn’t the game, but the organizer who swept up a group of dedicated gamers into a role-playing experience that allowed them to become epic and make their mark on their personal game worlds.

    The idea that my actions can effect the surroundings, carve out some notoriety, and gain the respect of my fellow team mates (either on a group level or on a server level) is still something I seem to gravitate towards. These days the “epic” challenges that seem to be the ideal place to make one’s name known seem to always be focused on the “end game”. So for me, the rest of the game is diminished and very much on a rail with repetitive tasks just intended to put off end game for those not dedicated enough to complete them as efficiently as possible.

    The only thing I embrace in the leveling process is the cohesiveness of new people I meet and their ability to excel in their chosen profession; in that they do their role so well and contribute to getting to the “end game” efficiently. Once out of PvE, if like-minded, PvP challenges and facing adversaries of greater skill and adaptiveness galvanize friendships and camaraderie into an even more efficient killing machine. It is at those heights, under pressure, against the odds, that team tactics vs. humans instead of computer generated foes I find the most rewarding experiences. It pits minds vs. minds, which takes the rail of leveling out of the equation and reanimates true challenges that I enjoy playing over and over.

    A sense of community and duty towards that community is also epic. I have seen the worst players become the best organizers, or the best at sorting out communications between guilds, or “insert any other talent” make or break individuals and their embrace in a game. To me, the epic comes from the players as they inject a game into something just beyond the means to a goal.

    The best example I can give would be back in the days when I played DAOC. Hardcore PvP players on my server made up about 20% of the population. The other 80% were role-players. The guilds and alliances had to work together as one to take on the other realms as a single force to be reckoned with. It meant constant compromise, constant upkeep in communications, and epic turn-outs and organization to orchestrate. People had a strong sense of community, and even if they sucked at some aspect of the game, they felt that their participation made an impact, and made a difference.

  • Firstly, what I enjoy about MMORPG’s is small group PvP versus challenging opponents.The exact kind that was instigated by Daoc 8vs8.

    Coming in at a very close second place is sitting down and going through my stash of items and trying to figure out which is the best to equip, along with looking good and hard at my Skill/Talent spec and deciding what suites my gameplay the best and makes my char the best at what he does.

  • What makes leveling up in an MMO more enjoyable than leveling up in a single-player RPG? I guess it’s leveling up in what can be a living world, or leveling up in competition with other players (like while doing RvR in WAR).

    But still, it seems like the only “advantage” MMOs have over single-player RPGs in Keen’s “leveling is best” paradigm is that they take longer to get to the level cap.