The Thrill of the Kill

It’s late.  My eyes blur with the monitors haze, and the repetitious attempts have long since morphed me into an automaton.  At my side, my wife Abryn is slumped in her desk chair, posture sagging even as her eyes remain fixed on the life bars of our companions.

Months of attunement, back-flagging, farming, and hour after hour of failure at the same critical juncture in the encounter.    It seems so simple, yet so impossibly complex at the same time, and frustrations abound, as we continue to throw ourselves against the same brick wall.

That juncture comes and goes, and the raid is fighting on…

I snap to attention as a rush of adrenaline pours through my veins.   My heart is thumping wildly, and on Ventrilo, the raid leader calmly reminds everyone to remain focused.   A quiver can be heard in his voice, and I know he is feeling as I do.   I glance to my left, and Abryn’s eyes are starring daggers at her screen, traces of her malaise all but vanished as we press on…

Heartbeat pounding in my chest, palms sweating, stress building as the fight wages on, but the team has never responded so dynamically.  Ventrilo explodes with cheers of elation, and Abryn and I shout aloud as one; the boss has fallen.

I play MMOs for those moments.   There is so much that is wrong with the current state of the MMO endgame, but when all is said and done, I continue to slog through the endless cycle of farm, wipe, farm, wipe in search of the high that only comes from the thrill of that first boss kill.

The key to unlocking the kingdom of MMO greatness is the moment a studio can design an endgame that provides the same level of accomplishment as I experience in those sacred moments, for all of the residents of its world.  

Vanguard had their Diplomacy, but in the broken state of the world, we’ll never know the success that could have embodied.   Blizzard has developed the PvP game, however it is wholly a game of repetition and numbers, and is not accompanied with the same feeling of conquest and victory.   Other games seek to address the issue in various ways, but the general consensus seems to indicate we face more of the same, and those precious thrills are reserved for a small fraction of the population.

What does your ideal endgame look like? 


9 thoughts on “The Thrill of the Kill”

  1. I think Blizzard had a very, very good shot at creating not an *ideal* endgame, but at least a very engaging one.

    But at some point, however, they fell for mistaking complexity with complication. Somehow, apparently, jumping through tons of hoops to get properly ‘keyed’ for instances, the need to have some pre-raid farming time for consumables for some encounters and how inaccessible some high end content really is (when you think about it realistically from a player perspective)… somehow all that is a-ok, and if you do that you’re hardcore, and if you don’t you’re not.

    Goes back to the stupid concept/mantra we’re still carrying for some godawful reason that ties being ‘hardcore’ with the conquest of obfuscation, not of difficulty.

    Remember when we could tell good players by how well they played the game? Now the good players, those that get to the very end, push the game, and end up mastering it do so by overcoming design obfuscation, and not game difficulty.

    Now? Getting to the top of the PvP food pyramid doesn’t mean you are the most skilled, just that you had the most time and patience. Mastering the PvE game, in a vast majority of cases is half being reasonably decent at what you do, and half having the time to jump through all the artificial logistics hoops to even access the encounter.

    I still don’t believe, and haven’t been convinced, of the reason for the endgame to be a select club of the top percentiles. In the case of Blizzard and WoW, I think that was one of their few, but biggest mistakes: To lock up the endgame and make it realistically inaccessible to the vast majority of the playerbase.

    Note that I’m not talking about the difficulty of that endgame. Merely the chance for any player to partake in it. They could keep the encounters the same, or they could even tune them down or up accordingly, that’s fine. But, had they kept their endgame (in general) as accessible as any vanilla 5-man they have, would hell have frozen over? Would the game have been broken utterly?

    Personally, I don’t think so. But hey, as long as we keep thinking that designing obfuscation is good, this is what we’ll have.

    Every other damn genre pretty much goes out of their way for its players to see all the game has to offer. Except MMOs. When it comes to MMOs, we’re designing obfuscation and roadblocks built right in. Because I imagine at some point, someone thought that the best way to keep players engaged and playing your game, paying you month after month, was to piss them off regularly.

    “Oh, but if we don’t put roadblocks and make it hard, then people are going to level up and get bored quickly! They’ll leave!”. Hogwash. Make sure your players are having *fun* with the game, and they won’t leave. Why would they leave what’s fun?

    WoW had a fun game from 1-59, then they chucked it all away. Yet, people still play it in droves, so I must not be entirely correct.

  2. Strange that you grab this topic at this moment. I’ve had to do alot of thinking and self-reflection on this.

    When it comes to the kill, most of the people thrive from that. But in the World of Warcraft, the “art” of the kill is nothing. It’s a play you try to follow as best as you can. In times where all strategies and walk routes are documented by high resolution video, I cannot gain satisfaction from replaying the optimum.

