Monday, June 1, 2009

Random Shots: Hating On The Endgame

  • In my capacity as frustrated game non-developer, I want to take a moment to tell actual developers that they're doing it all wrong. I don't know how to make this problem right, but there is an elephant in this room and I want to talk about it. I hate your endgame.

  • In vertical progression MMOs, there are two games involved: the leveling game and the endgame. The leveling game can be characterized as content consumption. You travel to a level-appropriate zone, complete quests, kill mobs, maybe run an instance, then move on to the zone that corresponds to your new level. The endgame, however, is about content repetition. Instead of devouring new quests and new zones, developers shift their focus in how to maintain the player base. They do this with repeatable large-scale raids, never ending PvP combat, and (the most egregious time sink) daily quests. The game turns at this point into a slot machine. And just like a casino, they pay out just enough to keep the subscriptions running.

  • That is my issue with the MMO endgame. It's a bait-and-switch. They sell you on one game, then shove you into another. It's in the developers' best interest to keep players subscribing for one more month. And it is more cost-effective to provide repeatable content and to generate consumable content, so that's what they do.

  • The sad thing is there are people who like the endgame and can't wait to get there. In their case, the leveling game becomes a grind they must overcome to play the game that they want to play. (See Brian "Psychochild" Green's post discussing the MMO grind.) World of Warcraft has one of the most celebrated leveling games in MMO history, but now it's a grind because the real game, the raiding game, begins at 80 (for now). Warhammer Online has an ambitious RvR conflict as its endgame, but trains everyone through their leveling tiers that the goal is to max out a character. And even though it's not subscription based, Guild Wars has remade its endgame four times to hit a constantly moving target.

  • I know it's crazy to even recommend this, but new games have to learn from the mistakes of the past. If you have a great endgame, make that your whole game. And people that like leveling deserve to be treated a real gamers. Don't force people to play one style, only to take that away from them and give them another. And don't force people to slog through content just to get to the good stuff. Make everything the good stuff and focus on that audience. I know WoW has taught everyone that they need to be every game for every player. If that's the lesson you've taken from its success, you've missed the point. You don't copy World of Warcraft. You need to make a better game.

  • Postscript: You'll notice that I specified vertical progression games here. Horizontal progression games like EVE Online and Darkfall have done away with all that endgame crap by making their sandboxes the whole game. These are examples that developers ignore to their peril.

  • © 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
    If you're reading this on a site other than Bullet Points, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Hey Anjjin...can you contact me via email, got a question for you. at gmail dot com

  2. Well, unfortunately nobody is throwing bags of 50 dollar bills at me to fix that problem, but I do have something of an idea for getting around it. My thought is to create a world that is majority sandbox, and to really concentrate most of your content design on the initial starting city. This way, people can freely access either the major writing content or the dynamic world and it's always clear where you can get each at any time.

  3. @ Darren - /wave

    @ Sara - If I get a ton of cash, we might have to work together on something. I've been dreaming of a similar game with a world divided between a guided, story driven experience and a wide open frontier for people to seek their fortunes. Something midway between the original EQ's open adventuring and today's WoW quest overkill.