The Weekly Raid: How Should MMORPGs Handle The Early Game?
We often hear that a MMORPG doesn't really start until the end game. This can be one of the most frustrating statements for new player to hear. Not only will that player not be able to play with the friends who introduced them to the game, but they will have to pour countless hours into grinding through abandoned zones by themselves.
Several games have found a band-aid solution to this problem in the form of level-up potions. These allow players to instantly level up to either max level or to the level cap prior to the latest major patch. While I don't have a problem with this solution if it comes packaged with a retail expansion such as with World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2 offer this. Most MMORPGs also offer this service as a stand alone paid product. Final Fantasy 14 is perhaps doubly guilty by not including an exp potion with their expansion packs.
Free to Play MMORPGs have found other ways to speed up the early game experience -- MapleStory has dramatically increased EXP rates, especially during the early levels. MS has gone a step further and actually re-shaped the world to help stream line the leveling. This is a strategy I would like to see implemented more often. Trimming vast but empty zones would help funnel new players/characters more quickly into the populated later game areas.
What other methods can developers use to either make the early game faster or more fun?