I’ve seen a few posts recently commenting on how gated Lord of the Rings Online is at the moment. Gating just means that there’s a specific order in which you have to tackle content and until you’ve finished one particular instance/ rep grind/ item collection quest then you can’t move on to the next. In this case, it means that the game requires you to have collected some special armour before you can get into the next raid instance (well, you can get in but without the special armour bonus you will not kill the boss).
- Arbitrary discusses gating and why she prefers more open access to raids
- Unwize talks about raid progression requirements in LOTRO
- Melmoth finds that levelling as a concept is gated, and just wants to explore
- Suzina defends content gating, she likes that you can progress through a story in a meaningful way. But she also agrees that gear gating isn’t fun.
Gating the PvE content is one of the reasons I wore out on Warhammer, it puts a lot of stress on the player base to keep up with the whole history of an expansion’s content before they can jump in with their friends. And heaven help you if the content isn’t PUGgable and you happen to not be in a tight-knit group or guild.
It’s the sort of idea that makes great sense in a single player game or solo content where you have more control over your character’s history but what to do in a MMO where you may be a new player (or a new alt) in the endgame, several tiers behind everyone else?
People don’t give Blizzard enough credit for this, but they’re already ahead of the pack in dealing with these kinds of issues in WoW. Doling out conqueror badges with which you can buy nice high level stuff from heroics and lower tier raids next patch is a way round this precise issue. Naturally all the hardcore guys (who have already completed the previous content and collected all the same gear) now complain that the game is being dumbed down.
Although they are leaving the gates in place, Blizzard is putting in a bypass. They take Alexander’s approach to tackling the Gordian Knot of gated group-reliant content once players have moved on. It is extremely frustrating to gate people on content that needs other people to run, but that the majority of other people don’t want to run. That’s not the same as being dumbed down. (The content is dumbed down in the sense that once you have the higher level gear, everything does get easier but that’s more a function of their game being so gear dependent, and whose fault is that?)
As is usual with Blizzard, you lose some flavour and immersion, but the problem is solved … for now at least. And raiding stays accessible.
As a result, hardcore guilds now struggle even more to recruit because one of their main selling points used to be that they had the keys to that gated content to dangle in front of prospective new members as a lure. Now people eye the bypass, then eye the hardcore raid schedule, and decide for themselves which they’d rather take. This leaves the erstwhile gatekeepers out on a limb, but gives players a lot more choice. For casual raid groups like mine, it’s a godsend. We bleed far fewer of our keener raiders to more hardcore raid groups. People who do prefer to raid at a more relaxed pace don’t have to give up so much (progression) to do it.
Wont somebody think of the alts?
Ghostcrawler utters the sad cry of the game designer in yet another warrior thread this week.
It’s a tough question — what to do with the overpowered but underplayed spec, assuming it doesn’t have any crippling gameplay flaws? What do you do with the spec that is wildly popular but underpowered? Do you make them somehow less fun (even if it’s relative) so players try out the other specs?
He also notes that (some) players will do all kinds of insane grinds to get minor advantages for their characters if they have the opportunity. And the unspoken question is, “If you guys are willing to do crazy grinds, why would you not switch to the overpowered but underplayed spec?”
I’ll tell you why.
- Your content is gated. If I have worked my way through those gates on one character, I don’t want to do it again on a new alt.
- We don’t trust you not to change everything around again next month when the numbers may or may not have changed.
- I have been playing my character for X years and like it and I’m going to stick with it, thanks. If I hate it that much I’ll more likely quit, wait till the next expansion before I swap, or go play an alt and get out of the (gated) raiding game.
- People do the crazy grinds for characters because they are attached to the character and want more progression on it. Going back to square 1 on a new alt is a different matter.
- (Or in other words – make the grind account based and not character based and players will be more willing to switch alts when you want them to.)
People WILL do all kinds of crazy grinds but for a lot of players, the barriers to switching class mid-expansion are simply too high.
Plus some classes/specs will always be less popular. GC notes that warriors will always be more popular than shamans. Yes, yes they will. More people want to play plate wearing melee classes than hybrids. So you have to take that into account.
This does relate to gating. And the fact that gating is something that you have to go through one character at a time. I think Guild Wars lets you unlock abilities on a per account basis, it also has a very shallow level grind and isn’t very gear dependent, and that means that it is very easy for people to try out different classes and specs when things get tweaks.
So if devs want to design a game where the player base is not tied so tightly into character choices which they made several months previously, they will have to find a way to unlock those gates.
One thing I’m noticing in LotRO is that the old gated content just doesn’t fit anymore. I really enjoyed the quests in Forochel, but I’m not going to grind Lossoth reputation to get all the nifties there. Perhaps when the maximum level was 50 the gates made sense. But, why should I grind rep to get instant travel, or some semi-neat armor recipes, or whatever? (Especially since the armor recipes give frost resistance, which would be more useful before I pretty much complete the zone.)
Not that LotRO is the only sinner here. I can’t imagine a truly compelling reason to go grind the Shattered Sun Offensive of the Consortium, even if they do provide a few things that could be useful. Unless you’re one of those sickos who love to mindlessly grind, I guess….
Oh, definitely. I know there are tons of pointless rep grinds in WoW (and some mad people do them anyway for the achievements) which are completely outdated now. I’m playing a low level toon in EQ2 and I don’t know if half the things I’m discovering are outdated or not (I’ve discovered some rep city grinds but no idea at all if they are still meaningful).
The other thing that often scales really badly as xp curves are changed is crafting (I’m going to note to myself I wanted to write about that sometime). Originally crafting progression is based on the assumption that you’ll spend a certain amount of time in various levelling zones. So if levelling gets easier, it’s very likely you’ll have to go back and spend ages gathering materials way after you have outlevelled a zone.
Great post, Spinks.
I’ve never thought too much about the concept of gating before but, considering it now, it’s one of the reasons I’m enjoying EVE Online. Although there are still gates in terms of skill requirements and money, they are a lot less visible and enforced. There is nothing stopping me from flying into the most dangerous area of space at any stage of the game. Yes, I will die, but that decision is mine 🙂 I don’t need to jump through 10 hoops in sequential order to get there 🙂
Hmmm. As a noob on EvE I’m finding the gates pretty severe actualy.
Day #1 of my free trial and I’ve got enough money for a serious ship upgrade…..but noooo I maybe able to buy a industrial ship and plan my mining empire…..but I cant pilot it for days yet.
As to dangerous area’s….you can certainly go to them in WoW, generations of Night Elves have proved it by migrating across the Menethil marshes (support entire eco systems of crolisks in the process. Just dont expect it to be good for exp or progression…
Great post. In WoW, it’s really a mixed blessing that the old gates are bypassed so often, because that’s a lot of dead content left in the dust. At the same time, if you’ve already run it a million times, why would you want to do it again? And a lot of the old rep grinds are based on an old model of misery, rather than the more rewarding current rep model.
Levelling is a major gate, and Blizz keeps making efforts to reduce that gate, but it really needs some serious work given how far along in its lifecycle the game is, with 90% of the players sitting at 80. Hopefully the upcoming Cataclysmic expansion will shake things up and make leveling more interesting by revamping the earlier zones? Unlikely, but a guy must dream…
Perhaps you understand then why I keep saying that class changing is desirable. Among other things, it reaks down some of those gates, and allows a player to be attached to a single character, rather than needing a stable of alts.
Sure, as in the example of the raid bypasses, it breaks immersion a bit, but I’d just as soon not be immersed in nonsense grindy gates.
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