Staying Ahead of the Curve

Over the past several months I’ve had computer issues, job issues, etc, and these almost always end up hitting just before a major content update.  This has gotten me thinking about a problem that has always plagued me: staying ahead of the content curve.  Specifically I’m referring to being able to complete all the available content I want to do before new content is added, and it’s an eternal pain in my side that has haunted me as long as I’ve played MMOs.

See, MMOs are essentially a living thing if done right.  Except for dying games, or some games pretty much on life support like Vanguard: SOH was until recently, the developers tend to release new content or updates for players to do.  Whether it be a new dungeon, new zones, or more quests, the point is to give more things to the players so they don’t get too bored and leave (a real problem for most subscription games).

Probably the biggest challenge here is that different types of players churn through content at different rates.  Some players can go through the tasks extremely quickly whereas others take years, and this reflects a wide range of variables such as time available, skill level, or just how much time they spend “smelling the roses” (ahem).  This means developers must strike a balance point on the amount of content to give enough to do, stereotypically between “casual” and “hardcore” players.  I refer to myself as more “time limited”, but that usually puts me in the “casual” camp.

I’ve always been behind the content curve, always playing catch-up.  It’s hard not to feel left out, which is a problem in what is supposed to be a social game.  Continue reading

Dynamic Events and the Subtle Training of Questing

Ever since the BWEs started, there’s been plenty of discussion about the game and how everything works out for the players.  Between the new combat system, overflow servers, new event system, fast travel, personal story, etc there’s a lot of things that can possibly go wrong.  One thing definitely comes up a lot though, and that’s the fact that it’s possible to 100% complete an area yet still not be leveled up enough to move on to the next area.

On the world map there are five items that are tracked: waypoints, points of interest, skill challenges, renown areas (hearts), and the new vistas.  There are a limited number of these on each map and they are all one-time completions.  This makes these items very good for completion tracking, so it makes sense they would do this.  However, there’s a problem that has been rearing it’s ugly head for a while now, and it has to do with the interaction between these completion goals and how dynamic events work. Continue reading