Tobold on Challenge, Me on EQII

Tobold, still newly returned to blogging after a short break, has a monstrously insightful post on the illusion of challenge in modern MMOs - and specifically, in WoW.

This is something I've been trying to articulate for ages, and never really managed. It's why I end up playing an economic game in WoW, rather than riding the rails of the themepark. It's why I quit at level 75 - it was pretty clear that while there might be some story to be had in the next five levels, there wasn't going to be any challenge as long as I put in the time. Even the achievements - most of them at least - can be got to if you just spend enough time.

In some ways, this gives me some more sympathy for the raid end-game; there's some challenge there, and just putting in more time will not overcome it. But it's largely a meta-challenge; the skill isn't really in the game itself, but in the organisation of the players. Even in the most complex raids in WoW, it comes down to having the right gear, knowing the rotations, and a spot of choreography (run left now, right afterward, then stand still). Once you have the steps memorised, that encounter is then on farm status, and you go on to another.

This is one part of an explanation of why I'm disillusioned with WoW. EVE is jammed with challenge, from learning how to play the thing on upward. Indeed, many people would say there's a fair challenge in enjoying EVE. So I don't need to defend that one to myself. However, I'm currently really enjoying EQII. Gameplay-wise, though, EQII is not incredibly different to WoW. If I keep on plugging on the adventuring side, I will eventually reach the level cap. However, I reckon there are a few differences.

(There's the economic game, but I play that in WoW anyway, so I'll pass over it here.)

First, there's the challenge of 'see the world'. In WoW, once you hit level 20 in any given race, you've come to the end of the unique content. There are only two paths through the rest of it; Horde and Alliance, and in a lot of the 20-40 range, those are pretty much the same game. And at the end, raiding is the same for everyone. As far as I can make out, there's enough content in EQII that you can play through to 80 about four times, and not have seen everything.

Then, there's the challenge of finding things. EQII is not mapped, charted, and quest-guided to death. There are times when you just plain can't get the answer to a quest, and searching the web is no use; you have to get in and work for it.

And then there's the housing; the challenge of earning enough cash and status to maintain your house, and the plain old design and taste challenge of making it look good. This one fascinates me; it's a level of creativity that simply does not exist in any other multi-player game I've played since LambdaMOO.

So three separate challenges in EQII - and I haven't even touched on crafting. That should, I reckon, keep me going for a while.

Posted by Drew Shiel at August 7, 2009 11:25 AM

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