However he has a problem. He likes his daughter Betty a lot and wish they could spend more time together. Betty is 20, she finished school and high school and at the end of he university years. Which locks her into the university campus while Adam works in his corner office in a downtown tower. The future expectations aren’t better. While Betty’s grades are good and with a little help from her dad she can definitely get an intern job at his firm, that only means commuting to the tower together and maybe hanging out at lunchtime. Adam would still be on the top floor corner office while Betty will be on the second floor working on small customer complaints. Even if she is a very talented investor and the rest of the board won’t see nepotism problems and she makes it to exec level by 40, Adam will be 70 by then, likely a semi-retired advisor instead of an active board member. The thing is that no matter how they like each other and how much they play the same game, Adam and Betty won’t be able to play corporate exec together.
This must not stand. We must implement a catch-up mechanism to propel Betty to the board. Instead of getting a positive review for every year, she must get one every week. Instead of rewarding her entry level salary for dealing with small customers, she should get $500K like the execs. After all it’s absolutely not her fault entering the firm just now and we must make sure that friends and family aren’t separated. Those who come late must be fast-tracked to where the oldtimers got, walking uphill in the snow.
The above can be the manifesto of some bizarre communist youngster who has no idea what he’s talking about. Or, a completely valid plan in a gaming company that runs the MMO “Shark of Wall Street” where players take part in an imaginary investment firm.
I’d love to say that the first isn’t our problem, but bizarre communists are real, but hey, let’s not do politics and focus on gaming, where the rewards are nothing but pixels. It’s not like you can’t pay mortgage if you lose in “Shark of Wall Street” or a dragon kills your raid. It’s a game where anything is possible and nothing matters. Or, should be.
The thing is that in MMOs, the bizarre communist idea of “let friends play together” is real. Not only most content is easy enough to be completed by literally pressing the same one button again and again, but latecomers don’t even have to press the same button again and again, there are catch-up mechanisms. These are shortcuts implemented later in the game that hand out the reward that took lot of work (even if trivial work) to earlier players. For example to level up in WoW to 60 was a several hundred hours task back in Vanilla. Then leveling to 70 was another 50-something hours in TBC. Getting to 80 was like 30 hours in WotLK. 85 in Cataclysm was another 20, so is 90 in Pandaria. Getting to 100 was 20-30 more in Draenor. Now, if you download the game for the first time, you get instant level 100.
Not only the tasks are skipped, but also the memories. Vanilla WoW was a decade ago and I remember many places, many NPCs, many stories and many hard tasks to conquer. I could still heal the Shattered HC gauntlet and know how to pull back the pack in Shettek to avoid being feared into new packs. The recent players know nothing of that. The content – while technically there – is practically deleted. No one has reason to ever play it.
I strongly believe that catch-up mechanisms (defined as “making progression on older content easier/faster later”) is the worst decision MMO makers made and is the biggest knife in the back of the genre, bigger than “bring the player, not the class” or “accessible content”. I didn’t quit WoW, I play it optimally. I mean that by not playing, I get the same rewards as the players by logging in a later date and do some trivial task.
I also believe that the next big MMO, the heralded WoW-killer will be not only without catch-up mechanisms but will be marketed around the concept of no catch-up mechanisms. In the age of automatic matchmaking, phasing and servers able to handle millions, the “there won’t be players for old content” excuse won’t fly. Let me explain how the next big MMO will be built:
- Tier 1 content is released and server goes online. Players progress, some players complete the content fast, others not.
- During the lifetime of the T1 content, it gets balanced, spell problems ironed out, the game changed as needed
- T2 expansion arrives on a new server. You can transfer your character from the T1 server to the T2 if you completed the T1 content
- Guilds exist in all tiers at once. So if you create a guild, that name will be locked for all tiers and if you transfer your character to T2, you’ll find yourself in the same guild. T1 guild bonuses apply to the T2 guild but not the other way, if you complete guild tasks in T2, that gets you T2 perks that are non-existent in the T1 server
- After T2 arrives, T1 balance becomes the gospel. It receives only bugfixes (that would allow actions that weren’t meant to be done at the first place) and graphical updates. No nerfs, no “balance changes”. If the game was balanced for a year, it’s still is. If the same mechanics are unbalanced in T2 (like mages are much stronger than rouges in a T2 dungeon), then T2 content is fixed, not the classes
- If a new player arrives to the game, he can only roll character on the T1 server and has to complete it, just like those who first came, with nothing being easier or faster. He’ll still be faster, since he doesn’t have to suffer bugs, have better UI and he just has to complete it on the normal level, while original players probably worked for achievements and trophies available only in difficult settings.
- Of course he can go for the T1 achievements himself, but then he have to complete the hard content with fellow T1 achievement hunters. If he transfers to T2, he can’t do them anymore as only the T1 server has T1 achievements. T2 characters can’t return to the T1 server. The player can roll a new character of course. This means that if you just started playing and claim a T1 achievement, you’ve defeated the same challenge that every other achievement holder did and not like in “go solo a lvl 60 boss at 100 for achievement” WoW.
- When T3 content is released, T2 becomes gospel like T1 did. Those who completed T2 normal content can move to T3. T2 achievements will be unavailable at T3
PS: I can’t believe that I agree with r/eve again:
Context: CCP had huge layoff that included EVE “celebrities” CCP Logibro and CCP Manifest. CFC Falcon – of course – survived and can continue his mission of driving EVE to the ground for “beers”.