Why Is Raiding The End Game Of MMORPGs?

Kinda odd when you think about it, isn’t it? Most new MMORPGs encourage solo play all the way from level 1 to <Insert Max Level Here> and then suddenly you hit the cap and you’re expected to not only find a team of up to 24 players to raid with but also the skill and knowledge to to go along with it. Suddenly your gear is no good, your talent spec is useless and your quest solving skills are pointless. Guess all of those dozens and dozens (and dozens) of hours of leveling up were for naught. I’ve never known a gaming genre that has an end game so radically different from the beginning.

OK, so some MMORPGs encourage grouping as you level. Big whoop. Tanking in a five or six man group is nothing like tanking for a raid, I know that from personal experience. It’s like switching between Java programming and C++ (all the geeks in the room gimme a high-five!) and I’m sure healing and DPSing is just the same. Not only that, but suddenly your play style of casual, two hour gaming sessions goes out of the window as you’re forced to spend four or five hours, several nights a week, raiding. Where did that come from?

All of this just to look hot, get the best rewards the game has to offer and face a reasonable challenge. Couldn’t we face some sort of other challenges anyway? Like really, really tough single player instances? Or some mind-puzzles that tickle our frontal lobes a bit? Or some sort of clever, oh I don’t know, roleplaying social gathering and interaction sessions that actually define the point of playing a RPG with thousands of other players?

OK, I’ll stop it with the creepiness. Come back.

I’ve got nothing against raiding, nothing at all. I just find it so incredibly bizarre that we spend the majority of our MMORPG lives performing activities that bear absolutely no resemblance to the final, and arguably, more important aspect of the game. If raiding’s what you gotta do to get the good stuff and look slick, shouldn’t we at least get same practice in before we get there? Or better yet, learn what it’s like before investing weeks or months of our time in some avatar?

Or hell, maybe it’s just time the whole end game of the MMORPG genre was reinvented. I’m sure I could jot down a few suggestions during my lunch break tomorrow.

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42 Comments

  1. Longasc says:

    Raiding in EverQuest started as an evolutionary misstep. Yep.

    People were expected to level, the game did not start at max level, it basically… ended there! Compare that to our modern mindset. Let’s burn through the levels as fast as possible.

    Raiding was a stopgap measure. It was epic, it was difficult, and most importantly, it gave those geeks that consumed content that should have latest for one more year in 2 weeks ;) something TO DO.
    Raiding soon became popular, as it was an interesting game by itself: Builds, player attention, organization, item/potion use, all had to be perfected as raids were TOUGH. And they were meant to be tough.

    Being a successful raider made you something like a rockstar, not everyone could do that. You were probably smart, strong, and had numerous willing females at your disposal. And this was not totally wrong, as organizing a raid demanded some brains and discipline.
    Raids got tuned down for the masses more and more, till they became more about gaining gear than prestige, mastering a challenge and all that.

    BUT: Raiding and grouping with 25 people – or maybe 10 – does not appeal to everyone. And I dare to say, very easy raids and Coliseum-style challenges often fail to impress both the more casual and the hardcore raiders alike.

    Some people never become raiders, and actually I mean and dare to say over 50% of the MMO population want something else than raids.

    Raids were overused and changed, twisted till they became boring tasks like the once epic quests. They have quickly mutated into the mundane kill 10 rats tasks and whole games were centered around eternal questing, even more so than the game EverQuest, which was not that extremely quest heavy if you compare it to some later MMOs.

    I see the future in compelling content for solo-players, small groups or public quest style events! Hugh, I have spoken.

    • Gordon says:

      “Evolutionary misstep”. I like that :)

      I think you’re dead on. I don’t think MMOs were designed with raiding in mind but they just occurred as players hit the cap and ran out of stuff to do. Kinda strange when you think about the genre and the purpose of these games. In many ways, I think the PvP style war over territory a la EVE is more suiting.

