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My Relationship with MMOs

My Relationship with MMOs – December 22, 2011 2:44 AM (edited 12/21/11 9:44 PM)
Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
I just cancelled my FFXIV subscription, despite thoroughly enjoying the game. I feel like this is the sort of contradiction that defines my MMO experiences. I'm too casual for hardcore players, and too hardcore for casual players. I like to play with friends, but I refuse to join a linkshell (guild). Someone recently asked me why I even play MMO's, and I haven't been able to answer that one for a while. I have given a lot of thought to the inherent conflicts I have with MMO's, though.

Solo vs. Multiplayer
You'll see a lot of people on the FFXIV forums complaining that there isn't enough to do solo. I tend to agree with these people in principle. The usual answer is that the "M stands for multiplayer," which is a pretty reasonable response. I mean, if you want to play solo, why are you playing an MMO? (Answer: because MMO gameplay is, by design, addictive. But that's not the point I'm trying to make here.)

The FFXIV content that frustrates me is the endgame content. There are two types: big boss fights, and instanced dungeons. Both require a full party of eight people. Now, given that the game is an MMO, there's nothing inherently wrong with having a content that can only be experienced with other players. That is, arguably, the whole point. As a result, I haven't really been able to pin down why this content frustrates me so much.

The simple truth is, this is not multiplayer content. It is guild content. Sure, I could theoretically do all the endgame content shouting for groups in town without ever joining a linkshell. The same was true of FFXI. In practice, this takes too long and has a very low rate of success. If I want to do all the content in the game, I am effectively required to join a linkshell. I have had nothing but terrible luck with linkshells in FFXI, and I don't really want to get into that in FFXIV. I don't want to play on a schedule, I don't want to grind content endlessly, and I don't want to repeat content I've done over and over so I have a chance to do something I do want. I just want to experience the game.

I think this is the real argument many "I want to be able to solo" players are trying to make. I want to play solo as in on my own terms, without obligation. I'd be more than happy to join pickup groups if doing so didn't take so long. They are supposed to be adding a cross-world raid autogroup mechanism ripped from WoW at some point. I didn't really understand the appeal until now - something like that may get me back in the game.

Casual vs. Hardcore
The solo vs. multiplayer argument is pretty straightforward. Casual vs. hardcore is much harder to define. Some define casual as not playing very much, or not caring about how good they are, or not wanting content to be difficult. Most hardcore players would call me casual, but none of these apply to me. I'm seen as "casual" because I don't want to play the game for the game's sake. This is the main reason I've quit FFXIV - there is no goal. Sure, I could get more combat classes to 50 to broaden my options for endgame content, or get crafting and gathering classes to 50 to support the materia needed to get truly elite gear, but to what end? I don't want to fight Ifrit 30 times until I get all the weapons I need to go on to the next thing, I want to fight him once to say I did it.

The problem is, because I do play a lot and I do care about being a competent player, I don't really get along with the typical casual player. This is the main basis for my linkshell problems. Linkshells are either so casual they accomplish nothing (thus defeating the one real purpose they have), or they are too focused and hardcore to appeal to me. Middle-ground players like me may exist, but I've never been able to find them in numbers, let alone a linkshell full of them.

The Bottom Line
I've kept playing FFXIV because it's fun, and has gotten more fun patch by patch. The newly balanced classes make combat really tight and exciting. But to what end? I've finished the main plot, and have no hope of doing endgame content. The game is now squarely focused on endgame content, so what reason do I have to play at all? The sad truth is that it's just a waste of time. And it's fun, but not nearly enough fun to justify that.

Why do MMO's still have levels? I mean, if the whole point is to get to max level and do endgame content, why have levels at all? What purpose do they serve? I feel like whatever game eventually dethrones WoW is going to be one that realizes that leveling is an outdated mechanic.

There is no Mythril Sword in Elfheim
Re: My Relationship with MMOs – December 22, 2011 4:44 AM (edited 12/21/11 11:44 PM)
Debonair (259 posts) Lurker Extraordinaire
Rating: Not Rated
(inserted after writing the rest of the post)Sorry, your final paragraph there got me rambling. I fully understand the feeling of the primary post and don't mean to ignore or inadvertently demean it but felt like following up on the end of it. Think we had covered a decent portion of conversation on the opening of the post at applebees anyways.

Someone wrote...
Why do MMO's still have levels?

Because people like increasing numbers. Guildwars is an MMO in a loose sense of the word. While it has levels they don't necessarily mean anything depending on what you want to do in the game.

If you want to play the game itself (RPG characters):
You can create a character in the expansions for guildwars (Factions and Eye of the North) and hit level 20 (max level) in a day or 2 with still tons of the storyline to go(The original game Prophecies levels much slower). For things that require multiple people, you can get NPC henchmen that while not great, still work well enough to handle the primary storyline missions.

