Why you DON’T want to hit the cap

The topic of character progression, and more specifically how long it should take to reach ‘the end’, came up when a noted member of the community (ValRoth, the guy who did the newbie videos linked on the right) made a comment that his motivation to log on has dramatically decreased since he ‘completed’ his character. He has enough gear/gold now to no longer need to farm mobs, his skills are all at 100, and since he plays less, he gets involved in random PvP less as well. According to him he now only really logs on for scheduled PvP, and with the slower pace of sieges, that’s not often. The less you play, the less involved you become, and down we go.

Yet in that very same thread, others are asking for an increased pace to that goal, so they then can focus on the ‘good stuff’ rather than ‘grinding’. And that line of thinking very much reminds me of some players asking for PvP in MMO X, when really they don’t know what they are asking for and don’t want what PvP brings. I can only hope that should Aventurine even notice such requests, they themselves know well enough to ignore them. Having watched countless MMOs change over the years, I know that’s not always the case with every developer.

As it stands today character growth is, IMO, set at a good pace in DarkFall. New players will see significant increases in their first few weeks/months and get a great sense of accomplishment/growth, more seasoned players will still have plenty of goals to achieve and secondary (mastery and others) skills to work on, and the upper-echelon should still have some things to finish off or side projects to complete (100 intensity, 100 enchanting, etc). In addition, once you reach a certain comfort level with your character (and that level varies from player to player), it’s only natural to shift your focus from character development to ‘other’ stuff (be it PvP, economy, exploring, whatever), yet even as you do that other stuff you are still growing, albeit at a much slower rate. So long as you are not capped, your actions are never ‘pointless’ because at least you got some character progression in.

This is, in part, why EVE’s retention rate and subscriber longevity is so high, because in that game you will NEVER reach ‘the end’, and there is ALWAYS something to improve. When the goal is to keep people playing, that’s a beautiful model, even once you get past the tears of “but I’ll never catch up!”

(DarkFall-related post disclaimer/reminder. If you click the image link near the top-right of this page and buy a DarkFall account, I get paid 20% of the client cost. If you believe this taints my views and reporting on DarkFall, your opinion is wrong.)

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Combat Systems, Darkfall Online, EVE Online, MMO design. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Why you DON’T want to hit the cap

  1. Diametrix says:

    Another insightful post! They should pay you for this stuff, oh wait…they kinda do.

    In fact, I was just thinking last night about how long it takes to ‘be effective’ in DF. Obviously there are those that would argue you are ‘effective’ out of the box. And in some ways that is true.

    There should be many who would argue that you need 300+hp and multiple elemental nukes to 50+ along w/ witches brew and archery/melee mastery.

    I say there should be because SO MANY people from the ‘early’ population (EU and early NA1) macro’d incessantly in order to achieve these skills.

    My personal rough calculation for my casual style is about 300 play hours. I am just approaching this and find myself w/ 1 nuke, archery at 75 and approaching Greatsword mastery.

    I still have forever to go, thankfully. I completely agree w/ your point that EVE’s model of training is optimal. Despite the tears of being behind there will be exponentially more whining when people reach…the end.

  2. Billy Hicks says:

    My first MMO was WoW so I can’t comment on games before that.

    It seems to me that WoW (and games like it) had a big impact on how people see progression in MMOs.

    WoW was really 2 very different games when it launched and for a long time after. Leveling and ‘End Game’ were VERY different. People who liked leveling could just roll a new char to keep things moving. People who preferred the ‘end game’ were forced to suffer through leveling to get to the bit they liked. The harder end game also attracted a big proportion of the more Hardcore players.

    Today many of the so called Hardcore still think in the same terms, get past leveling to get to the end game. Its hard for them to see that in a game like DF there really aren’t two totally different games in leveling and end game.

    Nothing opens up to you once your skills are at 100. Its not like WoW where you need to be max level to get into Raids. In DF being maxed is exactly the same as having level 20 skill in everything. The only difference is you hit harder and have a bit more life.

  3. Bhagpuss says:

    I love levelling. Even though I’m not mad keen on the fighting part of MMOs per se, I do just purely love to level characters.

    Getting to the cap isn’t often a problem for me because, well for one thing I rarely get there, and for another (and this is the main reason I rarely get there) I tend to play many, many characters concurrently. Once at the cap, though, there can be some stagnation, it’s true. The capped characters tend to be the ones that rest more while others level up.

    In the end, though, it’s only players who are obsessed with an “End Game” and “finishing” their characters who really hit a brick wall. Running out of goals in an MMO is probably more a sign of a lack of imagination than of actually having exhausted the possibilities. Or possibly just that it really is time to move on.

  4. sid67 says:

    The corollary is also true to some degree with EvE. If ‘what you want to do’ requires more skills than you currently have — then the motivation to log on is low.

