"Endgame Is The Real Game," Is A Bad Game

When I see players complaining that game X is boring, and they’re met with the response “Well, the game doesn’t begin until you reach the endgame,” I have to pour myself a drink. It’s one of those consensus statements I find baffling, in the same way I find “The Earth is only 2000 years old,” or “Transformer 4 is a good movie,” or “Twitter stock is going up” baffling. Let’s nail this position to the air and let it hang so we can get a good look: “The real game is the endgame.” Okay. Then what the hell comes before the real game?

A few months ago Final Fantasy XIV’s creative director Yoshi-P made one of the most brutally honest statements I’ve seen in the MMORPG industry. Essentially he said, “we understand that our early game is boring.” Thanks for the candidness. Yoshi-P’s statement encapsulates an industry standard, one admitted not just by a director but by vocal commentators. How is it that the director of one of the most popular MMORPGs around admits that his title’s introductory gameplay is boring?

Nobody actually sets out to make a boring game. Imagine this ridiculous scenario: lead designers telling their team that the levels one through 10 experience are too entertaining, “Make it more boring!” It doesn't happen. What has happened is that the idea of what an MMORPG has to be has become fixed thanks to a MMORPG cultural attitude.

The attitude is that tepid introductory content in an MMORPG is a requirement. It’s on an imagined checklist before the game is considered finished. Because an “MMORPG” isn't an MMORPG without slogging through the mire of brain dead NPC interaction quests. How else would we know what genre we’re playing? Right? Therefore, we should just ignore any early game criticisms because it's not the "real game."

"Endgame” is a cop-out. It plants a wall blocking judgment and to ignore the wall is treated as a cardinal sin, as a reason to stop listening to valid concerns about the early experience. “Well you have to put in 40 hours before you're allowed to have an opinion,” means “nothing before endgame ought to factor into your judgment of X.” That attitude nullifies criticisms, dismissing voices arbitrarily.

Imagine there’s an MMORPG with a perfect endgame, and that endgame is called E. It’s everything you wanted from an experience at max level, whatever that may be. Now let’s add to our imagination. In order to achieve E you have to play the early game content G, and G is the worst early game of any MMORPG, the apex of horrible aspects in MMORPGs you despise. Should you slug through G to get to E? Is the pain of G warranted by the ecstasy of E? Should we forgive G because of E?

No. Of course not. If you can’t stand G then you are well within your critical right to dismiss the game in its totality. Remember that saying your teachers, or mothers, or accountants, or whatever elder figure you have in your life, said? First impressions count. Each aspect of an MMORPG ought to strive to be an entertaining experience, because any moment that doesn’t engage will lose its audience. No matter how enjoyable E is, it does not compensate for G.

What I find funny about the concept “endgame” is that it inherently divides any MMORPG into two slices, two games, two halves—as if I removed my head from my body and treated each as its own person. That’s not how it works in reality. Each part is connected. Each one affects the rest, and leads to a judgment. In an MMORPG, if one of those parts is terrible it sours the rest of the game and I hold no one responsible if they choose not to play because they couldn’t get past quest filler.

The real game begins as soon as I log in. No later.

Dear developers, if your early game is filler then remove it or change it. Break away from convention. Dear commentators, “the endgame is [Not] the real game,” unless you’re playing a bad game.

From Mega Man II to Ape Escape, I've been playing games for as long as I can remember. I've spent months killing porings in Ragnarok Online and more recently lived a second life in Eve Online. I usually play as gUMBY, gUMBLEoni, or gUMBLes in-game.

  • Max Alexander Nicol

    We need to send this to a few developers. Make sure the next MMORPG actually feels fun to play before cap.

  • Zoola

    Guild wars 2 to me did it the best give you max lvl guy and go do whatever u want lol

  • Gristuth

    Correction: The real game begins as soon as you finish or skip the tutorial lol (unless it's runescape... Tutorial Island is so iconic and chill... No other tutorial left such an impression... Hey, that would be an interesting article, top 10 mmo tutorials...)

    • That is a good idea. ^__^

  • Dime Zlatanovski

    Article on point.
    In my opinion I could give Tera as a perfect example of this paradox. Getting to max level on Tera is so boring with the same type of quests all over and over again running on the back of ur horse FOR HOURS. Just bores the death outta me. But when u reach Tera "endgame" a.k.a u reach max level it's when the game starts feeling differently. Everything u knew about dungeons changes. All the progression changes. Suddenly u're grinding 10-20 man raids, connecting with guilds, enjoying pvp and all that. I've experienced the "endgame" in Tera so I can write this comment, but to get to the "ENDGAME" it took me a lot of time since I quit the game about 4-5 times before I reached max level. It just bored the hell out of me. Imagine all the people that quit and never came back without getting to the good stuff, the game loses all of its potential. There are so many other MMORPGs with the exact same issue that it just saddens me.

