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Why MMOs Need Exclusive Content

One of the biggest trends to sweep MMO gaming is accessibility. It’s all about making sure everyone can do everything now. Yet, I think there’s a difference between the two. Accessible does not mean that everyone can do everything. Rather, it means that everyone has the reasonable opportunity to try. There’s a difference there, but it’s hard to tell from the direction the industry is taking us.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now but my return to WoW really brought it back to the front of my mind. One of the biggest aspects of the genre that got me hooked and kept me coming back for more was the mystery of it all. When you first step foot into an MMO for the first time, there’s a lot to take in; the gaming gods have gifted you with a world filled with adventure and the unknown. Not knowing what’s around the next corner gives way to the anticipation of what’s to come.

That not knowing, not understanding, has an appeal that’s slowly lost on the way to the level cap. As you see more and more of the game, the mysticism starts to fade and you begin recognizing the scripts mobs will play through, aggro radiuses that vary by mob type, how very routine the seemingly random was previously. In short, the magic disappears and you’re left with a game. That’s not a bad thing– I’d even call it necessary.

The problem, as I’ve come to recognize it, is that we now know too much about what’s to come. There’s no question about whether or not you’ll be able to experience everything because Blizzard’s already told you you can. You probably even have friends that have told you about it. There are few, if any, hurdles to getting involved, outside of planning your time and finding a guild. There is no heirarchy of guilds anymore, only raiding or non-raiding. If you’re in a raiding guild, it’s really only a matter of time before you see all the game has to offer.

On one hand, opening up the doors like this is a very good thing. I’m not against accessibility. One of the greatest shames to Vanilla WoW is that so few people got to see the best content (myself included). Add to that insane rep. grinds, attunement quests, and the general problem of organizing 40 people, and you have a recipe for a headache.

Yet, one of the things I recall most fondly from those days is that there was always the possibility of something more. I think of MMOs as a series of doors. Along the leveling path, you open up many of them, always receiving a string of new “ahh” moments. Like all man-made things, however, they hallways is finite and eventually it comes to an end. Except, the exclusivity of raiding meant that it didn’t end. There was always that next door because, more likely than not, you would never be able to see all of the content the game had to offer; it held back, kept a little bit of mystery, and gave an elusive, yet extremely rewarding, goal.

A 40-man during downtime

Even if it wasn’t reasonable to achieve, it was still nice to know that you could always move up. And if you do, there’s all the more reward for achieving it.

Now, I’m not saying we should go back to the days of 1% of players being able to experience what is arguably the most spectacular part of the MMO experience. No, rather, I support varying the raid experience. By most reports, that’s what’s happening in ICC now and I applaud Blizzard for it. Raiding should offer a steep incline in difficultly the further you get into it. By the end of any given expansion pack, there should be at least a couple really and truly exclusive instances that only the most dedicated of players get to experience– at least for a while.

I also think that players should be rewarded for “playing” harder than others. I know that it results in the unemployed and pre-college folks getting much more powerful, but, frankly, I think they deserve it. If someone puts more time and effort into something, it only makes sense that they should get some clear benefit from it. I didn’t play for 40 hours last week, so why should I get the same thing as the player that did? I’m not saying that the rewards should be game breaking or balance altering. Simply, that all players should not be created equally. If you work hard in the real world, you get rewarded for it. The same should apply to virtual worlds.

In conclusion, it’s not our job to judge players because they get to spend more time on in a game than we do. I think it’s the job of the game, however, to provide for all variations of player. Something is also indelibly lost when accesibility turns an open-ended question into a closed-circuit.

Does that make me a conservative gamer? I’m not sure, since I also believe in creating plentiful options for players with less time. I think, really, it’s about options. The less we polarize and more provide, the better we’ll be. Happy Monday, folks!

4 comments

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  1. Stabs

    I think players are best served by a greater diversity in the MMOs available and I think that is coming.

    WoW is clearly the dominant paradigm but it’s starting to not be the only paradigm. Everyone can see that several people are pushing hard into the WoW-like space and it’s probably already too full. EQ2 adapted its gameplay to be much more like WoW as did SWG (with spectacular incompetence).

    The latest crop of games has very few WoW-like games. Darkfall and Mortal are a return to UO wolf fundamentals. Fallen Earth explores a new type of setting. Bioware are adding the fourth pillar.

    AOC is a particularly interesting case because it plays very much like WoW did back in 2005. Now the reason that’s so interesting is because WoW doesn’t play like WoW in 2005. AoC is achieving separation by not following WoW the way EQ2 does.

    I think the future’s bright and greater diversity is coming. And with that more wide acceptance and more mainstream acceptance of the genre.

  2. Heretica

    Well said; I agree, for the most part. That’s still why I think TBC had some of the best balances. Raid content was not *as* difficult to get to, but still had checks in place and provided challenges and rewards for those who were up to them.

  3. Nils

    I generally agree. Good read !

  4. Professer

    “Add to that insane rep. grinds, attunement quests, and the general problem of organizing 40 people, and you have a recipe for a headache.”

    Cmon man, all of those mentioned weren’t bad at all. Attunement quests were just a slight annoyance, faction grinds were optional as they were mainly for crafting recipes (and not that bad, and I don’t recall organizing 40 people being that much harder than 25. The only problem I ever had with that was a lack of people around holiday times, which I am sure still happens now days.

    I miss Vanilla WoW mainly because it wasn’t available to everyone. If you wanted something cool, you had to work for it with other people. This helped create a real gripping experience within a MMO world. The fact that every thing is accessible takes away meaning from the game and really ruined it for me. Back in the day, being epic’d out was a real achievement. Now every one is running around in their ‘welfare epics.’

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