Firstly, a tip of the hat to Spinks for a post that discusses this all very well, and the only reason I’m writing one of my own is that I think my reaction is going to be a bit long-winded to sit comfortably in her comments section.
Secondly, a quick apology to an anonymous friend of mine who has passed on an issue that definitely deserves blogging about, and I will do, but I’m still mulling over exactly how to tackle it. Yes, you can take that as a teaser trailer if you’re so inclined.
And with that, on to the main event – that Blizzard are ‘admitting’ that Diablo 3′s endgame is lacking, and players are discussing GW2′s lack of a proper (or at least traditional… or maybe at least traditional if you’ve only played Everquest and WoW) endgame. Just as an aside, I personally am not all that fond of the term endgame and prefer to refer to what you do after levelling as the ‘elder game’. Endgame smacks of an objective, something desirable to be reached and which makes all of the stuff leading up to that point a chore to be gotten out of the way. Elder game seems a more neutral term for “well, I enjoyed the levelling but that’s the last ding, now what?” However, as almost everybody else talks about it as endgame, I guess I’d better use the term as well.
I’m a little surprised at Blizzard worrying about the Diablo 3 endgame. MMOs have endgame, but MMOs are designed to be played indefinitely and so the world and its story have a structure that supports this. Diablo 3 is structured like a single player RPG, which means it has a finite arc. You play it through once, on normal, to see the story and the settings. You then play through again on increasing levels of difficulty to finish levelling up, and to prove that you’re skilled enough to beat the game on inferno difficulty, which satisfies the achiever impulse. And that’s it. With Baldur’s Gate or Fallout or Diablo 2, at this point you would put the game away until the expansion pack or sequel came out, and move on to something new. Because an MMO is a virtual world that acts as a framework for stories and can easily support more story being added, whilst a game like this is crafted to be a story unto itself, with a beginning, a middle and an end. That story can be more than one run through the narrative, because it’s got the design to be the story of how I got to level 60 and beat Diablo on Inferno. But once that story is done, it cannot easily be extended, just succeeded by the next story. Once you’ve got your Diablo-killing level 60, carrying on with that character is only going to appeal to those who dream of making some cash from the auction house… and that’s not a game, it’s a dreadfully low-wage job.
As for Guild Wars 2 – well, it certainly doesn’t have a raiding endgame with gear progression like EQ, WoW or most of their progeny. However, my MMO background is from Dark Age of Camelot which didn’t really rely on that stuff either, so I’m a lot more relaxed about it. The key question is – what can I do once I’m finished with levelling and the personal story in GW2? Will there be enough to keep me occupied for a while instead of deciding that I’ve finished with the game? In my view, there are at least two positive answers to that question. The World Vs World content is the closest thing to DAoC’s frontiers at least since Warhammer Online, and as DAoC kept me entertained for several years I would say that WvW has at least a chance of also becoming a long-term form of entertainment. And the nature of the game’s dynamic events and level-scaling means that I could spend a long time wandering Tyria looking for PvE adventure and still keep encountering new stuff that’s a fair challenge, especially if ArenaNet keep their promise of having a live team that constantly mixes up the events so things don’t get set into a rut.
EQ and WoW put raiding on a pedestal as ‘the’ endgame, but raiding as it stands today primarily appeals to the Achiever Bartle type. PvE raids never offered much enjoyment for a Killer, and the way raids are organised now has little for either Socialisers (with ever-smaller raid sizes) or Explorers (who are told to go look the strategies up on YouTube rather than figure out their own). GW2 has more than enough to keep levelcapped Killers and Explorers happy, at least. If WoW can succeed by offering an endgame for one Bartle type, I’m pretty sure GW2 stands a fighting chance by trying to offer enough for two of them.