Rift: Going Off the Rails – Is the Race to End-Game Killing the MMOG?

Updated Thu, Jan 05, 2012 by Medawky

Perusing the official Rift forums over the past few months has revealed some disturbing insights into the minds of most gamers. Gone are the days of wide-eyed wonder where communities were forged by a shared struggle to overcome unforgiving environs. They have been replaced instead by e-peen fueled races to the top just to secure the meaningless bragging rights of doing something first.

Rift didn’t create this monster, and even though they do more than most contemporary games to promote group-based gameplay they should still shoulder some of the blame for perpetuating it. Just how has Rift contributed to this achievement junky culture? They have done so by diminishing the experience of leveling a character and then over compensating players for their achievements once at the level cap.

The cries of the playerbase should fall on deaf ears as they proclaim their boredom after chewing through content like a fat kid at an all you can eat buffet. Even the recently introduced Instant Adventure scenarios that launch players into a frenzy of load and go gaming have been criticized by these voracious omnivores as being either too easy or too light in the experience department. How can a developer win when the players deride them for making content too easy but won’t play their game if they can’t reach the level cap in under week?

Rift



SWTOR has tried using fully voiced story and sweeping cut-scenes to help meter the pace, but with players hitting the level cap in a matter of days, that seems to have failed. Seriously people, there were numerous max-level toons before the official release! Rift has tried to satiate the masses by creating and launching new content every 6 weeks. The latter hasn’t worked out very well and the former needs more time to tell if it will be successful at keeping a long term hold on its playerbase.

rift
The secret to much of EverQuest's success was due directly to the fact that players were forced to band together for survival. World of Warcraft was much easier to level through, but it had the good fortune of being the first game to ensnare the console generation. Now that this demographic has become firmly entrenched in the genre, developers must find a way to keep them captivated.

Will anyone unlock the magical formula to keep players coming back for a long term experience, or are we doomed to wander the lands like Bedouins? Can the current crop of players learn to enjoy the experience of a steep leveling and learning would be a much better question, and if they can’t should the leveling process be scrapped altogether?  As many players fall into the cycle of logging in solely to raid, ideas like the StarCraft II mod, Starcraft Universe, gain traction. Hybrids that skip the whole leveling experience and give players “max level” toons to PvP and raid with, a sort of bastardized version of an MMOG that feels more like LoL.

Another idea, and one I would be more interested in, is having each accounts first character be the only one to have to struggle through the leveling process and then awarding high level or max level alts as a reward. The argument there would be that you would have tons of players that “don’t know their class” trying to invade the end game, but let’s face it folks – people who have soloed to level cap in two weeks probably don’t know a whole lot either.

Until we can find it within ourselves to enjoy the journey we will be doomed to suffering through clones of current games or continue to dust-bin the rest, and developers will continue to pay the price as their games fall by the wayside while the borg-like masses demolish each new world in their path.


So essentially you want the EQ2 system that rewards alts for the number of max level characters you have. Alts in Rift serve no purpose because you have 8 classes rolled into one. It was a odd approach and people who understand it love it.

Well written sir. At least SWTOR has the legacy system that rewards all you alts, even those on the other faction. I've played Rift since launch and it was the first game I hit level cap so fast. I regretted it ever since. Rift just wasn't fun anymore. I tried doing every quest, but I leveled so fast I'd have to just skip entire zones to keep my armor up to proper level. I don't have a solution, but the problem is not just a player problem IMHO, but they do hold the biggest responsibility for pacing themselves. The problem with Rift, once you hit end game, you stuck with end game. There is no viable alt path to take. It's the same grind, all over again. Trion is an amazing game developer, but they created an end game game, and that is all it is.

I don't see what's preventing games from providing both a great leveling experience as well as endgame content. SWTOR is lightyears ahead of WoW re. leveling; let's hope they can get a good endgame going soon too!

There was nothing wrong with leveling in original WoW. It took a damn long time if you played even 3-4 times a week a few hours a night...I think it took us maybe 4-5 months to reach 60. Also, packs of mobs and even quests took small groups (usually 2-3 people) so you couldn't just blow through content. And the experience gains were small, therefore you were finishing almost all the zones and areas.

THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE LONG LEVELING CAP OF VANILLA WOW.

I'm not sure why game developers want people to level fast. What's the point of thousands of hours of development time wasted if you just have people blow through areas or not even see them? Makes your game obsolete.

