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Endgame Hopes

November 30, 2011

Tobold wonders about the fundamental replayability of  SW:TOR  once the storylines become well-known, predicting unremarkable endgame and the wrath of bloggers at the carebearishness of it all.

One is tempted to play devil’s advocate here, considering that a sizeable handful of bloggers believe fervently that WoW subscription numbers had the potential to rise forever if not for the calamities of Wrath and Cataclysm. We don’t really know what the endgame (the complete endgame) will look like in TOR, but if I had to pick the vintage of WoW that it feels most like, culturally, it would be the Burning Crusade: tougher questing, tougher mobs, server-community grouping without the benefit of Looking For Tools, extensive use of actual character abilities as opposed to the much-derided dancing and vehicular combat – and to think how strong the temptation of the latter must have been in a Star Wars IP! If this relationship continues into endgame, we might see a challenging, robust, unapologetically multi-tiered Operations system, and at the very least the usual suspects will have to struggle for something else in the game to dislike.

Things Bioware could do to extend the longevity of its endgame:

Branch raid content in interesting ways. The capability for player-choice branching is already quite intrinsic to the game engine. A few decision trees, perhaps a few random events along the way, and no raid run need ever look the same. Some of these ought to be for flavour and some ought to increase raid difficulty and rewards. A fledgling raid group might choose a path that allows it, say, to trade the end boss for three medium difficulty bosses and still have a sense of ‘completing’ the raid. And it would go some ways to answer Tobold’s skepticism about the conversational choices being relevant beyond questing. Think Sarth3D, Yogg+0 and their ilk except with flexibility, subtlety and soul. And lightsabers.

Go easy on gear resets and allow long-term ambition to blossom. This is especially true in the initial honeymoon period. Provide a variety of raids, scale them in difficulty, make gear matter and therefore bring pleasure when acquired, offer a ladder to the top and don’t be afraid to give people time to scale it. The content-gobbling 5% are important opinion, aspirational and organisational leaders and they cannot be ignored, but to cater to them too much is folly.

On that note, I agree with Tobold that bloggers (and pundits in all walks of life) are a specific, even peculiar bunch with very mannerist tastes. I remain stoutly unconvinced that the broad MMO market is really looking to be astounded with never-seen-before gameplay elements. I don’t think the persistence of trinity games that, shall we say, aren’t completely unlike each other except for one major  feature (great storytelling or uh, rifts) is due to corporate risk-aversion and the money at stake. I think it’s simply correct market research, though Guild Wars 2 is welcome to prove me wrong. And with World of Pandas, Rift and SW:TOR vying for that mainstream, my wager’s on the new kid.

Categories: Endgame, Mentality
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  1. May 11, 2012 at 19:21
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