Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hitting the Wall

Hitting the wall in MMORPG’s seems inevitable. You get to a certain point leveling up your character where the development slows and the progress seems non existent. You spend several nights without upgrades, or doing tasks in game that you aren’t really enjoying. Why is this? Did you pick the wrong class? Is it the game design flawed? Is it just natural for this to happen?

For me it feels like this mostly somewhere on the last ten levels to get to the cap. In CoH/CoV the experience gain of those last 10 levels was so high that it made it ridiculously hard to gain a level. And in that game with every mission being fairly identical you can imagine that got old realllllllly fast. The lure of that game (and a lot of games for me) was the awesome powers you could use, the way they looked, and the effects they had. The only problem is as you neared the cap (just like most other games) you almost already got everything you could want or need around 8 levels before you even get to the end. So now the level ups are taking longer (bad), I’m not getting any new skills to look forward to (bad), there is nothing that will improve/change the way I play my guy (bad). Does it need to work this way?

Lets explore other games. Warhammer online I felt like I hit the wall on my 32 Engineer. Sure there are other factors (a friend of mine decided to start a new guy and I wanted to play with him) but even after I started a new guy the desire to jump back on the engineer wasn’t there. What happened? I was loving my engineer to that point. Heck I still love what he can do, and how he plays. I even like the looks a lot! But I looked down the line and was like ok, what am I looking forward to getting here. And for the first time I was like hmmmm, nothing really. That’s when it becomes hard to climb the wall and level past it, especially when something else comes up (playing another class with a friend). Again the level ups (progress) takes longer, I’m not motivated towards getting anything (gear on an engineer is not nearly as desired as say a new weapon for a melee dps class), and so it happens, a giant wall.

In World of Warcraft the wall was there for me, but not nearly as high as other games I played. Why is that? The progress near the top while slower did not seem astronomically slower, and they provided sufficient motivations at the end. You got cool new abilities that changed your character and they provided the Arena, like it or not, for exclusively those at the cap. For me, I wanted to do arena, I wanted to do small scale battles with friends or acquaintances that got ranked and also allowed for gear. So there was a reason to climb that wall, without it you couldn’t Arena, and you could be missing some key new skills (or amazing talent tree combinations) that you couldn’t get until the cap. Maybe lowering that wall to end game is part of the success WoW introduced into the MMORPG market.

So what can be done in all MMORPG’s to take down that wall? Here are a few thoughts:

--Don’t hike the leveling curve too high at the end, make it just slightly more than the previous level. Especially in games where the end game is supposed to be where its at, why make it so hard to get there?

--Give me some game changing or graphically awesome abilities scattered through the last 10 levels. Don’t give everything about a class so there is nothing to look forward to. If not a new ability give something that dramatically improves something the class already does.

--Make something at end game worth getting to if the goal is end game. Arena’s were probably one of the only things like that to me where I was like damn, I want to fight there. For war they could do something more unique then just more keep sieges (and possibly city/fortress sieges). That doesn’t seem unique enough though I haven’t got there yet to try myself and see.

Have you hit the wall? Would you like to see it come down like me, or do you think its more like a right of passage?

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