Thursday, February 01, 2007

The role of da lewt: Part 1

As my self imposed hiatus from WoW continues, the reason for this becomes very clear. That the central premise for playing WoW turns me off, i.e. the quest for the "phat lewt"....arrrrg, typing that made me feel very dirty. You do quests for money, equipment and exp. You do instances to get faction and equipment. You get faction to get access to even more equipment. All of this so that you can tackle the tougher instances to guessed it, better equipment. But thats a very simplistic way of describing WoW, isn't it.

Lets be fair, most, if not all MMOs have this type of predictable pattern of progression....but WoW is the king for the hunt for better equipment. People spend hours and hours grinding the same instance for the chance for one piece of armor to drop. They spend hours upon hours of time to grind rep for that beautiful shiny dagger. They spent months in PvP to get HWL in order to get access to very nice gear. Now, for BC, players have the daunting task of attunement for the big instances at level 70 that will undoubtedly take quite a bit of time.

WoW plays on the very basic premise of risk/reward stimuli. They've perfected the science that drives our very basic need for happiness....and when I say "basic need" I really mean primal need. Going into an instance is very much like gambling. With every boss kill, there is a slight chance that the item you've coveted for months will drop. It's like placing a bet on Black 35...spin the wheel. When we get it, ohhh man it's the greatest thing in the we've won something that will change our lives forever. You link it to your guild, your friends and show your family that beautiful purple goodness. My precioussss. That one win then drives the next 2-3 months of grinding and/or raiding. Random chance and the possibility for a big loot payout drives the leet WoW player. I felt it in WoW too..we all have. Heck, I've even felt it in golf...why else would I play that stupid "sport".

What was one of the main complaints from WoW players when BC came out...? "Oh no, my equipment is now obsolete". What where players doing before BC hit...? "I've got to PvP/Grind/Prepare my equipment for the release of BC." WoW players are always trying to improve equipment. That is their goal, their purpose, their existence. I truly do think, that if Blizzard changed this paradigm, that WoW would easily loose 80% of their player base within 6 months. Don't think so? Well, would you play WoW if there were no purples or blues to get? Come on, be an honest Blizzard crack whore like the rest of us :)

Now, I've played a lot of MMOs, and never have I seen the dedication that some WoW players show for their loot. I don't see that kind of behavior in EQ2, Eve, Mystery Beta, Ryzom, CoH/CoV or any others that I've played. Why? They have loot to...don't they?
Think of this. What were Eve players doing before Revelations? What were EQ2 players doing before EoF? They were just playing the game like they always did. The only thing they "prepared" for were the predictable server downtimes after the launch. There were no extra plex runs done in Eve. There were no extra raids being done in EQ2. Players just continued to play their game until the expansion came out and then they hit the new content.

Now, is this a good thing? Is it good that the central premise of the biggest MMO in the history of gaming is the loot you get. I don't think so. WoW is a great game for many reasons. Easy to play, easy to level, easy to understand...but the central reason to keep playing and keep leveling is its weakest point in my humble opinion. WoW has got to introduce another way to make your character better than the current equipment based model they have now. Think of many more expansions can WoW have if getting better loot takes more time and effort to get? Will it get to the point where you have to spend 6 months killing/raiding/questing to get a piece of gear?

WoW is number one right now. I believe it deserves that position due to Blizzard's ongoing commitment to high quality products....but something has got to give. It really makes me wonder what Blizzard has cooking up to address this. This whole loot question has been in my head for quite a while, and although this article does purge my concerns, I can't help but feel excited to see Blizzard's next expansion for WoW. Will they shift away from the focus on equipment? Will they bring in hero classes as a separate way to improve your character? Will they address only the end game with more and more unreachable content for the average player?

D out.


Shortee said...

Just as an aside, technically in EQ2 people did prep for the expansion. They just didn't prep in quite the same way since there wasn't a level cap increase. But believe me when I say the price of low level goods (for both fae twinks and transmuting) went sky high. There was a lot of extra harvesting going on as well for the tinkering gear up.

I've seen EQ guilds get 'ready' for an expansion too. I think that there are always going to be some who are more hardcore than others like that!

Now oddly enough, the EQ2 expansion (and related changes that brought) is what took my husband and I to WoW. We just got tired of changing how we played every couple of months ... I'm sure we'll go back eventually (our highest chars were only 68!), but for now, it's nice to feel that we're accomplishing things.

darrenl said...

Interesting perspective..thanks shortee.

Bob said...

My friends and I are very much in the same boat. We played WoW hard, pushed our little guild to early raiding status, but in the end we simply got burnt out on the raid-or-bust gear progression.

Like you, we are playing EQ2 now. Frankly for $40 the expansion was just a much better value imo than BC. You got the base game, three expansions, the latest of which has a full range of content from 1 all the way through to 70 (the way all expansions should be imo).

I think I know why you find EQ2 so much more relaxed than WoW. It's that EQ2 offers many forms of alternate progression. You mentioned tradeskills as one of them. Some folks spend months obsessing over their homes. Some people really monitor their quest counts. Some people are fiends for completing collections. The list goes on and one.

Also look at SOE's achievement syste, and contrast it with WoW's talents. Talents are simply an extension of levels, and therefore, while they offer choices, they don't offer anything fundamentally new. Achievements in EQ2 are an altogether different animal. They don't flow directly from levels. In fact, the activities that tend to produce the most efficient levels (grinding a camp of green-blue mobs) actually yields zero axp. So it opens up an entirely new form of progression that is based on exploration, rewards you for doing exceptional things the FIRST time only, etc.

Now throw mentoring into the mix. There are folks like me that play the whole game with their combat xp turned off. There are constantly folks that will mentor down well below their level to participate in a raid or dungeon crawl. Clearly they cannot possibly stand to gain any useful gear when they do so. But they are given the option to do something simply for fun's sake. And so they do.