A guildmate who shall remain nameless (Obmar) recently discovered that he had not upgraded his dps-based skills in Rift since, oh, level 5. In essence, he was gimping his damage output by a solid 50% or more. This was noticeable when he was part of our groups for tier 2 instance runs, but we always assumed it was simply because he is terribad at Rift (dps is hard, yo). Turns out, with level 50 skills, he does deal damage! And to think we were about to gkick him…
This somewhat relates to a post Tobold has up today, about feeling the need to min/max even in a single player game. I’ve had similar feelings while playing The Witcher again in preparation for part two, though for me min/maxing has always been something I enjoy to an extent. Pretty early on I just decided to ‘wing it’ with The Witcher, knowing the game ultimately is not that hard when played on normal. I suppose the hard mode would require a more optimal build, and it’s nice that such an option exists.
I believe that option not existing in MMOs has more to do with the content than the players, though player mentality also plays into it. Hard mode in a themepark MMO is almost always the end-game, and since that’s where you are going to spend the majority of your time (assuming you don’t quit early), its only natural you are going to try and progress through it.
Those that love min/maxing end up in world/server-first guilds, and hey, good for them. That’s how they have their fun, and it’s good that some MMOs allow that. If you are in such a guild, it’s expected that you not only play well, but go into each encounter prepared. Failing to do so does detract from the fun of everyone else, and so using the ‘one true build’ is indeed required. Again, that’s how that group has its fun, and so long as MMO devs continue to create highly-tuned raid-level content, those groups are going to be around and entertained.
The min/max god-build problem arises when players who “just want to mess around and have fun” get involved in raid-level content. Generally, much like Hard mode in The Witcher, the content is not designed to cater to whatever build you think looks fun. If this happens in a single player game, you end up dying a lot and progressing slowly, or getting stuck. In a multiplayer game, your decision to run a ‘fun’ build costs 4/9/24 people to also fail. And unless you made it very clear at the beginning that you are running a sub-optimal build, I think it’s perfectly understandable for people to get upset.
The problem is a content issue because there usually is no outlet for those running ‘fun’ builds. Either they stop playing, or they move into min/max territory. The worse-case scenario is those who believe they play just to ‘have fun’, yet get very upset when you inform them that such an approach means they don’t get to equip the absolute best items. I don’t quite see why someone who is just here to have fun is getting so worked up over gear that is only needed to progress further into min/max content, but it’s usually those players who are the first to complain about being ‘excluded’ from content ‘they paid for’. I’m sure you have seen those posts on forums/blogs to know what I mean.
For everyone else however, it’s either you adjust your build or fail to progress and ultimately, run out of content early. That really is the major issue, and it again gets back to dev time and resources. In the themepark model, a highly-tuned raid is simply the best content to produce in terms of keeping the players busy and giving them something to continue their character progression. We all love unique quest lines with a great story, but we do it once and move on, and that kind of pace is simply not sustainable from a dev perspective.
If you are a not a min/maxer, you generally have two choices when the casual content ends; you either move on from the game, or you switch up and join the ‘elitists’ who raid. Moving on is easy if you don’t really love the game you are playing, but if you do, you are not ready to go and want to keep the good times going. The conflict arises when you keep trying to progress, but don’t adjust your playstyle, and auto-match yourself with other players (double points for doing it anonymously and cross-server).
I don’t see how, short of going more sandbox, devs truly solve the content issue, and I’m not holding my breath for the “just for fun” crowd changing either.