      It’s also a shame now that raiding has become the point of playing rather than the leveling up.

  2. Psynister says:

    *high five* But I’ll stick to VB, thanks. ;)

    I’m with you on this one. That’s why I consider reaching level 80 to be the end of the game. I can’t progress, I can’t beat any other part of the game without the very game that I just spent 80 levels getting through changing into something that takes 24 other people, so I’m pretty well done.

    This is supposed to be somewhat of a living, breathing world that evolves and changes, opening new challenges and new places to go, but yet….where does the lone hero go?

    • Gordon says:

      LOL!

      I’m with you on this. I do get some enjoyment out of raiding but it’s not my main drive for playing these games. I guess I’m also a little bitter than raiders get all of the cool looking gear and I get left in the dust just because I don’t have the time to raid :)

      I like the idea of the endgame of MMOs being more about shaping the world we play in, rather than raiding.

    • Lycanthro says:

      I’m assuming you’re talking about WoW and in that case there is tons of solo progression. Sons of Hodir? Argent Tournament? Isle of Quel’danas? To all the “hardcore raiders” and such these are just speedbumps but if you’re only soloing that’s the game. During Burning Crusade I soloed or pugged 5mans 95% of the time. Occasionally I would get into a pug raid and the guild I was in would do Kara sometimes. The whole game to me was Isle of Quel’danas, then port scroll to Shattrath and gathering the quests there and flying off to Skettis doing those, taking the taxi to Ogri’la doing that, then finishing the SSO daily in Blade’s Edge and moving to the one in Netherstorm and down to the ones in Hellfire and then back to Shattrath to turn it all in.

      I had a blast! Now it really is better than ever, as far as I’m concerned pug grouping and battlegrounds are also solo content because they require no setup. Pugs in wow if you’re on a server with people playing are constantly forming and going and with the 3.3 changes it will be even better. There’s plenty of ways to advance your character. Sure you’re not going to have ilvl 258 heroic gear but that’s not what you want anyway! Hell with Achievements there’s so much more to do beyond that, all the reputations and mounts and pets and loremaster achievements…. You can progress your character in tons of ways.

      Really, if this is your complaint then World of Warcraft is the wrong game to complain about. You’re just looking at it through the wrong pair of glasses.

      • Gordon says:

        I was more commenting on the strangeness of the fact that you spend most of the game doing things which are totally unrelated to the raiding playstyle. I mean doesn’t it seem odd that people solo all the way from 1 to 80 and then jump into 25 man raids? I’ve got nothing against either soloing or raiding, I just find the whole thing kinda baffling :) If raiding is the main point of these games, why not just do away with the low levels entirely? It almost like 2 separate games.

  3. Ferrel says:

    “I’ve never known a gaming genre that has an end game so radically different from the beginning.”

    I recently wrote an article about that very point. A lot of games do encourage soloing so much it is really quite silly to make the end game difficult grouping and raids.

    I don’t fully agree with your C++ to Java analogy though. Tanking for a raid is fundamentally the same as tanking for a group. You understand that you need to keep the mob facing you, in a position so that the dps can get at its rump, and stay in range of your healers. When you solo you don’t learn that group synergy. It is very different, I agree, but grouping does prepare you better than soloing.

    This whole system basically stems from EQ1 but I honestly think it goes further back. If you look at D&D when you became more powerful you got to do more powerful things. Nobody wants to kill giant rats forever. Eventually you want to kill a dragon.

    You could very easily kill a dragon by yourself and that would be fun but we bump into a human emotion: the feeling of scale. For some reason we seem naturally programmed to assume something that takes more people feels bigger. That is why large scale PvP games are the rage. If it is fun with one, isn’t it fun with six? If six is cool, isn’t 25 awesome? In EQ1 you had an insane amount of raiders per raid and it was grand! It just got unwieldy.

    In short, I think it comes down to wanting to kill that D&D Dragon and have it feel epic.

