So this is interesting. Apparently Onyxia is making a comeback in World of WarCraft. As a causual-by-lifestyle-rather-than-choice MMO player, one of the interesting phenomena in any MMO is the social pressure to complete content. This happens because as the game ages and more and more of the player base completes end-game stories, raids and collects whaatever the current bleeding-edge loot there is to be had, it necessarily begins to create a bifurcation between those with the time to put in to the game and those who don’t. Put simply, no matter how nice the guild you’re in, it’s never easy to ask members to put their own character’s advancement on hold while they run you through a dungeon that has nothing to offer them. That leaves pick-up-groups with all of their attendent problems — and even these begin to dry up as new content comes in to the game.
I’m facing this problem myself as I try to get my Loremaster in The Lord of the Rings Online to finish up some of the Book I epic quests. With Book II nearly completed and my play times so erratic, it makes doing so enormnously complicated. My guild is great and if I made an appointment, I’m sure they would help me out, but how many of those can you miss before they won’t trust you any more. That’s why I won’t do it.
From a business perspective though, it becomes even more problematic. It makes it ever more unlikely that once a player leaves, they’ll be able to come back. The longer the time between log-ins, the more catch-up the player has to do and the less likely they’ll be able to do it because of a lack of players at their level. World of Warcraft drives me crazy because of this. I loved the original game and it continually frustrates me how they basically abandon old content. I’d like to believe that this Onyxia re-vamp represents then perhaps re-visiting some this old stuff, but I doubt it. It seems like a promotional gimmick more than anything else. What I’d love to see is companies gradually lower the difficulty on old content until after a certain period of time, they become solo-able (with a commensurate drop in loot, of course). That would allow the entire player base to eventually experience all the content the game has to offer without alienting hard-core raiders.
Is this a problem that can be solved? Is this even a problem at all? I’ve heard MMO gaming likened to being on a bowling team. If you can’t make the time committment, don’t play. That does hurt considering how much I love this type of game, though.