Perfect Ten: Fresh approaches for familiar MMORPGs

Short of taking a blow to the head, there’s very little I can suggest in the way of experiencing a familiar MMORPG for the first time again. That new car smell eventually fades away, that initial head-over-heels enthusiasm settles into routine, and a vast world full of mysteries gradually gives way to familiar knowledge over time. It’s not a terrible thing, mind you; relationships change and develop with games as they do in real life.

But I find that every so often I come to a point when I don’t want to give up a game that I’ve greatly enjoyed, yet I’m also a bit burned out and feeling like I am hemmed in by a daily routine and the same-old, same-old. That’s when I start to employ a series of tactics and approaches to inject fresh experiences and perspectives.

So if you’ve been playing an MMO for too long and need to change things up to keep from getting stale and restless, what can you do? Here are 10 suggestions that I found quite helpful in my own gaming career.

1. Let it go fallow for a while

While some might put this last on their list, it’s going first on mine, and this is why. We all need to know that it is OK to walk away from an MMORPG. We need to give ourselves that permission. We aren’t bound to the game, we aren’t locked in for life, no one is forcing us to play, and it won’t be the end of the world if we put it down for a while.

In fact, it’s actually a great thing. The farming metaphor that I like to use is that of farmers who let their fields go fallow — to rest for a season without planting — every few years. Then in the following year, the ground is revitalized and ready to come back better than before. Taking a break from an MMO might be the thing that makes you appreciate it that much more. I’ve had so many great experiences in returning to a game and coming at it from a different angle when I did that I have long since gotten over any guilt over leaving in the first place.

2. Marinate in the lore

It’s understandable that the first time you go through an MMO, you’re not always picking everything up and fully understanding the game world and its lore. There’s a lot thrown at you and some is bound to zip by. Subsequent alts might be used to speed through, ignoring story completely.

But it might well be worth taking up the challenge of slowing yourself down and really getting into the lore of the game. Actually read the quest text, darn it. Don’t skip cutscenes. Read in-game books. Pursue flavor dialogue with NPCs. It might just change how you see the game altogether.

3. Try a different class

This is obvious, but it should be said. Sometimes we get so stuck on a single class or character that it doesn’t even occur to walk in another class’ shoes. Man, I’m using a lot of hackneyed analogies here. But seriously, a class offers one viewpoint for a game, and others might have perspectives that you’ve never even considered. Always been a tank? Try a healer. Always pew-pewed from a distance? Get up close and brawl it out.

4. Investigate the economic scene

I am forever breaking promises to myself to actually getting into crafting when I start up with new MMOs. But then I get so busy leveling and exploring that the crafting process gets left behind and I never quite do it. But I should, and once in a while I do.

The economy and its related systems — crafting, gathering, trade — can be a massive and revelatory experience if you tap into it after years of ignoring it. It can be extremely satisfying to build yourself an economic empire or be able to craft something that your friends and guildies need.

5. Switch factions

Get over the extreme loyalty to one faction thing already. It’s completely fabricated friction and unnecessarily divides the player base anyway, in my opinion. But it can be hard for us to switch over in MMOs, especially if we have ties to guilds.

Then again, many guilds have chapters on “the other side” for alts, and getting to see that faction’s missions, lore, and races might be worth it.

6. Join a focused guild

Let’s move on to a few social elements to assist you in reclaiming your passion. Having a group of players around you that are working to accomplish something specific can be a great motivator, whether it might be to join up in the raiding scene, create masterful housing plots, or take part in elaborate roleplaying scenarios. There are many guilds that have a dedicated purpose, and those might be worth seeking out.

7. Play with a dedicated party

Or what about joining up with a party that meets on specific days to level and run dungeons? Some of my most favorite MMO experiences were these dedicated group nights in which we progressed through the game together and never had to worry about sitting around in the LFG queue. This is how stories get made!

8. Engage in the community

Grouping and guilding aside, there are always ways to take part in the larger community. Make a point to take advantage of player gatherings and events, such as plays, concerts, storytelling, games, and contests. Some MMOs seem to foster these more than others, of course, but by perusing chat and the forums, you’re bound to come across a few for the game you play.

