Empty Zones?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

One of the topics covered in the latest episode of RingCast was the fact that the older content has and will be abandoned for the newer content of Eregion and Moria. This is a two-fold problem. First, the level 50 instances and raids no longer have any significance (aside from Carn Dum and Urugarth which hold the level 45 class quest items). Second, the larger world content as a whole is no longer relavent to the characters who have progressed beyond that content level. As the game progresses, this is more and more of the player base - which means the zones become more and more empty.

The question becomes, what to do about it? Through third party research (that is, reading other blogs, official forums, etc) I have realized that little to no MMOs have really addressed this question well. However, there is one system Turbine has already implemented that might be put to good use in dealing with half of this problem.

Repeating the epic story instances is incentivized by rewarding those who have already done them with barter items for relevant rewards. Thus, as fewer and fewer people are going through the lower epic story instances, the greater the demand for a full fellowship to help them complete the story. Giving players a reason to help their fellows (aside from out of the kindness of their heart) really helps the lack of groups for these instances. This sytem could be used in nearly the same fashion with the older level 50 instances and raids. Give these a level window to where the content is relevent and rewarding. Any player higher than this window will instead receive barter items as rewards rather than the epic gear which isn't so epic for them anymore. In the same fashion as the epic book instances are desired content even for those who have already completed them, so can the level 50 raids for those who have out-leveled them.

Now comes the problem of the content being too trivialized for the higher-level player. In other MMOs, a system of scaling the player level is used in various fashions (such as sidekicking in City of Heroes). So, the players that engage in this level 50 content as a level 60, for instance, will be scaled back to an appropriate level for the duration of the instance or raid. Then, once they're out, their barter items are turned in for level 60 relevent rewards. The content is no longer trivialized, and neither are the rewards. Furthermore, Turbine can still keep the current level-advanced system in place because the inherant content trivialization problems with the system are now taken care of.

At least for the instance content. The general world content is another story, and one that doesn't quite have as elegant a solution. This will require more thought.

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