What should we do with the MMO endgame?

As I’ve mentioned before, the MMO blogosphere often seems to get waves of commonality, where bloggers end up talking about the same topic on the same day with no reference to each other that I’m aware of. And so it is today, as we’ve got a couple of interesting takes on the ongoing endgame vs levelling tension in MMORPGs.

First up, Spinks at Spinksville started a discussion of the endgame, and what it should be, based in part on comments on the SWTOR endgame and its disconnect from story

“So the way I see it, there are three main ways to look at endgame in MMOs.

  1. Endgame is the real game. Be it sandbox, ranked PvP, progression raiding or all three, the levelling stage of an MMO (if there is one) is really just an introduction to the game. Endgame needs to be enjoyable ad infinitum as a game in itself. But over time it will tend to mostly appeal to the more hardcore.

  2. Endgame should consist of a wide variety of opportunities for character progression to encompass all play styles, so that as many people as possible can find something they like. This progression can involve purely cosmetic upgrades. It may consist of identifiable minigames. There could be dailies.

  3. ‘Endgame’ is just a plateau between content patches, its main purpose is to keep people logging in and building social ties with their guild/ friends before the next patch. And each new patch should not be gear gated based on endgame phases. (ie. you should be able to jump into new content without having spent X days doing endgame activities first.)”

Spinks is looking to start a discussion rather than provide definitive answers here, and it’s certainly worth reading not only the article (which asks a lot of interesting questions beyond the usual “raiding vs dungeons vs story” dichotomy), but also the comments, where some well-known bloggers are providing some interesting answers.

Meanwhile, over at Children of Wrath, The Renaissance Man is dissecting the problems with WoW’s endgame vs levelling balance, specifically for when Mists of Pandaria extends the level grind again

“This is an MMO. If you wanted a defined end state, well, Diablo III and Mass Effect 3 will both come out soon to sate your hunger for single player games with multiplayer tacked on. And threes, lots of threes this year. MMOs, particularly subscription based MMOs, are a treadmill. The entire plan is to make it so that you can’t “beat” the game, and then shelve it until the sequel comes out.

Which brings us back to the people complaining about the expansion. I think they’re right. Why should we pay $50 for a box that lets us keep running on the treadmill we’re already on? What’s the point of another five levels that endgame players are going to blitz through blindly in less than a week, and tacking on another five levels for a new player to wander through? The barrier to entry gets taller and taller, and as a result, the leveling content prior to the current expansion get stretched thinner and thinner, to the point where current players can go from Winterspring, to Hellfire, to the Borean Tundra, to Hyjal without spending more than a few hours in other zones. Level 58-80, and new players miss 90% of the content that exists in those regions. “

This one’s definitely a proposal post, answering some of the questions that Spinks asks – as well as widening focus to look at the reason some people are dissatisfied with endgame in the first place. Whilst it’s WoW-specific, a lot of the design concerns TRM discusses are equally a problem in SWTOR or other MMOs – indeed, whilst the piece is focussed on Mists of Pandaria, its discussion of the levelling/endgame break is arguably even more appropriate to SWTOR right now.

Interesting stuff, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more thinking along these lines in the near future!

So, what’s your take on the state of the MMO endgame?