Tuesday, July 25, 2006

On MMORPG "endgames"

The WoW endgame was the whole point, or so they said before the game released. The idea was, yes you take a long time to reach max level, but once you do that's when the huge majority of the game opens up to you. It sounded fishy at the time and from what I've heard here and there, it indeed is.

I mean, if someone reaches 60, they're addicted to the grind. That's a new game waiting for them, one they likely don't want to play, and no one else can; another example is serious PvP in Guild Wars. It just doesn't make a lot of sense. Meanwhile, Spore will potentially allow you to jump to any game you want (presumably after reaching it once), if the latest e3 demo is any indication.

I'm very familiar with the whole issue as my brother is a record-setter for grinding (reached 60 in WoW far faster than anyone in his huge guild could name), and meanwhile I'm only about 4/5 max level in City of Heroes after more than 2 years (the general concensus among grinders being that it takes =< 2 months). I've concluded that, if you give someone a game and they play it to grind, it has to logically end or peter out somewhere, and then they're done with it, and they move on. This isn't necessarily a bad thing even for subscription-based games, as most people will eventually get bored of any game, and it adds a degree of predictability to when that occurs, allowing you to better plan your expansion release or whatever. But what you shouldn't do is presume you can add a bunch of content and say, "hey there's an endgame guys!" There's no such thing as an endgame to a grinder; make a game where the endgame is only accessible to grinders, and no one will ever stick around for the endgame.

Since non-grinders are likely on-staff saying, "yeah that endgame sounds sweet!", it gets implemented, but the target audience just doesn't want it, even if you hand it to them on a silver platter. This doesn't mean that nobody appreciates the endgame of a given MMORPG - in fact, a lot do - but from a cost/benefit point of view, you have to be extremely wary of working too much on content there, rather than making repeating the grind from level 1 increasingly rewarding, or moving on to a new game project.



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