Saturday, June 20, 2009
Unbundling MMORPGs - Part 2
You probably guessed this was coming, the second part of my suggestion to unbundle parts of MMORPGs that don't really fit all that well together. In this part I'm going to talk about two very different games, the leveling game up to the level cap, and the raiding game at the level cap. There is an apparent advantage for somebody who likes the leveling game to have a raiding game at the level cap, because the alternative would be a game over screen. Even if you don't like raiding, it is still better to have the *choice* of restarting than to be forced to restart. But how about the other way around? There aren't really any advantages for somebody who wants to play only the raiding game to be forced to play the leveling game.
Some people claim that leveling is necessary to "learn your class". That is nonsense. If you want to see a good tutorial teaching somebody how to play his class, you just need to play the Death Knight starting area in World of Warcraft. At level 58 you know everything about Death Knights that can be taught solo. Level 1 to 54 for other classes, and 59 to 80 for everyone, don't serve any useful learning process. Most people level from 1 to 80 either completely alone, or they solo most of the time with only a few group dungeon encounters. That sort of gameplay isn't a good training for raid content at all. You can get to the level cap as a warrior without ever having touched the taunt button, so what good is that training?
And there is a big downside to being forced to level up all the way before you can raid: It prevents people from playing other classes. For example there is a notorious healer shortage in World of Warcraft. Now maybe there aren't all that many people who would like to heal in raids, but I'm certain there are some who wouldn't mind playing a healer in a raid, but can't stand leveling one up, because the healer is so bad at leveling. The people who *do* play raid healers usually leveled the character up with a non-healing spec, which puts another nail in the coffin of the "training" idea.
Why not create a pure raiding game with an extended tutorial? You create a character, and the tutorial has not only solo content, but also content with NPCs teaching you how to play your character in a group. After lets say 4 hours of tutorial, you can start raiding. As there are only dungeons and raids, there is no need for a huge open world to travel through, you just assemble the raid groups in a lobby. You can still have guilds, but pickup raids would be much easier to find too.
And in some aspects the people who like leveling would profit from a pure leveling game too. There would be no need to rush through it, if all there was at the end was a game over screen. And an expansion adding 10 more levels would actually make the game longer, and not like now shorten the lower level experience. There would be more people around at all the levels, making it easier to find groups for dungeons etc.
For game companies unbundling has the big advantage of being much cheaper. Assuming you don't have the same kind of money as Blizzard, your limited resources are spent better on a game that doesn't offer everything, but does do one thing extremely well. People would play a pure raiding game, but not necessarily another cheap WoW clone.