When you make something easy, then the rewards aren't rewards and it's not a challenge nor do you feel like you really accomplished something.

MMO games started the rush to end game with saying 'The real game begins at End Game' and that makes everything you do up to that point basically worthless now. Remember, original WoW wasn't going to be based around end game. It wasnt until the EQ guys came on board and changed that.

With leveling so fast along with items that you just replace so quickly, things become pretty pointless and not needed. In original WoW....if you got a green, you damn well knew you were going to use it leveling up and for a good while also.

Now with the changed leveling experience..where you can level within hours, items become worthless. And everything you do is about rushing to end game because that is where the 'real games begins.'

Until they really make leveling go back to taking a damn long time and items you get far and few between, then this problem won't be solved. The journey is supposed to be the best part but everyone rushes through it.

My thoughts exactly. The original WoW kept me entertained (hooked) for months. Level 1 to 60 was exciting. Exploring the new areas was something to look forward to. My wife and I played together and it took us months to rise to level 60 playing almost every night. After 60, we tried different classes, making the game repeatable and questing in areas we did not do before.

Burning Crusade continue the fun. While significantly shorter than the original, it still took a while to level from 60 to 70. The large number of dungeons continued the fun.

Then Blizz went down hill.....70 to 80 in Wrath took a week and a half.... Cata, same thing. Content is short and the race to the top is way too quick. There is very little to look at along the way.

Pandaland is going to be no different. 5 levels? Come on. I would like to see a minimum of 20 levels to max out and a large map like the original. I am bored with Wow at this point and it looks like it will stay that way. I may be suspending my account in the new future and looking for something else to entertain me.

Good point Ryth. I agree with you 100%.

Console kiddies have the attention span of gnats and trying to please them is a no win proposition. They complain if it takes too long to get to end game ; they complain once they get there. They can't seem to enjoy a MMO for what it has to offer; they are constantly looking for the next big thing.

This is destroying MMOs as we know them as developers try to please those who can't be pleased. MMO have that pesky RPG attached but it's getting slowly stomped out of existence. We need a new category: MMORPGs for those who enjoy the quests and lore and have alts and perhaps (gasp!) roleplay and MMOFCKs for those console kiddies that are designed to have a limited life span or centered on end game. I bet the forums of the latter would look the same as they do in the MMOs available today.

Unfortunately SWTOR's method makes the game feel even more like an RPG than an MMO,

I can almost see the business execs frothing at the mouth while the developers explain they found a way to get people to pay 15$ every month to play a mass effect clone.

@Ryth

I agree with you 100% I have no idea why these games continue with shorter leveling curves. In fact when I played RIFT i wish it was 100 levels of levleling because it was some of the most fun leveling I had ever seen in MMOs ( wow likely being #1 ) but it was way too short.

Leveling shouldn't be a draw, it should be an afterthought and just happen.. Exploration and discovery should be the drive for leveling not "levels".

I agree with Rainy17.

It's not so much the developers fault as it is the people they're trying to please. I guess in a sense that makes it the developers fault but.....

I think it's time that game companies start making the games they want to make and take the chance of it failing in the eyes of the "Give it to me now" people. Those people will give up a game in a heatbeat anyways so there's no sense in trying to please.

Make the best game you can and work with the people that actually care about what you're doing and the game you're making.

I myself am incapable of understanding what Rainy called the 'console kiddies'. I never understood the purpose of buying a game, paying a subscription fee, and then ignoring the majority of the content in it. I think those people are fools and personally, I'd just as soon see them ALL return to console games permanently. I find that I love the process of questing in Rift, getting achievements, collecting shinies (OOOH! SHINY!) , as well as doing dungeons and lots of pvp. My biggest wish is that the Rift Devs would get a clue and back off the endless exp boosts they've been giving. We get a ton of potions to increase it, little useable items to increase it once we hit 50, rest exp, bonus weekends all over the place. Frankly, I really just want to slow down! I want to be able to not have to struggle to choose how I'm going to spend the next ten levels. Am I going to just quest and do one dungeon? Am I finally going to do nothing but pvp just so I can feel some real pvp satisfaction for a while. As it is, I usually find myself struggling to fit it all in before I level out of yet another thing. And that is just wrong. I'd hate to see these whiners and crybabies play a game like FFXI where you needed millions upon millions of exp to level one level, and then, if you died you could very well delevel unless you had worked for 6 or so hours to get enough of a buffer to allow a death! Their cute widdle heads would explode! :P Seriously though, as several have said, games truly have gotten far too easy. I really miss the days of tough fights, hard quests, being able to pvp for weeks before hitting the next level tier. I feel the devs out there, not just in Rift, but in all games, are trying too hard to keep mere children happy. Let the kiddies play consoles. Leave the MMO's for the grownups! Let us have our tougher, longer play back to the way it was. All this rushing us isn't good for anyone, and it's worst of all for the games. Real gamers like it long lasting and hard! ;)