    This is largely in-part to the fact that you don’t need to be ‘logged in’ to gain skills. I.E — if I don’t have the skill, and what I really want to do is THAT — why log on until you have the needed skill.

    Provided, of course, that you have enough ISK.

    • SynCaine says:

      Logged on and subscribed are two very different things though, and in the one-server structure of EVE someone not logging on much is very ok with everyone else. Jita is crowded enough and all that. The benefit of having 50k+ concurrent users.

      You do need to be logged in to gain skill in DF though, so that problem is avoided.

      • sid67 says:

        IMO, the DF approach is better. As I just wrote on my blog, I think the whole EVE approach favors the more casual player. The guy who spends the long hours logged in doesn’t gain skills any quicker than the guy who never logs in.

        Perhaps that’s good for a ‘subscription’ model, but it seems counterintuitive to the traditional MMO approach of rewarding players who actually, well.. umm.. PLAY the game.

        • SynCaine says:

          From a pure skill points gain perspective, yes. But the more active player is going to generate more ISK, more combat experience, more faction standing, etc, so they still get more ‘something’ out of it. I think the major problem is that many don’t fully see this, and only view SP as character growth.

  5. Adam says:

    So we were just discussing this last night.

    All the “endgame” guys that joined Darkfall and maxed out in 3 months are gone.

    It’s not the game because most of them did the same exact thing in Warhammer.

    If you macro and crazygrind yourself up in any game to be “on top” early you will inevitably quit playing.

    You can see the advanced players starting to get annoyed as well when inevitably the newbs start to catch up with them. The dominance they had early in the game erodes and slowly they lose “interest” in playing…

    I’m a mid tier player. I really enjoy pvping and pveing. The pveing is great because I get some fun play, loot and work on my character slowly but surely.

    Nerfing the grind would really suck because I enjoy the combination of being viable early in the game but in turn having plenty of headroom to improve my character over time.

    • SynCaine says:

      I think what also accelerates those who macro or otherwise skip ahead is that they are less attached to those characters. They put in less ‘work’ to get to a goal, and the more effort you put into anything the more satisfying that reward is. They are, perhaps unknowingly, cheating THEMSELVES out of enjoying the game due to some player-created need to ‘cap out’ and be ‘competitive’.

      • willee says:


        Which is why i hate hate hate the trend of designing mmorpgs towards the ultra-casuals by speeding up the leveling/character progression to warp speeds so people “only have to suffer a few weeks (or even months) of grinding” to make it to end game.

        For me that quick leveling ruins any interest i may have in a mmorpg…and this coming from an ultra-casual player. I have to know i’ll be developing my character for many many months (at least a year or two) before i’d get near the “end game”. Anything less than that and the game is already shallow and uninteresting if everyone can cap everything out in a couple weeks or even a couple months.

      • Adam says:


        Seems like you need a new category-

        “tourist hardcorez”

        • Adam says:

          replying to myself :P

          In some ways these touristhardcorez are very bad for any mmos they play.

          They play super intensely to max level. The look around and “compete” at endgame with the other 10 players that hardcored.

          They find that they are bored since there isn’t any diversity in other players at the endgame (usually the mmo company isn’t prepared for their arrival either).

          Then they declare “i beat the game and its boring”, “endgame lacks diversity”, “endgame is buggy” and on and on….

          That being said – Age of Conan and Warhammer did legitimately have horrible broken endgames :(

        • SynCaine says:

          On the other hand, they are the best beta testers you don’t need money to buy. Especially because even though they may benefit from exploiting potentially broken content, they are far less likely to hang around and actually take advantage of those exploits in the long term. That’s very much the case in DF, as many of the original ‘rigor max’ characters are no longer around (though I believe a good amount of them are banned rather than stopped playing, but still)

  6. Ivoldir says:

    It’s the lack of content that possibly bores players at end-game. Aside from the random PvP, rare Siege (rare but very large) and Sea Towers, there’s not much else to do.

    We just need a few more tools in the sandbox right now. I’m pretty much tired of building the same castle over and over again, because I only have 1 round bucket.

    • willee says:

      Maybe AV is already thinking of things like this, but it would be cool if they could incorporate some kind of dynamic events that would lead to more large-scale PvP action. Something like…

      Rumor has it that a large deposit if iridium was just discovered near “player_city_X”. All the sudden this city becomes the most desired city in the game. Or do something with those “wonders” or whatever where they can change from time to time or move to different cities or more are discovered making different cities more or less desirable for conquest as time goes by.

      Should honestly be fairly easy to do something like this to trigger large-scale sieges more often, if they haven’t already thought of it.

      • Billy Hicks says:

        They have something coming that would fit this.

        Before the game came out one of the things in the lore were called Word Stones.

