Nearly everyone lately seems to be making the connection between the latest MMO shinies, ESO and Wildstar and some sort of Hardcore sentiment. They are each trying to bring back a certain sentiment within their games of needing more time, more focus and the want to optimise. I can’t say I’m overly enthused about this though, or more, with the way each are attempting to go about it.
There was something about those older mmo’s and that hardcore sentiment that promoted far more engagement in the world and with the community but it was a complex web of mechanics and not just a few random throwbacks to old design like it appears to be now. Wildstar and it’s 40 man raids, both PvP and PvE might sound like a good idea in theory but it such a thing that wasn’t really the social tool that brought people together. It was just another activity to do.
ESO has a few parts that focus on an older design method but fail to really create a better atmosphere. The dungeons have avoided the more modern take on design by once again becoming rather long, time-consuming and drawn out experiences. There is a wealth of trash to clear in between each boss area that can present some problems but are mostly justrote gameplay. Then at the end you have the big loot Piñata bosses. The gameplay as well, while a more flexible trinity style also kind of requires a more optimal build in order to contribute, groups are expected to have strong aoe and single target capabilities.
I actually think a few of these design decisions work out well. With modern design I the affect on groups has been overwhelmingly negative, dungeons that are quick and predominantly boss fights mean that it’s usually easier to just drop and find another group in the face of any issues. With the longer time needed for completion people are far more patient to failure and are more likely to cooperate and coordinate beforehand in order to be successful.
Something else I’ve found as well is in that inevitable down time in between certain pulls, or even just exploring the environment and checking out chests there is a lot more conversation happening. The constant GOGOGO atmosphere of a modern design really doesn’t encourage conversation at all, here I’m building connections with others and even keeping groups afterwards for more dungeon runs or even questing together. I know people seem busier than ever and more likely to shift between multiple mmo’s but I don’t think changing dungeons to fit into this shorter schedule has elicited the right change. It’s a far more positive social experience when the design leans towards longer dungeons and down time.
The other part trying to be “Hardcore” is the Veteran ranks. A long drawn out affair that involves quest grinding at increasing difficulty. However it seems they’ve just designed difficult content for the sake of being difficult. It is an entire experience that actual feels completely inconsistent from the original experience. You go from what amounts to a simple single player experience, one wherein you can pretty much get away with any build you cobbled together to a very narrow, focused experience.
Difficulty can be a feature that brings players together, what’s hard for one is much easier to do with two. It is a design approach that encourages this but, for ESO it is so displaced from the design before it and happens so long into the experience that people are already set in their ways. Difficulty, and encouraging grouping has to be more apart of the experience for it to create more meaningful interactions.
It’s also the quest design here in ESO that lends itself to playing solo more often. It’s hard to find people who are at the same point of levelling and with the same active quests available, not many people want to put back their own progress in order to wait for others now either. A failure of quests but then, you also can’t grind mobs together either as they no longer give experience which leaves the questing to be the only way of progressing. With the many people who are usually around it’s also easy not to group with people while getting the same advantage. Hurray for tagging improvements .. right?
Now I actually do like all these recent advancements…hmm… the devolution of design towards the days of Hardcore mmo’s but it seems that developers are mostly picking and choosing pointswith little thought towards the economy of these mechanics. The way they enhance certain mmo ideals. Put in by themselves it’s little more than lip service to this older time and does little to change gamer habits, in fact, it seems to push them away from these mechanics even more. In my mind they can create a more positive mmo experience, especially those to do with encouraging the social elements but there is a lot more to it than making content more difficult.
#ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #MMODesign