I wasn’t always a raider

There was a time in which I loaded up MMOs just to be a part of an online world. For me, it was just an extension of my text-based MUDs. Yes, there was loot and levels to lust after in those games, but there were no raids. It was so rare to have a full group that you may not be aware of mechanics like maximum group size until you had played for hundreds of hours. There was nothing to do at max level except hang out, or maybe join the coding team and make new content. Today, end-game raids are the only reason I bother installing an MMO.

My first few MMOs, I didn’t reach level cap. I wandered around and explored Britannia without ever becoming strong enough to kill anything bigger than a rat. I never went very far from my starting city the first time I played Everquest. When Star Wars Galaxies first launched, I worked hard with my only character at becoming a Master Architect… not because I wanted to experience some kind of crafter’s end-game, but because that was the minimum requirement for creating the building required to form a guild back then. Final Fantasy XI was too hard-core for me back then. I quit when groups in Quiffin said my monk/red-mage wasn’t wanted.

My next foray into casual playing was in Everquest 2. My husband and I created a guild and made friends online. We didn’t race to end-game, and we never saw end-game. We explored areas with our friends and tried content out. We didn’t farm content for loot, and I don’t think I was even aware what the maximum raid size was. I didn’t know the fastest way to level, and I don’t think I cared that much. We grinded to get our guild to level 15 so we could get cheap horses, but our focus was on things like housing, cool looking equipment or gameplay mechanics. I quit when I became bored of the game.

Surprisingly, the game that killed my casual nature was Star Wars Galaxies. SWG launched with no end-game, and still has a comparatively weak end-game. I came back because my husband and his brother had both started playing again. I rushed to 90 because I wanted to catch up and be the same level. Everyone kept complimenting me on how fast I was leveling, and it felt good to impress people. It felt really good. Before I hit max, my game was about grinding all night to have someone say, “Holy cow, how’d you get two more levels since last night?”

Once I ding’d 90, I started getting tells from random strangers asking me to do the end-game instances. There was a shortage of medics, so groups were often sitting around waiting for healers. I became friends with another guild who was always short on medics. They took me into every instance and taught me the ropes. Suddenly, the game changed. No longer did failure mean you could you just gain a couple levels and come back. No longer can you just bring an extra person to help out. It was the first time I had reached max level as a combat character in an MMO. Later on, I would refer to max level as when an MMO “begins”.

My husband and his guild had not even tried an end-game instances in all the months they were max-level before I started playing. They were a guild who saw no problem with level 30’s and level 90’s grouping to do the same content. It was a guild which might spend the entire afternoon protecting a level 40 from a bounty-hunter. They… would never be a raiding guild.

In order to obtain the coveted Cloak of Hate, each of my Sith friends had to make their way into all the heroic instances and kill bosses. One by one, I helped my lightsaber holding friends get into instances by recommending them. At times, I even said I wouldn’t join unless they took one of my friends too. I was the healer, so I got to make the rules after-all. They became hooked as well, and the game changed for them.

My brother-in-law who refused to trait light-side for roleplay reasons, gave up his roleplay for the sake of having a competent tank. His beloved red lightsaber was traded in for a lightsaber color that had better stats. Our policy of never grouping with rebels was abandoned. “The war is suspended during heroics” we would say. Armor’s appearance didn’t matter nearly as much as the stats. Whenever we couldn’t do heroics, we worked on making our characters even stronger.

We left and formed a new guild. We stopped grouping with our low-level friends. We urged them to rush to max level so we could enjoy the ‘real’ game with them. We couldn’t be bothered with quest-lines that had poor armor as rewards or killing rancors just because they looked big. We wanted power, and we wanted it bad. My husband asked for a sith-holocron as an early Christmas present. At one point he said, “Real life money isn’t worth as much to me as in-game money.”

I began leading groups through the heroics and I grew to love that as well. Directing members of a team where to move, who to target, and what to do was more challenging and a massive rush. As much as I enjoyed my early experiences in heroics, none of the times I followed orders as a medic could compare to the bliss I felt after successfully leading my own team through the content.

Eventually, we had everything. We had every piece of jewelry and every item that we could want. There was no content left to master, no power left to chase. I was becoming bored. I had multiple level 90’s with heroic jewelry across multiple accounts… but I started wondering why? I had to invent goals for myself to keep playing, but nothing seemed to excite me as it once did. My husband and I canceled all our accounts. We needed to find a game with more raids to begin the cycle again.

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Suzina is a 27 year old who usally plays the same MMOs as her husband. Games played: UO, EQ2, FFXI, SWG, LOTRO.

