Maybe Progress Quest Wasn't That Far Off, by Maess
Dec 27, 2006 22:16:28

Like many of you, I cut my MMO teeth on MUDs - 3Kingdoms in my case. I liked the social aspect of MUDs, but for me, the real thrill was in advancing my character in an environment where I could compare myself to others and share my accomplishments. I was more than happy to grind the same area again and again as long as I knew I was making notable progress.

This motivation kept on through my first graphical MMO, Dark Age of Camelot, and continues today.

When I was younger and had near endless amounts of time to devote to MMOs, being motivated by progress was not an issue. I could simply put the required amount of time into a gaming session to make sure I felt I had made some progress; even if it was only half a bubble of experience in DAOC, at least it was a step forward. Now, however, being at a point in my life where I am lucky to be able to get in two hours of gaming per night, this addiction to advancement causes me to grow tired of a game as soon as I no longer feel that I can make progress in a typical gaming session.

When I get to a point in a game where two-hour sessions don't leave me with a sense of progress, I typically get "alt-itis." Of course, in the long run, this only contributes to my overall feeling of lack of development, and I usually leave the game.

For me, World of Warcraft has come closest to overcoming this drop-off in measurable progress. However, even in WOW, I have several characters in their mid-40s but no 60s. It just seams that around the mid-40s, the amount of progress that I feel I make in a typical session just isn't enough.

I would love to find a game that overcomes this somehow. Not necessarily by making the grind any less steep, but perhaps by making it more measurable, or perhaps more meaningful. I think DAOC may have been onto something with their "mini-ding" system where, beginning in level 40, as you approached the max level of 50 you received training points at both the half and full level marks. DAOC's system certainly made the grind to 50 a little more bearable, but I still felt a distinct lack of progress from levels 45-50. Another way to solve this issue might be content, such as short quests that can be accomplished in two hours or less, giving a feeling of achievement when completed.

I can't be the only gamer our there suffering from this issue, so I would love to hear from other people addicted to progress who are restricted to short gaming sessions.

-Maess

Submitted by Maess on Dec 27, 2006 22:16:28 CST (comments: 14)


Comments:


'Can I get an Amen!' by darrenl
Submitted on 2006-12-28 17:55:10 CST
I hear ya...

I'm limited to about the same amount of gaming time as you and like you, I like to see my character progress at the end of each gaming session that I play. This is really not a problem at the start of a game. It seems that most MMOs have the progress path really well designed from 1-30ish. Progress really starts to fall off from there to the end game. Thats when you start getting some epic, elite quests or raid quests that completely slow you down. I really don't like grinding at all (surprise!!), so most of my progression is through questing. So when I find myself with a quest log full of elite or epic quests, I start an alt.

the same issue comes with crafting, as progression is usually slowed by some rare item you need by, you guessed it, raiding or epic encounters.

You're right, in WoW, you can level from 1-60 from questing (with some holes here and there), but after 60, there aren't many choices for a 2 hour gamer.

Great article.

D



'good post, thanks' by KingMob
Submitted on 2006-12-29 11:58:37 CST
I have a similar time issue most days of the week - forced to choose between a 2 hour session that accomplishes nothing and a longer session that hurts my work performance the next day.

Speaking of WoW, there is content you can explore on a 2 hour basis past 60, but it's basically grinding old content hard-to-reach progress meters - pvp, faction reputation - that achieves rewards much more slowly than you could in a longer session with 39 friends.

I think this topic is central to the 'casual versus hardcore' debate. We 'casuals' are mainly casual not because we like to go outside or don't care about the game, but we have restraints on how we can spend our time. The 'hardcore' aren't better players, they have more flexible schedules. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The problem is that the product changes on you as you level. The newbie experience in WoW is very friendly to new players and those with only a few hours to spare. As your character progresses you're expected to have more experience playing and more time to devote to the game. One is good design, the other is not.



'Too true' by DamianoV
Submitted on 2006-12-30 10:42:03 CST
The two hour time frame does seem to be a relative constant figure that people like to quote... hopefully designer will start to design around that number? (as opposed to the apparent 12-15 hour figure they currently gravitate toward?)

/snark



'Further Discussion' by Maess
Submitted on 2007-01-03 11:45:17 CST
This article got some attention on Daminov's site I've posted a reply there.

Here is a copy of my reply for discussion:
As the author of the referenced article on VirginWorlds.com, perhaps I can shed some light on this topic.

