Websites and blogs that I follow have been talking a fair bit about endgame, raiding, and the douchewankery of the PvE player. I’m here to confirm that a great deal of this sort of thing is completely true. I’m not sure it’s entirely the player’s fault, though.
Let’s try to elaborate on this first by the concept of “endgame”. I’m not sure who said the term first, but it essentially is the part of the game where you’ve hit cap and you’ve got to keep playing because MMOs cost money to operate. The prime source of endgame is raiding. And the prime source of keeping people interested in raiding is item level progression. You’ve been through 50 or 100 levels of regular levelling up progress, so you need a bar to continue to fill, right?
Look, I agree that some level of reward should be offered to surmounting great in-game challenges and I’m gonna get to that, but this whole gearscore thing? It has to stop. Seeing the imposing gates of Castle Stabbenfranz yawn wide before you, you’re intrigued to go in, right? But then you’re stopped by some asshat forcing you to fill out a survey…and if your answers aren’t satisfactory, then guess what? You don’t get to enter Castle Stabbnefranz. You don’t get to fight Dr. Gigglez and his mad hamster robot army. Because you’re not wearing the right sort of t-shirt.
This is the behavior perpetuated by gear score, and enforced by the raiders who make demands of people that would only sound sane to someone who claims they can hear colors coming down the street. And it’s eating this genre alive.
WildStar was built, marketed and sold as the “hardcore raider paradise”–the idyllic wonderland where the truly immense challenging raids of legend sung of by neckbearded skalds would return, like a Jurassic Park made of even worse design ideas. It blew up so spectacularly in Carbine’s face that even Mount St. Helens turned to look. And games like Final Fantasy XIV that don’t apply too many intense challenges still pile on more item levels on top of more harder or extreme versions of dungeons or Primal fights that you’d think they’re trying to make a layer cake. And nevermind blocking your way in with that survey–imagine if said survey-wielding asshat was flanked by a bunch of heavily armored mecha-gorillas with their lasers trained on you.
That’s what this whole thing feels like….and it’s not welcoming. It doesn’t foster teamwork, it draws a line in the sand and tells people “You can’t have our toys because we won’t let you…unless you pass our checks.”
Now perhaps these people are trying to ensure and pad their chances of success. I can get behind that–you’re facing something tough, you wanna be sure you’ve got folks who are up to snuff. But that doesn’t strike me as building a team so much as trying like hell to game the system to make things as mindless and unadventurous as possible. You don’t put in a cheat code and then eat hot wings. You eat the damned hot wings. Am I wrong in feeling that way?
And gods forbid if the developers lower the entry barrier. To some this is the call of death–those damn dirty casuals invading their special little haven to be handed out their welfare epics or any number of completely horrible assumed things that barely veil racist problems.
The designs of the modern MMO endgame feed this nonsense. They add on more item levels, more raids, more hard versions of old content, more requirements of entry. It’s barricading against zombies when the zombies aren’t really zombies. It’s feeding the sensation of people coming together as tools as opposed to a team. It’s not going to work. It doesn’t work. It will ultimately end your playerbase.
Now if I were listening to myself right now, my first retort would be “Alright, smart guy. Stop being so damned dashing and handsome and start coming up with ways to fix it if you’re so incredible.” I challenge anyone who hears someone whining like I am to confront someone with that. See if you can’t see smoke coming from their ears.
Luckily for me and my ears, I have some thoughts. And the first is not to get rid of raiding, but to change the idea of reward.
Currently the reward for raids or endgame stuff is best in slot equipment. Generally these are the true epic pieces, the stuff with the best designed stats but the worst designed fashion sense. Not only are these pieces uglier than Rosie O’Donnell and Slimer in an eating contest, they’re just no longer necessary. By this point in the game’s narrative, you’re a great hero. You should, by extension, be finished with your training, have all the tools needed and are ready to face the real threats to the world.
So why not end gear altogether and reward with more adventure?
Castle Stabbenfranz is guarding the way from Dark Lord Kittyynipples and his seat of power. If you want to get to this realm, you must face Dr. Gigglez and his hamster robot army. They are the first line of defense, and when you cut through? A whole new world of danger and challenge await. You are at the very front door of Dark Lord Kittynipples’ terrain. Oh sure, there’s been incursions of his forces. But now you’re on HIS turf.
Tying new adventures to raids isn’t the only thought I have here. Maybe pieces of an excellent weapon are hidden across various dungeons. Raiders have to collect these items. Then, they have to turn them in to an actual player crafter to put together said weapon! Not only are these raiders doing stuff to get themselves a new shiny, suddenly crafters or crafting is meaningful again.
Adding adventure is what’s making Guild Wars 2 stay alive right now. One could argue up and down about how well that’s doing, but you can’t deny that it gives you something to look forward to as a capped player. Hell, I’m re-starting the game again because I want to explore these new adventures. I’d pay for that. I will pay for that.
There’s more to a themepark than making the lines longer and forcing people to meet ridiculous conditions to play content. Just build more rides and make them part of the experience. I’m always a fan of the thrilling, long set piece rides than the quick hit intense rollercoasters anyways…and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.
Don’t end the game. Make it continue. Challenge people to come together to work towards seeing what’s on that horizon. I bet you it’ll be more fun than filling out a survey.