Only the good stuff?

There’s always something in MMO’s that players, as a majority, do not enjoy doing.  Maybe it’s the leveling process or a skill grind.  The questions I want to pose to you today are: Should it be that way or can it be any other way?

Dark Age of Camelot serves as a great example.  The game can really be broken down into two components: PvE and PvP.  The PvE game took placealmost exclusively from the time the player starts their character up until reaching level 50.  At 50, players could then choose to jump entirely into PvP or mix the game up.  For those who were only into the PvP, leveling from 1-50 could be considered something that stood in the way of playing the game they would rather play.  However, what would DAOC have been like without the PvE?  I submit that it would not have been the same game at all and that even the PvP play would have suffered a detrimental alteration given that the PvP was heavily based upon your realm community which was built up by the PvE.

Darkfall, at least in the first few months after release (don’t attack me if it has changed), was heavily based on grinding skills.  The combat style was fun and the geopolitics made for some great gameplay, but the skill system stood in the way of that enjoyment for me.  If the skill grind had been removed and everyone placed on equal footing, I think I would have enjoyed the game a whole lot more.

World of Warcraft’s leveling process has always been fun for me–in some masochistic way–but i have to admit that the game, as it stands now, would not be altered greatly if the leveling were made optional and players could opt into starting right at the max level.

Should it be that way?  Should players be presented with ‘stuff’ they don’t want to do?  I think everyone would say that it shouldn’t be that way–that players should be able to enjoy every part of the game without the presence of a part they do not like stopping them.  Can it be done any other way?  I tend to think that, on the whole, games that shoot straight for giving players exactly what they want end up being shallower experiences.  Cutting out the fat takes away all the flavor.

After thinking back to the games you’ve played in the past, I would be interested in hearing your responses.  I tend to lean more towards the side that embraces, albeit after the fact, the harder parts or the parts that felt like they were standing in my way, hindering me from doing what I wanted to do.  I think it has made me appreciate those good parts even more, and in some cases been the foundation that gave those good parts their ability to exist.

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  • You can not please all the people.

    And:

    I reckon if you do both the not fun and the fun things, it makes the fun stuff that bit fun-ner.

  • I guess it’s the old question, What do you enjoy, the journey or the destination? I think there are people who want the destination, and that they shouldn’t be playing MMORPGs. There are RTSs and FPSs for people who want to cut out the journey. I think the problem is that they don’t always know that. Therefore, they view the rest of the content as impeding them, and as bad mechanics. Then they gripe about it until they get a nerf. I think (at the moment) that you can’t make both groups happy, without essentially creating two different games.

  • I enjoyed this about the SW:G (pre-NGE) skill system. It allowed you to develop you’re toon to fit your style. If you felt that you wanted a little more combat medic (or other FOTM), drop some skills and start grinding it out. Didn’t like Combat Medic when you started playing with those abilities? Then drop the skills, and start grinding dancer again.

  • Im a huge fan in how Asherons Call handles it. Becasue in that MMO its not about the level, levels only infer skills, and its not uncommon for a low level character with good skill to tackle harder monsters. After 11 years I still have yet to reach max level of 275.

  • I agree Keen. I think some of that “stuff” is also a big part of what makes a game feel like a real world. But, there are good implementations of the concept and bad ones.

    At this stage of my MMO “career” I would say I’d rather enjoy the journey at this point. I’ve got 2 max level characters in WoW that I do arena/BG PvP with every week with multiple specs. In previous expansions, I’ve done semi-hardcore raiding, etc. But, the reality is I think I’d rather be leveling. Although the WoW leveling experience is not doing it for me anymore for reasons I won’t go into depth on, except to say it is so fast and easy now I could do it in my sleep it seems.

    I’d love it if someone would design a game that had so much content I could never see it all or ever reach end game, or better yet, there is no end game.

    I don’t understand players who think the leveling process just gets in the way of the rest of the game. If you really feel that way, why are you playing an MMO? Why not play an FPS that has some character development aspects to it (like weapon certs or other upgrades)?

    However, when I was playing DAoC all I wanted to do was hit 50. But it wasn’t because I was sick and tired of leveling, it was because I wanted to be able to compete with everyone else out there in the frontier on a more level playing field. Then the realm point grind started. But, it didn’t feel like much of a grind at the time though because I was just PvPing and my character got better more as a side effect.

    I think that is one of the things that made DAoC such a great game for so long for me. I would do the occasional Darkness Falls or Trollheim raid, but mainly just hop on, kill some Hibs and Albs and then at the end of the day see if I had enough realm rank to buy some new abilities.

    It worked great.

  • I would like to see an MMO with a leveling system that emulates and prepares players for the end-game, and gives you many options on how to get there. PvE should always be an option, as should crafting and PvP. If I bought your game for PvP, it would be nice to level by doing PvP just as reliably as someone leveling through PvE. Ditto crafting. The path to the end-game should be somewhat akin to most single-player games: every once in a while a new mechanic comes into play that makes the game more challenging until you get to the last level, where they are all in place.