  4. Erik says:

    Amen! Would LOVE some high end single player instances, tough or otherwise.

  5. Jim says:

    When I reach the point where I have to raid I either quit or start an alt. I will NEVER do a raid. I do not have the time to do it. I would love epic solo/duo instances. But I will never see them because developers think people actually like to raid.

  6. Jamesy says:

    Excellent blog! 25 man pffft! 40 man vanilla wow was even worse IMO. Not to mention dkp nonsense.

  7. Stabs says:

    I think what I find most unfortunate is that the raid game, in WoW at least, has evolved to kill the social side of the levelling game.

    When I first played WoW it was very easy to get groups for Wailing Caverns, Scarlet Monastery, BRD, UBRS and so on. Also you took a while to out-level an instance so you might start Wailing Caverns at 18 and run it until you’re about 22 and that would be a week or two. Tobold mentioned not long ago that it took around 500 hours for an average player to reach max level back then – that’s a year of levelling for a 10 hour a week player.

    Now people level so fast that there’s really no point doing these instances. Where once Vanquisher’s Blade would last you a real world month now it lasts a day, even if you haven’t twinked down an heirloom item.

    I can see how it evolved the way it has done but WoW is now just about end-game and personally I find that less enjoyable.

    Playing Eve now which has no end to the levelling, you can keep developing forever and DDO which is packed with lowbies since they went F2P last month. I’ll probably end up raiding in DDO then getting fed up with it and looking for something else to be a lowbie in. The wheel of time turns….

    • Gordon says:

      Yeah, it’s odd how the shift has changed so much from leveling as a journey to hitting the cap as the destination. I was always one of the slowest levelers in my guild when I played EQ2 simply because I wanted to enjoy the experience. Once I hit 80, the game was a lot less fun.

  8. Oh, your mention of puzzles makes me long for survival-horror type puzzles in MMOs. I miss being locked for hours trying to figure out what to do next. I would love for an MMO to actually require thought, even if it were randomly generated content that prevented me from looking it up online when I get frustrated.

  9. Copra says:

    I have written some posts in my own blog about the same and as a matter of fact think that the end game consists of two stages: gearing and raiding. The more content there is between the plausible raid content (aka the challenging raid content) and the level cap, the more gearing the newcomer level capped requires. Blizzard has solved this by adding pointless loot pinatas like ToC and Onyxia to replace ‘voided’ entry raid content like Naxx. Soon Ulduar will be replaced with new emblem system, which in general is the same.

    Gearing like this is like skipping levels from the levelling game: pointless and frustrating.

    Great post, couldn’t agree more!

    C out

    • Gordon says:

      I always found gear progression to be rather dull, annoying and self-defeating. I don’t like the idea of hitting the level cap and then having to grind instances just to get some better gear to then go raid. Blah, no thanks.

  10. Pitrelli says:

    They have added 10mans what about adding 5 man as actual raid encounters? Im not suggesting that the loot has to be great but it would imo suit the casual kind of player that perhaps cant get into raid groups or indeed doesnt have the time to take part in 5 hour sessions.

    Perhaps a more sensible option would be the introduction of dungeon scaling to the ammount of players is the way forward rather than 10-25 man raids. How easy this would be to implement is another question entirely.

  11. Copra says:

    Scaling the dungeon difficulty can’t be too difficult if games like DDO (and dead ones like Hellgate:London) and CoX already succeed in doing it. Then again, it’s a thing that must have some implications in the general structure of the game, thus making it difficult to implement at a later stage. Like now in WoW.

    I’d like to see instances scaling up or down depending on player amount… Like three man run in Naxx at appropriate level…

    Just a wet dream, but man has to dream of something!

    C out

  12. [...] 8, 2009 by pitrelli Gordon from We Fly Spitfires has an interesting post entitled ‘Why Is Raiding the End Game of MMORPGs?’ which certainly got my brain ticking over, particularly in the case of World of [...]

