The Weekly Raid: Do We Need More Aspiration Content In MMORPGs?

Omer published a column yesterday claiming "We need more aspirational content in MMORPGs." The post sparked quite a discussion on the MMORPGs subreddit so we thought we would revisit the subject this week on the podcast.

There's been a steady lowering of difficulty in modern MMORPGs. In the past, less than 1% of the WoW playerbase even attempted the original Naxxramas raid. Now, the latest World of Warcraft raids are cleared within 18 hours of being released. The same holds for games across the genre: the Final Fantasy XIV dungeon Deltascape Savage 4.0 was cleared within hours of launch.

The logic behind making raids more accessible is understanble. Most players, who were paying customers, were not able to actually engage with the content they were paying for. The solution to this was to fracture each end game dungeon into multiple difficulties. This is a bit of a gimmick in my opinion, but seems to be the default solution among developers today.

Are there better ways to handle this? Both Final Fantasy XIV and Mu Legend have an instanced tower where players clear stage after stage of enemies to see how far up they can go. Should MMORPGs add more content like this?

Personally, I feel the solution lies not in ever more difficult dungeons, raids, and world bosses. MMORPGs should taken aw horizontal approach. There should be enough things to do so that each sort of player can aspire towards a different goal. I never played Ultima Online or Neopets to be the strongest fighter (or to train the strongest Neopet), I played to accumulate in-game wealth as a merchant, a trade. And to customize my home with the rarest in-game items. Aspirational content can take many forms, and I think we often go down the wrong path by focusing on combat related goals.

What do you think? Should studios add more Aspirational content in the form of raids that are nearly impossible to clear? Should there be a focus on non-combat goals? Share your thoughts below!

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.

  • Definitely. I wrote about this extensively the other day but i REALLY think an MMO world feels cheap when literally everythings been done already. I want to play a game and get better at it over the long-stretch so maybe I can one day be the hero and do something no one else did. I need that dream!

    • lazarus_arkane

      I'd be happy if in the current top games, they would put at least ONE near impossible to beat raid. They don't have to make them all that hard, just one, maybe two and I'd totally be happy with that. Its things like that, that actually keep me playing a game.

  • eutomorrenu

    i remember playing RO for a whole summer vaccation just to acquire that fucking valkyrie helm that was so fashionable and hard to craft. there was mystery too of what item it was needed. When i played SRO what comes up in my mind with nostalgia was the trades, the party set up, the talking, the mechanics of having a trader a hunter protecting it and the thiefs tryina rob it, that was fun. Of course in both games mentioned theres was those unbeatable mobs and the thrive for being strong in pvp, but it wouldnt be enough to make me longing.

  • Sockrates

    I would say yes, but there's more nuance to that.

    We need aspirational content that isn't lazy. Opti-grinding goals that are "by the numbers" isn't the type that should be made or advertised, that's clearly lazy and shouldn't be there in the first place because it might serve as a deterrent. Aspirational content should be holistically challenging without just "doin' the numbers." If it does involve some number crunching, at least make it interesting and visually appearing instead of formulas on a page. Add some movement, make the numbers pop, at least something. It's difficult to add good instances of these sorts of end-game goals by default.

    Now sometimes there IS aspirational content in the countless MMOs that we play, but it's buried beneath the game's first impressions facade or obfuscated UI that nobody ever really talks about it or hypes it up. If we don't get presented with some evidence that the game is hella cool later on, why bother staying? Community managers need to have the tools to track and promote the upper echelons of the playerbase in order to gather everybody to celebrate the unraveling of a challenge with high level play and collaboration.

    But what about the rest of us? Sure, a lot of us will take that well and think "Oh that's cool, I'm so glad to have witnessed this" whereas others would say "Great, more things I'm locked out of until I'm grandmaster supreme, woohoo," or "I don't even like the game for this portion, I don't care and I feel left out." That's where we need variety to solve part of this, as Erhan mentioned. Aspirational content does not have to be limited to the combat of a game, especially when there are other social systems in a game. Take player made housing for instance. So long as it's not cash shop locked, there can be some pretty sweet designers who just so happen to like the rest of the game and periodic contests can let those aspirations truly shine. In fact, if holding other "side" contests reveals the flaws in a side-system that makes it un-fun, devs can take the feedback to make it more engaging for everybody rather than just a closed community of elites.

    Speaking of which, there could honestly be this sort of closed circle disconnect between the masses and the dedicated hardcore fans of a game. I believe it doesn't really stem out of high-tier players not wanting to share their experiences and why the game is so great, but actually out of high-tier players not knowing how to share their experiences. I'm not really sure how to myself, and it's on a game-by-game and person-by-person basis, but people need to get creative if they want to convey how everyone can enjoy high level content in some way. Twitch streaming, weekly highlights, tutorial vids, whatever works, really.

    While aspirational content variety and melding of the smaller and larger communities of a game will alleviate part of the problem, the other part of the problem is the game itself. At the end of the day, if the game is bland and uninteresting to begin with, it's going to be difficult to add aspirational content when most players would rather do something else for umpteen hours instead of toiling away to get their golden ticket into the "fun part." If you're going to make content for that 1% of gamers, you should make sure they actually exist first before going full Totalitarian Dungeon Master in content creation.

    TL;DR: Be creative about it, let us know about it, cover the bases, figure out how to let players share it, and don't shirk the base game for some clickbait goal.

  • Servant Reborn

    I think there should be more focus on non-combat. Investigation missions in Secret World Legends is one reason I keep playing Secret World Legends. It exercises my mind in a way that raiding alone does not exercise. Completing investigation missions are part of the achievement system in the game, but they actually inspire me to learn different things like morse code or read certain literature I otherwise would not have read. No other mmo has ever done that to me.

  • EazyMakaveli

    yes we need aspiration content that is NOT simply doing the same boss in 4 difficulties. Content must be difficult and provide a slow progression, because its the only way to feel any progression at all. MMOs are not the kind of game that should let you kill the final boss on easy mode.

    If we take world of warcraft for example, you can beat game on the easiest difficulty without doing doing anything at all because it is so easy that a very few people in your raid are actually required to complete the difficulty.

    Once you beat the very last boss on easy, what is the point of doing it again on harder difficulties? the gear looks the same and its the same boss. You will look exactly the same as another player who has the absolute best gear in the game without the stats. But what is the point of beating a boss, if not to show off ur cool gear to every1 in town? there is no point.

    MMOs need UNIQUE content that only the 1% can complete so it gives the rest of the players a purpose when playing the game and the reward of acknowledgement to the heroes who complete that content.