End-Game play in an MMO

I played CoH for a couple years. I think it’s fair to say I played the game a stunningly unhealthy amount quite a bit, but I did hit a point with every character when I became less interested in logging them in and more interested in playing some other character. It is perhaps not a coincidence that that point of disinterest came not-so-long after the character hit the level cap.
That’s not a fault of the characters — they were (and no doubt are, if I ever renewed the subscription) still a lot of fun to play, but there was nothing new or interesting to do — no real sense of “okay, you are now among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes ™, now you’re ready for the important stuff.” It was much more like “well, you’ve beat everything the villains of this world can throw at you. Time to retire.”
Which is basically what I did. Honestly? The only characters from CoH that I wish I could go back and play some more are Pummelcite and Mister Brightside… because I didn’t “finish” them. More than any other MMO I’ve played, CoH has an end-state more than it has an end-game.
((And please don’t get me wrong – I think it’s a great game, but it is possible to be ‘done’ with it, or at least with a character. As evidence, I present the Consortium; they still play the game regularly, but their exploits are (near as I can tell) entirely involved in leveling up new guys; there’s simply no reason for them to log in Amorpha or Psi-clone or even their more recent 50s.))
Anyway. Moving on.
When I started playing World of Warcraft, I was in a different mental place than I had been when I started CoH, and I was a lot more careful of how much time I spent playing (though perhaps no more careful about how much time I spent thinking about it); although leveling is much easier in WoW than CoH, it was about 9 months before I hit the level cap with my first character (Grezzk). My total /played time on him was a whopping 23 days worth of online time, when the average amount of time to hit the level cap now is closer to half that time.
The difference between WoW and CoH is that, since then, I’ve more than doubled my /played time on Grezzk. That is to say that I’ve spent more time playing Grez AT 70 than I spent getting Grezzk TO 70. And it’s fair to say that I’m nowhere near ‘done’ with everything I could do with him in the end-game of WoW as it exists today (though perhaps I’m done with everything I can do on the server I’m on). I’m getting close, but I’m not done. (And an expansion is coming out in a few months to give me even more to do.)
I had thought that maybe WoW had the corner on this end-game thing. I enjoyed playing Lord of the Rings Online with Kate, but I was struggling with the leveling grind in the mid-40s.
Then we hit 50.
I’ve been on LotRO for a least a couple minutes (almost) every day since then, I think. There are 7 “epic” storylines to get through, and a bunch of dungeons to explore…
And then there’s the Rift (a 12-player dungeon — a mine in Angmar where they accidentally (or not) unearthed a Balrog that was supposed to stay chained up til the end of days). And this “Rift” thing? If I wanted to do that, there was some gear I needed*, and some old quests to finish up…
In short, there was an End-game. We could finally play with the Big Kids. We were, indeed, among (middle-)earth’s mightiest heroes, and ready for the Greatest Challenges, and we’ve really been enjoying how the game has changed; an already rich and rewarding world opened up and said “You thought raiding Fornost was cool? You thought fighting one of the Nine in the Misty Mountains was epic? Take. A. Look. At. This.”
And look, we have. By my calculations, it took us about 12 days worth of /played time (spread out over more than a year) to get to level 50. That was two weeks ago, and in only that time, we’ve already spent about a sixth as much time just playing the end-game… advancing the Epic Storyline… figuring out how we’re going to Beat that Balrog. **
Frankly (and in stark contrast to CoH), I don’t have TIME to level an alt.
And in a few months, an expansion comes out to coincide with the Fellowship traveling out of Rivendell and heading (unknowingly) into the Mines of Moria.
I can’t wait.
(* – actually, it turns out my gear was just fine.)
(** – Funny story about the Rift. Our Kinship has been working on defeating the Rift for awhile now — they schedule a run every couple weekends. Kate and I signed up the first weekend after we turned 50, since it looked like they were short on players and, since they were short on players, we were brought along… expectations for our performance were not, I think, very high. Since then, we’ve gone back a second time. We’ve gotten farther as a Kinship than we ever have, and faster than we ever have. Our vets attribute a lot of this to us (me and Kate). Kate and I informed the Kin that we couldn’t be online this weekend or the next… and they called off the Rift runs until we get back. It’s gratifying to feel wanted.)


  1. You’re quite correct — CoX does have things you can do at the top of the heap, but they tend to be more of the same. Lacking the artificial goal of character leveling, that dris up the interest, especially when there are so many other alt-ish things one could be doing. That seems to be by design.
    Specifically, yes, there’s not much I do with Psy-clone any more. There’s stuff I *could* do — but there’s a lot of new stuff at all lower levels I can get into with various other alts (even if they had Pych’s same power set).
    Conversely, given its long and ever-expanding storyline (heck, we haven’t even gotten to Moria yet and people are hitting the top level), it makes sense that LotRO would throw in more character content at the top, esp. since the variety of alts is relatively limited. There’s much less incentive to start over from 1, and a lot more to keep seeing all the keen things at the top. That seems to have been their design goal, too.
    Neither is particularly good or bad, that’s just how they are. 🙂 But an interesting analysis.

  2. It’s true, CoX has a very different model from most MMOs. The closest thing the game has to an end-game (aside from grinding for Purples) is PvP (only a small fraction of the player base is interested in it though; the game is famously carebear oriented).

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