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?

Lifelong gamer always looking for the next virtual adventure. I'm still waiting for the next big MMORPG. Until then, you can find me hopping between multiple games.

  • TianlanSha

    Vanilla WoW was my first MMO that I really played for more than 10 minutes and the leveling experience there is a bit hard and at higher levels 40+ it gets really annoying. I was soloing a BM Hunter and at 56lvl I just quit, because the leveling was painstakingly slow. The leveling in WoTLK, though, was a lot better, faster and easier.

    But even that gets boring.

    Right now I believe that of all the MMOs I've played, current ESO's leveling is by far the best. There is level scaling, full voice acting, instanced events that only you can see depending on where yo are in the quest line. I'm don't like XP boosters, because they ruin the experience, but I'm not against them and if people want to use them to reach end game faster, because they aren't playing for the first time and know the story, that's OK.

    As for instant levels, that's absolutely stupid, I don't even know how Blizzard would even introduce such a feature. Game developers have catered to the lazy players and made them even lazier.

  • Nubatron

    I've played quite a few MMOs so far and I kinda understand why one would want boosters. Early game is basically levelling. Many games try to make it more interesting with story. I mean every game has some (well, most), these just try to take it one step further. WoW has some very interesting story lines and the story instances of GW2 are... not the best, but still pretty good. However, a story is interesting once or twice, but that's that. Once you know what happens when and you know exactly which line is said by who and when, it becomes bland and somtimes even an annoyance when you are forced to view a cinematic for example.
    The other solution I see is the random events. GW2 pushed it to the extreme where your only reliable levelling method is these event. You can pretty much get from 1 to 80 by just doing these and not doing any story at all. As a new player you constantly feel like you have something to do and move around the map at all times, seeing everything it has. This too has a flaw though, because GW2's endgame is about hoarding money and doing achievements. If you level an alt it's just to earn more money most of the times, so you want it to be at max level and you want it now.
    I think the best solution would be a mix of the two. An interesting (linear) story, because let's be honest, GW2 tried a non-linear story and failed miserably, that's why HoT and PoF stories have no real choices. With a lot of events that you can do when you want to break away from the story or not do it at all. Also remove the ability to have more characters. Empty zones then can be solved by the level scaling of GW2 again, where you get rewarded even in low level zones and still have some challange if not much. Then again, it might just have a flaw too so, maybe there is no solution?

    As for boosters and instant level ups, it's dumb unless the players are expected to have numerous characters. For example, let's take this example: There is a guy who wants to play with his friends, he buy the game and the expansion and sees that he has a booster to level cap. He uses it and boom, you have a level XX who has no idea how the game works or even his class. So this guy has a horrible experience, because he is just mashing buttons and don't get anywhere. If you level up though by playing you learn everything bit by bit.
    GW2 does it wrong in this part. As far as I know though, WoW boosts only level you to the cap of the last expansion so you still need to level a bit to the new cap. That said GW2 has a Trial for the booster before you confirm the usage where you are placed on a level 80 meta map with some standard gear at level 80.
    Either way, unless you absolutely HAVE to have 215121 characters, there shouldn't be boosters and boosters shouldn't be available for a fresh account without any character at cap.

  • zeme

    Levels are just a number without emotional investment, the one thing common in all games is that the players are able to walk away at anytime. Developers take a risk by dangling the endgame carrot in front of their face and demanding a monetized mayonnaise jar until you finally get to have fun when you could just walk away and play League of Legends, CS:GO, Battlerite, and Fortnite to have fun immediately.

    According to Richard Bartle's "Virtual Worlds: Why People Play" (the Mona Lisa of game design) there's 8 types of players you have to cater to: Opportunists, Planners, Scientists, Hackers, Networkers, Friends, Griefers, and Politicians. If your game falls short for some of those archetypes you have to weigh the benefits of allowing them to skip your content.