11 thoughts on “I wasn’t always a raider”

  1. I started to feel this way as well. Guess that is why I started to look at the games from a different perspective.

    But, there is always a goal isn’t there? Reward based systems for us mice in the maze of MMO’s.

    Ah well, still love the games…and ready for more…

    Gluttons for punishment?

    Isn’t the human race funny like that.

    /nibbles cheese

  2. Interesting post Suzina. It really does seem that once you get bitten by the raiding game other aspects of mmorpging become irrelevant because they cannot compete with the sheer intensity of raiding. However a lot of old-timers seem to eventually burn out on raiding and then return to a more casual play style. Where would you say are at in Lotro – still a raider or back to a more casual playstyle?

  3. It’s sad really. This reminds me of when I first played DaoC. In the beginning, we roleplayed a lot. (It was a RP guild on the unofficial RP server.)

    As people got bitten by the game and by the achievement bug, there was a shift in focus. People wanted to level and get to the endgame (which was mostly PvP at the time rather than raiding), not hang around roleplaying in the pub in Camelot.

    You felt like an idiot if you got left behind. It wasnt the raiding, it was the MMO ;/

  4. “Where would you say are at in Lotro – still a raider or back to a more casual playstyle?”

    I would say I’m still in the “raider” mindset. I’m actually in a 12 person raid in DN right now. We had two wipes at istum and are going to try him again. We’re just waiting on cooldowns right now, so I thought I’d check killtenrats.

    The other day, when the same group wiped 4 times on the trolls, I literally had tears in my eyes. I wish I could say I was kidding. Then on our “one more try before logging” attempt, we nailed it. Massive payoff. My husband and I high-fived each other. We went on to raid for 5 more hours after that and killed two more bosses.

  5. I suspect you’re not the only one… so why don’t we have an MMO that lets you jump straight into raiding?

  6. “I suspect you’re not the only one… so why don’t we have an MMO that lets you jump straight into raiding?”

    You know… that’s not a bad idea. Don’t get me wrong, if the game is decently complex, then you should need some solo content and easy content to get used to your class and what it can do. But MMO’s give hundreds of hours more grinding than is necessary to learn your skills… and really you don’t even learn your abilities well until you face incredibly difficult content.

    I’m all in favor of a short level grind and a huge end-game. The more content that requires me to become skilled as a player, the more fun I’ll likely have in the game.

    1. I’ve written about just that sort of MMO design ethos before here:
      Endgame in-game?
      and here:
      Ending the Endgame

      I’m a huge fan of getting rid of the huge grindy “learning period” and letting people *get on* with playing the game that they want to play, rather than playing forever to get to the point where they actually enjoy it. Some people genuinely like the leveling game more than the end game, and some like the end game more than the leveling grind. Devs really should be catering to both, without making the endgamers plow through months of content and sub fees.

  7. I started out casual years ago (killing ten rats outside Freeport) and slowly moved to the hard-core raid style.

    Now I find myself wanting a fun and casual mmo experience once again. My life is just too busy for me to spend more than an hour or two gaming on any given day.

    I don’t have a game to call “home” but I’m keeping my eyes peeled.

  8. Incredible post. Unsurprisingly, there are many, very many of us, that have done this same thing.

    I have eaten this obsession over, and over, and over…

  9. I despise raiding as endgame content. The difficulty is to get a lot of people doing things right. But I dare to say smaller instances can be even more exciting, as people noticed in the 10 vs 25 person raids that one person now suddenly has more relative power over fail or success.

    I hated farming resistance pots for raids, at least this changed. But I think raiding has taken a nose-dive after TBC.

    The instances became total jokes. Many people can do them half asleep or maybe even sleeping. The new Naxx provided no challenge for people that did the old Naxx, Molten Core and TBC raids.

    I also hate the 3-7 day raid timers. The short timer was a reason why I liked Zul’Aman. This is why I really hate what they have done to heroic instances in WOTLK. I would have wished for more Magister’s Terrace style instances, but they turned the instances into MINI-RAIDS with absolutely trashy trash mobs and even trashier bosses.

    Result? While I really loved a lot of their ideas for WOTLK, I got bored extremely quickly. Naxx done within one month after release. With a raiding roster that wouldn’t have done SSC nor TK.

    So I am not sure if killing your more casual nature was actually a good thing, Suzina. Raiding has a lot appeal and a lure that you described perfectly. But I think once you got into raiding and often exclusively log on to raid or do daily quests in certain games, a lot of good things about a MMO get lost, too

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