Saturday, April 30, 2011

Solo player endgame progression

In the current model of level-based MMORPGs, the game is stupidly divided into two very different parts: A leveling part which is mostly played solo, and an endgame part where progression is limited to group content like raiding. There is an increasing gap between the two, and developers are starting to think how to close it. Now I'd think it would be better to make the leveling game more group friendly, but given the extreme attitude against "forced grouping" some players have, the alternative would be to create an endgame progression for solo players. Thus while applying patch 4.1 to World of Warcraft, the developers already announced the Regrowth and Molten Front feature for patch 4.2.

This basically is a way for solo players to experience some sort of endgame progression which is completely their own. Unlike previous daily quest hubs, the progression this time isn't shared, but unique to every player. Players do daily quests for Marks of the World Tree, tokens which can not only be used to buy gear with, but also to unlock progression of the story.

The interesting part of that is that this personal progression is done without phasing. Thus while two players standing next to each other might see a different scene and different quest givers depending on how far they progressed, they will also see each other, and even be able to do quests together. While there probably isn't a perfect solution to the conflicting demands of people wanting to change virtual worlds, but them having to offer the same content for everybody, this is at least an interesting approach.

On the downside this sort of gameplay structure is still not very friendly to people with lots of alts. Not only will all your alts have to play through the Mount Hyjal regular quest chain, but the Molten Front progression will also be identical for each of them. 60 different daily quests is more than we used to get, but it still will involve a lot of repetition. And with patch 4.2 still being months away, this might well be a case of too little, too late. But then, lots of players might be back in WoW at the end of the year, if SWTOR is really such a dud as some previewers claim.

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