Tobold's Blog
Saturday, March 05, 2011
Thought for the Day: Buying blind?

Many of you commented the widely held belief that in a MMORPG there are two completely different games, the leveling game and the endgame, and that the leveling game "doesn't really matter". But if that is the case, the question arises on what basis we are buying a new MMORPG like Rift, when all the reviews only cover the leveling game. Are we buying our MMORPGs blind, knowing nothing about the really important second part of the game?
Yes, we are. One more reason to re-think the leveling+endgame model.
I enjoy the levelling game, I tend to get bored when I hit the level cap. I'm sure I can't be the only one?
You have that backwards, Tobold. It's the Endgame that doesn't really matter.

Levelling is all. Once that final number ticks up, that character takes a well-earned break and a new one steps out of the wings to begin his or her journey. The level-capped character remains semi-retired until the level cap increases, popping out now and again mostly to help his struggling lower-level friends.

Seriously, I haven't made any serious attempt to play the "endgame" of any of the many MMOS I've played over the many years I've been playing and I don't imagine I ever will. It's ALL about the levelling. If that ever drops out of MMOs then so will I.
You have that backwards, Tobold. It's the Endgame that doesn't really matter.

*I* don't have anything backwards, I was only rephrasing several of the comments of the previous thread. For me, the leveling game and the endgame are *both* valid. But I do question the wisdom to have them both in the same game. Why not have a game with just leveling, and another with just raiding?

As it is, what do you do if you prefer for example the leveling game of Rift, but find the endgame of WoW better?
Oh Tobold! Do I need to put a smiley face after every ironic comment? Of course I know YOU (Tobold) don't "have that backwards". I'm using an affectionate, tongue-in-cheek elision of "you" the author of the piece with the proposition you have restated from others for what I hoped would be comic effect.

It was entirely clear that "you" weren't nailing your colors to that mast but just running the flag up to see who saluted.

As for your question, I can't answer it. Since I never played an endgame I have no point of comparison. It's like asking someone who's happy driving their family saloon car on public roads how they think it would handle in Formula 1 Grand Prix. I.E. completely irrelevant.
I vehemently disagree with Bhagpuss and Maniac (well, in terms of modern MMOs where levelling and endgame are two different things. If they were one and the same I'd either hate the entire game or love it.)

The stupid bar that tells me how many arbitrary numbers of XP I've got is always, ALWAYS, beating me around the head, reminding me that a) I need to keep playing if I want to keep up with my friends/guildies, and b) that I can't access certain content until I reach arbitrary number Y (i.e. the level cap.)

I detest it. I can't work at my own pace because levelling isn't optional: either you have way less content to work with that's in your level range, or you level.

And, of course, I have no love for the journey. It's just not interesting. I'd much rather (and do, every day) read a book to get a sense of the journey that people have.

And, no, I'm not jumping for joy that TOR has an actual story when levelling. Because I hate the voice acting in BioWare games, and I hate being told what my story is. I'd rather make my own.

@Tobold: I wouldn't say we're totally buying blind. We've seen a few dungeons and what the combat system is like in the betas, and that's ample enough content for me to feel good about Rift.
We buy most games blind.

A review is only as good as the person writing it, and that person's ability to touch on things that you enjoy in your games. For example, I am the kind of gamer that will play a mediocre RPG if the plot is good/surprising/breaks new ground; this makes most RPG reviews fairly worthless to me.

If people buy MMOs for the leveling content, and get 30+ hours of enjoyment out of it, then that is usually a better value for their money than most other games. I do find such people curious insofar as it does not seem like they play an MMO for the MMO-ness, for lack of a better term. Then again, what does "MMO-ness" even mean, eh?
We are kinda expected to buy them blind. However nowadays I refuse to. Rift looked interesting in that final beta thingy, the only one I played. I'll wait a bit and then I'll frequent a forum to find out what the endgame is like. After that I will download the free trial and try it again to see whats changed since beta and to see what the actual community is like, because I guess it will be different from the beta-crowd. And as a free present I also find out if the game will fly at all after the first few months without burning myself.

The only downside will be that I will be behind the first wave of players and have to play catchup again. No problem.. I did that 2/3 of my WoW-time anyways and it provided an aditional layer of challenge.
It makes sense to concentrate on the levelling game for reviews - after all, everyone gets to play that, so if it's no fun what's the point of the game?

And if the levelling is fun but the endgame is bad, one can always simply quit and play something else.
Yes, we're buying blind.

And I'm perfectly fine with that.

If we enjoy the leveling experience, and not the end game, we can just drop the game when the first ends and the second begins.

Inherent in your question is the assumption that we'll become addicted and experience discomfort if we try to quit. If you're like that, I suggest getting experience breaking an addiction would be another benefit of playing the game.
Yes Buy it blind

I know there were naysayers when Wow came out talking about "gee how does this faction thing play different that EQ".

Well it did... and the End game and Leveling game are combined

Think of it you don't have to play all the way to max level for exciting "end game" things to happen. They are happening ALL THE TIME in Rift.

Happy Gaming
Yes. But does it matter?

Can always quit.
I for one would rather see an option: have the ability to create leveling characters OR max level end-game characters. So you could create a level one and enjoy the story, etc. and have the option of being able to play whatever you want for end game.