  • I like how the original Guild Wars gave you the option of starting a max level PvP only character, for those who feel that the leveling process is just in the way of getting to do PvP. If you choose to level a PvE character you’d have access to both PvE and PvP, a PvP character could of course not access PvE as it took a shortcut to max level. I hope GW2 will offer something similar for it’s competitive PvP part, but for World PvP (WvWvW) I hope and think it will be accessible only by PvE characters. Not that it’s a big issue though since you can go straight into WvW at level 1 and level your toon to levelcap doing nothing else but WvW if you so choose.

  • I don’t mind the journey to things, like grinding quests to max level in WoW. I don’t like doing it too many times, so if they let you get a max character after you already had a few that would be fine. But I think it also poses a problem for new players. Like in HoN as it is right now, if you are playing matchmaking at anywhere from 1400-1600 mmr and you dont have verified only enabled you will get matched with people that have no idea how to play the game. Where as in LoL at least you have to level up to get to an equal level as everyone else. You may not be good at the game, but at least you can play it.

  • I’d take issue with your characterization of DAOC. I played for about nine months from launch and the highest level any of my characters reached was 42. PvP became part of every day’s normal play at around level 20, which was how long it took before the first Albions reached our forests.

    The whole point of DAOC at that time was that no-one had to level up to max before they could play their part in defending the realm. When the alarm sounded, everyone dropped what they were doing and headed towards the sound of battle.

    Maybe that changed later on. I left before the first expansion and have never returned. It certainly proved to me while I was there that it’s entirely possible to have a mixed PvE/PvP environment that works for both playstyles at all levels though.

  • For me, part of the fun of the game is to have things to do that feel like I’m accomplishing something worthwhile. The leveling grind may be repetitive, but it did give me something at least somewhat entertaining to do with the added benefit of looking forward to having another level 80 character.

    Imagine if the levelling and gear grind were gone. All there is to do is run instances/raid/pvp just for the fun. From a pve standpoint, there would have to be a ridiculous amount of new innovative content coming out to keep you interested for any extended period of time. For pvp, without advancement, the only real lasting quality is playing for ranking?

    Not to say that the game isn’t fun on it’s own without the facets of advancement, but I simply don’t see them lasting for extended periods of time. Everyone has gotten to the point in a game like WoW, where your main is in the “raid only” mode. What do most people who have extra gaming time do? They level alts. If geared 80 alts were handed to you, I imagine all that would happen is you’d cycle through all of them in very little time.

    Long story short, I believe one of the things that makes an mmo unique is the amount of things you can do/accomplish. A game like DAOC or WoW would lose a lot of it’s long term playability. A 5 month casual jaunt through WoW to experience all the content from start to finish suddenly turns into 3 weeks with little to no replay value. I agree that fun should always be the goal, but I think a lot of people with large amounts of gaming time will agree that often, having something to work towards/be excited about earning is a pretty good substitute. I just don’t see the MMO genre in particular being able to hold interest for extended periods of time without advancement.

  • Its like a good shit, its better when its been crammed up their for a little and waiting to burst out.

    A game also has to know what it is. Shadowbane was a PvP so it made leveling very fast, gave you tons of things to experiment with, and let you get into the fun fast.

    Darkfall however, yeh well you pretty much explained it.

    A game needs to know what it is and how its parts fit together. Look at WAR and all the horrible things it tried to shove together. Its like some built a car by putting a Mini cooper engine on a Ferrari with offroad tires.

  • What I believe Blizzard should try, they can easily afford to do it, is introduce a server all about conquest and with no connection to BGs or arenas. PvP is strictly out in the world. Plus open dungeons and raid zones where horde and alliance factions have to gain control of through conquest of disputed areas to access them. In other words what I have always read and heard people describe DAOC was like though I never really got into. In fact a huge world like Warcraft with a client with fairly low hardware requirements to run would be perfect for it.

    I suppose what I am getting at is for blizzard to experiment a bit since reports are coming out how the game is losing subscribers. In fact other type of niche “rule sets” – sorry if I am using the term incorrectly – servers at this time should be introduced. They have the liquidity to do so. They can and should put together some servers that have some imagination to them. Activision/blizzard wants a broader base is what they always say. Then put out a few servers that would appeal to niche but, good sized crowds by altering the “rule sets”. Make it so these servers do not allow for transfer of characters to protect the other status quo servers. The client is so malleable they should just go for it. Have a conquest server where the end game means taking all of the enemy territory and the last capital city has fallen means the server name is retired. And a new server is introduced.

    They have the money and they have the technology; just need to use their imagination.

  • In an MMO I want some attachment to my character. In order to get it I need to go thru some hardships, some stories, some experiences. It’s unfortunate that some people refer to those experiences as ‘grinds’ and, indeed, the developers should try and implement these experiences in such a way so players get immersed instead of feeling that these ‘grinds’ are just obstacles in the way. But you have to have these obstacles otherwise it isn’t an MMO IMO, it’s just a group of instances that have no soul.

