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.