Recently I was thinking about the past MMOs I’ve played and the different ‘end game’ systems they offered. Some had raiding (WoW, LoTRO), some had PvP (DAoC, AC on Darktide, Lineage) and others left it open-ended (UO, EVE).
Anyone who has played any of the games I mentioned above to the highest levels will no doubt be able to argue that game x was not just raiding/pvp/whatever, but I think if you had to break it down and put one label on them, those are fairly accurate. My question now is if it was the intent of the designers from day one to have their game end like that, or if something along the way caused this shift in thinking.
It’s easy to understand why UO was so open ended, simply put the developers had very little to go off of and just designed a world with different system (combat, crafting, advancement) in it. It was basically a ‘wait and see’ approach, and depending on your view of early UO, you can either say it worked or it was a disaster. Either way, UO had no set ‘end game’ in terms of how we think of that now. When you hit your characters max (700 total skill points) you had basically just as much to do as you did when you had 200 skill points. The game did not dramatically shift once that magic 700 number was hit, as it does in most games today.
When you hit 70 in WoW, questing to gain experience is no longer an option, nor is grinding mobs. In DAoC once you hit the max level, you go and do Realm vs Realm combat, the games major selling point. Before that you would quest and grind to hit max, all for the sake of getting to RvR at the highest level. EVE is different in two ways, for one no one can ever realistically reach the ‘highest’ level, as training all the skills would literally take dozens of years real time, and secondly skills are only one facet of EVE. No amount of skills will give you a Titan to fly, or a space station to run, or a Corporation to manage. I believe part of the reason EVE has managed to keep certain players playing for years is that it allows you to alter your play style and goals on the fly, be it going from a trader to a pirate or a PvP CEO to a mission runner.
This all makes me wonder if a game would be better if the developer focused exclusively on just one source of end-game. Warhammer has made it fairly clear their game is all about RvR combat, and it sounds like that focus will be rewarded by a very fleshed out system. WoW continues to add little side distractions to its game, despite the fact that it funnels players into a ‘raid or die’ endgame. Yes it has PvP, but its PvP using skills balanced around raiding. How good would that PvP be if Blizzard did not have to balance it for raiding, how much better would the Arena be if more development time could be spent on it? I highly doubt we would still be sitting at 4 battlegrounds, almost unchanged in some cases since release. I’m very curious to see the reaction to Warhammer, especially its PvP. With all the focus and detail being put into it, from the ground up, one would think it will be a very polished and rewarding experience.