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World of Warcraft Endgame Analysis part I

Parts: I | II | III | IV | V

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.

Cute but deadly
This kid’s undead rogue will pwn you.

Meanwhile, you’ve arrived at 60th 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.

AS SEEN ON TV!
The time sink is clogged again.

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 60th 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:

  • PVP
  • 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.

Parts: I | II | III | IV | V

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Billy
Billy
16 years ago

What end game? the crawl through Molten Bore? bleh… full set of Felheart and all I got were these extra 10 pounds :(

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[…] Eve has a skill system which is innovative and controversial, but ultimately I find it pleasing. Rather than have an experience based system (kill X monsters, gain experience and unlock skills), or a skill based system (use X skill Y times to level it up), both of which are the bread and butter of MMO design, and ultimately different version of the same time sink, Eve Online takes a different approach. Eve Online unofficially admits skill training is a time sink. Their approach? Skills take real life time to train, but training is ongoing, whether you’re on or offline. The benefit to this is you’re never “grinding” a skill–you’re always training something on your own terms. There are no classes, only skills. While skills chain off each other, you are free to train anything you want in the universe (literally). Given that MMOs are all about the time sinking, I like that Eve’s time sink is outwardly stated, and a part of how long you’ve played the game (active or passive) rather than a monotonous repeat fest. This makes casual gaming much easier, as your growth doesn’t revolve around your active play time. […]

SorryButImLevel70
SorryButImLevel70
14 years ago

Undeads…. good race choice there little kid :D
but Wow Dont truly start at level 60 morrans
it starts at level 40.
The reason is that then u can get “mount” and good “items” u can use and then “People” dont call u a “Noob”
and then everything is just “Fine” But OFC in level 40 the leveling is being harder and u get much pressure with “Realtime” instead of ur own “Playtime” and u try to make the most of it :D

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[…] Weekly News We care About Wrap Up – 3.24.06 | Home | Review – Super Princess Peach » World of Warcraft Endgame Analysis part II posted on March 27th, 2006 by golden […]

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[…] e.stop(); }) « Review – Super Princess Peach | Home | A falling Star(craft) » World of Warcraft Endgame Analysis part III posted on March 29th, 2006 by golden […]

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[…] Weekly News We care About Wrap Up – 3.31.06 | Home | Review – Megaman Powered Up » World of Warcraft Endgame Analysis part IV posted on April 3rd, 2006 by golden […]

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[…] I | II | III | IV | […]

diablo 3 hacks
12 years ago

I have been playing World of Warcraft since day one and have been playing ever since. It brings us all together and the positive social atmosphere is what makes this so popular.

Steven Dutil
11 years ago

Great point, awesome blog. Listen, did you all read about World of Warcraft planning to use Real ID on their message board? Guess they realized that that is no way to win at wow, because they reversed that decision. Now we can all return to enjoying WoW without stressing about compromised privacy. And they can go back to working on Diablo. WooT!!!