Blizzard, EA and Sony Grind out the Endgame
Nov 23, 2007 21:06:02

"My experience with other MMO's proves invaluable to me daily in my job. It's always important to remember what makes gaming fun. It's equally important to remember what leaves a bad taste in a gamer's mouth. For example, I can remember the exact incident that caused me to quit a certain MMO and never log in again. As a designer on World of Warcraft, it's my responsibility to make sure that the same experience never happens to any of our players." - Jeff Kaplan (zelaron.com)

Every player has, at one time or another reached that same point that Jeff Kaplan talks about in the quote above. At some point in our choice of games we have all logged off, never to come back to a particular MMO again. That which leaves a bad taste in our mouths, when it comes to gaming, can vary widely from player to player. From someone who loves PVP, as I do, it can be a game where PVP is merely tacked on as an afterthought - as what happened with Lord of the Rings Online. Others may hate pvp and abhor being set back nearly to square one by a trigger happy player with nothing to do but ruin the next player's day - as in Eve Online.

But nothing will have me reaching for the "remove program" switch faster than a game with nothing to do but mind numbing grind (be it for reputation or what have you) - or having nothing to do period.

Even the reaction to these factors varies from player to player. To some, if a game doesn't make it so tediously slow to level a character that it makes the average sloth seem like the holder of a land speed record by comparison, they will scream that the game has been "dumbed down." Tell the average raider you have nothing to do in the end game and they will look at you as if you have suddenly grown an extraneous head - a small minority of which raiders see themselves as some sort of "end game demagogue" without which the mmo will surely cease to exist. A few self absorbed players actually believe that if you haven't had a chance to enjoy the wonderful end game content that artists, like those at Blizzard, have slaved away at that there is something inherently wrong with YOU, yes you - and the 95% or so of the rest of the 9.3 million players who will never see places like the Black Temple in WoW (what incredible chutzpa).

(For those of you who have never heard the word chutzpa before, the widely accepted definition is to draw a comparison - Chutzpa is like a man who kills both of his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.)

Fortunately, the solutions game developers have to these problems are just as varied as the reaction to them. What may surprise you to know (it did me) is that even the 800 pound Blizzard Gorilla is happy to see the changes. Here is what the Blizzard's executive vice-president of product development, Frank Pearce had to say in a recent interview at videogamer.com:
"I think the games you mentioned [Warhammer Online, Age of Conan and Tabula Rasa] are very promising, and are bringing some great new ideas to the MMO space, which is good for all of us. We're just as eager to play these games as anyone else, and from a design standpoint, we're always excited to see the ideas other developers come up with" - Frank Pearce "What's Next for Blizzard" at videogamer.com/news

In a recent interview at Warcry.com, Jeff Kaplan tells us that Blizzard wants "to see more people experiencing end-game PvE content." He tells us they "want to foster a healthy sense of competition among guilds" and promises us all "innovative ideas" with the release of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.

No matter where the innovative ideas come from, one thing is dead-on certain. The way end game content is currently done will have to change - there will either have to be those promised "innovative ideas" or a tremendously large brick laid up side the head of the average end game raider.

When it comes to innovative game play, one of the most promising changes seems to be coming out of the much lauded and long awaited "War Hammer Online" by EA Mythic, in the form of "Public Quests". With public quests you can join whenever you want, at whatever stage of the quest you want.
"Public Quests are one of the unique ways that Warhammer Online integrates the PVE content with the PVP content. Completing these zone-wide quests results in faction boosts and loot for those who contributed to the overall progress of the quest, and Carrie noted that rewards suit a player's contributions." - associate producer, EA Mythic, Carrie Gouskos (arstechnica.com)

If EA Mythic manages to change the way things are done, the days of waiting for group quests to start, the days of spamming for particular classes, all while someone decides if they want you in their group or not - all that nonsense is over with.

Here is what Jeff Hickman, Senior Produce of Warhammer Online had to say:
"The public quests (PQ's) are one of those things that passes my genius test. My genius test is simple: if you see something, and upon seeing it you go 'my god, that's blindingly obvious,' and yet you had never seen it up until that moment, then whatever it is that you've just seen was probably genius." - Jeff Hickman

If you ask Scott Hartsman, Senior Producer of EverQuest 2, about competing guilds (and Mmognation.com did) he will tell you that good game design "these days is about 'can you defeat the battle?' and less about 'can you race other guilds?' or 'can you spend twelve hours in a row online?'"

When it was pointed out to Scott Hartsman that "one of the biggest shames with these games is that you folks work so hard on this raid content and these beautiful zones...and only a small percentage of player population gets to see it" here is what he told Mmognation:
"I completely agree. That's the other nice thing we can do with our kind of instancing tech. There are few places we can do this already, and we'll keep expanding on it...we can do a zone for a raid and then use that zone later on for a small group instance if we want to tell the same story, or even a slightly different version of that story. You'll see us do stuff like that more often in the future." - Scotts Harman, "Face the Nation: Talking with Scott Hartsman" at mmognation.com

In the end of endgame, it may be common for developers to learn from the way Blizzard does things with their MMO. Now it is time for Blizzard to learn from the way companies like Sony and EA Mythic do things.

Until then...

See you online,

- Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on Nov 23, 2007 21:06:02 CST (comments: 5)


Comments:


'"End Game"' by Sethanon
Submitted on 2007-11-26 20:31:58 CST
Sooner or later we're going to have to come up with a new term. "End Game" has evolved from being the literal end of a game to being more of a moving target. How many "End Game" content cycles have EQ, DAoC and WoW seen?
I think that sort of breeds some of the discontent long time gamers have in a game. Taking WoW as an admittedly over-kicked example (lately), I'm sure many of us can remember when Upper Blackrock was end game. Followed by a succession of new end game instances including, but not limited by any means to, Blackwing, Molten Core, Nax (which I doubt more then 25% of the players have ever seen the inside of outside of Youtube), Mount Hyjal, etc. etc. etc.
The mudflation topic that the guys over at Shut Up We're Talking really sort of talks to this.
At this point, should we really be calling it, "End Game?"



'New Idea' by MMOcrunch
Submitted on 2007-11-27 22:29:40 CST
Public quests are a awesome idea. Being more of a solo player I hate waiting to form a group especially when its not peak hrs. I think War Hammer and AoC are both going to bring some excitement to the MMORPG world and for the better.


''end game'' by Talyn
Submitted on 2007-11-28 20:03:22 CST
In my view, the phrase "end-game" as applied to MMO's came about with EQ, etc. and the rest of the levels-based games. You'd be amazed how many people hit level cap and thing "oh, that's the end!" Hence, what do I do with my character when he's reached the end of his advancement?

Levels invalidate content. I've said it plenty of times; I'll continue saying it. Blizzard proves that point daily with their refusal to re-examine any of their previous hard work.

Having said that, use the "wings" concept and apply them to more raids so players can complete a given "wing" in less time. The hardcore guys who have 18 hours a night can keep going. The casuals can stop and their position is saved til next time. It gets more people seeing the content than is currently possible.




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