  • “I guess it’s the old question, What do you enjoy, the journey or the destination? I think there are people who want the destination, and that they shouldn’t be playing MMORPGs. There are RTSs and FPSs for people who want to cut out the journey…”

    I’m sorry to be harsh, but this attitude is as common as it is infuriatingly condescending. I’ve had a roughly 700 hour journey of honing my skill and learning the ins and outs of classes, maps, and everything else in TF2, not to mention all the multi-year undertakings I’ve pursued outside gaming. Don’t try to tell me that I’m somehow short on patience, when I bridle at being forced into doing hundreds of hours of mindless chores in an MMO.

    To me, the journey is important because and when it’s self directed – moreover, vital, engaged, and *free*. There is no joy in stopping to smell the roses when you are forced to stop and smell 10 daisies, then you are required to stop and smell 10 tulips… Until eventually someone tells you to stop and smell roses over and over again at endgame.

    What I ask for from a game is that the arc of achievement and progress is something that happens to me as a player, not something that I’m told happens to my character. I believe the best way to achieve this is through horizontal advancement, since this allows the character’s growth in power to mirror the player’s ever-growing grasp of their character’s expanding potential.

    In short, and to answer the OP – the problem isn’t that you’re required to do “the bad stuff” before you get the good stuff – it’s that “the bad stuff” is often either unrelated to the good stuff, or such mindless busywork that it’s simply not enjoyable.

    There are ways to give players a feeling of achievement and progression while still keeping them engaged and challenged the whole time.

  • Things I love about MMO’s:
    EXPLORATION with an endless sense of new places to discover in a HUGE world
    Character progression
    Phat loots
    a robust character system, i.e. Rift or Asherons Call
    player housing (not EQ2 style either)

    Things I loathe about MMO’s:
    DAoC style zergfests in PvP (Milegate standoffs are the worst but any zerg vs zerg)
    Raiding (i.e. WoW style raiding, I actually love impromtu raids like Vanilla dragon raids)
    static boring quests
    Themepark style quest grinds
    crafting as the sole source of gear (DAoC and msot sandbox games)

    Ideally I want a game developed that implemented 99% of the features that was in the orginal Asheron’s call, but a more in depth melee combat sytem combing the elements of WoW and GW2, I would imagine a AC revamped to include WoW’s combat of tab targetting with its very high production quality and GW2 semi twitchy dodge combat system. Sue me I will always love the themepark tab target, hotbar combat system even though I despise 75% of the rest of the game.

    I truely love the random loot (albeit ‘smart’ loot system found in games like Diablo, AC, Fate, and Sacred) and I love the fact that in AC crafting is based 100% on upgrading, enchanting, tinkering of the smart loot system. Call me a monty hall type of player if you will but I love the fact that my next kill may net me the most awesomest rarest weapon or piece of the armor in the game.

    I also love a classless skill based character system akin to Asherons Call. Theres something I jsut love mixing and matching skills from different subsets to create the truely unique hybrid fighter/magic-user/thief characters that I always played way back when I was into the P&P RPG’s such as AD&D.

    The last thing I love is the ability to solo 90% of the content if played smart and with the right gear, the other 10% dedicated to small group content of players no more then 10 (ideally 9 such as the group composition of AC, which I felt was the best).

  • I think DAoC’s charm was it encouraged players… all players… to be in the Frontiers (PvP area) regardless if you wanted to PvP or PvE.

    You could PvE behind your huge walls or in a dungeon that was safe… or you could head out into the Frontier to exp which often times was better exp… so much better it was WORTH the risk of getting ganked.

    This funneled everyone into one area, regardless of the type of game they wanted to play, thus making both aspects MORE enjoyable. The fear of being ganked altered the way a PvE group did things and the knowledge that you could find a fight made small group to single person PvP viable at nearly all times of the day, and night.

  • edit* meant to add this *edit

    I think that was one of WAR’s major down falls, that and not a 3rd faction. In WAR you didn’t need to enter the PvP area unless you wanted to PvP. If someone was in the PvP lake they were their to fight. That made spontaneous encounters none existent.

  • Agreed, Keen. Condensing the MMO experience runs the risk of putting all of one’s eggs in one small basket, which is a bigger gamble. For instance, WAR’s ‘all war, all the time’ didn’t work out well and probably alienated a certain amount of players who enjoyed other aspects of MMOs. And even if you enjoyed ‘all war’, if that’s all you did, that can get quite repetitious.

    Also, the more condensed the MMO experience is, the less MMO-like it is. Lobby co-op games aren’t as interesting to me as MMO’s with a virtual world aspect, yet MMOs are becoming more like lobby co-op games that seek to make the game convenient.

    Think of how different open-world PvP is compared to instanced battlegrounds. Sure, there are times when open-world PvP doesn’t click, but I have far more great memories of when it did click compared to the dreary sameness of convenient and fair battlegrounds. Battlegrounds are an attempt to cut out anything but the convenient fun part, but, much like a kid who eats candy all day doesn’t appreciate candy, it takes out the unexpected thrills.