Perhaps only leveling characters would be allowed to have perks like mounts, pets, etc, or access to quests (other than raid/dungeon quests), while leveled characters would have full access to everything. I would have both leveled toons and end game "fast-tracked" ones in such a system.
Yeah we are buying blind. Its more... MMO companies don't know how to make good end game.

I grinding is just boring. Especially after the 20th time you've done it. The quests are so repetative, and the classes are so limited in customization that there's no joy in leveling. I used to enjoy it when it was about exploration and grouping and socializing, but that stopped around the time WoW became big.

Now end game... end game done right, like DAoC, is fantastic. End game done wrong... like EQ, WoW and all its clones.. well.. when will developers learn?
End game done wrong... like EQ, WoW and all its clones [...]


If WoW is "doing it wrong," there is not anyone in the industry capable of doing it right.

As for the "we'll just quit at endgame" talk, I suppose the point is that if the leveling game is the only good part... why was it made into an MMO in the first place? The only real difference between an MMORPG and a normal RPG is the former has a continuous endgame. If you are playing Rift solely for the leveling experience and whatever storyline is attached to your Kill X, Collect X, Fed-Ex X quests, then you may as well be playing anything else.
> The only real difference between an MMORPG and a normal RPG is

I thought the only difference betwee and RPG and an MMORPG is we play MMORPGs online with lots of other people. Isn't that what M.M.O.........
Bhagpuss's playstyle is so foreign to me that I really can't really comprehend it. I've yet to see an MMO whose leveling wasn't incredibly lame as a gaming experience. It's a limp, low budget grind fest. It's like being on a treadmill with a green screen. Sure, the background can be a jungle, or snow, or whatever you want. It's kill 10 foozles. Want story? Other games are way better at it. Want mindless fun? Angry Birds. Want action? God of War, Call of Duty, the list is endless of games that deliver a lot more fun. I just don't see anything in the leveling experience that isn't done way better as a matter of course in other genres.
I'm trying to figure out how you would make an "endgame only" MMO. Do you start off with the 20-30 abilites most classes seem to have by level cap? Do you create some tutorial dungeon that tries to teach you how to use your character? Can you run a 5 man dungeon where everyone is unfamiliar with how their character works? Do you bring back attunement chains? Do you try to add tradeskills to the mix, or is this all dungeon/raids all the time? Do talent points make sense if you have all of them at once? How many dungeons/raids would make a tier, and how many tiers can you have before it gets ridiculous?

See Call of Duty as a model for an end game only MMO. True, you do technically level, but a level 50 guy can and will get killed by a level one guy just easily as a level 10 guy or whoever. The only problem with this model is same problem that plagues MMOs--- MMOS have to appeal to our OCD tendencies to make people subscribe for a long time. People bitch about how FTP causes all kinds of un-fun stuff as companies try to extract money from you, but they don't seem to mind the way MMOs have to have some majority of content designed to suck players time with repetitive crap like daily quests, rep grinds, and stuff like that.

Basically you jump in and game with COD. Character progression just comes naturally. You can build character progression into game without making into the "two games" system... but you have a real problem with keeping people paying 15/month if you aren't tapping into people's OCD/pack rat tendencies.
I am not goint to buy Rift, so the question cannot be directed to me. I'm not buying Rift because I "beta tested" it and it was clear that Rift is another "Kill 10 foozles" game and it is a clone of WoW and Warhammer. I had enough of that thank you, I'll wait for a more fresh game design.
It always strikes me as strange that there are two different games in most MMO's.
But while it is possible to level using the group model and carry that over into 'endgame' for someone who enjoys the levelling by questing etc. experience there is nothing. Should a game company find a way of addressing this they will have a very sucessful MMO on their hands.
I'm buying and playing it for the levelling game. If I get several months out of it, as I'm expecting to, it's fantastic value for money. I spent almost as much money going to dinner and a movie this weekend and got far less entertainment out of it.

Simple equation: Dollars per hours of enjoyment. If you stop getting enjoyment out of it, stop spending dollars on it. It doesn't need to be made any more complex than that with people empire-building their little social constructs all over cyberspace. Few of them last. Who remembers geocities? The Squad Nuclear Slug forums, covering Half-Life 1 and counter-strike news?

Keep a core, central real life group of friends who you can engage in social interaction with, and drag them into these virtual worlds. Or use them as a means of staying in contact, always having the group riding the flavour of the month. (For the last five/six years... WoW. Tomorrow...?)
I bought Rift blind.

Rift as a leveling game has not proven very open; if I want to start a new character, I have my choice of but two starting zones. I've only leveled to 14 so far, but I haven't yet seen any opportunities to choose which zone I want to go to. It's all been a railroad. The random events the game provides (the rifts, invaders, footholds) don't necessarily follow through on the designers' promise to make each leveling experience unique, since there isn't a lot of variance within them. I certainly like the idea, but they don't change the world quite enough to change my experience.
I also love the levelling game. End-game is a grind to me, especially when all the work is lost after a gear reset. If the levelling content hooks me, I will endure the end-game because I've invested into my character.

Rather than making alts to avoid the end-game though, I would love to see a deeper world with more "horizontal" aspects to it, rather than the usual vertical gear climb.

Blind? The end-game is always blind -- after every patch and every expansion -- but also the same -- pvp, dailies, and raids.
Not everyone thinks the endgame is the most important part of the game. I know people who only level alts. Most MMO's are many games rolled into one (pvp, end game, rpg, leveling) so don't assume everyone is playing for the same content.
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