So, you’ve made it to 60 th level. Good, Blizzard claims that World of Warcraft truly begins at 60 th level (or so someone once told me in my guild). But it’s also a shame because there are a good number of instances (dungeons that are personal to your group) that get passed up or breezed through… but that’s a discussion for another time (yeah right, like you’ll have time to post it you dirty Jew).
Meanwhile, you’ve arrived at 60 th level. One important thing to know about WoW is that character advancement is predominantly determined by items. Up until the most recently added pair of dungeons, Ahn Qiraj (a 20 and 40 man version), there was no way to update your character’s core skills at level 60 (AQ lets you get “books” for new character abilities). Keep in mind the game has been out for over a year and a quarter, so that gives you an idea of how new a concept non-item advancement is for the game. Instead, your character’s effectiveness is determined by the gear s/he wears. And there is a HUGE disparity in item quality that comes from small group dungeons and the epic 40 man dungeons.
MMORPG’s have an interesting dynamic to them. The reason they are so popular, I believe, is that all of us countless RPG geeks across the world crave the concept of a virtual persona: a character we can devote all of our geek time (which for some of us is more than others) to developing. That character can then go on the adventures we so desperately crave. Sounds like a blast, right? Well, it is and it isn’t.
The problem is that there are a number of issues in crafting an MMORPG that become apparent to any player. The first is that, ultimately, this is a form of entertainment for the end user and a form of revenue for the developer. So there needs to be a persistent “hook” that keeps you playing (the game remaining fun), as well as a balance in the form of not letting you “win the game” (and thus realizing your time is better spent getting laid and your money spent on things like rent). If you run out of things to do, you’re more likely to quit, because the fun factor stops. When you’re paying a flat fee per month, the balance comes in the form of “time sinks” designed by the developer.
Essentially, in an MMORPG, time is the prevailing currency. How much time you have to give to the game has to be able to be absorbed by the game itself in order to keep you entertained. I couldn’t tell you what the formula is, but I would fully expect that these companies know exactly how much time they need to extract from you to keep you a happy customer.
There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to a system that focuses on item acquisition, such as World of Warcraft, as opposed to levels as the time sink. One of the key advantages is that “max level” does not seem upon some impossible pedestal for most players. WoW is often touted as the game for casual gamers, because it is solo friendly, filled with quests, and easy to level in. This allows players to reach the max level, whereupon they have several “paths” that they can take for further character advancement, in the form of item acquisition.
Ask anyone who played EverQuest, it is VASTLY easier to level in WoW. WoW’s solo friendly-ness is also a good reason it is kicking the shit out of EQ2. Allowing most anyone to achieve level 60 makes even a casual player to feel as if they are “in the game,” although even once they hit 60, the disparity of time available will quickly become more apparent as they find their pitifully equipped 60 th level absolutely demolished by a well geared 60.
For this multipart article, I will attempt to provide a survey of all of the activities that World of Warcraft has to offer the endgame character: the time sinks, if you will. These fall into five major categories:
- Casual Instance Running
- Hardcore/Casual Content
- Hardcore Content
- Reputation Grinding
Each of these opportunities caters to a different “type” of player, and some of the opportunities overlap: often, reputation grinding is achieved in instances, and PvP also includes a reputation grind.
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