Tobold's Blog
Monday, September 26, 2005
 
Game Over

In a single-player computer game, once you've seen all the content and overcome all the challenges, you arrive at the "game over" screen. Nowadays thats more likely to be an epilogue movie, but the message remains the same: You've done it, you won, this round of the game is over, feel free to start again.

MMORPG, with their monthly subscription business model, have an interest in never letting the player know that the game is over. Not only do they not contain any game over screens or epilogue movies; they are also trying to hide the fact that you've seen all the content and overcome all the challenges. For that purpose they add silly challenges at the end, which are nearly impossible to beat: Organize raids in which only perfect coordination of 40 players can beat the final boss, kill 10,000 foozles for cash or faction, get the magic sword that only drops with 0.1% chance from a mob spawning only once per day, and fight the forever unwinnable PvP.

Of course that strategy doesn't really work. A few players rise to the new challenges, beat all of them, and demand more. But a larger number of players just gets increasingly frustrated. If you only have an hour or two to play, you can't organize or participate in a raid, or make any significant effort towards the other silly challenges. Like ghosts stuck in a limbo between life and death, many a high level player is stuck between having finished the game and getting the satisfaction of being told he won. Unsurprisingly all MMORPG's message boards show that the players most unhappy with the game are those that reached the highest level.

It would be better if a MMORPG on reaching the highest level sent you a clear "you won" message, and gave you "rewards" which are cleverly designed to make you play longer. Raids and PvP can stay, for those people who enjoy them. But other activities are needed for the more casual players. Starting over should be encouraged more, for example by having new character classes unlocked, like some console games do. Give players only the choice between the "pure" MMORPG archetypes for their first character, and on reaching the highest level with the first character, open up the "hybrid" character classes to play with a second character.

Another thing which would be a welcome reward for reaching the highest level would be an option to be able to diminish your level temporarily. So when some friends or guild mates of lower level want to group, you move a slider and reduce the level of your high-level character to that of your friends. Your spells and skills drop down to that of a character of that level, and even the stats of your equipment could be scaled down appropriately. This would make groups in which everybody has the same level much easier to form, and those are a lot more fun than a group accompanied by a single high-level character.

In the end, only adding content will make players happy. But giving the high level players more viable options to continue playing could certainly add to the longevity of a MMORPG.
Comments:
Hmm. Being able to restart your existing character as a level 1 with the other faction? A 60 NE rogue becomes a horde-aligned level 1 "Reformed Night Elf" Rogue. (Hehe. And if you make it to 60 there, you can re-re-align as an alliance-aligned "Reformed Night Elf".)
 
One such example of compulsory "playing again" is in CoH, where you can play unlocked archetypes once you hit 50.

There's also the /level command in DAoC which lets you knock out a level 20 alt once you hit 50 the first time.

This need can be fulfilled through more content alone. But the real question is why someone would want to force themselves to continue playing at all?

The monthly fee gives this impression that the game must be fun perpetually. Odd that, giving rise to all of those Exit Statements people like to right.

PLAYERS choose to pay multiples of the basic box fee over many years of play, even in those games obviously not designed for it.

WoW has more linearity to it than many MMORPGs. There is an end. It's PLAYERS that choose whether to Raid to incrementally increase their gear and therefore their prowess in advance of the next challenge.
 
Of course it is the players that chose to continue playing or not. But they should have more viable choices. Right now, if you enjoyed leveling 1 to 60, but don't enjoy the radically different raid game, your only option is to restart from zero, just eased by some twinking.

I like the "reformed night elf" idea, because it opens the quest content of the other side to you. But they would need to add a new newbie zone for the "reformed" people on each side.
 
Another thing which would be a welcome reward for reaching the highest level would be an option to be able to diminish your level temporarily. So when some friends or guild mates of lower level want to group, you move a slider and reduce the level of your high-level character to that of your friends. Your spells and skills drop down to that of a character of that level, and even the stats of your equipment could be scaled down appropriately. This would make groups in which everybody has the same level much easier to form, and those are a lot more fun than a group accompanied by a single high-level character.

You just exactly described the mentoring system available in Everquest2. A player of sufficiently higher level can "Mentor down" and help out a friend to level up. The mentoree gets a 5% XP bonus, and the mentor approaches all battles as if he is the lower level person.

The only thing is this is not a reward for reacing maximum level; a level 20 person can do this for, say, a level 5 friend.

The system works almost flawlessly. One minor problem being the need to redo your hotbars as you lose you higher-level spells and instead have to rely on the older ones appropriate to your new, temporary level.
 
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