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Why Are Our Gameplay Options Being Taken Away in MMORPGs?

Yesterday’s topic about solo content missing from EQ was part of a bigger discussion I had with an EQ veteran friend. While trying to figure out why the devs removed the solo content from the game, we started discussing MMORPGs in general, and why devs don’t give people more leveling options in general.

A game like EQ is predominantly group-based experience to level up. Can you technically solo? Yes, but at a severe disadvantage in almost every case.

WoW is a game where you quest to level up. Can you still monsters for experience? Yes, but at a severely impractical rate. Interestingly, like EQ, the WoW devs changed the game. I remember playing in the first few months of launch and getting most of my experience 40-60 from grinding mobs. In fact, on more than one server I was the first level 60 Hunter and I made most of my experience from grinding — 55-60 was at these ghosts in the winter zone. It was mind-numbing, but it was efficient.

Why not let the player decide? If I’m playing a MMORPG and I want to solo, let me have my solo options. If I would rather group then give me options for grouping. If I want to hunt for treasure instead then let that be an option. Maybe have hunting for treasure come at a cost of no experience, but make it an option; Just throwing out thoughts.

I would like MMOs to be about options and open-ended choices for adventure. All of the ‘greats’ in MMO history were full of openness and choice. UO was a sandbox world without rules or expectations. There wasn’t a “this is what we should all be doing to advance” mindset. SWG let you choose a vocation and build houses, craft weapons, or hunt krayt dragons. EQ, to a much lesser extent than the aforementioned sandboxes, still let you choose a path of leveling and playing your way.

Instead of asking “is is possible” to give players the freedom to play how they want — since we know it has been done — I want to ask “why” isn’t it being done anymore. Why do you guys think our options are being taken away? Too much work to get right? Bucks the themepark trend? Too niche? I’m curious what you think is the reason, and whether or not you even want choices in your MMOs.

  • WoW does allow players to level with pet battles, gathering and archeology. But as you mentioned removed grinding experience. What’s the difference?

    A few things makes me things its about the standing still:
    – The old Vanilla grinding spots, were high density melee only mobs. Like the camps in WPL. Giving that style of play the same weight as questing and the other methods, encourages less variety and more contention.
    – WoD added objectives. So you can wander the zones and just kill mobs, but only once per Objective. So no real grinding.
    – They added phasing (and refined it over the years) to make areas seem more alive (at least that’s what I remember as one of the claims). But you only see people passing through questing/gathering/Objectives, not parked in one spot.
    – Even with this expansion having SO much stuff to do (Suramar, World Quests, Class Halls, LFR, etc) I still ended up with 7 level 110s with almost all of them up to 880-ish gear, and STILL having “nothing” to do the past few months. I think they lean towards repeatable content more sophisticated than straight grinding. Because the more “objectives” (real or imagined) they can engage the user with, will likely keep them subscribed for longer. But that means leaving the grinders behind.

    I think that the grinding life is legit. Personally I’m less of a fan of it in MMOs. Wasn’t a fan in EQ, and didn’t enjoy it too much in WoW Vanilla. That’s why I’m playing Path of Exile while waiting for 7.3. If I want to mow down tons of mobs to level up and gear several toons, I’m going to do it in a game specifically designed for that.

  • FFXIV is similar in that mob XP is minimal at best and questing/FATE/dungeons are your best xp. What it means is that people are never out in the world to simply kill mobs — they only kill mobs when there’s a reason to — IE, a quest.

    Hopefully the devs don’t wonder why so many areas in their zones aren’t used and why certain mobs are rarely, if ever, killed. It seems pretty obvious to me….

    • Yeah, that’s a sad consequence of the progression-based content systems in Themeparks. Once you progress out of a zone, you never go back. I think of all the dead, lifeless zones in WoW and it’s sad.

      • As an example…. I’m currently doing daily kill quests as a leveling feature. The kills themselves though. . . Yikes! The quest is simply to kill 3 mobs. 1600 xp for the 1st, 1830 for the second, and 1897 for the 3rd, due to a “chain bonus” for killing them in rapid succession. And then 124,740 xp for the actual quest completion. And I need 6,995,000 for the level, so…. yeah, if I was just grinding mobs, that would take a while.

        The saving grace is that you pick up 15 such kill quests and they only take about a half hour to do and are worth just shy of 2 million XP in total, so it’s actually fairly efficient toward leveling after all, just not from the actual kills 🙁

  • For some reason I can’t fathom, these days almost all MMO developers seem to have an extreme dislike of players leveling up just by killing things. I think it’s a hangover from the days when that was often perceived as the only way you could level efficiently, and also because it’s seen as a “non-Western” approach. I agree with you – we should have the choice.

    It’s definitely not accidental, though. I can think of several occasions where mainstream MMOs have significantly reduced per-kill xp with the direct intent of making it less attractive as a means of leveling. Can’t think of a single example where per-kill xp was increased to encourage that style of gameplay.

  • I think it is all a matter of control. It is easier to focus on one path and exercise control over that path in order to make sure things are balanced. The more options you give players the more difficult it becomes to achieve an overall balance. This is just the normal trend in MMOs where designers take away choices from players and where they dictate how a game is supposed to be enjoyed. At some point, games end up being “overdesigned”…