What am I looking for in an MMO?
That was really the basis of the column I did recently on the MOG site and my net conclusion was that I want something that’s like a single-player RPG but with the MMO “feel” — a vast, open world where I could adventure with my friends (and frag my enemies). The problem is that MMOs diverged from SPRPGs a while ago with their concept of “endgame” because when you beat the last boss in a SPRPG, you generally quit playing it — but that simply won’t do for an MMO.
That said, does MMO endgame have to be so radically different from the rest of the game? I liked leveling up my character in Rift, going around the zones, fighting invasions and closing rifts wherever they popped up, and so on. Now? My level 50 spends most of his time in Meridian waiting for dungeon and PvP queues to pop. Yawn. Why can’t I keep exploring and adventuring and closing rifts (yes, I realize that I can, but only in Stillmoor, Shimmersand, and Iron Pine Peak if I want anything resembling a challenge or rewards). It’s understandable that MMOs can’t actually be infinite, but repeating the same dungeons over and over just to get loot so I can repeat other, different dungeons is starting to wear on me.
Sure, I’m anxiously awaiting Guild Wars 2, which sounds and feels like it will solve all this. My favorite quote from ArenaNet from an interview I did in January was “the game is the endgame” — that I’ll be doing basically the same stuff at max level as I did at first level, if I want. Or I can go run dungeons, PvP, etc., but I’m not forced into abandoning what I’ve been doing for the last few months in order to advance. That, and pretty much everything else they’ve announced, sounds almost too good to be true… which is why, in my own perverse way, I’m afraid that it will be. Yes, I’m that neurotic.
In any case, I can’t be the only MMO fan who feels like this. Now, I love a vast, open world as much as anyone else, but when you realize you’re going to spend most of your time trolling max-level instances — and the likely large drain on resources it takes to create that open world — it doesn’t make much sense to put it in the game in the first place. Companies either have to remove the open world entirely and just make a battle-arena game — in other words, a MOBA, which is basically an MMO with everyone at max level and no open world, i.e., everyone at endgame — or find a reason for people to continue to go out in that world so the game isn’t just about endgame. Again, ArenaNet seems to have the solution in GW2. I hope.
My Rift sub expires this month, and I’m probably not going to renew it. I’ll get into Rise of Isengard when it comes out, and my winter will likely be spent playing The Old Republic and Skyrim, with Guild Wars 2 hopefully filling my schedule early next year. In any event, I think we’re going to see a major shift in MMO creation in 2012 and beyond, with many new games following one of the two paths laid out in the previous paragraph. And if Guild Wars 2 doesn’t meet expectations? Hey, I’ve got about 600 gold combined on all my LOTRO characters, surely that would be worth something on eBay.