You may find it interesting that I don’t consider myself a casual gamer. To me, if I spend 14 hours or more a week doing something that isn’t a job, it can’t be casual. I spend a significant amount of my free time playing these games that I so enjoy and, to me, I’m a gamer, nothing more, nothing less.

Let’s use WOW as an example of the amount of time required for end game play: major raids in WOW require at least a four hour commitment and raiders seem to raid at least three times a week. Throw in the time needed to prepare for raids, participate in PvP and work on other characters and you easily have close to a full time job. It seems like most MMOs set the threshold for end game play close to 25-30 hours per week.

To me, lack of solo content was the main game breaking issue in most MMOs. However, WOW is chock full of solo content, and I still find that, around level 45, I lose the sense of achievement in my two hour play window.

The only game out at the moment that still gives me a sense of achievement each session is Guild Wars. However, for a number of reasons, I don’t really consider it an MMO.

If a game implemented a system with discreet mission based content which can be accomplished by the player in two hours or less – similar to Guild Wars, and combined it with a compelling, persistent world; I think they would have a real hit on their hands.

Regardless of the solution, it seems that the first developer to create a game that can capture the so called “casual” market and keep them hooked past the 6 month mark could have a subscriber pool to rival WOW.

- Maess



'URL to article mentioned above' by Maess
Submitted on 2007-01-03 11:46:42 CST
http://damianov.wordpress.com/2006/12/30/designing-for-the-casual/

must...learn...to..make...links



'Further clarification?' by DamianoV
Submitted on 2007-01-03 14:23:54 CST
(Wish crossposting was easier... eh well)

Thanks for stopping in and commenting. It is appreciated (gets lonely over there, but I've always had a penchant for talking to myself... :) )

I was curious if you've had an opportunity to play City of Heroes, and if so, how that fits (or fails to fit) the criteria you mentioned? Again, thanks!



'On CoH/V' by Maess
Submitted on 2007-01-03 14:59:59 CST
Cross posted again...

I've played both City of Heroes and City of Villains. It was another case of getting to the mid 40's and losing interest when I felt I wasn't making progress.

The issue was the lack of loot. Because enhancements were to only loot and only every other level gave you new powers, you only felt a big advancement every other level. The mission content was nice, but after level 20 or so the themes began to repeat themselves. The exceptions were the story arch missions, but at the time I played, right after CoH release, they were few and far between.

I picked up CoV this summer, and I pretty much felt the same way. Although the newbie experience was richer, the later levels still felt like the same missions with different skins.

- Maess



'Loot appeal and CoX' by Sente
Submitted on 2007-01-07 05:58:14 CST
To me, the lack of loot in CoX in the sense that many others MMOs have is one of the positive aspects of CoX.

I am quite fine with the existance of loot and in a sense you have some kind of loot at least with inspirations, enhancements and salvage in CoX. The benefit here I think is the lack of need for this loot to permanently boost some stats on equipped gear and for the most part avoid all the issues with loot distribution and everyone going for the "optimal" gear set-up, resulting in everyone looking similar to each other.

I have never been particularly loot-focused unless I have had to and the focus on getting some exceptional loot in some parts of other MMOs has actually been one contibuting reason to leave other MMOs.

The "loot" that you get now, with its randomness for temporaty and permanent stat boosts and raw material to build supergroup base equipment with, works rather well I think.
I am glad that they have separated stat boosts from what you are equipped with and wearing, wish that more games could go this path.

I have been playing CoX for 6 months now (mostly CoV though) and I am enjoying it quite a bit. The story arcs on the CoV side is quite nice I think. But yes, one will get to the point in some cases that these story arcs themselves are not enough, more so than others depending on archetype and powerset choices.

On the other hand, since the missions scale with difficulty setting and the number of team members, taking on a misison with a full or almost full group on a higher difficulty setting is quite a bit different from soloing a mission, in particular on a lower difficulty setting.

But the motivation that drives people does of course vary, so even if game does provide content in manageable pieces for 1-3 hour sessions, it may not appeal to all people. The time is just one factor that is likely necessary for a broad appeal, but not the answer itself.



'CoX and the Burning Crusade' by Kanthalos
Submitted on 2007-01-09 11:18:57 CST
I remember trying out City of Villains. It was late in the summer and I had tried EQ2 and I was bored with WoW at the time, so I picked it up. I thought it was great for..... 12 hours. Then I realized that you might get missions for like 25 people total in the game and there were something like 5 maps for all the missions, on top of the fact that there was no loot, and a fairly low population. Anyways, after saying that, I am back in WoW and I love it. I realize you haven't gotten any characters to 60, but once/if you do, a lot of the new 5 man instances they are adding are going to be much more rewarding and the new 25 man raids are expected to only take about two hours to complete, so that is something you might want to check out.