Final Fantasy XI had a decent system for dealing with this problem, although it had its own major drawbacks as well. One account by default only had one character on it and you had to pay an extra US dollar per month for each additional character, but the one character could have multiple "jobs" (i.e., classes) and switch between them at will. So you would go through every game quest once for each character and you could do it on whichever job you wanted to, leveling that job as you go. You only gain experience for the job you're currently on, though, so you'd still have to level every class, but you wouldn't have to repeat the quests as you did so.

The drawbacks in FFXI's implementation of this system were several. 1) You didn't receive experience for completing quests. Quest completion typically served to open new zones, unlock new abilities, or gain certain pieces of job-specific gear. This was nice in that you had a huge variety in the types of quests you would run, but instead of taking 5-10 minutes to complete, they usually took a few hours to a few weeks to complete. 2) Leveling each job was a HUGE grind. When I switched from FFXI to WoW I was blown away by the fact that you could level solo; in FFXI it was impossible to kill mobs to give you enough exp to gain levels faster than one every 8-10 hours. So you had to find groups to level with, which could take several hours depending on what level you were at and how many people were logged into your server. 3) Storage. With only one character per account, you only had one character's storage. This would be bad in any game anyway, but you're not just storing one class' gear and consumables, you're storing every piece of job-specific soulbound and tradeable gear and all the consumables you need for up to 15 classes (and this still included stacks of spell-specific reagents for several classes). Square/Enix kept getting more and more creative with adding new storage options with each new expansion, but in many cases you ended up having to pay money to store less-used specialty gear in long-term storage and it became a huge shuffle. At one US dollar per month, most people would end up adding more characters to their account and then leveling them high enough and running them through the required quests to unlock the additional storage options to make them viable mules for their main character's less-used classes.

I've been playing SWTOR since a few days before launch and I like the pace so far. I have one level 27 Jedi Consular Shadow and one level 22 Trooper Vanguard. The quest diversity is much better than WoW's, and I really like both the interactivity with the NPCs and the social aspect of talking to NPCs while in a group. SWTOR feels like it was built as an MMO with a fully-functional single-player angle plus extra incentives to work in groups besides just instances and epic mobs. I think the companions with their compassion metric and how it affects mission/crafting completion times and success rates is a nice addition too. I also really like the genre diversity; obviously its core is standard MMO gameplay, but I am loving the 3D space combat on rails (reminds me a lot of Starfox and some of the SW 3D space shooters) and even the limited platformer gameplay involved in hunting down datacrons (like Mario Bros, LBP, etc). I'd really like to see more customization options in the UI (resize windows/toolbars, move windows/toolbars, etc.) and I'd like to see an ingame macro system and support for add-ons and then I'll be a super-happy camper. :)

If that what the customers want then that what we get! Most customers do not want difficult MMO games. I quit WOW when the dumb down the game. I like difficultly, I enjoy doing quests that have a high failure rate and when you complete it you feel like you accomplished something. That the state of the MMO game play, they want to play, they do not want difficulty, the games that require to play smart and think . The games now is like how fast can you hit the keyboard to kill something and how fast can I level to the top.

I'm a veteran game player and still waiting for a really good sandbox game, you know, where the fun is just in playing the game and leveling is a side reward, and end game isn't needed.

Try EvE Online - found it to be the closest thing to a sandbox MMO so far.

This reminds me of the very old telnet-based MUD games, in which it was unthinkable to venture out alone, when you died you almost always lost a level and it took so much effort to hit the level cap that it was a real achievement.... Even dark age of Camelot at the dawn of the MMORPG age had an xp loss penalty whe dying.

I was so disappointed when I recently tried to level a new char from level 1 in WOW, you could load him with heirlooms to provide excellent items that level with the character, permanent experience bonuses and on top of that there were the usual rest xp and bonus anniversary xp bonuses... It's as if the developers are going out of their way to kill their own creations...

