I finally found the perfect metaphor to describe my disappointment with end-game World of Warcraft.
Before you hit level 60, WoW is a game that rewards effort and time played. You can log in for just a little while, do a little something, and know that you’ve made some progress (no matter how small) towards improving your character. And this is exactly how I played WoW before 60 – in small, daily chunks.
Once you hit 60 WoW turns into a slot machine. Rewards are no longer commensurate to effort or time played; they are now completely random. Not only does WoW become a slot machine, but you have to be willing to play the game for three to five hours straight to get one pull on the slot machine – and that pull will almost certainly be a loser. Sorry, you’re not a winner! Run UBRS again!
It was very disconcerting watching one of my favorite games become one of my least favorite. But Friday night I got my copy of Oblivion, so WoW can now kiss my ass.
And this is why even MMOs need to release expansions and sequels at pretty much the “usual” rate. To my mind, that makes them even more troublesome than your standard, non-subscription games. Even what we were putting into the design of Legacy was just delaying this end-game problem. Despite the sick amount of content in these games, they’re just not that replayable to me. I mean, would you find joy in going through the whole game again as Horde? For the most part, it’d be stuff you haven’t seen before, but it’s still the same game.
That’s why I never went through any of the Diablos a second time. And if you did put enough stuff in there that replays give you all new content, you’re actually developing two or more entire games. Isn’t it better as a company interested in making money to release those content streams as expansions?
I think I could be happy making adventure games that looked like Half-Life 2.
Speaking of adventure games that look like Half-Life 2, have you played Dreamfall?
No. Should I? What is it?
It’s the sequel to The Longest Journey. It was actually published by my company. It’s very pretty and getting very good reviews. It’s sort of an action/adventure game hybrid, kind of like Anachronox, if you ever played that game.
I had the pretty much the same experience with WoW except I slogged it out for over 3 months at lvl 60 trying to get into a guild capable of running the 40-man instances. My first full run through Molten Core got me two epic items and a chance to see Ragnaros (we didn’t beat him that day). I stopped playing the very next day. It was such a letdown to finally see the “magical” endgame content that I just couldn’t go on dumping my time into it.
Cathy and I have been looking forward to Dreamfall for some time. I’m a bit concerned, though, as I recently read that they’ve added combat and stealth. While I enjoy those elements in games, Cathy absolutely does not. Do you know how much of these elements are in the game and how they’re handled? If, for example, there are timed sequences that you can replay on failure (like the last Broken Sword game) that wouldn’t be bad. But if the game involves frequent saves and twitch play, then Funcom made a huge mistake. The player base of the original Longest Journey (and other similar titles like Syberia) was reportedly two-thirds female. They’d be biting themselves in the ass, IMHO. Perhaps these were added at Microsoft’s request, as the game was also released on the 360?
Luckily, there are two other cool looking adventure titles being released this week — “Paradise” (from B. Sokal, the creator of Syberia 1 & 2) and “Keepsake,” a Harry-Potter-esque adventure game from The Adventure Company.
I honestly don’t know how prevalent the fighting and sneaking parts are, but I would be willing to bet that they are far less prevalent than in Beyond Good & Evil, for instance. You did play that, right?
In any event, don’t buy Dreamfall if you haven’t already. And I’ll be stopping by your office sometime this week…for some reason.