The Daily Grind: Which MMOs begin as they mean to go on?

    
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Bricks.

In Eliot’s open letter to new players and vets of Final Fantasy XIV last month, he noted that Final Fantasy XIV’s endgame is not like the endgames of many other MMOs, specifically because it “begins as it means to go on.”

“The endgame is not where the game starts; level 1 is where the game starts, and it begins as it means to go on. When you hit level 50 is going to be the one time in the entire game when you get introduced to a new style of content in the form of 8-person Trials and 24-player Alliance Raids, both of which you’ll need to do to advance the story, but past that, you will have seen the game’s tricks. And those players at level 80? They will be joining you.”

This kind of game design is Bree-nip; you folks know how I love to rant about MMOs that act as one kind of game and then suddenly become a totally different game when you max out your character. I like games that play pretty much the same on day one as they do on day 30 as they do on day 365. I don’t want to grind through a soloing ladder to get to a raiding endgame or a PvE grind to get to the PvP endgame.

I thought it would be fun to discuss some of the games that do this properly. Which MMOs begin as they mean to go on?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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rk70534

Most PvP heavy games with limited or nonexisting PvE?

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Anstalt

I always felt vanilla LotRO did a great job in this regard.

The game was pretty group-focused at launch, getting your first group quest at level 3 during the tutorial and then never letting up. There literally wasn’t enough solo content to hit level 50, you had to do group content in order to get enough xp.

The game was also originally based on player skill, rather than gear / level / rotations, which fostered an air of cooperation and communication.

The result was an entire community that had been “trained” to play together and cooperate, to discuss tactics and seek out suitable solutions. The game prepared us well for endgame content, where that spirit of grouping and cooperating continued. This feeling made itself clear with the sheer amount of PUG groups and raids that continued, as well as the casual raid scene that was very strong during SoA.

It was such a shame that this style of design was unsustainable (a fault of vertical progression), so it didn’t take long before all the old zones got revamped to remove group content and add solo content. Then, from Moria onwards, group content became nearly exclusively endgame content. The casual raid scene basically disappeared overnight with the release of Moria and never came back.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

At the moment, Warframe is one of these. There’s additional *options* when you’ve played enough to unlock the entire starchart and done some of the story missions that introduce additional mechanics. (Spoiler mode, Amps, Umbra, Railjack and Necramechs, along with a couple others I’m forgetting.) But mostly that just increases your options for “What are we going to do today, Brain?”

And the thing about how Warframe handles levels and XP, is that it’s pretty flexible. Someone who really rushes to complete every Star Chart mission could unlock the “Steel Path” and “Arbitration” game modes pretty early. I’m pretty sure it’s at least possibly by Mastery Rank 10, which is apparently about the average level of most of the active playerbase. After that, it’s just whatever you want to do. Collect rare mods (some of which are a considerable upgrade in some builds, but not mandatory to play even the “high tier content.”) Grind for Prime components and trade with other players. Get lots of cosmetics options and make the most awesome (or eye-searing, or just visually confusing) Warframe outfit you can imagine.

That all might change if Digital Extremes ever re-introduces “Raid” content. At the moment, there are no Raids (or Trials, or whatever they were called.) They had a couple, but they were buggy and tended to break just about every patch, and the player participation was in the “single digit percentage of the active players” range. So rather than spend a huge amount of resources fixing content that constantly broke and that barely anyone played, DE just ripped them out. Personally, I hope they never come back. The game is better off without them (and the toxicity, elitism, gatekeeping and exclusionism that always comes with that kind of content.)

PlasmaJohn
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PlasmaJohn

Uh what?

Claiming that XIV’s experience at 50 is the same as 80 is completely off base. I’ll grant that the earlier content is less irrelevant but it is still irrelevant unless I’m trying to grind xp on an alt job.

Sure I can jump into a lower level instance but unless I’m running it as part of a roulette it’s doing very little for my own progression. Many of them haven’t been re-balanced for the new classes or skills. If I’m trying to farm xp outside my once per day roulettes I have the awesome choice of the one or two dungeons close enough to my job level to farm.

Then there’s the downsync issues. XIV’s method is to remove newer skills and traits. While this is the right way to do it IMO it just underscores how neglected class balance has become below level cap. Many classes require the skills gained near or at level cap to feel good. The worst of the bunch, Black Mage, has five or six very different rotations to use depending on level.

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Bereman99

The main part of that claim was that FFXIV is a game that by 50 is a story focused game with 4 man dungeons, 8 man single-boss fights, and 24 man 4-boss fight, and gathering and crafting that are separate jobs…

And then by 80 it’s a story focused game with 4 man dungeons, 8 man single-boss fights, and 24 man 4-boss fight, and gathering and crafting that are separate jobs.

And that while it’s doing that, it’s having players continue to join you, even if they’ve passed that content, because they have reason to revisit it.

The additional important context is that this statement was made as a comparison against the typical example of an MMO, where the endgame is the only place you do anything that really matters to your character and leveling is just an obstacle to that.

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Dug From The Earth

ESO fits this pretty well. You are still doing 75% or more of what you were doing at level 10. Story quests, exploring and dungeons.

In fact, I dont raid at all, and I still feel like there is a huge portion of the game for me to play through still. 2 other factions worth of zone story content, at least 1 DLC (havent played through sommerset yet).

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Phubarrh

I picked up my first character, who never really got all the attention my other mains did, and started Blackwood a few weeks ago. I’m still playing Blackwood, and haven’t even come across the public dungeons yet. Every new zone is basically a full game worth of content.

I’ve also realized that I haven’t played half the character classes or added zones yet. Hence, new Khajiit sorceror enters Elswyr, stage right.

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Utakata

Thanks to Hongmoon Levels in Blade & Soul, you still “level” even when you’ve maxed out. Which means you pretty much progress through the end game and story the same way you’ve started out.

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Axetwin .

I’m glad more and more MMO’s are moving away from the “max level is when the game finally starts” design mentality. Especially in a game where the goalpost is constantly being moved further and further away from the starting point. I’ve always pushed back against the people that defended this by saying “well you can always just get someone to powerlevel you, or buy a boosting service players are always selling”. I was always asking “then what’s the f*cking point of the game if this is what’s needed just to get to the ‘intended content’?”.

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Java Jawa

All of them. Even FFXIV, group content whether it’s 4 to 5 person scaled up or down all day is still group content. I guess I don’t understand this question. Are we nitpicking the types of group content?

Fisty
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Fisty

I think the obvious answer here is WoW. /s

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Hikari Kenzaki

Guild Wars 2 is basically the same game the whole way through.
You run into a zone, you complete open world and story quests, people can join you or help you at any time.
This doesn’t change through the majority of the content. New zones have the same basic framework.
There are fractals and instances, but I’ve barely touched them and can still say I’ve played most of the content available and it’s one of my favorite games.
WvW is also jump-in, jump-out and is the same regardless of level except for available abilities.