    • There's gotta be a better way to design the content so its not a chore getting to the "fun parts"... This problem seems to plague MMORPGs in particular. It wasn't always like this though. I did remember having fun leveling in WoW back in the day before it got absurdly pointless/easy

      • Dime Zlatanovski

        I think that a solution to the problem is making leveling more rewarding. Remember in the good old days when it was exciting to think about reaching the next level to unlock a new spell? Or maybe stat points that could allow u to wear some better gear? Hell even unlocking new fun dungeons that could just let you grind along with your friends. Nowadays MMORPGs focus too much on quests which get way too repetitive way too fast. They should focus on giving some of the good endgame content to the lower level players. More enjoyable dungeons, more exciting gear, maybe stat points, spells that would actually be useful in the early game AND the endgame. I remember Cabal doing this very well. U get a system where u have to level up ur spells to unlock new ones and they give u stat points. A feel of progression. Dungeons and grinding was so much fun to actually level up. Finding new spots to grind or u can just do quests, more variety, not just the theme park questing that all games have nowadays.

  • 21211q

    Though I agree with the message the article has provided. I can see why the early game is often "left out" in the content. The way I see the early game is portrayed traditionaly is often to introduce and to enable familiarisation about the mecanics and story to the player. Often from my experience what is left out from this is the execution. In theory making the early game interesting would be hard since thinking with the content in mind you also have to consider if it does introduce the mechanic of the game without confusing new players. Though in comparison to making mid and late game the "real" game has it's advantages more favourable for the publisher and developer altogether. For one they dont have to worry about introducing the "staple mechanics" of the game as experienced players have the familiarity (not saying that they would learn all the nook and crannies of the game. But hypothetically they know the "core mechanics") and based on my experience mid to late game players are more likely to buy items from shop that requires them to use real money. Though pardon me for misusing the term but its basically a "trickle down economy" ( An ideal scenario of which end game players makes demand of boosters and high end potions which gives mid game players the incentive to purchase boosters with real currency and trading them for in game currency which they could use for crafting or other amenities whoch they could purchase drops early game players have access.) Sourcing from my experience Latale, Ragnarok PH server and Uncharted Waters online US/EU server.

  • SomethingSomethingDarkside

    This has always irritated me when I see people talk about endgame as the only thing that mattered. Saw this especially with FFXIV and it's defenders when people spoke out on the start. Remember watching a review on it yrs ago yet clearly remember so many in the comments speaking on how the reviewer couldn't make a review about any of the game because he didn't reach endgame. They were against the review not because it was bad but simply because he didn't make it to the end DESPITE him clearly stating he wouldn't speak on endgame and said he heard it was good. But no, everything was invalid because all those lvls beforehand was a tutorial and he somehow didn't play the real game. Then some others chimed in saying this about other games.

    Was completely baffled. How in the hell does a good endgame replace the slog at the start? what good is a great endgame if one can't be bothered to want to get there? A game should never start off dull then get fun once you put in a bunch of hrs. Completely backwards. Unless the leveling experience is lightning fast so that slog is minimized to something trivial, the entire "endgame only matters thing" is retarded. What makes it even worse in FF case is the sub and box price. Mean I gotta pay you to not have fun for the 1st half?!

    Even if the start isn't the best, at least have something that doesn't make me want to watch paint dry as a more fun alternative.

  • LAMBDA471

    I never played World of Warcraft's (Vanilla) end game and I started playing around the same time 10 years ago - spring of 2007. I always enjoyed leveling up, feeling my character has gotten stronger, finding new gear to equip, especially the fact that you can get loot from random mobs and this gear still being useful and able to replace something on you... also I like how each zone has it's own feel and unlike Asian MMOs, all zones feel alive, even lame ones like Arathi Highlands and Badlands, even they have something going on for them.

    I always make new characters in WoW (Vanilla) and level uo until around 30 and then feel jaded and stop, but even after so many years, the experience is almost fresh and at many times I wish I could find a machine that will erase my memories of WoW so I can start over and get sucked in 120%. xD

    And I never looked forward to end game, mainly because it has those two words - "game" and "end" and no matter how you pair them, they give out a feel of end of the road. I'd much rather play a WoW (Vanilla) that has about 200 levels and after level 100, leveling is impossibly hard and no one in the world for 10 years has reached level 200... and there are still zones to explore and there is always questing and it never feels like a grind.

    That's the kind of MMORPG I want to play, definitely not the Asian crap that comes out (not because I have anything against Asian games, in fact I like the setting) since they follow the same shallow pattern and are never interesting for more than a few days. And that is - a game that never ends, or at least it's so hard to finish it, you might give up before you reach the end.