  13. MMO’s are designed around group play. WoW was designed around the holy trinity of dps, tank and healer. The thing is that questing in a group was made inefficient by blizzard and so solo questing is better. But then you have tanks and healers that do little damage and so solo questing is more difficult. Thus they reduced the hp’s and increased the damage that healers and tanks can do. The result is an extremely easy leveling game.

    But the game is still an MMO so the endgame needs to balance around that trinity. Most people do want a little bit of a challenge while leveling… or atleast the illusion of challenge but don’t want to group for it. Getting a group takes time and people would rather play on their own schedule and not have to wait for other people to let their dog out just so they can kill a guy for a quest.

    You can’t make endgame solo instances because healers have no role there and likely would be impossible to do. Sure they could respec… but some people actually do enjoy healing so the only way to keep that interesting is to provide challenging group content.

    To really pull off solo instances and challenging solo leveling an MMO would have to break from the holy trinity because in nearly every case the DPS has the advantage in leveling.

    The one thing I would comment on is that you don’t need 5 hours a week to raid anymore. ToC 10/25 can be completed in under an hour and all raids can have the lockouts extended so that people can work on a longer instance over a greater period of time but still progress.

    • Gordon says:

      Your last point is something I actually applaud Blizzard for. Although they haven’t tried to reinvent the endgame, they’ve certainly tried to make raiding more accessible which is great for casual players like me.

      I loathed all of the times I spent 7 hours raiding in EQ. 6 hours of it was usually sitting around doing nothing too :)

  14. Grimm says:

    The trouble with raiding isn’t the content (which – admittedly – who doesn’t like huge epic scale encounters, even if you only do them once in a blue moon?) but, rather, the progression grinding required to get through that content.

    WoW is a great example – from 1 to 80, it’s not really about the gear; you can play it for the experience, or just for the levelling, or for the social aspect, or whatever. Really, it’s about going through to see interesting content, to have interesting experiences; heck, WotLK was fabulous for phasing. The game actually changed as you went through!

    But. Raids aren’t like that. You can’t see the end raids until you’ve run the raids before it dozens of times. Loot comes out in slow trickles, and without the loot you can’t survive (or aren’t taken seriously by the community to try to survive) higher-order instances. Since when is this really fun? For some people it is, certainly – but.

    Why can’t the MMO be more about experiencing this big stuff in new ways? DDO handcrafts missions – it’s a new take that wasn’t hugely successful because everyone absolutely expected the usual grind. City of Heroes gave us one-versus-many gaming, and made you really feel like a super-hero… until the endgame, when raiding became about enhancement grinding instead of intelligent play.

    Why can’t MMOs reward creative thinking instead of passive increasing of numbers?

    Aargh.

    • Agreed. It’s the progression and time-sink I hate. If I could go have fun with friends and see Arthas, I’d be dandy. But unfortunately, I have go play the game in such a way that it detracts from everything around me (i.e. real life), and I just can’t justify that.

      I miss the days of UO and SWG raids where you could hunt for things that were epically hard and either win or lose and be happy about it.

  15. Tesh says:

    I’ve written about this more than once. So has BBB.

    I’ve nothing really against raiding, I just don’t care to do it, as I have a LOT more fun playing on my own. It stands out as odd game design, too, shifting gears as you note.

    Ultimately, I’d split the game from day one, rather than change gears at the level cap. If we’re still using levels, I’d go the GW route and offer instant level capped characters, ready for raiding. Players who want to raid can jump right in and get to work. (Yes, I consider it work, for better or worse.) Players who want to play the leveling content can do that instead.

    That, or offer “raids” at all level bands. That’s considerably more work tuning, though. (And yes, dynamic raid tuning for *any* group size, even solo, would be brilliant. If it kills the Trinity, fan-friggin-tastic.)

  16. I would love for an MMO to actually require thought, even if it were randomly generated content that prevented me from looking it up online when I get frustrated.

