Last played: 2014
Given my earlier-quoted “issues” with ARPGs, it should come as no surprise that I haven’t played a lot of Path of Exile, despite it being, by all accounts a really good game. And I can see why.
First off, it’s so free-to-play that I couldn’t even figure out what they were selling that would allow them to make money. That’s good, I guess, for players, and it’s apparently working out well enough for them, so kudos. Makes me wonder a little bit, though, that if you’re going to have a super-generous F2P system, like PoE or League of Legends, you need a huge player base to make it work – “make it up in volume” as the saying goes. Some of SOE’s games have made me wonder a bit about how viable generous F2P models are with non-massive (in terms of player population) games.
Second, though I haven’t played around with them, I love the idea of leagues in an online RPG. They’re a great way to make the repeated leveling grind somewhat fun. By offering a different rules set, time limit, or whatever, they make the game fresher and interesting, giving you new challenges even if you’ve already done the base content before. They’re a little like sealed-deck tournaments in CCGs or Arena mode in Hearthstone. A lot of games let you set up different servers with different rules sets, but very few are directly supported by the developers themselves. H1Z1 will work that way, and while not quite the same, you could say that the permadeath option for Dungeons & Dragons Online is another fully supported way to let players choose how to play the game differently.
That might be the way of the future for MMOs. Not user-generated content, but developer-crafted “alternate play” modes – and more than just “hard mode” dungeons and raids. You can’t go all anarchic in an MMO and let players create content and mods without restrictions or the system will be abused to hell in about three nanoseconds. Keeping some measure of control over alternate play options should be mostly unexploitable and relatively easy to make – easier than totally new content, like a new dungeon, I’d guess – and their repeatable nature fills a need every MMO struggles to keep up with.
Imagine, if you will, that your favorite MMO had a system in place whereby you could create a new character and get him/her as far as you could in a set period of time, whether it be four hours, four days, or four weeks. Granted, longer sessions would favor the “no-lifers” who can spend 12 hours a day playing, but with some restrictions (no more than two hours per day?), it would still be a great way to re-use content and provide an interesting challenge that could be frequently refreshed. Would you play something like this, at least occasionally? I think I would.