Leveling Speed, Content Viability, & End Game Gear Grinds

OTG‘s Rift section has had a lively discussion about end game gear grinds.  At one point one of my fellow OTGers, Cirric, commented,

If it slows down progression then thats a good thing, it will allow content to be viable for a lot longer.

Somehow a soapbox appeared under my fiend and I opined the following in response.

This. This right here is the crux of the issue. Game companies have traded in one grind for another at the behest of the players. Pardon me as I pull out the curmudgeonly “Back in my day” hat for a crowd that I know is mostly older than me but…

Back when I started MMOs it was with Asheron’s Call. Level cap when I started wasn’t 45 or 50 or even 85. It was 128. By the mid-60s time between levels could be measured in weeks, not hours. On top of that there was no level cap on when you gained XP from any particular mob. If the mob was under your level you just gained less XP so it eventually it was no longer viable as a source of leveling. But since you always got some XP you never, ever, felt cheated running lower level stuff to help out the lowbies because at least you got something.

I played AC for about 5 years. I never saw cap. Hell, I never saw my level reach triple digits. Now, granted, I quit in the middle and deleted my toons (rookie move, let me tell you) so I might have been able to cap out eventually. So let’s say my best was about level 80 in 2.5 years.

Think on that for a second. 2/3rds of the way to cap in the time it took WoW to birth two expansions with two level cap increases. Blizzard (as with the majority of other MMO companies) aims to have cap hit from their current base in 2 weeks. That means 1-60 in vanilla WoW, 2 weeks. 60-70 in BC? 2 weeks. 70-80 in WLK? 2 weeks. On top of that as they pushed the cap higher they lowered the time to level on the low end. So it isn’t 6-weeks to cap now, it is closer to 4.

I learned early on that the lower level dungeons, neat as they may be, weren’t worth doing. In fact we had this discussion on Graybriar’s /g just yesterday. Someone got the achievement for regular and expert FC at the same time. Someone else commented, “You never did FC before?” I pointed out it was easy to do in this game because you’re often only at level for a dungeon for, at most, 2-3 days.

My main didn’t hit IT until she was over level and did so on a run with a level 50 baby sitter. DsM? Overlevel and 2 level 50 baby sitters. The gear got used for a few hours and then runebroken. It literally made no difference whether I went or not. The only problem is that I have no idea how to do those instances properly because I did them in a setting that provided 0 challenge, 0 incentive to learn and 0 chance of failure!

I really dislike this trend because here’s another fun fact. Asheron’s Call is still available to play right now. It started back in 1999. 12 years later it is still open for business. MMO companies are planning on caps being hit in 2 weeks in a genre which, historically, if they make it past the first year or two they will have a game that goes on for 5 to 10 years. That is patently stupid!

They need to extend the leveling path, not contract it. They need to pay as much attention to content at all levels as they do at “end game” because there is no end game; hello, the game doesn’t end! Above all modern MMOs need to take notes from AC and CoH. Both, in their own way, make it viable and challenging for people with high end toons to take a break from the high end content. To revisit older content without trampling all over it. To get something out of the experience so people who didn’t play in the first 2 months of the game aren’t left with piss-poor options of going through what low level content there is at level with level appropriate groups. Finally it means that the gear obtained from those early instances actually lasts longer than it takes to obtain it!

… crap, how’d that soapbox get there!?

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