For some strange reason, upon starting a new MMO, we are presented with a fledgling we’ve created who is intended to kill and quest, possibly even in dungeons, to earn some obscure points that translate into gaining levels and growing stronger. Then, our young fledgling eventually becomes strong enough to start the “real game,” which has absolutely nothing to do with the last month or so of time they’ve spent leveling up.
New players who may be unfamiliar with the genre entirely probably have no idea what to expect once they reach the hardest dungeon groups and raid situations. There’s no group etiquette training, and extensive solo play does not help a player understand what is expected of them in a group dynamic. In fact, it might even burn in a few unwanted bad habits.
This system is all based around old school MMORPGs, which are all based around old school D&D. Right? But as the games have evolved, we’ve lost some features which are now seen as antiquated, like challenging quests with few to no in-game guides or taking extensive time with a full group to even gain levels, and gained new features that promote speed and convenience.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for another Everquest to come out. I’m looking for MMOs to take that next evolutionary step and not base their new school game around old school concepts. Why are we so fixated on leveling to end game, where the game really starts? Why not take out that extraneous step and start the game where the game really starts?
Drop leveling entirely. Sure, it feels like an accomplishment for some people to reach max level, but, for many, it’s just a completely unnecessary time sink. I don’t see why we can’t all start the game we’re looking for at the same time. Instead of the quest lovers enjoying a game from day one and the raiders not enjoying the game until a month down the road, why don’t we compile things a bit?
Of course, the system doesn’t work if there’s no incentive to play. I’m still in favor of gear dropping in incremental steps if that’s what some players enjoy. I’m still all for a questing system that builds storylines and lore or helps develop your own character in some way. And, of course, dungeons and raids would be there in full force.
But, all of these things should be accessible right away. It wouldn’t all be completable right away. There still needs to be character growth and development, but these things should be earned through ways other than killing until you reach some arbitrary experience number and suddenly earn a new heal, attack, or what have you.
Maybe some skills could be earned from actually clearing a dungeon. You annihilated three fierce frost giants at once? Great! You’ve obviously figured out how to protect yourself from the elements and fierce beasties and gained a buff for frost resistance and health. Maybe during that fight you also parried deftly enough that you’ve figured out how to counterattack after parrying. While you were throwing down awesome damage, your good healer friend just barely saved your tank from being eaten by those same frost giants and earned a new higher powered heal. But, the best part about this encounter? You ran this mini dungeon on your first day after you spent a little time investigating a brand new game, and you were able to get some new gear that would help you prepare for another set of adventures.
I also think that questing needs to be overhauled. What is the point of bringing up a dialog box with an NPC, clicking accept, and following arrows on your map and directions on your screen to do some meaningless task? People who enjoy questing and lore should be given just as much content as those who prefer raiding.
Wouldn’t it be cool if a more dynamic questing system could be implemented? Like, you find and kill a gnoll lieutenant while out exploring only to discover plans to attack a nearby, defenseless city. Then the townspeople need you to assist in their defense. No, don’t just stand there and wait for the waves of three gnolls to attack. Go out and find supplies to help reinforce the city, or ride to a neighboring city that might be willing to spare guards, or maybe even call in your own group of friends to defend the upcoming onslaught. But, the beauty of these quests would be the lack of direction. Questers could choose the way they want to handle the quests, and, better yet, people who hate questing wouldn’t even need to bother. Because they wouldn’t need to mindlessly level in the first place.
I would love to see a game take on something that wasn’t based around a totally antiquated base principle. Why should these game developers continue to waste so much time on stuff that is intentionally rushed through? That’s time, energy, talent, and money that could be better spent on making the whole game enjoyable.