The EQ2 forums has a growing debate thread on whether the game is too “raid-oriented”. This same argument has played out countless times before across many games – I’ve certainly seen similar on the WoW, LOTRO and Rift forums over the years. Indeed, I’ve addressed this issue myself in the past.
As a non-raider for the most part, what matters to me is that these games offer something for raiders and something for non-raiders to do, keeping those two overlapping groups engaged in the game and the population healthy. I’ve posted before about population issues in several MMOs. It comes back to a fundamental reason for playing MMOs – the possibility of random encounters and interactions with other players. They don’t have to be formal grouping or long-lasting friendships, but meeting players ‘out in the field’ adds something to the gameplay.
The real problem for me at present is not and never was about getting the ‘best gear’. It boils down to wanting a populated world to play in, not some ghost-land. Yes, I can (and do) join guilds to help with this, but I don’t like being so exclusive/cliquey in my gaming. Are there any better ways of encouraging a visible, engaged community of players other than old-school forced grouping?
I wouldn’t dream of arguing against new raid content being added to a game like EQ2 or Rift. Clearly such an endgame model is enjoyed by many. But I think no developer of an open world MMO should plan around the bulk of the playerbase being stuck in instanced content for the majority of their play time. Perhaps the tide is already turning on this (e.g. Guild Wars 2′s event system) but I think there is a lot of room for improvement in the games I play.