For all of the shockingly many MMORPGs I’ve played over the past decade, it struck me last night how shockingly few of them I’ve ever leveled a character all the way to the end. That paltry list includes World of Warcraft (3 characters), Warhammer Online (1 character), and, um, um… I guess that’s it. Just the four toons. For a genre where a common rallying cry is that “the REAL game begins at END game!”, I’ve shied away from being in the “real” game more often than not.
And here’s the thing — I think I’m in good company, being a Middler. What’s a Middler? It’s the term I’m using for players who constantly get to the middle of a MMO’s leveling curve, but rarely the end, for various reasons. Maybe they’re altoholics, maybe the first part of the game is perceived as more enjoyable than the latter (leveling is certainly faster), maybe they’re skipping around to multiple MMOs. For whatever reason, Middlers don’t have a lot of level capped characters, but they’re still fiercely devoted to these games and enjoy them quite a bit.
For me, it’s a combination of all of those factors, plus often getting burned out once a character starts hitting the higher levels. One of the weird things about MMOs is that, in a way, the more you level up, the more you’re punished for it. Think about it — higher levels:
- Take more time and work between gratifying “dings” of leveling up
- Usually give you fewer and fewer new skills and abilities
- Feature more ugly, desolate zones that aren’t as exciting to explore
- Pile on the “busy work” of lengthy grinds
Is it any surprise that passion for these MMOs dies down when we hit this point? Some people power through these levels with their eye on the prize of the End Game, that messiah of content that will hopefully make playing fun again (and that, my friends, is a subjective toss-up).
Way back in the day when I played my first MMO, Anarchy Online, I was astounded at the sheer number of levels — something like 220, I think. I didn’t play the game ever thinking I’d hit the level cap at all, so I just played it to play it. Maybe that’s when I first became a Middler.
This is why I frown on game companies that only develop content for the end game, because I think there’s a lot of us who constantly recycle the early and mid game and deserve new content for that span as well.
Just curious if this description fits you at all — are you a Middler? If so, what’s your reason for rarely if ever hitting the level cap?