It's been a while since I grumbled about anything so you get a slightly ranty post today. You'll probably think all these posts and topics are kind of non related but I find a general link between them, for me :P
It's all about WoW, mmos and how things changed for me since my first big mmo experience: Final Fantasy XI Online.
I've been reading some interesting posts lately on Casual Hardcore. First a post from a few days ago about What I Really Think Is Wrong In WoW, I was sort of expecting a post about easy game or micro transactions or something like that, but got a post from Kyrilean saying that the problem for him is not the game, it's the players. I especially liked a sentence from his post: “It’s too bad that a majority of people are like water and take the path of least resistance.”
That made me think a little about my view on that, and I mostly agree with him. Though for me, the game changes sort of encouraged that "easy go lazy" behavior.
Then I read today's post A Better Class Of Player still on Casual Hardcore that discussed a very interesting post from BBB Attunements – your mileage may vary. Mostly these posts comment about the removal of attunements and how it possibly affected the "skill" of raiders and the game immersion.
I'm not sure that attunements are a "gage of skill" but they sure meant that a player had done some instancing with this character and should know his ways at least a little. Now I completely agree with the fact that immersion is lower now than it was before. Wrath of the Lich King contains some epic questlines, and on the alliance side Ulduar is introduced in a wonderful way ... if you take the time to do these quests, and if you know where they are. I agree that the content is still here, and players can still do the quests, but if you hit 80 while finishing Sholazar Bassin, are you really going to clean Storm Peaks and Icecrown quests, when you have all these Argent tournament dailies to do and these heroics to run?
It happens that I also listen to No Prisoners, No Mercy, a very entertaining podcast about all things mmo. Don't ask me why but I play most of the mmos the hosts of this show play: I'm playing wow, tried warhammer (until level cap ;p), I'm playing aion (on a cleric you can't change yourself) ... I recommend you to listen to their Show 47 with a very interesting interview of Keen from Keen and Graev's Gaming Blog.
Now how all of that is related to WoW ?
Well it is not directly related, more to a general state of the big mmos at the moment. Whether WoW or Aion, or even Warhammer, the player is guided, there is this sort of invisible hand pointing you towards what you should do now and pushing you to reach "The End Game". In these 3 mmos this end game is all you seek, in a sense the leveling part is just a few weeks grind to reach the "real game".
So what are we going to ? Well I don't know for you, but it got me thinking about what player I am, what I like in the mmos I play now, what I miss perhaps from games I played before. I took the famous Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology that I did a few years ago and found me being a SEAK:
When I started mmos I was more an EASK, so I changed to be more social than achievement driven, though I still like exploration a lot. I think I can see that in my daily play, if I still stick to WoW it is because of the people I play with, if I went to play Aion it is because some of these friends moved there. I like new games and new universes, which is why I played Warhammer, why I played Vanguard, and LOTRO and so many others. But in the end it is the community that makes me stay in a game when I've finished exploring it enough for my taste.
When I read my lines it make me think about some posts from Larisa, that I read nearly every day ^^. She's a gnome mage, and I'm still a Tarutaru white mage somewhere, I think that's how I'm linked to her liking of immersion and socialization, even though she plays the grumpy gnome so well some days, better than I do.
I miss FFXI sometimes, as I miss Vanguard (which community was killed by SOE before summer with a stupid extension patch, somehow as they already killed SWG before). These two games contained a lot to do in an open sandbox context. They were harder than WoW or Aion on the leveling side and reaching max level, or even a high level was worth of praise in these games. The time you spent leveling also made the "trip to max level" much more worthy as it was a real experience. Strangely the gameplay in both of these games didn't change a lot from say level 20 to max. You did get a few new tricks but way way less than in Aion or WoW. You just refined your gameplay, and learned to adapt to new monsters, because the whole group gameplay was rich enough to not be grasped completely before you've got hours of grouping behind you.
In a sense you - the player - learned while playing, and as a healer your level wasn't your most important asset for grouping, it was your reputation as a good healer, or a good player whichever class you played.
What I also liked in FFXI and Vanguard were the epic quests in a sandbox (read open, free to do when you want) context. FFXI missions are huge epic quests that required groups to finish and often a lot of preparation. Vanguard contain a lot of questlines from level 10 to 50 that reward you with incredible items that you will keep for 10 or more levels ... but trust me anyone that has done the complete Infineum questline nows how long and hard it is. In these games someone that see you with these items knows how hard you worked to get them. Even if they are not max level items them mean something.
I could also use LOTRO as a great example for their epic questline that tells you a real story, but the lack of sandbox and the requirement for low level players in a context where leveling goes so fast sort of ruined that for me.
I think that's what I miss ... meaning. Give some feeling to what you do, have a sense of accomplishment when you achieve something. Give us real epic questlines, with real worth for a player be it an item, a special title giving you access to some place, anything that you can be proud to show and that means "That player was able to do that, or took all the time needed to reach that, and I so much want to do it too.".
I've not played Ultima Online for a long time, but back in the days (lol) crafting really meant something. You didn't have to do it, it was a choice (sandbox idea), but reaching master level was worthy.
Give us such things then you'll have put back meaning into doing something, more than throwing food at other players around a table and getting a "achievement" for that .... :P