Thursday, June 28, 2007

Endgame? What Endgame?

Over at Tobold's, there an interesting article about endgame in Lord of the Rings Online which, apparently, sucks. Tobold goes to say that this comes to no surprise, as every endgame necessarily sucks. I propose that this doesn't have to be.

In a linear MMORPG, where persistence is moved aside in favor of grinding and levels, then sure, the endgame has to be bad. You programmed your game to have a big stone wall called 'level cap' at the end, of course players will get hurt. What a game really needs to have a good endgame is an open player battlefield with persistent battles.

When you move away from the safety of NPC-protected zones, there's a whole world just needing to be conquered. There, players can acquire bits of land and, together with their associates (often called guildmates), they will found villages, towns and cities that rival those of whatever NPC royalty they happened to start in. Of course, in these parts, anything can happen (which pretty much insures that anything WILL happen), so these towns will not be safe. People playing evil characters will not hesitate to attack, pillage and raze cities; and so will good characters likewise attack and conquer evil cities.

How is this different than normal PvP endgame? The keyword is persistence. Sure, in the normal game, when you kill that wererat lord, he's gone, but soon enough some other beasties will find the lair attractive and you'll have to see how hostile he is all over again. In the so-called endgame (Because there's nothing forcing you to go to war once you're powerful - and nothing preventing you from going monster-slaying again if you go to war), when you successfully attack an enemy city, they'll have a hard time taking it back - which means you made a significant difference. The world is now a little bit more in your favor because of it. That's persistence.

And that, kids, is how you make an endgame that doesn't suck.

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