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Casual Thursday Episode 7: Beginning, middle and end game

This week in Casual Thursday, Banath will address the “entire” game in MMO’s, while he depicts from beginning through to the end game, and what his take on the matter is. So yeah… You might need to read this, okay…great…

Casual Thursday


Episode 7: Beginning, middle and end game

By Banath

“We want compelling end game!” A common heard phrase from hardcore MMO’ers. And understandable. That is what makes them come back all the time. And what brings companies a lot of cash in the register. World of Warcraft has probably been one of the few that managed to capture the essence of the end game, at least when it started out. Keeping it compelling for the hardcores to return, giving new end content on a regular basis. (Yes, I even know that, because often enough you see endgame clips posted on Youtube.) It is indeed a very important factor. However it is not the only factor.

Any game has more and more importantly needs more then just endgame. Even if the endgame is the drive for most MMO’ers. Instead of going all out on endgame, I will talk a bit about the entire game progression. And why it is quite strange from my perspective, why a lot of hardcore MMO’ers only care about the endgame aspect.

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All games consist of three parts, a beginning, middle and endgame. The beginning sets you up. You are briefed shortly what has happened in the world that you are partaking in. You learn about your skills, the way you interact with the world, how to gather materials. All in all, the tutorial. That is no different from any single player game. The setting is being drawn out for you, and you are ready to go. However, after this, the comparison between MMO’s and SP games stops.

When you reach the middle game in a single player game, this is the bulk of the game. You follow the story that has been laid out in front of you, you progress and level up (if we are talking about RPG’s). Here you make the decisions that shape your character. You gather loot and experience, and all those things to get you to the end game. This is in a single player game the more interesting stuff. Refering to Mass Effect 1 and 2, you get to know your crew, your abilities, your background and the universe where the shizzle comes down (I’m too white to say such a thing…).

In MMO’s, however, the middle period can often be the boring stuff. You just run around doing fetch quests, grind quests, etc. Just to try to level your character as fast as possible up, so that it is ready and able to go to the most important part of the MMO, namely the endgame.

In any SP- game, the end game is just like the beginning of the game, short. When you reached the final boss, that is it. No return, no more content (unless you have not finished all the side quests, see Mass Effect 1 & 2 as an example), no need of leveling up anymore, nor getting new gear. Or with a Théoden accent: “It is over.”

MMO’s do not have this. Often enough at that point, the real game begins. You have reached your highest level and now you are going to outfit your character in the role you want him to be, to go and fight in raids, instances, world PvP, and so on. This is of course nothing new that I am telling the MMO (and probably also the non-MMO crowd).

Now the real deal starts. The problem that I have with most MMO’s is that it is often so much aimed at the endgame. Like there is nothing else to know from the world/universe that you are traversing. The middle game is often more grindy. And this is where all the MMO’s that I tried to play, lost me.

 

Once the first couple of quests are done (or the first few levels and you leave the training area) the fun often is over. There are no interesting plotlines, or only a few, and so far spaced out, that it becomes boring to get there. And when there is an interesting plotline, the quests themselves are filled with kill so many hoodlums.

 

One thing I do have to give World of Warcraft credit too, is that they made the middle game at least a bit more interesting after Cataclysm. Last time I tried a trail, it was post-Cataclysm launch, and the middle became first off, less grindy, and secondly, had a couple of quests that spurred you on in the story. At least for me more engaging as a single player gamer. A step in the right direction.

Bioware is, at least as far as I can judge from this side of the fence, making a bigger leap forward in an enjoyable middle game with SWTOR. Story plot lines that demands of you to make decisions, requires you to help in the universe scaled war. It gives you a bit more purpose in an MMO and stops you from playing someone else their fetch pooch.Decisions in your game always have an effect on how you play it and how much you are immersed in a game.
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My point with this article is that the entire game needs to be enjoyable. How often have you not encountered an MMO (yes, this is a question) that you needed to go through a grindfest to get to the interesting part. For me personally, and I can safely assume I’m not the only one with that opinion, that is a flawed game. Heck, JJ even stated that when he talked about an MMO on one of the latest podcasts, that he found it very, very boring to get to the fun endgame. And that is a big mistake. The journey towards the end should be just as enjoyable as the endgame itself. Of course, if you only care about the end game, you will skip through the beginning and middle regardless. But for those that do care about the entire game have so much more to find out, to do, explore, fight, kill, quest, etc. etc.

I’m not posing in this article that I want solo endgame, not by any stretch of the imagination. I am writing this because the entire game is important to me. I have no idea what I will think of the end game. I haven’t experienced it. I don’t know if I would reroll when I get to that end game. I don’t care right now to be honest. It will take at least a few weeks to even get to that part. The first part of the game needs to give a proper introduction and sets me and the story up right. But now that I have played a bit of Huttball, I think I will enjoy endgame a lot, even though this isn’t specificly built for the endgame.

The second part needs to give me engaging quests, story moments, all in all, let me make my own hero, storywise. Don’t get me wrong, I am ready and willing to learn the end game. As long as it is explained PROPER. That is in my eyes something that is quite essential. Explanation needs to be clear. Not through some boring lists of text, but short trainings through anyway Bioware can think off. If that is set up right, I can perseve myself of playing the end game for a very long tme. Epic space battles, fleet against fleet, epic ground fights. I played Battlefield Bad Company 2 online as well, and that is also killing each other online. So, I think, PVP won’t be a problem. At least not on a PVE server.

And the end game of course can give the game its longevity. And that is where EA will make their money from. I absolutely understand that. But if you can’t get them hooked in the beginning of the game, I believe a few MMO’s had that issue, I just can’t seem to remember what game it was JJ mentioned, the game will never lift off. I do think that Bioware does have a compelling start, at least from what we have seen now, but certain we will only be when the game comes out.

Now I hope everyone doesn’t think I am kicking in an open door with this article, but for me it is very important that this important point from a non-MMO’er comes across. If the beginning and middle game sucks, I will never see the end game.

Once again, I hope you enjoyed, and as always,

May the Force be with you.

About Banath

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