Teaching an Old Dog a Better Trick
The endgame traditionally has meant raids, item and reputation grinding, and boss fights. I want to remove the grinding. Just like levels, getting better items to take on harder bosses just to get better items is basically another treadmill.
Endgame isn't even a word I like, but for the sake of simplicity I use it. I think we all understand what is meant by endgame. However it would be more accurate to call it career mode. It is the time when you character has all the skills required to start being a true hero.
Raids, pvp, small group dungeons, and epic quests are still the primary ingredients in this Endgame. Instead of utilizing treadmill mechanics. I want to turn it into something akin to a sport and league.
What do sports and MMOs have in common? Well a sport like baseball or football have positions like Quarterback or First Base and each team has the same positions and even among the athletes the same style of play is repeated, from power hitters to speedsters, much like an MMO has limited number of classes and skill combinations. Yet athletes at the same position and skill are still able to distinguish themselves from their peers. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are arguably the best Quarterbacks to ever play football. Yet football fans know both have different styles and win games in a different fashion. So what separates two defense based warriors, other than equipment, in WoW? That is what we want to cultivate.
I want to turn Guild Leaders and Raid Masters into rockstars within the context of the MMO community. If you're good, people are going to know. I want there to be rookie of the year. Best defensive tank awards. MVP awards. Why? Because these things mean that we aren't playing the game for the next best item. We are playing to be competitive against other Guilds and groups. The reward isn't just getting an epic item, it's even better, it's the intangible feeling of feeling accomplished after working together with guildmates to bring down a raid boss or win a battleground.
So what tools do developers need to create?
Basically they need to create a scoring system, what makes one guild better than another at the same Raid or Battleground? Time it takes, fails, wins, whether secondary objectives were completed. Really the criteria could be anything. The client should have automatic ability to record raids and truncate them , cut out the non action parts if necessary. Warcraft and Starcraft have this feature already. The game needs a ladder system.
There should be Raid ladders , PVP ladders, and a combined total for guilds that participate in both.
The whole system should be built to support scoring. Why not allow Raids to be broadcast live? That could even be a new revenue stream.
Social Aspects are better for player retention than grinding
The evolution is all about a more social game. I don't mean Facebook or Twitter, though some elements I would borrow. What I mean by social is , each game world/server should be a bustling living world. Only remote locations of the world should be desolate. But major cities should not be empty simply because they are no longer near popular game play areas. Thus, there is no reason to constantly create larger worlds. Expansions should concentrate on new Raids, quests, dungeons, etc. Not necessarily just all new landmasses.
Get players invested in the world, and the NPCs and other players in that world. That is how you keep your players logging in every day. They'll want to log in to interact with friends and keep their social ranking high because they don't want to fall behind on points or raids.
Players want auction houses, busy taverns, market squares. They want a world they recognize from living in it.
Bringing it all together
The overall idea I want to convey is that until developers move away from the old paradigm of the Holy Trinity (tank, healer, dps) grinding, every future MMO is just going to fizzle out as players get bored. MMOs are not like other games. You can OD on a shooter, but if you come back to shooters a year later you might be ready for it. MMOs require an emotional investment. You are building a character, when you build a character for two or more years, your motivation to do all that over again gets exponentially less. The genre is eating itself essentially and it needs to re-invent itself and get people excited about MMOs again.