  17. Wolfshead says:

    I talked about this very subject many times on my blog in the past few years. Tobold has also asked this question as well. Here’s a quote from one of my previous articles:

    http://www.wolfsheadonline.com/?p=108

    The fundamental flaw with WoW right now is that the unharmonious transition from solo gameplay to group/raiding gameplay at the level cap. As Tobold asked: who is supposed to train them? It is Blizzard that should be training them within the game. Getting them prepared for the “real” WoW that Blizzard seems to proudly promote should be their top priority. Just as no army in their right mind would send out soldiers to war without giving them basic training at a boot camp, no game designer should ever fail to prepare their players for the challenges ahead. Yet, this is exactly what the designers at Blizzard have allowed to happen within WoW.

    Quite honestly it’s just poor game design to suddenly change the game into something completely different and expect players to transition to it without any effort to train or tutorialize players. A game should have a sense of harmony throughout. This is why raiding should happen much earlier in WoW if it is truly considered to be the “real game” by Blizzard.

    • Gordon says:

      Nice link, thanks! I’m not surprised it’s been blogged about it before – it’s such a big gap the gameplay isn’t it? Just goes to show how the MMORPG genre has never really been thought through from the start to the end and just has just kinda ‘evolved’ that way, with new development copying the old and never questioning why.

  18. Balihai says:

    As I am reading over this article and response a couple of thoughts / questions come to mind?
    –Why -O- Why do you wan to play an MMO solo? There are a million console and PC based RPGs that has tons of solo content. Why pay 15 bucks a month (+/-) to play by yourself. Personally, I believe to much solo content kills a community. If people are not nudged into coming together for a common goal then you really start to kill the social aspect of MMOs, which is why we all play. If these means that I can’t do something right here right now than so be it. E.G. When trying to get my EPIC weapon I had to plan and organize to get a group going, took me a couple of days to finally get a group together to get the last step done, frustrating yes, but well worth it in the end.

    –Not to be hostile, but just because WoW doesn’t do it doesn’t mean it isn’t done. In EQ2 you can find epic mobs and zones in alot of the lower lvl tiers. The first Raid you can do (x2 12 man) is at lvl 20 and completing that one gives you access to a x4 instance of that raid. Their are also a number of epic x2 20-25 ish level mobs. Given, there are not enough of the and alot of the players now days don’t want to go pull a mob or run a zone just to have fun. It’s always about gear / spells / loot etc. I am all for those things, but in the end I just want to have a good time with my wife and friends while we play. All of the other stuff will come in time.

    Having said that, I do agree with a number of points mentioned above. Playing a toon for x number of levels a certain way and then introducing a completely different way to play the game is sub-par at best. However, I think the answer is more raids at lower lvls. Have one to two raid zones (or more) in every tier, some of these could be the same zones as the higher lvl content just scaled down. I also think more open world contested epic mobs is the way to go. Since it would be alot easier and more fun to get 12 to 24 people of X lvl to go take on a baby dragon or whatever that’s just sitting there. Coupled with real world PVP and you have a formula for allot of good times. This would also benefit the casual players as well. A world contested mob means you do not have a 1 -3 hour zone to go through blow through before challenging them. Instead, form group, talk start attempt a pull and if you wipe, tweak strat pull again- rinse repeat until success. This would give us the ability to see our toons did in a raid and start to train / teach us for the higher lvl raid zone.

    My .02

    • Gordon says:

      I’ve got nothing against raiding or group play – in fact, I think group gameplay is the backbone of MMORPGs – it’s just that I don’t it very odd that you never do any sort of raiding until you hit the level cap. It just seems very strange that you would play a game one way for weeks, if not months, and then eventually switch to another form of gameplay completely!

  19. [...] I'm juggling three or four games at varying frequencies. Last week Gordon at We Fly Spitfires brought up a subject I've always been interested in myself: the endgame. While MMOGs originally started [...]

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