Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Illusion of Power

Years ago in the early expansions of EQ1, when you upgraded your armor, it was noticeable. When you acquired alternate advancement points, it made a huge difference. Just leveling and gaining spells you didn't have before made you different. My main had become a beastlord, while my husband was a warrior. We could not duo these two in dungeons in our 20's, 30's or 40's. But we could do so at level 60. We had access to abilities at 60 that made us more powerful so that fights were much easier than they had been previously. And because of this playing at level 60 was a heck of a lot more fun than it had been at 20.

In the early days of SWG, we'd wait in line for our doctor buff and charge into lairs with a dozen mobs pounding on us and survive. But of course this was removed when devs realized we weren't paying $15 a month to have fun, but really to have balanced game play. /sarcasm off

Fast forward to current MMO's. In the latest EQ2 expansion, armor rewards are unlike any I have ever been able to obtain previously. Beyond the usual stat increases, there are also effects such as + to power and health regeneration, spell damage, and healing abilities. At first glance it was a bit exciting. My mediocre mystic might actually be more powerful! But alas, it was not to be. In order to compensate for the better armor, mobs have been tweaked up in difficulty so that if you don't have this armor on, you will be worse off than before. I'm finding as I level, that my characters become weaker.

In LotRO, while I didn't feel weaker as I leveled, my characters were stagnant. It didn't matter that I equipped purple armor much better than what I had. My survivability was the same. Stats were very soft and just didn't make a tremendous difference to game play.

The current trend is to offer just the illusion of power so we think there actually might be something to look forward to as we level. So while the dungeons of Norrath sit empty, we can rejoice in fact that all is fair and balanced. I miss being the hero.


Bildo said...

Singer player games, are sadly these days the only place I feel I can truly get that feeling. That or going back to gray con mobs in an MMO and beating up on them.

CoH even makes you feel somewhat flaccid as a caped crusader, you know?

I don't know, maybe the notion of balance as we know it in MMOs needs a paradigm shift.

Severius said...

MMO's, I do not believe, are meant to make the players feel like the hero. Back in the days of pen and paper D&D going up one level was a very big deal in some single player RPG's this also holds true. Unfortunately this is counter productive from the mmo standpoint.

You see, the entire mmo genre is about one thing and one thing alone, and world of warcraft even poked fun at this with one of their quest rewards, "the Carrot on a Stick". The entire business model is based on keeping people coming back for the illusion of gaining power all while paying to go over the same material, albeit with different window dressing (sometimes), over and over and over again.

It is so bad anymore that from one game to the next the quests and "things to do" aren't all that different. Either the developers have run out of ideas or the players have lower expectations.