“Just stick it out, it’ll be better in a few levels.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this, but it’s something that has been around basically since MMO’s were born. Most MMO’s tend to have a rough patch at some point or another where leveling seems much more like a chore than a pleasure. Some, like EvE, seem to be right out of the get-go. If you make it through the first few days or so in EvE (levels are a relative term in EvE since it’s more skill-based than anything) and you enjoy the mechanics and the overall feel of the game without feeling overwhelmed or what have you, then you’re pretty much good to go. Other games like LotRO seem to face this at about the 35th level mark. You get a good feel for the game and what it’s all about by the time you reach this point, but wonder whether it’s worth that extra push it requires to make it through some of those stale levels. Granted, they have added zones like Evendim to help alleviate this issue, but has this solved the issue completely? I’ll get back to this later.

While some games are better than others, and there are a wide range of issues that can determine whether you are affected by these troublesome levels, should you ever feel like you have to “stick it out” to get to more enjoyable content? Is it simply inevitable that these will find their way into MMO’s at some point or another due to the immense scale of these games, or should the developers be doing everything they can to make sure that they avoid these areas?

Now I’m going to get to the heart of this issue (at least for me.) When I got my champion to level 35 in LotRO, I immediately began to feel stuck. My quest log was littered with fellowship quests or quests that were too high for me to complete on my own. I have no problem with fellowship quests, and I actually enjoy them quite a bit, but when I struggled for several days to put a group together, I began to get rather frustrated. If I couldn’t complete these quests that I needed a fellowship for, this left me with only one option: grinding. Most of us know that mob xp in LotRO is meager at best, even with rest xp. Leveling is all about questing, which really causes problems for those who want (or feel to need) to grind a few levels out. I actually wouldn’t have minded this either, as I can enjoy a nice grinding session on occasion. So there I was, unable to find a fellowship, unable to grind, and unable to complete solo quests (due to a lack of them for my level.) With this weighing heavily on me during my time spent in game, along with the subscription ending in a few days, I chose not to push on. I did make it to 36 before I quit, but at that point, I didn’t have the urge to bust all the way through to 38 or so. That’s not to say I never will again, but I didn’t feel like I should have to force myself to make it through 2-3 levels just so that I could get to more rewarding and enjoyable content.

Even WoW, a game that I think did an excellent job of filling content for all levels, would have me feeling stuck from time to time, particularly in the mid-to-high 50’s range. At least in WoW, the option to grind was there should you choose to take it. While it usually isn’t as effective as questing, it at least gives you the option to a) get out of a patch where you don’t seem to have enough quests or b) simply don’t want to do the quests that you have.

It’s all about having multiple options when it comes to leveling. For the most part, players aren’t going to want to do every single quest they are given, just like they don’t always want to quest at all. Some players prefer to instance, which can also be a great way to level while also allowing you to skipping through a bout of quests if that is the goal. Some players don’t like having a clear path all the time, or at all for that matter. Games like EvE are perfect for this style of player. That said, many MMO enthusiasts have tried at least once to get into EvE and simply couldn’t see the appeal before their confusion and frustration set in, and they gave up. One advantage EvE has in this area is that you can continue to gain skill points while you aren’t playing, which can be very beneficial as you are constantly advancing in one form or another.

So should we feel obligated to “stick it out” for a few levels (or skill points) to make it to a more enjoyable portion of the game? With the ever-increasing number of options we as MMO enthusiasts have, is it worth it for us to “waste our time” so that we can make it through the tunnel and back into the light (or deep space,) or should we simply move on and hope for better results with the next game?

~Kanthalos

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3 comments so far

  1. Bildo on

    Nope, we really shouldn’t feel obligated. Welcome to my world when I stopped playing LotRO and didn’t look back. It really felt like the cliche’d “bait and switch”.

    I can’t help that I’m more of a solo PvE person… and WoW really spoiled me there. So now, all my MMOGs must allow this, at least for leveling purposes. I don’t mind grouping, I just don’t want to feel reliant on it.

  2. thallian on

    so true. Its hard to tell where the tipping point is but it certainly is different with each person.

    btw Kanthalos, I’m doing a vote/contest on my blog of bloggers’ favorite game for 2008, closing at the end of this month. Then I’ll post the results and/or send them to you also if you would like.
    Please come vote, and if you like email me and tell me what you picked cuz I’m a curious cat đŸ™‚

  3. thallian on

    btw they have really improved lotro in the last two books, with the Angmar revamp and trollshaws and the new zone for lvl 40s (forochel) leveling is a lot better. But yeah, major bait and switch before.


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