9. Get on board with the latest expansion

Maybe you’ve been drifting away or absent from an MMO for a while. An expansion or major content release might just be that right time to leap back in and experience a “mini-launch” alongside a rejuvenated community. It makes returning easier when everyone is figuring out stuff at the same time as you.

10. Blog or record your journey

You might think that no one would care to know about your own journey through MMORPGs, but I bet that you’d be wrong. There is always an audience out there that enjoys connecting with like-minded players by reading or watching their MMO experiences, and you’d be surprised how much documenting your adventures infuses your play with a greater sense of purpose. I’ve been doing it since 2008 and have loved every minute of it.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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17 Comments on "Perfect Ten: Fresh approaches for familiar MMORPGs"

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be rational

Ah! I forgot to add exploring every nook and cranny in the world as a suggestion. I like to find hidden easter eggs devs have left scattered about or go off map and run around in areas that don’t technically serve a purpose (nothing that exploits though).

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be rational

Nice list! 1, 2 and 8 are what I do mostly when I feel like my current MMO is getting stale. Related to #8 – Sometimes I’ll log into a game just to help newer people out, answer questions in chat, or give away stuff I don’t need. I’ve been the recipient of people being kind and helpful when I have questions in game and want to pass that welcoming spirit on.

Polyanna
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Polyanna

Somewhat of a tangent here, but: It has been absolute ages since I had anything other than passing interest in any “new” game. The last game I actually was excited about for a long time before its release was SWTOR, and that was 2011. There have been some good games released since then, and I have played (and still am playing) some of them. But lately I find that all of my thinking about MMOs is about choosing between what game I should play now, or next, among the many existing, and some quite old titles out there. Some of these are games I have never tried. Some are games that I already have hundreds or thousands of hours in.

So here is my question: Of the established games out there today, of any vintage, from the last year to the last decade or so, which ones are most welcoming for either (1) a new player to get started in who never played before; or (2) a returning player to get re-started in who has played a lot, but not at all recently.

At the moment, my vote for best game for someone who has never played before goes to Star Trek Online, which I recently did a full playthrough of on a fresh account to see how it has held up. It has, and surprisingly well. If you don’t want to spend any money at all, it offers a solid 200-ish hours of story line content that you can play through without spending a dime, and the F2P experience is quite comfortable for solo storyline play only (getting into the “endgame” is where the real cash crunch hits, with or without a subscription). And the game includes all “expansion” content for free as well, including leveling to the current cap and playing through all of the expansion zones. If you have not played this game and you’re at all into Trek, it is better now than it ever has been, and a huge treat for absolutely free.

For someone who has played a ton and wants to get back in, I suppose that WoW has to come out on top as the undisputed king of catch up mechanics. Say what you will about Blizzard, they are masters of making you always feel that it’s never too late to come back.

That said, the only thing better than making it easy to catch up is making it so you don’t have to “catch up” at all, and on that score I think ESO wins with the more modern approach of eliminating the gear grind entirely. Leaving aside the required Champion Point grind and battling RNG to min/max your build for the very hardest content, it’s the most welcoming game I have played in terms of making you feel like you’re on the same level playing field as everyone else, whether you hit the level cap a year ago, or yesterday.

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David Harrison

This is why I believe that successful MMORPGs should eventually start over with a new time line instead of continuing to release expansion after expansion.

For instance, with Everquest, the game is 18 years old. Everquest fans love the game, but they are tired of the game as it stands today. Plain and simple, they need to scrap the next expansion, and instead create a NEW timeline for Everquest with everybody starting at level 1 again.

What I would like to see is Everquest: The Real Next Episode starting with Everquest Classic, Kunark, Velious, and Luclin content in place, but then the story line arcs differently from that point on. The Planes of Power expansion and every expansion after it would not exist in this new time line. Instead, the first expansion for Everquest TRNE is a brand new continent with brand new monster models and lore.

