Zubon talks about the double-edged blade that occurs when players can scale everything so that everything is end game content. The opposite edge occurs because either developers or players feel that because so much happens on the journey to the level cap then basically there is less at the level cap. My first thought, and the first commenter on Zubon’s post, was about Guild Wars 2. I had just read an interview from an ArenaNet developer on some website, and the developer’s response to a question of end-game content in Guild Wars 2 was very on point:
We have a lot of cool content when you get to the end of the game. That’s one of the cool aspects of our events. You can play all of our content over and over again, and even when you get to level 80 you can go back to old places and finish out the areas and we’ll level you down to where they are to allow you to go back and play that stuff at the appropriate level. So you can always go back and play through content, it’s not just worthless content to you because you leveled past it. It’s almost like a temporary thing where the game sidekicks you down to the level range for the content.
It does sound great on paper. Yet, the opposite edge that Zubon describes feels real. So many MMO players eventually get to the point where they can return to older content. When I do it, I often wonder what I am doing there.
Internally there is always a struggle between the rose-smelling Explorer and the efficient Achiever. Want to see what’s over that hill away from the quest hubs and quest bounties? It’s going to take that much longer to kill your rats. Will it be worth it?
It’s easy to quantify “enjoyment” for an Achiever. A play session can garner 60% more progress to the next level, 4 more gold, 13% more progress for a title, and 2% more drunk. MMOs (and most games) are built on getting all the plethora of available achievements. It can be something like getting to the next quest hub, or something super complex like getting the next item for a long quest chain for an epic level weapon.
It’s hard to quantify “enjoyment” for most Explorer activities. Was it worth peeking over that hill? How about spending the time necessary to go through the NPCs entire dialogue tree? It’s all subjective. The hill might lead to the edge of the zone instead of a beautiful vista. The dialogue tree might have been written by an intern instead of the award-winning author whose name is on the box. Those are the most obvious. My wife has always liked looking at the red trees of Eregion in Lord of the Rings Online, and I’ve never liked the overgrown eyesores.
Going back to explore old content is an event where offerings are made wholly to the Explorer gods because it tanks any Achiever efficiency. Sure, the reward for the content might be a small slice of gold and experience for that level, which is usually a pittance to what the player could be getting from doing “on-level” content. That’s usually when I ask myself, “what am I doing here?” This is the activity I want to do, but I am being punished for wanting to go back and do it simply because I am beyond the activity in power level. I usually then log off out of frustration instead of going back up to the content on my level.
I hope though that the Guild Wars 2 dynamic events will salve the efficiency burn because the Socializer branch can come in and ease my pain. Not only can I go back to play with friends working on alts or lagging behind, but I can go back to play with random people. Some of my best memories for MMOs occur when I am a participant in a mentoring session where some elite topdog is teaching us how to raid or where to go. A long time ago some random helpful dwarf helped me run my single-digit level priest through the mid-level swamp to get, eventually, to Westfall. He just saw me running, and ran beside me in escort until I got to a safe place.
It’s going to be interesting to see if either to fill in hearts, help random people, or to simply explore, whether the majority of players will want to go to lower level areas while they are themselves lowered in level to play the content as intended. Right now I can’t believe that as a level 70-80, that I wouldn’t want to return to the level ~50 Shatterer event, but it’s nearly impossible to see without full perspective. A perspective that will have to wait until beta or release.
the sacrifice the island demands