Problems and Solutions in Middle-earth
Once an MMOG launches it will inevitably run into the problem of end game or elder game content. As gamers, we consume content at an alarming rate, and the developers, can never seem to keep up. There are a lot of reasons for this, and maybe even a few solutions. The question is, What is the right balance?
The rate at which we consume content can be attributed to a few factors.
- Modern MMOG's make leveling faster and therefore we consume the content faster.
- Most gamers have experienced an MMOG by now and know how it works so we dont progress as slowly as we once did.
- Most MMOG's launch with light high level content.
In trying to appeal to the mass market of casual gamers, the developers have managed to do this, but at the same time, they created their own problem. With increased leveling speeds, countless people were already level 50 by the end of the first month after the launch of Lord of the Rings Online. The developers have released three new Book updates since launch adding some additional high level content and one new raid instance, The Rift of Nurz Ghashu. Still, players blew through this content quickly. Despite Turbines best efforts, this still wasnt much.
The question is what can be done to aid in this new drive for content to keep players playing? The first thing is you need to provide players with more to do. Once you hit level 50 you have only a few options. You can grind deeds of which you will only need certain ones for your class and for raids, finish up quest just for the sake of finishing them, or you can grind reputation faction. There is however, a problem with each of these.
Finish up quest just for the sake of finishing them:
While finishing quest up can keep some players entertained, others might see fit to hold off until a level increase since the experience would be wasted. There are some items worth questing for, but to be honest, the best gear in the game currently comes from two places, crafting, and The Rift of Nurz Ghashu. Quest gear on the rare occasion will be better than some, but that is rare. So questing at max level does not appeal to a lot, as the experience is not worth losing for a future level cap increase.
Solution- Alternate Advancement System:
The original Everquest is one of the first MMOGs created for this new generation of gaming. Though this MMOG has gained some age, it is still going strong. Everquest holds one game mechanic that has not been put to the test by any other MMOG to date, but this mechanic is probably one of the best ever conceived. Its called the Alternate Advancement system.
The Alternate Advancement system allows players to continue progression past the maximum level by placing their experience earned towards skill points. The points are leveled up similar to the way you earn a new character level. Once you have gained enough experience, you earn an alternate advancement point. The points earned can then be used to purchase alternate advancement skills. These new skills were anything from increased run speed, mana regeneration, health regeneration and even mass group buff skills. So the question is, Can Lord of the Rings Online benefit from an Alternate Advancement System? I think the answer is a resounding yes.
The developers at Turbine have done a great job with churning out content, but the problem with high level content still remains. The alternate advancement system or an off shoot of it, could certainly benefit the game by allowing players a fresh infusion of content to keep their character progressing. This idea however, is not without its problems. Making the system balanced and useful is the key to making it successful.
While I strongly support something like an alternate advancement system mechanic, I also know the problems that can accompany it. Such as
- Developers must Balance the skills so they dont make characters to powerful or trivialize the content.
- Make the skills useful and coincide with the games theme.
- Make the skills beneficial, but balanced.
- Make class specific Alternate Advancement skills as well as general.
A mechanic of this magnitude would not be a small task. If the developers were to choose this option, they would have an excellent mechanic to add to LOTRO if they can master the problems and be creative with their solutions. Since Everquest, few developers have tried to use this mechanic, but it can benefit the game with what it offers. A fresh new way to advance your avatar and some much needed elder game content.
Short of adding new raids this would appear to be the best course of action that would allow continued progression for all players.
Often times if you have not gotten your deeds early on, you will find yourself killing hundreds of gray creatures to earn them. One thing that could help spice up the deed/trait system and aid in diversifying the classes would be a system from World of Warcraft that allows you to earn trait points and invest them into certain skills for your class. You would have plenty of skills and be able to power them up by spending points, but you would not be able to power everything so you would need to choose where you put the points wisely. This could aid greatly in diversifying the classes and make each person more unique.
Grind reputation faction:
Faction grinding doesnt bother me as I am an old Everquest vet. I enjoyed it with the right group of people, but here grinding reputation doesnt balance out well. Especially if this is something you are working for at maximum level. There are few items worth buying on the reputation vendors save a few recipes and housing items. Aside from a repair discount that is really all you have to look forward to.
What can be done to fix this, is to first revamp the vendors and update the items. Maybe add a few extra things that can be desirable for use and a few additional housing items. Next, implement the reputation deeper into the world. Allow there to be some decent quest that you need reputation to get. That will make it worth trying to earn that faction.
Lord of the Rings Online despite some of its shortcomings is still one of the best MMORPGs on the market. The developers are trying, but I think these ideas could greatly enhance the experience. None of these would be a small undertaking. The math and programming alone could drive a sane man mad, but if it could be done Middle-earth would be a much more interesting place.
That's my two copper. Tell us yours in our Forums.
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