Debating the End-Game: Guild Wars 2 versus EverQuest: Next

Scribed October 12, 2013 under The Cynic Dialogues
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I took a blog post responding to one of my articles and stepped back this week. I had anticipated a fan defending the game against the arguments presented by my original article about the reasons why I had stopped playing Guild Wars 2. I was pretty clear that I don’t think Guild Wars 2 is an abject failure, to help ensure people didn’t take my post as a specific attack against GW2 (and thankfully no one has). It still attracts a significant population of players (unconfirmed of course…no official stats released).

Then I received a reply from Jeromai at Why I Game. The premise of his article was surprisingly mature and responsive and didn’t at all read defensively like I was expecting in response. As a result his argument merits a deeper look at my ideal end-game and why his just doesn’t interest me.

Here are a few things Jeromai does in Guild Wars 2;

used a GW2 node website for more focused and targeted node gathering (Repeat of “Farming”)

gone to farm Champions in the Frostgorge loop (Repeat of World Bosses)

stopped by a world boss or two (Repeat of World Bosses)

visited and revisited some jumping puzzles new and old (New!)

made an attempt at map exploration on alts (Exploration, also New!)

tried to level up my mesmer further via lowbie zones and personal story (Sort of the same as above… exploration==leveling in GW2)

bought a new character slot (not sure why this counts as an activity)

made a temporary necro to regain the skull mask I must have accidentally salvaged off my level 80 necro (not sure why this counts as an activity either)

experimented with various races of warriors while working towards accumulating Black Lion Keys (exploiting a new character reward to avoid paying and supporting the game==noteworthy activity?)

To be clear; I also have 5 level 80′s (Thief, Necromancer, Ranger, Engineer, and Mesmer) with over 1800 hours played (yea… unemployment rocked my world with available free time to play). I completed the World Exploration Achievement twice, every single jumping puzzle (including the Rookery one w/chest award, Mad King, etc).  I started building multiple Legendary weapons early on, but due to the personally unappealing graphical nature of them all, I never bothered to finish any of them. I had 5550 Achievement points before the patch that allowed them to be artificially inflated (dailies/achievement reward system).  I spent my time after leveling doing many of the same things he says he does still.

I too enjoyed the initial feeling in Guild Wars 2. I’m not claiming its not there. The amount of content in GW2 is staggeringly fun.

Lets stop going in circles…

Debating the merits of Jeromai’s activities as an actual end-game, however, is where I must stand up and call ‘bullshit’. While I realize this is one of those arguments that seems like a circular debate that will endlessly go on; bear with me, I do have a point to make. Some players are clearly entertained, obviously, by repeating the same content over and over.

Almost all of Jeromai’s “activities” are even as he states, repeated over and over; Dungeons sometimes up to 3 times a day, exploration and world completion on multiple alts, farming for mats, World Bosses, even the dailies are typically repeated over and over. None of this is engaging in the long run. How long can he do these same things over and over? How many alts can he repeat content on before he grows tired of doing them? I don’t doubt for a second he’s enjoying redoing this content, I did myself for quite awhile.

We have to acknowledge, however, that while certain players are engaged by repeating the same content over and over…. that doesn’t apply to the vast majority of us. MMOs as a whole have traditionally lost massive amounts of players when content has been consumed. Blizzard had an acknowledged cycle of subscription gains and losses; near the end of an expansion players subscriptions went down and then as the expansion was released it went back up again. It seems pretty clear that the vast majority of paying customers want seemingly NEW and engaging content.

So while I respect Jeromai’s activities in Guild Wars 2 as being fun for him; its another thing entirely to dispute my claims that Guild Wars 2′s end-game is shallow, unplanned and completely typical in the MMO space.

The End Game Revolution

So lets get to the real meat of the end-game situation. Their has been only one real approach to date in providing a unique environment that is both engaging and constantly changing end-game product. That solution thus far has been Player versus Player (PvP) content. Why is that exactly? Well, unlike a planned, scripted encounter written by game developers (lets give Tequatl as an example, a Guild Wars 2 World Boss), PvP is almost entirely a new situation every time it occurs.

