I’m trying my darndest to stick to just three MMOs at a time — I think that’s a good balance for me with my time restrictions, and it allows me to focus on projects without getting too distracted or underwhelmed with leveling.
So right now I’m in the middle of a summer frenzy of baby alts in all three titles: a new Minstrel (yes, another one) in LOTRO, a Mage for my return to RIFT, and my QL3-ish Dragon in The Secret World. I feel like I’m indulging in guilty pleasures by having so many lowbie characters right now, because I know that I’m partially chasing that new-experience smell. You know the one: Where every game session is a giddy reveal of level-ups, new skills, gear swaps, and noticeable improvement. Insert your own junkie metaphor and away we go!
I love a nice pace of character growth to my games. Yet MMOs have often felt unbalanced in this regard, tipped toward having too much growth and change in the early game and far too little and too infrequent advancement in the late game. Once my character gets to mid-to-late game, I’ve probably developed a build that works for me and won’t really change. New skills aren’t really game-changers for the most part, and once you’ve seen the top of a talent tree, you can’t reach any higher — just wider.
The question I’m pondering today is what to do about character growth. How do you make a player feel as though his or her character was still achieving goals and developing in a significant way even after 150 or 200 hours or gameplay? Is it possible?
Some ways that MMOs have dealt with this issue include:
- Creating an absurd number of levels (Anarchy Online) or an absurd number of skills/skill levels (Asheron’s Call, EVE Online)
- Encouraging players to branch out into achievement-related activities
- Developing a second character advancement system (AAs from EQ2 or war-steeds/LIs from LOTRO) to parallel the main one
- Encouraging the chase of gear treadmills via dungeons and raids
- PvP levels and ranks (WAR)
- Holding back new advancement systems until players hit a threshold (planar attunement at level 50 for RIFT)
- Crafting and hobby systems
- Encouraging players to start up alts via reincarnation systems (DDO)
- Endless skill point acquisition (TSW, GW2)
Am I forgetting some? I probably am. It’s good to know that devs are thinking about this and clearly making an effort to provide more of the sweet dings that high-level players crave, but I’m not sure if we’ve hit on a universal solution as of yet. Thoughts?