Sunday, September 25, 2011

Playing It Down

Psychochild has a post up that I found an interesting read. 

Scruffy, poster-child for low-level gameplay
My introduction to RPGs was AD&D 2nd Edition and I came to it relatively late, already a year or two out of university. A lot of my attitudes to MMOs derive from the three or four years in the mid 1980s when I played tabletop RPGs every Sunday afternoon. I think that's where I first developed a strong disinterest, even dislike, of high-level gameplay.
There were about five to eight of us at any given session, all in our early-mid 20s and I can clearly remember the increasing dissatisfaction of the group as the levels of our characters rose. Somewhere around level seven most of us were beginning to struggle to empathize with their increasingly baroque lives. I know I was, anyway. I retired my half-elf ranger at level 8 and rerolled a dwarf cleric, who didn't make it even that far. From then on our group played a series of  different RPGs, never getting much above low level and I think we were all a lot more comfortable with that.

Kill it? I'm getting a crick in the neck just looking at it!

The problem for me at least, was that I found the plots we were involved with and the opponents we were facing increasingly hard to care about. Help a village deal with bandit attacks on outlying farms? Fine! Investigate some ruins seen from the highway? Why not? Hire on to protect a merchant caravan? Good honest work. Travel to another plane to fight demons or demi-gods? Give me a break!

Newt or dragon? You decide.

Ever since then I've very strongly preferred low-level gameplay. In my first few months of Everquest I decided I would never kill a dragon, putting that down as a line in the sand between my characters and silliness. I managed to keep that rule for many years, although I broke it eventually. 

The attritional drip drip drip of high-level content in all MMOs got to me in the end. I've seen my share of gods and demons and defeated quite a few. Call it immersion fatigue. Still, though, I spend much more of my time clearing bandit camps and skinning animals. I imagine it'll always be that way. I hope so, anyway.


  1. Spot on post. My pen and paper group was always the same, high level play in most RPGs just wasn't fun and was a nightmare to write adventures for.

    I do much prefer lower level gaming in MMOs to. There's that sense of wonder and discovery that's missing from 'end-game' where mindless repetition seems the main activity.

    I've been pretty disheartened to see DDO focus almost solely on extra-planar threats at higher levels. They should have gone to Sharn for political intrigue with royalty / the dragonmarked houses or other powerful factions. You can only up the ante so many times with demons/devils/whathaveyou before it just becomes utterly rediculous.

  2. I feel the same way, and I never really knew why I loved the beginning levels of a game so much.

    Most of it comes from the way games are made nowadays, though. It's all about gear and reputation -- yes, repetition for pointless things.

    In SW:TOR beta yesterday, I asked what level I could get another companion. The answer was higher than I would have liked, and so I commented "so much for choice". Someone replied that at max level we will be able to choose from all the companions we have.

    I said that I usually quit at max level because raiding for gear to raid for gear bores the crap out of me. The response I got? "Sounds like MMOs are not for you."

    I said that I prefer the journey to the destination and that I've been playing MMOs since 1995.

    Screw you, Blizzard, for doing this to the industry. Really. Screw you.


  3. SW:ToR looks very much in the current mode, but since I'm not much of a Star Wars fan I haven't been paying that much attention. Of course, if it's the huge success it needs to be, it might well affect future MMO development the way WoW did, so I suppose we'll all have to suffer whether we play it or not.

    One of the things about Guild Wars 2 that first got my attention was the "flat leveling curve", where according to GW2 dev Isaiah Cartwright "Instead of taking longer and longer to reach each level, it takes about the same time to go through each level".

    He goes on to say "if we expect you to level up every few hours, then why shouldn’t it be that way all through the game?" which would be interesting. There aren't many MMOs where it takes "a few hours" to do Level 1 ! I can't find anything on the "flat level" thing since that interview a year ago, though, so who knows if it's still in the plan.

    I really hope GW2 is even half as good as we're all imagining it's going to be...

  4. I have high hopes for GW2 as well, Arenanet know how to tell stories, I hope this will be the MMO that isn't gear-grind obsessed!

  5. It's single player, but you should check out "Mount and Blade". No dragons, no magic, but definately massive armies of well trained men in hardened armour (I'm talking armour from RL history) in massive battles. How well you do is highly dependent on your own sword swinging ability in game.


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