News, Views, and Reviews
I play a LOT of MMOs. I would say that it is my favorite video game genre. But I don’t KEEP playing them.
I think the biggest problem, is what I’d call MMO BLOAT. It’s so fun to play the game, alone or with friends, up until the final levels of the game, or the “end game” as some like to call it. But, by then, they’ve added so many extra features like reputation grinds and daily quests and special tokens you have to collect and trade in for other tokens.. it’s just really overwhelming. To make it worse, most of the time, nothing in the game actually explains this to you. The “bread crumb trail” that led you from quest to quest, zone to zone, has disappeared. Now, you have to spam chat “where do I buy Justice gear?” or search forums or wikis. Then a new update comes out and changes the way the token exchanges work, or add even more daily/rep quests, and you’re back to begging other players to explain it to you.
Some like it this way, and that’s fine. My main point is that by the time I get to the “end game” I’m actually playing something completely DIFFERENT then the game I started playing. You know, the FUN parts that I really liked and made me play the game in the first place.
The irony here is that, to some degree, I LIKE that MMOs never end. The games exist on servers somewhere, not on plastic discs spinning in my computer, so the content can be nearly infinite. New updates, new expansion packs, more content being added all the time – other game genres WISH they had it this good. As much as I love playing games like Tomb Raider or Bioshock Infinite, they are adventure games that will end. They are finite. An MMO is supposed to be a persistent world, that changes all the time, and always gives me something new to do.
Sadly, they can’t *really* be infinite. There’s eventually going to be a max level you can achieve and a finite number of dungeons that can only be replayed over and over if you want something to do. That is, until they add more content. Sometimes, the “end game” content can be pretty fun and it’s all relative: some faction “rep grinds” are more fun than others; playing Player versus Player can be a fun diversion for many hours; some expansions deliver better content than others, etc.
The deeper irony, then, is that by constantly trying to give us something “new” to do, the “end game” ends up getting bloated. There’s so MUCH stuff to sort through, and like I said, much of it comes with little explanation or rhyme or reason WHY I have to do this to collect this to trade this for that. So, I get burned out. And try leveling up a new or “alt” character, or try yet another MMO. For awhile, I’m having fun again. I’m playing the parts of the games that are FUN to play.
I should point out that running out of stuff to do in an MMO doesn’t really bother me. Like playing a finite adventure game, I KNOW that I’m eventually going to “finish” an MMO and quit playing it. I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth, even if it held my interest only for a few months, as that is STILL a lot more game play and content than any 10 hour action or adventure game. From the developer/publisher point of view, they don’t WANT people like me to stop playing their game. So, of course they are going to keep adding content, adding new features, raising the level cap, and so on. I understand that. What does bother me, is the bloating, the obfuscation of it all. Even Guild Wars 2, which I would herald as the solution to many of the genre’s problems, is starting to get a little bloated. I shouldn’t have to read pages of patch notes, scour fan-made wiki sites, or spam chat for explanations of what to do with the newest content.
Why can’t the new content be fun? Why does it have to be more confusing than the rest of the game? Or is it a lost cause? Will I get bored of it and move on to another game anyway? Maybe. In fact, that’s what I’m going to do right now, find another game. Or read more previews on the “next-best-thing” to happen to MMOs: games like Elder Scrolls Online, Wildstar, Destiny, or EverQuest Next, or…