Off to a Running Start
By Anomalous Silence
Within any MMORPG is there are certain key elements: perhaps foremost among these elements is the pace of advancement. It is an aspect that can and should be handled with great care. The speed of advancement can dictate whether a player gets a feeling of accomplishment or a feeling of not accomplishing anything, whether that player sees the pace of gameplay as rushed or slowly inching along.
There are the perfect mediums out there, but first lets take a look at the numerous paces of various current MMORPGs.
As in life, progression tends to range from slow to fast, and so EverQuest is first up on the list. It is a game that illustrates an extreme of the pacing spectrum because it has perhaps one of the slowest advancement speeds of any MMORPG. Players can literally take up to two years, or more, to achieve maximum level, and the most hardened of the hardcore gamers would take, at the minimum, six months to achieve Level 70. I remember that when I played EverQuest, I was level 31 after playing for four months. If I would have remained in game, I estimate that it would have been, roughly, a year or more before I reached the top level, which was, at the time, level 65.
As I played EverQuest, I never felt as if anything at all was accomplished within one sitting (2-3 hours), though at the same time “dinging” a level was be one of the greatest rewards. With another level, I felt as if I had accomplished something major, something wonderful and huge. Still, although a player could feel very accomplished when they achieved a level, in an ordinary gaming session, nothing much happened, or was achieved. While this particular style of pacing has its ups and downs, just like the rest, it is one that should typically be avoided to keep a steady flow of new players and to keep the interest and attention of the older players. If the existing players aren’t very dedicated to the game, the feeling of no achievement can cause them to search for another home. Newer players might feel overwhelmed at the length of time it takes to level up.
At the middle of the spectrum, though still not at they center, lies EverQuest 2. Within a playing session, things can happen rather quickly. As for myself, by level 26 I found that I still had “Level 20” quests in my Quest Journal, and as an avid quester, I felt as though the pacing was a bit too rapid. A practical remedy to this issue would, most likely, have been to not quest so often, but that’s the way I prefer to play my MMORPGS, when possible.
EverQuest 2 is a good example of an attempt to balance pacing and achievement, but still somewhat fast. Players could easily hit maximum level within eight months or so. As a newbie, I didn’t leave the Island of Refuge for three days, and I wasn’t level 10 until a week into the game.
World of Warcraft is another extreme of the advancement pacing spectrum, and the polar opposite of EverQuest. Using my personal past experience once more as an example, it would generally take me two hours to hit level five, another two to achieve level 10, and about four more arrive at level 15. While I am still playing World of Warcraft, and haven’t achieved maximum level, I know many who have. The median time I estimate is five months, though I have talked to some players who hit level 60 at three months, others in six months, and even others within one year.
World of Warcraft is a MMORPG where, no matter what you do within a play session, if it relates to adventuring or questing, you feel quite accomplished when you log off for the day. With this fast pace, however, comes the feeling of boredom. If a player gains levels, items, and skills so quickly, then gaining one more level or upping in another skill does not bring excitement to the player. They have grown accustomed such a fast pace and thus advancement is not such a significant achievement.
As with almost everything, there truly is a perfect pace of advancement in MMORPGs. Again, as with so many things in life, that happy medium is a balance of the two opposite ends of the spectrum. If things are too slow, a player grows bored. If things are too fast, a player can grow accustomed to this and therefore not care so greatly about advancement.
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is a game developed not for the hardcore gamer, as might incorrectly assume, but instead for the “core” gamer and Brad McQuaid called them. In Vanguard, and with the core gamers, balance is the only option. While no anticipated timelinehas been released, a rough estimate would be somewhere around six months to two years for a person to achieve maximum level, depending on whether a player is hardcore, average, or casual. It is a nice, happy medium, possibly the middle of the progression spectrum, and the kind of pacing that should be rejoiced in by all MMORPG players.
Just keep in mind that it isn’t solely about achieving maximum level, but about having fun along the way. Then again, who can have fun if the pace is too fast or too slow, no matter how hard you try?
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