Adding replay value

Do MMORPG designers miss a trick when it comes to replay value? Computer RPG gaming (of the single-player kind), such as Jedi: Fallen Order, usually have some ways to encourage a replay: there are varied ways of building your character over time to offer novelty a second time around, may be some story choices with branching endings to encourage a replay to see “what else could have happened”, or even harder modes to make a replay of the same content more challenging for an experienced player.

Talent tree choices

As I previously wrote, I’m currently rewriting in part my published adventure to re-run it for a second group. I am really enjoying this re-imagining of the story, and in particular a chance for the group to inject more ideas of their own into the plot. The second playthrough of this shorter module has opened up the potential for fairly extensive rewrites, should I ever find the time to do them. A mostly different set of players (my husband has indulged me by replaying the module) leads to different backstories and motivations for this second party of adventurers. It has triggered ideas of how their stories could better fit an overall narrative, though I’m also rewriting sections I wasn’t completely happy with first time, and varying plots to keep it fresh for my returning player.

For almost all of the MMORPGs that I’ve played such an alternate play-through of a set of quests or campaign isn’t an option. Replaying the very same quests in the same order has been an issue for me all along with computer roleplaying games, and MMORPGs as a related genre. I grow bored easily of repeating the same content, and no games development company can afford the resources to regularly rewrite whole story arcs to provide a fresh perspective to those leveling alternate characters. World of Warcraft did this effectively with Cataclysm and it split the playerbase despite, I would argue, being successful in providing a fresh and more coherent questing experience for the revamped zones.

Star Wars the Old Republic came closest with its heavy emphasis on dialogue and character choices (real or false). It did nail replay value very well for the original levels 1-50 content, but the budget reality after the launch for subequent expansions resulted in dwindling class and faction specific variations to the content afterwards.

One could argue here for user-generated content as a more scalable solution, but then which MMORPG has implemented such a system, and thereafter *not* abandoned it soon afterwards from continued support? There were undoubtedly some great user-dungeons in Neverwinter and other games, but as a big stickler for lore-authenticity and consistency of story-telling it was rare that I found a good module that also felt “appropriate” to the world – the most popular dungeons in Neverwinter or Everquest 2 for that matter were usually built for function (a pit full of trapped monsters) or built to recreate something from a completely different IP (let’s remake EQ1 dungeons in Neverwinter).

As I am writing what amounts to a parallel-universe version of my first D&D module, I’m left revisiting a very old notion. Ever since my early years in World of Warcraft, I have always wished these games could offer more variety while leveling. Something that still today, in 2022, seems out of reach for technical or budgetary reasons…

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