Experienced Points

Experienced Points
Give Me Dessert First

Shamus Young | 9 Oct 2009 21:00
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If you're into an MMO for the content, then the hero approach is a lot more appealing. It focuses on giving you lots of fun as soon as possible. In WoW, I quit once my main character reached his late 30's. I looked at how long it was going to take to level up and get to the next area of the game and see the next group of monsters, and realized that it was all uphill from here. And this is after they'd already sped up the level progression in the game.

To a certain extent, many MMO old-timers are really annoyed by this attitude, and are also offended by the trend to give gamers more fun for less effort. I can kind of understand that. If you had to work for hours to get your level ten powers, days to get to the interesting areas of the game, weeks to get your mount, and months to get to the high-level raiding, then you'd probably be irritated when the developer starts handing out those same rewards like Halloween candy to anyone who can successfully navigate the login screen. It's not fair that us newcomers get to have dessert without having to eat our vegetables first. But maybe this new trend isn't ruining the game. Maybe it's just fixing a long-standing issues that have been sucking the fun out of the hobby. Maybe the problem isn't that newcomers are getting rewards too fast, but that veterans had to wait so long.

"Players are lazy and want the game content handed to them on a silver platter", is the usual gripe. Which sort of introduces the question as to why this is a bad thing. We're here to be entertained, after all. We can see a pretty clear trend going from the early days of Everquest, where you had to grind for hours just to unlock a bit of content, to Champions Online, where the game begins handing out content by the armload as soon as you log in.

This trend has two downsides: For developers who want to give away more content sooner, then they need to have a lot more content in the game. The old-school grind was there partly because of the old tabletop preconceptions the games brought with them, but also because they just didn't have that much stuff to offer. The game needed six hours of grinding between rewards to keep players from hoovering up all the content in a couple of sittings. The other downside is for players, because once we enjoy a game without a lot of grinding, going back to those older titles is like taking the bus to school after you've learned to drive. "Man, I can't believe I ever put up with this." I enjoyed WoW at the time, but I don't think I could tolerate its plodding progression after being spoiled by Champions Online.

Don't think of it as handing out goodies on a silver platter. Think of it like having a bigger meal with less filler. More fun with less work. More cake and less vegetables.

Shamus Young is the guy behind this movie, this website, this book, these two webcomics, and this program. He got all the way to level 30 in Champions Online without needing to grind once.

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