If you just want to pvp:
You create a PvP character that starts at lvl 20. it has access to a batch of base skills, any that you have unlocked with RPG characters, and any that you purchase(since it is "free to play" they make their money that way and through costumes and bank slots and such).

It hasn't taken over wow though. Wonder how guildwars 2 will go if it ever comes out.

In any case though, I think its a psychological thing. People like seeing numbers increase. Even once you hit max level in WoW you start grinding stuff to get gear with better item levels(making your actual character level fairly irrelevant actually. The last time I played WoW was when Wrath came out. I think leveling up a character from 1-max took a week or so, and quest progression didn't leave anything really grindy aside from kill x mobs for this quest. In theory, its just being gradually introduced to new abilities, and level provides a way for people to know at a glance weather or not you should have them.) Prior to item levels being implemented the GearScore plugin was a big which was basically the same thing done by a third party(it might still be used now, not really sure). Even FPS games are getting into the leveling thing now have your characters level up in multiplayer games to provide more options as opposed to just having a ranking. It's all in the visual representation.

afterthought: I went back and forth a few times in this post to add something in mid-paragraph. If it made it a little unwieldy, oh well.

Re: My Relationship with MMOs – December 22, 2011 12:53 PM (edited 12/22/11 7:53 AM)
Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
That's all true, but I guess what I'm really asking is why MMO's have level-blocked content. Like, theoretically a level 1 guy in CoD can beat a max level guy, right? (My understanding is that higher levels gives you access to more cool toys, but it doesn't make you invincible or anything).

I like seeing numbers increase, too, but those numbers don't have to be the be-all end-all. I think a horizontal leveling system could be really cool. For instance, look at what FFXIV currently does: you gain more abilities as you level, and can use most of those abilities on other classes, regardless of level. Everything scales. You can just take that system as-is, and remove the hp/mp scaling, and the game would work just as well. No hardcore linkshell would take a new player along to fight Ifrit, but a group of new players could at least try. (And probably fail, but that gives you a goal that feels a lot more compelling than "grind for a while until we arbitrarily allow you to have a chance.")

There is no Mythril Sword in Elfheim
Re: My Relationship with MMOs – December 23, 2011 2:43 PM (edited 12/23/11 9:43 AM)
chaoscat (452 posts) Ambassador of Good Will
Rating: /images/autobot.gif + 1
See, the problem is you're looking for a "relationship" with an MMO. MMOs are whores. You don't have relationships with them, you pay them to let you grind on them.

Syllabic (4:14 PM): tozzi are you like dowd's jiminy cricket
(comment deleted) – January 1, 2012 7:42 AM (edited 1/1/12 2:42 AM)
scextsype (1 post)
Rating: Not Rated
This comment was deleted by Talraen at 01/01/12 09:24 AM.

Re: My Relationship with MMOs – January 3, 2012 2:17 PM (edited 1/3/12 9:17 AM)
chaoscat (452 posts) Ambassador of Good Will
Rating: Not Rated
So, one of the things I really like about Batmud (the closest thing to an MMO I actually play) is that there are lots of different things to increase, not all of which increase in the same way. So, you've got exp and money, which are pretty much the same as they are in every other game (although you spend exp on specific skills, you don't just blanket advance; levels exist to let you take more guild levels, which give access to more skills - skills are what make you more powerful). You also have "guild rep" for most guilds. While the general statement "You gain guild rep by killing things" is true, the details vary enough to make it interesting - followers of the beast-chaos-god gain rep by feeding the souls of foes to their steeds, which in turn become progressively more badass creatures; Folklorists study different creatures to make their spells better against that creature type; Reavers worship destruction, and gain rep by (among other things) destroying a foe's equipment. It's also relatively easy to rebuild your character as a different guild, so you can play with several of these mechanics over time. Also, different guilds depend more or less on rep - Reavers and barbarians are unplayable if you're not working on the rep system, but the demon-summoner guild I'm in can get by paying attention to guild rep like once a month or so.

As you say, the game isn't forcibly tiered - you can get to top end monsters pretty early (well, you can try to. Many have high level guards too, so a really unprepared party can't get close - although one notorious badass is in a very accessible room), but it's pretty well established that no one who isn't a top end player has a chance. That being said, there's enough gradation that, if you're willing to look around, you can usually find something challenging at your level. Exp counts, but so does having a good build and knowing how to play it. And the game rewards exploration - rather than scaling exp based on your level relative to the mob's, it scales exp based on how often a mob has been killed, both by you and by anyone.

Not sure if that's what you're talking about with horizontal leveling, but it's been enough to keep me entertained for 10ish years. Of course, being free also helps.

Syllabic (4:14 PM): tozzi are you like dowd's jiminy cricket
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