Nothing and Everything as Endgame Content

I see more games trying to avoid having their earlier content become completely irrelevant while improving their endgame. You do this by having a version of the old content that scales to the new level cap; games without levels have this mostly baked right in anyway. Feel free to comment with your favorite game; World of Warcraft and The Lord of the Rings Online™ are the ones I know best for having another version of older dungeons available at the level cap. Borderlands had its own version: after you beat the game the second time, everything levels to the cap, from the final zone to the first skags.

City of Heroes took a different approach, and it seems to have worked against them from many players’ perspectives. Everything scales, and you can always drop back profitably, so every instance remains relevant as you level. Everything is endgame content and leveling content. Perhaps because of that, City of Heroes has never built much that is endgame content in name. A favorable interpretation is that very little is held back and hidden behind a grind; a less favorable interpretation is that there is little new to do at the cap, which quickly becomes “there is nothing to do at the cap.” Those who took the latter interpretation generally unsubscribed. The illusion of scarcity is an important marketing principle.

: Zubon

10 thoughts on “Nothing and Everything as Endgame Content”

  1. Whell we have heard how Guild Wars 2 will make it’s leveling content fun again even for higher level players.

    They “downscale” the player character. He remains his new powerfull skills, and his nice armor, but his character level will be lowered so that he will be powerful, yet not one-shotting the enemy which would make it dull and boring.

    I’m personally very enthousiastic about this. Not because this is what I will do when I get max level… but because I use to level faster then my real life friends who I play with and with this I can still adventure with them, without it being boring for both of us.

    I hated when my powerfull friend used to “guide” me through the world when I was low level and a noobie. It didn’t matter if I pressed a button or not, my friend could handle anything… It took away all the fun and excitement. With the new system this will be fixed.

    Also, you don’t have to get max level first, in order to replay some lower level content. While if you recycle low lvl dungeons for endgame… you still have to get at the endgame first… but what will you do if you are bored inbetween?

    If you don’t have a good system, to scale your character level with that of the content, then you’ll run into problems of “endgame content” everytime you raise a level cap.

    Aion was lacking endgame content for example, and it has no scaling of your powers with lower level content. Because of that people were furious when they announced that the next “content” will actually increase level cap… making the current “end game content” irrelevant again…

    So I think, you need a system that scales your powers with the content you have (leveling content you might missed out on and want to go back again, or to help friends). Without using that as an excuse not to have real endgame content at max level. And no, that’s still not enough. I think the real key to success is to make sure your game has a high replay value. Making it highly alt-friendly is a huge factor in that for me.

  2. Guild Wars still has a special place in my heart for arbitrarily setting a “low” level cap of 20 to stab dead the endless level inflation grind, and prove that level caps mean essentially nothing, the game goes on before and after.

    Seems to have not worked out so well for them either – player perception has been permanently influenced by other games they play, since they’re going back to level 80 for GW2.

    What Guild Wars did do was incorporate hard-mode to re-use old mission content. All the mobs scale UP to (and over) the max level. Essentially making all the activities past level 20, and you get to the cap in a couple hours or days, endgame.

    And boy, do they have a lot of endgame content variation. Story missions, challenge missions, PvP minigames, vanquish (or the infamous ‘defeat all’ from a City of Heroes standpoint – an aside, I find it hilarious that one player culture can create an obsession about vanquishing, while another loathes being asked to get every single last mob), dungeons, achievement grinds, other minigames which set your skillbars in a preset deck format and offer a PvE challenge, etc.

    1. I did not say there was no grind, just that there is not much at the end of it.

      There are a few pieces of “50 only” content and some restricted to 45-50. There is far more low- and mid-level content, and CoX adds more in that lower range where other games add another endgame dungeon. See Striga Isle, Croatoa, New Faultline, The Hollows, or Going Rogue. Other content is available at all levels or starts low and extends into the end levels. You accumulate content as you level up, with the bulk in the middle levels, rather than “the game begins at 80.”

      City of Villains has a more even content spread with a higher percentage in the 40s. It is also possible that we did not play the same CoX; I remember how sparse some level ranges felt in the first months, so the experience changed quite a bit with the content additions of the first few years and the faster leveling of recent years.

  3. While it’s not an MMO, Muramasa (Wii) does this, but throughout the game. I found myself having to go back through an area I had passed many levels before for some objective I overlooked or to buy consumables. I assumed that the mobs would still be lower level and so I could just fly through with ease, but no go. They were actually scaled to the level I had reached by that time.

  4. I think it’s very tricky to achieve this in MMOs, no matter what road you take there are downsides. I’ve always been sad about leaving the old world in wow, then again I doubt people would’ve appreciated to run stratholme and co. forever. I actually believe the way blizzard is re-releasing some stuff in Cata might just be the right way, we’ll see.

  5. This is a big reason I still can’t get over DAoC. I love the PvP in that game, and you can take part in it from level 1. Plus, you gain experience from killing other players (and pve exp in pvp zones is doubled). Since the end game is RvR, you’re pretty much training for it from the get go.

    My question is, if I like that so much how come I don’t like WAR? I think the answer is that WAR had the auto join a BG button on their minimap from Day 1. You don’t need to see the world, you could level all the way to cap without seeing hardly any of the world. Whereas in DAoC, even if you went PvPing from level 1, you would have to leave the tutorial zone, and at least run around the starter town to find a Bard/Skald/Minstrel who gives speed buffs but also can teleport pre level 10 players to their respective BG.

    Of course there is no scaling down in DAoC (I think WAR has the chicken thing) for PvP or PvE, but, I think the subject is more along the lines of the first 40 levels of content becoming irrelevant (or first 70 levels or first 210, whatever) as opposed to scaling low level content for higher level players.

    End game is the ultimate goal in the MMO, you’ve got to have one, it’s got to be worth the trip, and you’ve got to tease your players with it as they level.

  6. “there is nothing to do at the cap”

    Sure there is. Play a new game. Nothing wrong with that unless the business model relies on subs and addiction to the endgame. :P

  7. “a less favorable interpretation is that there is little new to do at the cap, which quickly becomes “there is nothing to do at the cap.” Those who took the latter interpretation generally unsubscribed. The illusion of scarcity is an important marketing principle.”

    Another favourable interpretation is that CoX is more about the journey than the end, and very much an altoholics game :-)

    I’ve never played a single character more than a day or so beyond hitting level cap. To me End Game in Most MMO’s just means that rather than being on a Character Stats treadmill you’re now on a Gear Stats treadmill. I usually start over with a new character at that point or unsubscribe *shrug* I’m far from alone in that respect but you don’t see much blog posts from the people for whom End Game is ‘meh’.

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