Is Endgame Everything in MMOs?
A strange development has occurred over the last decade in mmo games. Players used to have to play months, if not years, to get to the endgame, where the player's character reached their level cap. This has changed drastically and a new gaming experience has arisen. Now, an online game launches and a group of players race through the content like a hot knife through butter. The vast majority of these players are intimately knowledgeable about the game as they played it extensively in beta. Within a few days, or a couple of weeks, these players have gone through the majority of the game's content and reached the level cap and the endgame of raids of specific dungeons. The expression commonly heard from these players is, "Now I can finally start to play the game." I find this statement ironic and ask the question, is endgame everything in mmos?
I've read comments from endgame lovers that they look at leveling up their character as just training to play their character in endgame raids. I profess that I'm not an endgame player. I enjoy exploring the world of the mmorpg and playing through interesting quests while fighting various monsters. When I inevitably hit the endgame wall, I get bored quite quickly.
The vast majority of mmos have their endgame content as raids that players repeat constantly in order to get drops of epic gear or some currency marks to purchase said epic gear. The whole purpose of getting the better gear? To be able to survive going into the next big raid where the whole process repeats itself. For the endgame player, there is the feeling of accomplishment of smoothly completing a difficult raid and to showcase the exclusive weapons and armor they can acquire. But shouldn't there be more? Shouldn't endgame be more than just running the same dungeons over and over again?
I don't understand repeating the same few dungeons or raids over and over again. If that's what someone wishes to do, that's fine, but it seems redundant. Wouldn't such players be better off if they just skipped the 99% of the game altogether and just played the raids? I prefer the journey that I take through the game as I adventure and experience the game's world. Working my way through the various zones and unearthing all the storylines makes me feel immersed in the game itself. Focusing on just the endgame content doesn't strike me as immersive but rather skipping to the last chapter in a book.
The other issue with endgame content is that players who love the endgame constantly moan about the lack of endgame content. They're stunned that a game company that has spent years creating a game where a player normally spends hundreds, in not thousands, of hours to play through doesn't have a ton of options for those who blow through said content within two weeks. This leads to a weird dichotomy among the players with a majority of those comfortable with steadily progressing through the game and those who only focus on the final 1-2% of the game. So what can be done?
There are a few ways to address endgame content in a mmo. Players do need an incentive to keep playing. Normally this is addressed through leveling, but hitting a level cap changes that. To address this issue, some games allow the player's stats to continue rising after hitting the level cap while others allow additional feats to be unlocked. This allows players to continue gaining something after maxing out their level. Another method for dealing with endgame content is to open up the entire world of the game for endgame play. Guild Wars 2 does this by changing the level of the character depending upon the zone that they're in. Dungeons and Dragons Online has epic level settings for all their adventures so endgame players can venture into any dungeon that they wish. I personally really like this option as there's always a plethora of questing choices for the player.
My belief is that endgame is not everything in an mmo. However, I realize that others do not feel the same way and that is ok. I do want more choices for endgame players because that means more choices for me when I play the game. Expanding endgame content to include the game's lower level content or the ability to still increase in skills or stats helps add dimension to endgame playing. The final caveat to endgame playing is new content in the form of an expansion and a higher level cap, but the same players will quickly burn through the expansion and the whole process repeats itself.