It’s time for a complete reboot with an alternate time line.

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Paragon Lost

Nothing really to add besides what a great ten list Justin. :)

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

Blogging is one of the best ways to keep the game fresh, it made me pay more attention to the details of the world and the lore.

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Tobasco da Gama

I regularly do #1 on this list, and I highly, highly recommend it.

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Melissa McDonald

Other players is what makes an MMO special, when you are feeling burned out or that the game is stale, socializing or mentoring new players I find is the best way to stay engaged and feel like it’s still a place you want to be.
I’ve often opined that “endgame content” should include 2 things – 1) the ability to view a “help” queue and help new players, and 2) the ability to inhabit and play as some of the lower level NPC bosses or monsters. You could do a lot of good helping people complete difficult quests, and you could also make encounters much more interesting if you were actually playing the boss character.

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Dušan Frolkovič

While the inhabiting idea sound really cool and would make the encounters more interesting, it would just get abused. “You can make the boss do nothing and us farm him faster? Oh Yeah!”

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be rational

Those are 2 really good ideas imo. I’d love a help queue feature to support new players and I recently started playing Dying Light in which you can play as an OP zombie versus a few players. It’s pretty fun!

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Carebear

Except that there are no longer difficult quests or encounters yo help new players…

One my favorite activities in early wow was helping guild members around the world… doing elite quests, dungeons, etc.

One of my online gaminh friends that we played many mmos together is someone i helped do the paladin mount quest..

In today mmos there are no need for mentors..

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Sashaa

I’ld say it’s a bit more complex than that. When you do a lot of pickup groups in ESO for instance, and you have some experience, you immediately realize that a lot of players have no idea how to play their roles, even when their characters are pretty advanced, unfortunately, often due to the solo nature of a lot of the content.

Now, that would not be a problem if they were willing to learn, but I find that till they join a guild who will sometimes teach them the hard way (you learn like we tell you or you’re not raiding), most don’t take advices easily, contrary to the old days when mentoring was actually a thing. I think it has more to do with the culture of instant gratification than anything else. A bit like the Scavengers from The Walking Dead: “We take. We don’t bother.”…

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Carebear

Indeed, because in all MMOs nowdays there is that popular post on the forums “Don’t let others tell you how to play, play how you enjoy yourself!”. In an era of random matchmaking and cross – server everything is hard to try to teach how you can be efficient and helpful in your group, because for them you are just α random player from the lottery, an NPC with better AI.

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Sashaa

That’s true.

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Christhulhu

Eh…not entirely. No one logs in for the express purpose of supporting someone else’s enjoyment; we do it because we want to enjoy ourselves.

Of course, if someone is looking to play in a group, then they should be able and willing to understand their part in the group dynamic. That is a given.

No one comes into an MMO with a fully formed understanding in how to do this in a specific game, so there are two ways to go about achieving it: trial and error, or the willingness to accept mentoring. The former seems to be in short supply, because for many people — as stated — instant gratification leaves little room for accepting the shortcomings of others when it comes to group content.

That leaves the “helpful hand”. It’s not necessarily the fault of the prospective student if they balk at the lessons on offer. If the mentor is really interested in helping someone achieve greater potential (in this case, for the good of the group), then their guidance should reflect that — they need patience, and they have to understand that what seems like “common sense” (i.e. the benefit of experience most likely) might not be so “common”. If the mentor is simply short-tempered and views their party members as tools for their own goals and chooses to bully, insult, or even refuse to help (the prospective student or the group as a whole, even), then I can absolutely see how someone might not be interested in listening to what the mentor has to say.

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Sashaa

I think we agree but look at the same coin from different sides. Maybe my wording was bad but it was implicit (for me) that the mentor has to be a proper one. Now, I don’t know about your experience, but in mine, the case of the player who just don’t give a frack and sees others as bots is far more frequent than the case of a misprepared mentor.

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Carebear

In the case of wow i just wanna say that i tried all the above (except 10). It doesnt work! ;) at least not longer than month!

wpDiscuz