        Word Stones can be placed in a city to boost XXXX. Each Word Stone gives a different boost. If you ever played DAOC they are the same as Relics. Whatever city a Word Stone is in will instantly start to attract people trying to ninja the Stone.

  7. Brad$ says:

    i could definitely agree that hitting the cap can be a bad thing. I’ve finally capped my first Fallen Earth character and now i’m just kind of left scratching my head as to what to do. sure i’ve got other characters with other specs to level up, but now i see that even capping them i’ll have the same problem. the tradeskills i care about are capped, i have the items i want already, i have enough AP that my skills are where i want them. ideally i would love to be out looking for random pvp, but unfortunately i’ve always found to be extremely rare in Fallen Earth. seems i mostly have to hope that somebody gets the urge at the same time as me. i could go do RP events.. but only so much fun and they don’t happen often. there’s no real PvE content to tackle for me now. I almost wish I had not had so much time and been able to cap so relatively quickly. guess it just makes my transition into Dark Fall more likely to happen pretty soon lol.

  8. sid67 says:

    This is the downside of having character driven progression. The focus is on the character, not the things the character is doing.

    I think you could accomplish a similar thing to what EVE does AND have a skill-cap as long as there were OTHER achievements that a player could measure themselves against.

    Achievements which didn’t have a cap. I think this is why a PvP ladder works so well in some games. It takes a continued effort to stay at the top of the ladder.

    Is there anything that could be like that in DF? Not an PvP ladder per se, but some other never ending achievement?

    • SynCaine says:

      Other than building a player empire, not really. Certain goals like 100 enchanting or 100 ship/warhulk construction are mega-grinds, but people have reached those goals.

      There are actually ladders in DF, but no one really focuses on them (and they cover not just PvP, but PvE and crafting)

  9. Diametrix says:

    The problem with adding more content to an endgame in the hopes of retaining subscriptions is that, regardless of how much a dev team adds, the voracious appetites of the ‘rush to the top’ powergamers will never be satisfied. The faster you churn out content the quicker they finish it and demand more.

    In my opinion the best solution is something like what AV is doing OR something like what CCP is doing…either keep the development pace of each player slow (via grind or logorithmic steepening of skill gain) AND/OR set the length of the skill ladder to be so long that reaching the end isn’t really attainable.

    AV seems to be doing a decent job of ignoring the whining ( a tribute to thier own gamer background). I see a lot of potential for long term viability in the Darkfall model.

  10. Quietside says:

    Eve and Darkfall are definitely ‘what you make it’ games in my opinion. If you want to max out skills and hit ‘endgame’ content, you are bound to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you approach the game with the intent of seeing what it has to offer and playing in the environment as the developers intended (you can still gripe, but at least try it out)… then imagination and time are your only limits. DF is the first game in which i have decided to try my hand at running a clan, Eve was the first time i actually though about planning to stay in an mmo for more than a year.

    Even once your skills are maxed there are things to do. It’s unfortunate that RP and Lore are mocked by a percentage of the community as those things can provide good, entertaining reasons to log in night after night.

    If someone can’t find good random pvp, then perhaps it’s time to hook up with others of like mind and pull a mongol invasion: siege cities and burn them to the ground, destroy assets, be the fiery hand of chaos. Overact, be melodramatic, actually have a little fun. Hell declare war on all furries, or elves, or dwarves: give yourself a reason to log in.

    My biggest concern is that the drive to be competitive can be an impediment to forming good clans (Mine in DF recently divided into a pvp-focused clan and another more casual body). Folks are so focused on grinding that they take little time to hunt together, help each other or forge the friendships and social networks that can really make a game more an experience.

  11. stnylan says:

    I’ve found this myself in one MMO – LOTRO. I recently hit cap there, and from about a week later I just have no urge to log in. I had some very entertaining times on the way to cap, but once there, meh. I’d rather (and indeed am) playing merrily in EVE where even after two years I feel like I have only scratched the surface of that game.

  12. Brian Inman says:

    It is true. You push, and push yourself to reach max level. Once you get there it sometimes feels empty, and like there is nothing to work towards.

    When leveling up you always have that max character level dangling in front of you like a carrot. Just 12 more levels, 9 more levels, 5 more levels, and etc.

    Even though most people say they hate the grind in actuality they probably enjoy it. Without something to work towards the game gets boring.

    Of course than you can do crafting, and have the same incentives. I am 175 now I can do thorium, 225 I can do this now, 375 I can mine this, and once you get to the top you get bored again.

    It is a vicious cycle, but it keeps players paying $15 a month.

  13. Kyff says:

    I think most of the comments miss the mark as the term “endgame” is not fitting for DFO. As far as I understand it the game does not change that much once all or some skills are capped.

    And even with capped skills there are still things to do. Take down the the dragon solo. Slay the kraken with a raft. Take out a player city with one friend or simply explore the entire world etc.

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