Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Content Reuse and Horizontal Progression

A thread on the Marvel Heroes forums over the weekend discusses how the game's priority has been to add new stuff to sell - playable heroes, costumes, and now new NPC "team-up" mercenary-like heroes - rather than new zones.  That part is obvious enough - you are what you sell, and Marvel Heroes is not in the business of selling new zones, nor could they make reasonable revenue doing so given how long content lasts in an ARPG.  The part of the discussion that I find more interesting is what they have done instead.

Since launch, the game has added a wide variety of new item slots or game systems that increase character power and are NOT tied to specific new zones.  Whether it's synergies for leveling additional characters through existing zones, runes and enchantments as world drops for farming existing zones, the new team-up characters to accompany you through the existing zones, almost nothing on offer requires a specific type of content (some of the rarest artifacts and rings are the exception). 

I'm not sure what to call this steady inflation to character power.  It's arguably not vertical progression since characters levels are staying the same and you aren't replacing one system with the next (i.e. you don't stop using synergies because you've gotten runes and those are better).  It's also arguably not horizontal progression in that the relative level of character power compared to the content - mobs have stayed at roughly the same stats and thus gotten progressively easier - is skyrocketing in a way that I find concerning.  Will players in 2017 zone into the newbie area, click their basic attack, and one-shot Dr. Doom from eight story chapters away?

There are many differences between an online ARPG like Marvel Heroes and a traditional MMO, but in some ways I wonder if this is the logical evolution of the theme park non-subscription model.  Don't be in the unsustainable business of trying to sell content - see version 1.0 of SWTOR.  Give away the content (roughly the equivalent of a single player console game) and make your money selling stuff to do in that environment.    Focus on replayability, accept that your most dedicated players will burn out and/or trivialize the game, but hopefully return after a break. 

Not saying this is better or worse, just different. 


Talarian said...

Curious. Why is it not vertical progression just because it's not bumping up the levels? In WoW, once you hit maximum level, your vertical power progression continues via new gear. I'd argue that if it's growing your character power in some fashion, it's vertical progression, even if it is a process that can be done in parallel to other processes.

mindofyngwe said...

I was going to write something about this but never found the time. These new systems do a great job of giving you goals to have you run essentially the same content over and over and in different orders. Having players chase goals is a great way to incentivize them to keep playing.

I agree that this is something other than vertical progression. It is different from, say WoW, in that it sits beside the leveling process rather than being the capstone of the leveling process. if done right, you can have much of the gear optimized by the time you hit level cap. It's really just goals to hit as you level and after you level and that drag you through different modes of play.