Massively OP had a post recently to ask about what MMO gets you exploring. I have written posts on exploration in MMORPGs before but nothing touching that topic recently, that got me thinking. It appears I’ve shifted towards the ‘achiever’ end of the spectrum quite a lot at some point since I was playing Rift and Vanguard.
Exploration as a playstyle tends, in my mind, to be a solo activity – think of the fantasy stereotype of the wilderness ranger blazing new trails or watching the forests for new threats. In older games that I mostly played solo I would often allow myself to get distracted, if I saw an unusual tower on the horizon I’d put questing on pause and go find the entrance!
I used to play Everquest 2 in this manner to an extent, I’d start a zone and then just wander around finding quests, gathering materials and doing other activities as I came across them. The knock-on effect of having a heroic character and wanting to reach the cap has been a much stronger focus on level progression, which ultimately turned me off the game somewhat as it seemed to actively resist me levelling at a decent pace without following some narrow, prescribed path such as chrono-mentored dungeon-grinding.
I was playing FFXIV this way, following the main scenario quests sure but also doing a lot of wandering around following FATEs or looking at zone features – several times I’ve had to binge on main scenario quests to catch them up with my character level because I was too busy doing other random stuff. We’re focused now in this game on leveling to the cap because of the expansion so I’m not likely to do as much exploring for a while. But the game seems to offer plenty for level capped characters to do in old zones (hunts and FATEs offer something for level 50s too) so there’ll be time enough to revisit what I’ve missed.
As for solo gaming sessions I’ll need to rethink what I’m doing. I don’t want to be solely focused on progression in two MMOs in parallel, that’s a recipe for burn-out. So I may have to go back to EQ2 with a different view on why I’m playing that game, just getting to cap ASAP to join the masses is less important to me in that game. If I’m going to do endgame in any game, it might as well be in FFXIV with my husband’s character beside me. So hopefully I’ll find my ‘exploration’ groove again in Norrath, it’s certainly a big enough world to get lost in and that’s a good thing!