Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Endgame or End of the Game?

As I wander the dank holes of the MMO blogoshpere or the rank holes of the many MMO forums that we all love to hate, I am constantly taken aback by the diverse prospectives of what an MMO or what it should be with regards to game progression. As I meander down the level progression of The Burning Crusade, no end of people whiz past me at full speed, desperate to reach 70 and begin enjoying the game again... or stop enjoying it again... So is an MMO about the journey or the destination?

I have always been an Endgame minded player. In EverQuest, it was hurry up and level, so that the fun could begin. The game began at the end so to speak. When I moved to World Of Warcraft, I did so with friends from my EQ days, and that mentality guided our actions from 1-59. I didn't bother enchanting good gear, knowing it wouldn't last more than a few levels. I abandoned green quests that would yield less then optimal experience, despite enjoying the quest chain to that point, and we skipped whole zones that our research indicated had a poor xp to effort ratio.

Personally, I enjoy the Warcraft endgame, but I attribute much of that enjoyment to my wife who raids alongside me, my guild who are both fun and successful, and to copious amounts of alcohol. I read a never ending stream of chatter about how boring the game is a 60, and I read those same sentiments back in EQ's heyday.

So now the chance to quest and enjoy comes along again, and the race is on to 70. Seems to me that the journey is just an annoyance that must be surpassed to reach the destination. Is this a result of faulty design synthesis, a loot based progression issue or is it just a symptom of a gaming population effected with engorged epeens? I made the conscious decision to enjoy each level on my way to 70, but I have the rare luxury of knowing that whenever I get there, raid content will be available to me quickly, and despite being weeks behind in the sub-raid instances, I will quickly pass all but the very best on my server.

Despite that, I really can't wait to get started. The first time you fight a Raid boss is magical. Much more so than killing 1o Bog Lords, and earning 10,000 XP. Seems to me that MMOs are about the Endgame, and I am simply trying to squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of the time before I get there, rather than the opposite.

In the end, it is somewhere between a design flaw and a gamer flaw. Devs have not forgotten the success of EverQuest, and that success was in large part attributed to the commitment of its raid population. Design for the people who pay the rent so to speak, and now those people dominate the industry and perpetuate those very same ideals when proposing new MMO concepts. We eat it up as consumers and the cycle begins anew.

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