We Need More Aspirational Content in MMORPGs
We need more aspirational content in MMORPGs. Nowadays whenever new content is released for a modern MMORPG like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV it's typically cleared pretty quickly. Mythic Emerald Nightmare Xavius, the hardest World of Warcraft: Legion Raid at the time, was cleared a mere 18 hours after launch. Deltascape Savage 4.0 in Final Fantasy XIV was also cleared within hours of launch. While I don't mean to downplay the effort taken to down clear these dungeons, having content beaten so quickly after launch cheapens the MMO experience.
I remember when Naxxramas first launched in World of Warcraft and it was so difficult that less than 1% of the playerbase even attempted it. It took a full 2.5 months after release for a guild to clear it and even afterwards completing Naxxramas was a badge of honor that few could ever wear. Spoilers: I never completed Naxx, but I do remember looking up at it with awe while outside of Iron Forge and telling myself that one day I'll be able to do it. While that day never came for me, seeing such immensely challenging content made me want to keep playing and improve myself. I'm not too familiar with World of Warcraft anymore, but in Final Fantasy XIV people routinely clear the game's most challenging content with pickup groups. This in and of itself isn't that bad, but if there's nothing to aspire to in an MMO why even play it? MMORPGs need content that no one has cleared yet to keep people motivated to stick around. After all, we all want to be the hero, but it's not very heroic to clear a raid that thousands of others have already done.
So what's the solution? I'm not suggesting ALL raids be tailored towards the mega hardcore, but ideally there should be SOME content at all times that no one has yet cleared. It doesn't even have to be a raid. One excellent example of aspirational content in a modern day MMORPG is Palace of the Dead (PotD) in Final Fantasy XIV. PotD is a 200 floor dungeon that gets progressively harder as players fight their way higher and higher. While challenging, it's not particularly difficult to reach the top floor with a competent group of players. It is however, immensely difficult to do it solo. So much so that NO ONE (as of this writing) has been able to reach the top floor by themselves yet, despite the content being available since November, 2016. Arguably soloing it before the release of the Red Mage class was near impossible, but even since Red Mage launched on June 19, 2017 the closest anyone has gotten as of this writing was floor 194. Players who solo their way to the top are rewarded with a special in-game title that currently no one has.
Obviously trying to achieve something that no one has isn't something most players strive for, but it does convey a message to the entire playerbase that "there's content in our game that no one has cleared yet" and I think that's a pretty powerful message. It lets casual players tell themselves that maybe one day they'll be the hero and be the ones to clear it. While this is obviously unlikely, it does give players motivation to keep playing. I've been casually playing Final Fantasy XIV and while I have no intention of trying to be the first to reach floor 200 in Palace of the Dead, I do enjoy watching other players attempt it and LOVE the fact that there's this cool piece of content that NO one has cleared yet. Currently 2 players in North America have been streaming their attempts; Angelus (personal record 190) and Whichi (personal record 188).
I just think that an MMORPG where literally everything has already been done is kind of boring. We all want to be the hero in our online adventures but it's hard to feel like the hero when you're the 1000th person to clear that "end game" content. On the other hand, just imagine being the ONLY one on the server with a special title. A title that tells the world that you were able to achieve something that no one else could. That dream is what keeps players like Angelus and Whichi grinding away hundreds of hours trying to be the world's first to clear Palace of the Dead solo. And even as someone not in the "running" for this great achievement, I think it's awesome that something like that exists in Final Fantasy XIV and it's something I'd like to see in other MMORPGs.
Am I alone in feeling this way? What do you think?