what’s my carrot for endgame these days

my carrot and cake!

my carrot and cake!

Yes, I’m getting old and less patient with games these days.  Anyway, my fascination seems to wax and wane.  When I don’t stick around, I tend to dig into SciFi Fiction and graphic novels.  I mostly enjoy leveling but once I hit endgame, there’s just limited things to keep me there given my likes and limited discretionary gaming time.  At most I have a few hours  a day to spend gaming, not 12+.  I’m only mentioning this because I sense that the target audience for mmo’s definitely play more than 2hrs daily.

But I digress, back to my carrot…I’d like to think it comes down to: interesting story and gameplay but there’s some intangibles in there also.  

notthatintoyou

Interesting story means interesting to me of course but generally goes beyond the standard “go kill ten rats in my basement” story.   Quest wise, it could be the back story of a npc, how some character has “fallen” and is seeking redemption, or how 2 people set on very different paths.  Or something totally different like the “Scotty” quests in Rift. I’ve run into these “story” quests in WOW, LOTRO, RIFT, TSW, SWTOR, etc.  OK, so not every quest CAN be interesting and compelling….I know but they do get me past the standard kill, fetch, or deliver quests.  Unfortunately, these typically dry up at endgame, ie, you have made it to the end of the story so now what…answer is usually dailies. If a game can’t serve this up during leveling, I most certainly won’t make it to level cap.   

Gameplay means a couple of things.  First and foremost, I have to enjoy your combat system.  I’m not saying it has to be great or special, I just have to enjoy it.  TSW has great stories but the combat system just didn’t click with me.  On the other hand, Rift’s and GW2’s combat system really hit it off with me.  It seems I’m at home with either the action or tab targeting models.  

Second, the best rewards need not be extremely difficult to obtain, and certainly not requiring running the same content hundreds of times (RNG) for the drop you want/need.

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Make it a difficulty factor, not a time factor.  I’m not claiming mastery of these examples but LOTRO’s endgame seems to be about playing the same content over and over (RNG) and RIFT’s a matter of time (numerous notoriety grinds). Now, I don’t have any issue with GW2 legendary weapon system acquisition.  It meets the difficulty factor and the time factor can be somewhat circumvented by using the Trading Post.  I see it as a measure of difficulty more than time because of the different areas of the game that one has to master. I’m not saying its perfect but it’s a step in the right direction. Again this applies only at endgame and in particular if you want to try out raiding.  

Third, make it easy to play and interact with others online when I want and solo for when I want to do my own thing. I think we are at a point where most MMO’s are easy to solo, at least the ones I play regularly.  Chat/guild channels let me keep up with what’s happening in game.  The subtle differences rise to the surface when you look at how easy/hard it is to find groups for content.  In that instance, I have to give a nod to Rift and their cross shard grouping mechanics.  It’s also practically a requirement given the endgame notoriety grinds found in Rift.

Now for the intangibles.  I didn’t find much in LOTRO to keep me there. Granted I had other issues that kept me from playing on a regular basis but for the time being, its not on my dashboard. Rift, I see lots of intangibles.  Dimensions is a biggie, huge.

from Rift Junkies

from Rift Junkies

You don’t need any reminder of this than seeing the reaction to EQNext: Landmark reveal.  Allowing players to tell their own story…a win.  Now, much lower on my intangible scale are the artifact and achievement systems. Ok, enough rant, time to game.

Endgame for casuals

Yep, its possible for an mmo to keep casuals at level cap provided they have something meaningful and challenging to do.  That’s a fairly intuitive requirement.  There should be a blending of the two (casual and raider), but it’s a line that can be easily crossed, mostly at the expense of raiding difficulty and reward.  I don’t claim mastery of this topic, it’s just a few thoughts that were triggered by game play and forum rants.

Disclaimer: I started out my mmo career as a wanna be, occasionally Hardcore raider. I’m writing this article now as a firmly established casual player. I have no bone to pick with with either type of player or style and my only “beef” is with douche-bag players that try to troll one side against the other.

A place to call home.

Building and setting up a house is a fulfilling activity, maybe not for everyone but a lot certainly feel that way and keep asking for this. Take a look at what Rift has done and what Wildstar is planning and it’s really incredible. I like that idea that you can start off with just a shack and as you acquire loot/gold, you can build up or enhance what you have, much like in RL. You can also create a niche for Crafters to build housing slots/items. For example, Raiders will collect trophies that will need crafters to build the items to display these trophies. All this takes is time and money which a casual play style can adapt to.

Guild/Kinship centered Missions

Casual players have ingame friends too and it’s fun to do stuff with your friends, especially something that requires a coordinated group effort.  GW2’s Guild missions goes a long way in scratching this group itch without having the raiding time requirement.

Challenging Solo Content

Jumping Puzzles: Ok, jumping puzzles can and do cause rage in some, I get it and I’ve been there. However, take a look at GW2’s Mad King Clock Tower jumping puzzle. Now, that is challenging but not quite impossible content. It’s not level dependent so it’s highly assessable with the promise of some nice goodies at the end. I could also see the value in a Spectator mode here for the lawls.

Casuals experiencing Endgame Raids

Check out Rift’s Chronicles, also here . I really like how Trion presented these solo versions of it’s raiding content. Without these Chronicles in place, many players would never see this amazing content and it doesn’t take anything away from the actual Raid because it doesn’t award Raid level loot.

Gear and Trading

Make the best raid/endgame gear tradeable so that casuals have something meaningful to spend gold on. Yeah, allow casuals to gear up with the best stuff by using the Auction House. Those casuals buying this gear will be paying a premium price and they will have had to work hard for that currency. They are no less deserving that the raiders who won the drop, especially considering that Casuals put in lots of time, just like everyone else and often don’t have the same resources as raiders to make efficient farming.