'If I could put my thoughts to words...' by Dustyboots
Submitted on 2007-01-16 17:53:12 CST
they would exactly what Maess has written. This is a precise explaination of why, after about 5 months of WoW, I had to unsubscribe. It's embarassing, but after a time, I found even 10 alts per server constraining ;) It's not that it got boring so much, just that in the 40's (even when fully rested) I couldn't see any real gain in my 1-2hr sessions. Ah, Dustyboots, noble paladin! Will you never bonk horde again?


'WoW is too slow?' by Brent
Submitted on 2007-01-16 17:59:25 CST
I have to admit I'm somewhat confused by this feeling that even WoW is too slow post-40 for short play sessions. A couple weekends ago I went from level 57 to 58 in 8 hours. This means that I've see a considerable XP increase in 2 hours. It seems that I can always see the progress in WoW, so unlike the upper levels in EQ where you could play for hours and barely see the bar move. I did find CoH to be rather grindy after level 10 or so... they need to fix that.


'WoW new instances' by scytale2
Submitted on 2007-01-16 19:59:02 CST
Having tried one of the new "short" instances in WoW tonight, all I can say is that it can easily be done in less than 2 hours, 90 mins once used to it. There are three bosses of increasing difficulty, each which drop blue loot.

It took a while, but Blizzard have certainly listened to their players on this one and although we failed on the final boss, it was a really fun instance for L60s.

The only other thing I will say is that WoW is the ONLY MMO that I have played to maximum level. I haven't got close in any other MMO. To me this suggests that it is quite straightforward, even on the PvP server I hate being on:)



'Re: WoW is too slow?' by Dustyboots
Submitted on 2007-01-16 20:45:12 CST
Let me clarify my frustration: It's not that I can't see any progress, I certainly can. On good night for me I can get about 1/4 a level. My frustration begins with the even/odd level reward system, where you only get spells on even levels (I'd like to know why they did this btw). This means that if I grind solid, it takes me 8 nights to level - not bad. But I can't play every night, and when I do I enjoy variety, so about half my time is spent helping out lower guild members, PvPing, or just hanging around. So I get new spells about once every 3 weeks, which just doesn't seem like much progress. I'm not complaining about the game design - just that my current play-time severly detracts from the amount of palpable success I enjoy in the game. I would love to see game mechanics which is equally rewarding to those with tons of time, and those with not so much time - while still rewarding the "hardcore" gamers for their harder work.


'Enjoyable tasks' by Sente
Submitted on 2007-01-17 08:09:14 CST
Dusty, while your leveling progress is not that fast, it seems that you might still enjoy your time with different activities and you are having fun. Isn't that the main point?

Now, if friends and guildies are leveling faster and you cannot play with then due to level differences, then that is a concern and one which I think many games do not handle well.

Nowadays, more MMO game designers provide solo content so people can play at their own pace and progress, not depending on groups. But I think part of the problem has not been grouping in itself, but ease of grouping. Many times group-oriented content have required a full or almost full group (5, 6, 8, 10 or whatever the limit may be in a particular game) and one typically have to include the tanker/healer/damagedealer roles in those groups. And with the usually inflexible skill sets, a person has to play the same roles for hours and sessions, as long as he/she has want to play a particular character.

Given the both best and worst part of an MMOG is other players, there is more need to make grouping easier -
* Better mechanisms for players who want to play together to do so, with much flexibility for levels and roles
* Easier to break up groups and continue playing in other constellations if people have issues with each other
* Easier to find people interested in the same thing when grouping

Leveling should be a side effect of fun play, more "Oh look, I just noticed I dinged. Cool!" rather than "just 20 more kills and I am at level X...".

Have to comment on Brent's CoH part also (CoX haters stop reading here ;)).
-- start of CoX rant--- ;)
While I am a CoX fan, I actually agree with on CoH grindiness. I think they have improved that part a bit with Issue 8 and the Police Band and Safeguard missions to match the CoV Mayhem and newspaper missions.
Still to me, CoV is substantially better than CoH.

* More solid story arc missions
* More compact content-wise, which in this case I think is a good thing.
* Fuzzier roles for the villain archetypes, not quite clear cut on roles always, which makes grouping more fun IMHO.
* Dominators and Masterminds - Domination skill can really seduce you and playing with up to 6 minions with different roles can be a lot of fun.
-- end of CoX rant--- ;)




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