    There is no creativity, no interesting brain activity involved in killing the whole SSC. Except for the top guilds, which actually do something interesting in exploring new content, everyone else jumps into the shallow pool of recognition (read: “server firstkill”, “new loot” or “a gamemaster congratulated us”).

    I know the argumentation of the other side. But overcoming technical complexity – and there is the link to the previous comment – does not require creativity. It requires to repeat exact steps, to be a puppet of the people that did the actual brainwork.

    That’s why I cannot raid in BC, unless it’s easy and lightweight. And most of the time, it isn’t.

  3. @ Julian: I agree with some of what you are saying, and disagree with other points. I believe to some extent that the reason the raid game delivers the feeling of success has a lot to do with overcoming the complexity and finally achieving your goal. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even feel a rush the first time I killed Murmur, or Warp Splinter or any other 5-man boss, because the time to reward was small and relativly simple. I did feel it a bit on my first successful Black Morass run, and I certainly felt it when I finally got my Karazhan key, when I completed the SSC attuement and especially when I finished the very complicated heroic attuement for Tempest Keep.

    Mostly I agree that we are feeling a misguided sence of accomplishment though, as we have overcome an obsticle rather than achieved a great success. Its like mistaking relief with pride.

    I do not mind that some players have access to certain content and others may not, but I firmly believe that equal advancement potential should be available in a multitude of paths. Raiding should only be a part of the endgame, not THE endgame.

    @ Thomas: I can’t help but disagree with you Thomas. Stand up where you are and count to 10. At 10 seconds, run 360 degrees in a circle around a fixed point, and stop on your former location…

    That was pretty easy right? Now get 24 friends and attempt to repeat the exact same action.

    Raiding is never meant to be twitch skill or complex puzzles that only a mensa genius can figure out. It is precisly the exercise I alude to in the previous example. The feeling of success is mastering teamwork and communication, and winning as one.

    Professional Football players are skilled at what they do right? But they aren’t inventing some totally unique strategy every play. They are following the roadmap that they do over and over until they get it right. It is excelling at fundamental mechanics repeated every time that seperates them from the bush league players.

  4. Everyone’s first PvP kill in EVE is like that. It’s also a complex game, made more complex by the humans on the other side; it’s also ever-changing, you can’t learn PvP by rote.

  5. I am sad to say EVE is one of a very few MMOs I have never had the pleasure to try. I think I would like it a lot. I live vicariously through Van Hemlock for my EVE fix.

    I think open PvP always has that excitement. I felt that way about the PvP in Ultima Online, and to some extent about my time on Rallos Zek in EQ1.

    The problem with a system that relies on open PvP to provide that excitement and thrill, is that its not for everyone. I would wager more people dislike that feeling than those of us who enjoy it.

  6. I remember, after a month (25 nights, 2-3 attempts a night) my guild first beating Rallos Zek in EQ. The officers were on Vent, I know, but the wall of cheering in chat was amazing. Many kills had been flawed from one bad error or another- someone standing the wrong spot, a lucky crit, a key person being out and someone else trying to learn a new task – it was the raid kill I will remember the most. Of course, I also remember it as how the flag giver then despawned in front of my eyes, before giving me my flag, causing me to scream that I was quitting and walking away (but a friendly GM swung by and flagged me and the other affected player while I was offline, after hearing about the issue).

    From bottom feeling to top feeling to bottom in one kill – that’s an epic game, and one I’d like to see again.

    But a bit less than 25 attempts please.

  7. […But a bit less than 25 attempts please…]

    The real question I ask myself, though, is would it have felt so epic, if you had done it the first night after 2-3 attempts?

  8. I assume you’re talking Rallos Zek the Warlord in Plane of Tactics? You were lucky to get so many tries. When my guild was in PoP, he was highly contested and the pressure to figure out the strategy that would work for us was immense. RZtW could be killed in many ways; the if you had low dps (as we did), add control became a much larger part of the encounter.

    Probably not fair to compare EQ’s raids to anyone else’s. They were a breed apart.

    WoW and its copiers; not much to get excited about with those raids. EQ has decided to copy the WoW faction grind and other time wasting busy work — so I play EQ2.

  9. I actually managed to get that feeling from doing a 5-man dungeon once. Though occasionally it’s pretty exciting when a 5-man manages to win in cases it shouldn’t (too many adds, or wiping on a boss, with only one or two survivors managing to kite for a win).

    Anybody remember before WoW BC, the dungeon 2 sets and the insane (for low geared ppl) quest line for it? Beating the 45-min Strath run without 40-man raid gear gave a similar feeling.

Comments are closed.