This reminds me of the very old telnet-based MUD games, in which it was unthinkable to venture out alone, when you died you almost always lost a level and it took so much effort to hit the level cap that it was a real achievement.... Even dark age of Camelot at the dawn of the MMORPG age had an xp loss penalty whe dying.

I was so disappointed when I recently tried to level a new char from level 1 in WOW, you could load him with heirlooms to provide excellent items that level with the character, permanent experience bonuses and on top of that there were the usual rest xp and bonus anniversary xp bonuses... It's as if the developers are going out of their way to kill their own creations...

How many people have played a single player RPG and got really sucked in to the story, and attached to the character and universe only to be disappointed because you "won"(as it meant the end of the line)? I have felt this way many times. I think the holy grail of single player RPG is basically like this with small group multiplayer and continually expanding content. I started playing WoW about a month after release and quit only recently. For me, this is why I liked WoW it accomplished this for the most part. I think(and granted I could be wrong) there are A LOT of players who play MMORPGs not because they like repetitive and tedious gameplay and playing with 25 other people, but simply because they get to continually progress their character they have become attached to and continue their adventures in the world they have grown to love. For me the social aspects were simply an added bonus.

I honestly don't think the current formula for most MMORPGs work in general, because the more content you get the farther behind new players are unless you trivialize lower level content. People want to be able to play with their friends so they rush to max. This generally leaves low level grouping somewhat difficult for those who want to enjoy the journey.

For me I would love to have an MMORPG game that has a lot of leveling content(non-tedious), but allows you to group and play with other players regardless of "level" while still providing everybody involved with some sort of meaningful rewards/progression. It seems Secret World may be doing this very thing. Whether or not characters will continue to see meaningful progression even after having played the character for an extended period of time remains to be seen. I actually think Rift does a fairly good job of giving the player lots of stuff to do to progress their character at max level, however I haven't been playing Rift very long and my guess is that it would become less interesting as time goes on.

I would also love to see a subscription based single player RPG that continually pumps out new content, because it is very difficult to build an MMORPG where your character can affect the world around you and provide that level of immersion.

Imo, race to end game is killing any game. I always try to get that immersion feeling with any game at least with 1st alt. I'm reading carefully story and all the rest. Later with other alts I might read faster, sometimes skip or skipping at all times. Is really sad to see how much effort developers put into some fantastic world that majority just ignore. And then what? They get to end game that will always have some limited ammount of dungeons and all get pretty repetitive fast.

I've played many MMOs and have enjoyed them. I'm not hard core and prefer to take things a bit more slowly - search the environment, look for Easter eggs.

Gaming is something I do for relaxation, just like my other hobbies. I have never pushed myself to level (and have given up trying to maintain the same level as my friends so I can go wtih them into dungeons/raids), so I've never been faced with the "there's no end game/there's nothing for me to do."

Guess I'm just happy being a "Care Bear." :)

These new games starting with WoW and up will never compare to EQ and Ultima, them games were all about enjoyment and socializing since you would group cause soloing was not worth it and you couldn't 1 shot a mob(so much skill there huh). Sadly those days are gone and now we got the instant gratification generation that wants everything now without having to work for it and complaining if something can't be soloed or 2 boxed. Sadly since the easiness of WoW most new players and the WoW generation want everything to be easy to play, back when i played EQ getting half a level in a days grinding was great and you played with people the entire time, nowadays these games you can get 10 levels a day completely solo.

The simple reality is this is just another facet of the degradation of society in so much as the fact that we are teaching our kids that it is ok to "be the victim" and that the government should provide you with things. Its the trappings of socialism. Everyone feels entitled to something and nobody is willing to work for it.

Its already happening in the gaming industry where people are finally starting to pull the wool from their eyes and realize that not only have they been playing literally the same game for the last 5 years, but they've been licking the balls of the developers who they think are so fucking great, when the reality is they're a bunch of no talent ass clowns who are ruled by a bunch of suits trying to figure out the "monetization strategy" for the game. I.E. how to screw the idiots out of their money.

You want games to start being worth playing again? Then stop felating Blizzard, Bioware, SquareEnix, InfinityWard, etc. Start supporting some of the indy developers who don't have an investor's hand up their ass controlling the state of the game to make it about hooking you so you keep paying and playing, rather than being about the artistic content and fun of actually playing games.

We *think* its a good thing when a developer listens to the community. And although there is some truth to that, one of the reasons EQ was so good is because they basically told the community to eat a dick, that the change is not in line with "The Vision" and if you don't like it, there's the fucking door.

