Monday, March 4, 2019

MMOs adding new expansions that raise the level caps is a double-edged sword

All my point here is more of a talking point to emphasize some discussion. I've been thinking about it more and more lately that levelling feels... Pointless. It feels like either 1. a slog to reach max to experience end-game content which ends up just being a journey to the highest gear level (or whatever system the game uses) to just wait to pay for another slog into the same situation (expansions, higher level content), or 2. so easy that it may as well not exist and should instead be a different system of earning talents and specializations to play end-game content straight away.

I can't be the only other person who feels this way and I feel that the reason this relates back to level caps is because old incarnations of MMOs started with a higher challenge and forced players into cooperative play which was incredibly enjoyable (if a bit unbalanced at times) and levelling was an enjoyable experience which wasn't about hitting end-game, and once you did hit end-game felt more like owning a complete toolkit (rather than having finished a boring journey dotted with pointless dungeons you could skip). After this MMOs needed to push more content to contend with other MMOs so they do this and raise the level cap so people can level longer, cool, sounds good to me but the problem begins when you realise that the levels are getting a little TOO high and now instead it takes too long to level, and to counter-act this what do you do as a company? Make it easier to reach max level.

This requires you to skip even more content (dungeons become less important, you can skip entire zones and because it's easier now, your class can solo more, meaning you don't need cooperative play as much anymore). This causes a second problem among a lot of others (including losing original players after the game has dumbed-down); the end-game is reached faster and so requires either more challenge or it requires more content. If you can't add more content fast enough you end up making what are essentially upgraded versions of the dungeons where enemies have more health and more damage (,and if the company isn't too lazy, more/different mechanics). Other ways to remedy this is to add content that is completely new (cough, battle pets) that further alienate older fans. This presents other problems such as old zones being all but skipped and forgotten about, losing lore of those areas in the mean time, as well as the flaw that rushing so much content can mean that fans hate new lore decisions, or changes in characters that don't quite max sense and end up being hogged down to rushing out story that nobody really catches now that they're leveling too fast.

Among new mechanics (again, battle pets) they can end up arbritary in the new expansions, if we look at WoW again, garrisons became useless (not that anybody liked them...) and that can be ugly for people trying to enjoy the game, if you join the game or find yourself in a fantastic place with good combinations of complexities and silky-smoothness in your class, next expansion you may find yourself missing old raid gear or old mechanics that are held back by your gear level.

Now, this problem essentially just becomes a feedback loop, soon you get really high level caps that would take too much of a commitment, so they become soulless (but faster) and your questing experience is a easy "grind" (mindless speed leveling) and so the game continuously just adds more expansions that eventually just become new zones that, while are pretty, end up being uninteresting after a month or two, and are essentially just annoying areas requiring you to complete pointless achievements in them. These new zones are homes to raids that are at the whim of an old engine that ends up reskinning and adding semi-new ideas to raids but ultimately get uninteresting after 10-15 runs and because of the lack of randomness to each raid, they just feel predictable once you learn mechanics. (I never feel like I'm going to get randomly boomer'd on, yes a Left 4 Dead reference, who knew that'd be here.)

Realistically, I think that the fact that games can raise level caps BUT they have to handle it better than a lot of games have in the past.

That's a SUPER brief and ramble-y version of my points, give me your thoughts on this and some things you feel are wrong with how MMOs have handled keeping their game alive.

Of course, a lot of what I'm saying is in support of my points, there are other reactions and forks in thinking that you can go down, I'm naturally playing the devils advocate and solely agreeing with my own points mainly to try display this one view of the situation, otherwise this post would be 10x as long... And that's just boring.

TL;DR Games rely on simplifying their mechanics so that reaching max levels in character, crafting , etc. is easier so we can hit end-game but the end-game is uninspiring in a lot of modern mmo's and rely on reaching other level caps (gear caps) to playing what are essentially just higher number'd versions of everything with different skins. Instead games could not even raise level caps and attempt to introduce different ways to challenge players.

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