Massively Overthinking: How long should it take MMO players to get to ‘endgame’?


With Throne & Liberty’s latest global underway, I want to point back to something Amazon said about the test for our Massively Overthinking discussion this week. Amazon said it had dropped the level block for the test and would be boosting players so they could “explore the early-mid game, and also begin participating in end-game content.” We’re assuming the boosts are huge indeed as otherwise there’d be no way anyone but the craziest of testers could possibly get there in a week (and incidentally, if that’s you, please make sure you’re being paid for your talents and not donating them to a company worth $3B).

So that got me thinking about how much time the modern MMORPG gamer does think is a reasonable amount of time to invest in the game before actually getting to whatever the game considers its endgame. Let’s Overthink it. How long should it take MMO players to get to “endgame”? How much time are you expecting to sink before getting there? Are MMOs devalued by quick trips to endgame, or are we all just fooling ourselves that this matters at all?

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Y’all know me: I don’t even like the concept of endgame. I think it’s the worst thing that ever happened to MMORPGs, and I said so 10 years ago, and if you’re thinking, “But Bree, all MMOs have an endgame,” then you probably haven’t played anything before WoW because they most definitely do not.

That said, even Ultima Online offered progression goals that are at least parallel to something like the way people think about endgame. There was no arc like “level up and then you can do elite raids” or anything like that, but you could certainly max out your chosen set of skills, hunt for better gear, and test yourself against harder dungeons alone instead of in groups. And yet, maxing out some of those skills could take years, especially things like taming and provocation. I didn’t pick those out of a hat; those are two skills I never got to 120 myself, after many, many long years. In fact, even if I ignore the idea that you can’t really finish a character in a sandbox like that, it still takes longer to come close than it ever did in a themepark.

Similarly, while it took me a few months to get back into Star Wars Galaxies, it took me a few hours to cap my toon but a year to really get my chef business off the ground again, and quite a bit more to get to a state where I was happy with it, just because of the resource acquisition involved. In sandboxes, if endgame ever really arrives, it usually means you’re done with the game. Sandboxes just stay midgame forever, which is why I love them.

As for a themepark, I suspect most MMOs can be maxed in a few weeks of no-lifing, but even just for normal folks, maybe two to six months, on a scale of WoW to LOTRO?

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX, YouTube, Twitch): I say 15 hours. If it’s more than that, it’s rude. I don’t care “how good the game is after 300 hours.” That’s still 300 hours I’m getting carpel tunnel just thinking about the amount of effort it takes to get to endgame in any MMO. The path to endgame is such a slog, between unskippable cutscenes, running to the next NPC, and mind-numbing combat encounters, there are far better, and more, games to play with the time an MMO asks just to get to the start of endgame!

I get that devs want to appeal to the lowest-common-denominator, but if y’all want to rip me out of the games I’ve been playing for well over 10 years now, the freaking game better blow my mind and have me participating in the tough/fun stuff in 15 hours. The current paradigm involving forcing a player through a mid-tier fantasy story and then opening up the game after so long shouldnt be the way.

And you know what else? Props to Riot for giving its Runeterra MMO more time to let it improve and to find ways to make it less like other MMORPGS. More games should take time to actually change up things. I’m willing to wait… I doubt any other MMO will take me away from my old standbys.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): While there’s certainly plenty to be said about that length of time being situational from game-to-game, and also nodding in general agreement with the sentiment that there shouldn’t really be an endgame, I’m going to approach this answer from the point of view of how most MMORPGs run – particularly themeparks – and say that endgame should be reached after at least 30 to 40 hours or so.

That span of time makes me feel like there’s enough space to really get a hold of a game’s mechanics in full as well as to get involved in whatever story or lore is being shared along the way, as well as the point when I really know for sure if I like the world enough to want to write a character for it and am eager enough to master the class I’ve chosen.

With that all said, I would still only care about hitting that metric if I felt the endgame in question was robust and interesting enough to reach, or if the hours spent are enjoyable in their own right; New World’s endgame seems to be kind of thin, which has dulled my desire to push to cap, and Guild Wars 2’s endgame (fractals and raids in specific, yes I’m part of the problem) definitely had my interest, but getting through the specs and the rigmarole of playing the “normal” game was an exercise in frustration enough that I stopped caring.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): For your typical MMO, or for my typical MMO, where I’m leveling for some dungeons and story content, I’ll play for around 40 to 50 hours to be at true end game. I think that’s a fair amount of time to spend dragging my noob self out of the gutters.

Now for endgame PvP content, five hours tops. There shouldn’t really be a huge difference in sheer strength and power levels of an end game PvPer and a noob. The difference should only be in ability to pop off skills smart and efficiently. Anything else is just PvP designed to create the haves and the have-nots.

Tyler Edwards (blog): I think the answer is, “It depends.” Is your game totally focused on endgame, with leveling content just a glorified tutorial? Then keep it short. Is leveling a rich experience unto itself with good story and fun quests? Then 40-50 hours feels good to me. You can even go the ESO approach and have no clear demarcation between leveling and endgame, at which point how long it takes to reach the cap doesn’t even really matter.

I usually enjoy leveling more than endgame, so I’m happy for it to take a while, but again that does presume that the leveling experience is actually a good time unto itself. I’ll generally abandon games where that isn’t the case. I also appreciate when there’s options to level up more quickly once you’ve gone through it once.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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