100% WoW's fault. It had so many subs, making so much $$$ that anything it did went right into the 'best practices for an mmo' book, and got cloned into all new mmo's and infected the ones already out there. Remember all those stories about the millions 'earned' right away when that first flying mount went up for WoW - now every game has overpriced digital flying junk for sale on mircrotransactions.

The single worst infection to a game I love (eq2) from WoW was the whole bullcrap of a 'solo path to cap'. IMO it is the majority of the problems. It rips a person out of the MMO requirement, eliminates much of the need for 'grinding', devalues group content (which back in the day was the PRIMARY content in an MMO), and allows a single person to literally burn through content and 'max' characters at a blinding pace.

Don't get me wrong, some solo content is ok for an MMO, but grouping (or lengthy grinding) should be a requirement for leveling, otherwise grouping only rewards gear and since solo path to 90 = FAST LEVELING, people often bypass gear under cap anyway, vicious cycle.

There are times that I prefer to solo, especially when grinding, it's kind of theraputic. And I love PUGs - I've met some really neat people who've been a good laugh and who have taught me how to improve my game. I love the "drive by" boosts and heals and am grateful for the people who lend a hand when they notice that my *$$ is being kicked :)

There are times that I prefer to solo, especially when grinding, it's kind of theraputic. And I love PUGs - I've met some really neat people who've been a good laugh and who have taught me how to improve my game. I love the "drive by" boosts and heals and am grateful for the people who lend a hand when they notice that my *$$ is being kicked :)

There are times that I prefer to solo, especially when grinding, it's kind of theraputic. And I love PUGs - I've met some really neat people who've been a good laugh and who have taught me how to improve my game. I love the "drive by" boosts and heals and am grateful for the people who lend a hand when they notice that my *$$ is being kicked :)

Many of the posts here are the main reason why we're in the boat we are in. There should be no comparisons to WoW, EQ, DAOC, or any other game going on here. The question is about the Race to End Game Killing the MMO. The answer to that is an astounding yes.

Games that are excellent, and have great ideas, content, decent balance, and a plethora of things to do, are being bought, and played to their extent in a matter of 6 months. It's a pity really, but there are a few distinct factors contributing to this trend.

#1 - Players can basically solo the game now, except for instance dungeons, and or raids. Leveling is a solo adventure, that in my MMO experience, totally detracts from what a MMO is, Community.

#2 - The game industry, the man behind the curtain if you will. This factor is pumping out new titles that they know are not complete and basically are charging the gaming community to beta test their games. They generate enough revenue on initial sales to basically pay for development, (in most cases), and then ride the wave until they feel the game is "finished". Whoever is left is pure profit. The man behind the curtain ropes in big name product lines that by name alone will sell enough boxes or digital downloads (another huge profit gainer for the "Man") to more than pay for things and then they just move on.

#3 - The Player base. Yes ladies and gents, you and I, share a big part of the factors killing the MMO. We want everything now, we complain if we do a dungeon more than once and don't get all the loot we so desire. We make pyramid systems for distribution that alienates the community, and creates an exclusive club that is not open to everyone. Granted if you are into that sort of thing you will disagree. Another huge factor we the players contribute to is the constant whining with PVP. PVP is here to stay on all servers. Deal with it or quit, don't stick around and drag everyone else down with you.

But MMO's that have great lasting power, have great communities. They are the games that the people who played them, became friends in this world, and have so many fond memories and can still remember names and places of pixels that once danced on their computers.

This is my three headed dragon, if we can collectively slay this dragon, I think the MMO that does it will last a very long time.

An idea to save it all.

An MMO that you buy, that everything in the world is created or can be manipulated by the community. You start out in a field lets say, with nothing, but the clothes on your back and maybe some tools you had in your pack. Levels are skill/performance based not grind xp based.

Use a GW model for PVP with "X" amount of skills available for use, not all skills, you choose your load out.

Make the back story and the story line a choose your own adventure that is based on a lifetime, not 24 hours. Day to day stuff, like daily quests change from day to day based on decisions made the day, week, month before. Relationships in MMO's with NPC's and or other players that effect what you do or don't do.

Crafting, simple base crafters make stuff, like turn ore to metal, thread to cloth ect. Now invent things, no recipes not set mats, find something cool, use it in a crafting session and see what happens. Make the most popular mini game, just that a real game within a game.

Also Three Factions, that's a must, three playable factions.

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