A bit over a month back, I asked the following poll question:
Which of the Following Would You Like Added To Your Favorite MMORPG?
Repeatable max-level content for your main? 43 (43%)
One-time leveling content for new players and alts? 55 (56%)
The content for alts jumped out to an early lead, and held the majority position for the entire month or so the poll was open. Though this result definitely speaks to the popularity of rolling alts, part of me wonders how much of it represents burnout with the repeatable content endgame grind.
Up Close and Personal With The Endgame
None of the major games I can think of has increased its level cap recently, so it stands to reason that many of us have gotten up close and personal with whatever developers have come up with to entertain players when they're run out of content.
The LOTRO community is apparently up in arms against formal "radiance" requirement for endgame dungeons - you must repeat the lower end dungeons until you assemble a set of armor with enough radiance to allow you to function. Warhammer had launched with a similar system, only their required that players win a random roll against hundreds of siege participants. This got at least somewhat fixed, and now Mythic is free to deal with population balance issues. Just yesterday, I wrote that I'm largely uninterested in the most recent WoW loot, in part because of the pace of gear inflation.
Keen's got a post lamenting the state of reputation systems in modern MMORPG's, which are now mainly used as a way of tracking progress towards rewards rather than actually tracking how various factions think of your character. In the comments, I mentioned how unique my gnome mage's trusty old epic Stormwind Horse was back in 2006. What I didn't mention is the grind. Getting a cross-faction mount in WoW prior to the TBC era required turning in thousands of runecloth for reputation, and then paying 1000G for the actual mount (with no discount for any existing mounts you already owned). I got this gold and runecloth (and gold with which to buy runecloth) from pure grinding, hitting places like Gahrron's Withering in the West Plaguelands for hours at a time.
I can't imagine ever spending that much time on a single mount ever again. Part of this is because mounts are much easier to come by, and much meaningful in WoW today. Part of this is that modern grinding tends to be broken up by a wider variety of daily quest gimmicks. Part of this is that there are other games that I could be playing instead of chasing some grind. The bottom line, though, is that I just don't care quite as much anymore. I've been there, and done that.
Judging from the blog buzz, I'm guessing that I am not alone. If you look at what games bloggers were playing at the end of the string of major releases last fall and what they are playing today, you'll find that many players are now trying something different. Maybe they didn't stick with LOTRO very long the first time, or have never played EQ2, or even decided to go back to WoW.
This could prove to be a major problem for the industry going forward, since the rate of content generation required for WOW-style quest hubs may not be sustainable. If we're all sick and tired of grinds and gear resets and all the other tricks that MMO devs use to keep us paying after we've run out of original content, the industry (especially smaller games, with smaller budgets) could be in for some hard times.
Here's the screenshot I took back on March 31st, 2006, to commemorate that first milestone horse.