Add into PvP the intricacies of what many players call meta-gaming; the political and social partnerships that form in an environment born of conflict. With players forming alliances and guilds and corporations to lend aid or attack each other, you can see why the content never grows stagnant. Does this mean the end-game was planned by the developers to be this way?

In some games, it’s obvious when developers intended PvP to be their end-game. For example, EVE Online. EVE is one of those games where there was very little PvE content on its launch. The conflict was to come from Players interacting positively or negatively with other Players. In contrast, a game like World of Warcraft (or even Guild Wars 2) added PvP (on top of its PvE focus) to give it that seemingly endless amount of end-game content. Yet in WoW the PvP wasn’t the actual focus of high level players, it was just another in a series of activities designed to keep players paying a subscription. PvP in WoW turned out to be more death-match-like then impactful on the games environment (or the players who played in it).

I can understand skepticism from the people who are reading my analysis thus far and are saying to themselves “But I have no interest in PvP”.  That group is an increasingly growing pool of players that have been largely ignored to date. They don’t want conflict or any of their time to be wasted (I.E: dying and losing their stuff). So where is the future of the end-game to come from for the rest of you?

Surprisingly, EverQuest: Next was the one who first hinted to me the possibilities of an endless PvE end-game. To this point even I couldn’t envision a game that would be able to provide us with endless entertainment (at least without focusing entirely on PvP). EverQuest Next seemingly can and they are doing so at the exact moment the genre needs it most.

EverQuest: Next The Final Frontier of the End Game

In all the talk and hub-bub of EQN, the thing that most excited to me was the promise of an actual living breathing world. This concept should not to be confused with Guild Wars 2′s “Living World” patches. Instead, this a living world in which little to no developer interaction is required. Instead of patches, you merely provide your NPC monsters with motivations and goals and let them loose. The concept is foreign to almost every modern-day gamer. No game has truly really been powered by a system like this.

An orc forms bonds with other orcs, and together they set out in the world to find that which means most to them; Gold. So the orcs travel through a forest and look down from the hill onto a road. Low and behold they see many merchants travelling the road back and forth. Free gold! So they attack and get gold and are emotionally satisfied for a few minutes. Why would they leave this spot? Merchants seemingly come and go all the time here, and after all their searching the countryside for gold, they found a spot where gold comes to them! So the orcs setup a camp here.

The living world part if your not satisfied goes further; Those merchants travelling the road getting murdered and robbed by orcs aren’t idiots. Their motivation is to make money in the safest way possible. So they start taking a different route to their trading destination. Guess what? No other route exists… so they stop trading with that post and go somewhere different that’s safer. Well now that outpost no longer has trades coming in and… yea… the story goes on and on. The impacts of those orcs camping the road has ramifications in the game that seem endless.

Endless.

An end-game that’s endless? And I didn’t even mention PvP…. Pretty incredible isn’t it?

So if EverQuest Next has a world with monsters that constantly roam the world looking for things that motivate them, the potential for game play that’s never the same is enormous. You won’t have to “level alts” or “do world completion again” or “run dungeons 3 times” or “kill world boss X 5 times to get loot”. The menial task of logging in to repeat the same content over and over is no longer your primary objective in “playing” your favorite “game”. The end-game basically ceases to exist and instead we are left talking about just “the game”.

Some people have constantly cited that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again hoping for a different outcome. Isn’t that what MMO developers have given us for end-games over the last decade? Elder Scrolls Online, Wildstar, Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft. Where is the end-game?  Content designed to be run, re-run, and farmed ad-nausea until the next ‘content’ comes out? EverQuest Next, with all of the systems its introducing to the gaming world, seems to be focusing on showcasing us the flashy stuff. Yet the flashy stuff isn’t even the truly revolutionary part of the game.

The death of the end-game. The future. Let’s hope.

#guildwars2 #everquestnext #everquestnextlandmark #endgame

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