Azuriel of In An Age has a post highlighting a Reddit discussion on a common theme amongst MMO blogs and forums – the amount of streamlining/dumbing-down that has happened. He comments on this topic that he’d rather not go back to old-school style gaming:
I’m not entirely convinced another MMO could bribe me enough to get back into raiding as a full-time job again. Even if your game of choice was EVE, how willing would you be to starting over in a completely new game with similar time-investment requirements?
Tobold has weighed in on this topic adding that he does wish leveling wasn’t so fast and solo-oriented.
Basically the flaw is not in the thinking of the Reddit commenter, but in the design of most MMORPGs since Everquest: There are two very distinctive phases, “Leveling up” and “End game”. And quite often the end game has the more interesting content, e.g. being the only part of the MMO which is actually “MM”, while the leveling phase is a badly disguised single-player game.
It’s an unsolvable dilemma I suspect, which is why we’ve all been debating this topic for years. WoW grew so huge by having a low bar to entry and variety of content. However I would say personally that the devs got hooked on simplification like it was some kind of subscription-inducing drug. Both gameplay systems and open world difficulty took a major nerf and the leveling game became a trivial chore to be rushed through. The five man dungeons, especially heroic mode, were the endgame for me and my friends – yet now they have been abandoned in favour of the omnipresent, random group, raid-finder.
This problem doesn’t just affect Azeroth, it’s widespread. The difficulty of leveling content in EQ2 is badly skewed by gear optimisation aimed at the very lofty level cap. I feel generally ‘rushed’ to get to the cap so I can actually play with other players, powerleveling is so endemic (and possible solo with a dual-box setup) that there’s almost no grouping below the current expansion.
I don’t think for a moment we should go back to the ‘good old days’. But it would be nice to have reasons to group out in the massively multiplayer world. Perhaps Blizzards recent WoW content updates (the two islands) are a step in the right direction – with lots of elite or boss level monsters to kill in groups (whether private or public zerg). It’s very old-school really, rare spawn camping, open world boss mobs, finding a good spot to grind away on elites for a quest or item drop. Does it feel like evolved gaming or a token throw-back though? Compared with ArenaNet’s attempts at reinventing the genre it does feel a bit lacking in variety, but it’s a huge improvement over the massively single-player heavily phased questing that Cataclysm ushered in.