I played most of WoW Vanilla and the start of TBC before taking a break. I clearly remember coming back and being so far behind the attunement curve, that raiding in WoW was pretty much done for me (at least until LFR gave me easy mode). Sure, each expansion had the allure of a new set of raids (or recycled ones like in LK) but after being OUT of it, there was little motivation to get back into it. RIFT was pretty similar, where a summer vacation for a few weeks broke the raiding guild into two pieces that never recovered. Since that point, my will to raid has been pretty darn low.
The exception to this rule is FF14. Raids (that have no trash I should add) are part of the leveling process and 8 to 16 players in size. Sure, it’s LFR, but the challenge is there for all of them, unless you greatly outgear it. I know I’ve wiped more on those raids than in all the dungeons combined. Once I hit level 70, I’d queue up for the various daily roulette options, including the raids. I enjoyed it a lot, made friends and joined a guild.
Ok, quick aside for a minute. One of my favorite all-time games is Shadow of the Colossus. I remember reading about it well before it was released and people were clamoring that an “all boss” game couldn’t work. Well… suck eggs, it worked wonders. The game was structured without loot drops (aside from bosses) so if it did have trash, it would be meaningless aside from time padding. FF14’s raid structure is pretty darn close to the same – have engaging bosses, get rid of the rest. Food for thought.
Back on topic. FF14’s raids are accessible. WoW’s were not, but then there weren’t exactly 100 games to choose from before LK came out. Wildstar’s were not at launch (or ESO’s version but only due to veteran levels). There’s a solid difference between making something accessible, and then making something engaging.
Diablo 3’s seasons are a pretty darn good example. The Story Mode was required for each new season, up until Season 4. Story Mode is fine and dandy, but it has half the loot of adventure mode and takes 5x as long. Plus, after having done it a bajillion times, you’ve kind of proven capable no? This gets into the whole character/player debate, where having to unlock more stuff on a separate character is mostly padding.
I get it, battle scars and all that jazz. But the accessibility door for end-game content is measured in two distinct elements, which are related but not equal – time and stats. Time is padding. You need it, otherwise the game takes 4 hours to complete. It’s not a measure of skill, it’s a measure of patience. Daily quests, rep grinds and attunements on trivial content are all time-based. Stats are just plain gear checks. With enough skill/experience, you can often speed up the gear check process.
The first time through, people are willing to suck up the time portion and lack of experience makes the stat portion take a while. The second time through the time portion is annoying, and the stat portion can be overcome more quickly. I’m certainly not expecting an alt to be as powerful as a main without any investment but at the same token, the time padding needs to be drastically reduced. WoW tried to address this in MoP with the rep tokens, that nearly doubled the reputation gained for all characters after you had maxed out one. SWTOR’s legacy system provides similar perks for alts. FF14 bypasses it altogether since you only have 1 character.
This is a long stretch analogy but let’s say you’re a manager at a sales company. 15 years of experience, lots of contacts and a solid knowledge of the business. Layoffs come around and you need to find a new job (assuming jobs are to be found). You’re not expected to be doing entry level work, having to put in another 15 years to get back to where you were. There’s a learning curve for sure, but that should be relatively quick compared to what you went through before.
The more people have access to do, the more they will end up trying those piles of things. Putting in artificial gates, especially ones that impede 80-90% of the playstyles (since every extra class is a playstyle) just seems like a weird position to me. An alt-friendly game is quite clearly a long-term game. It’s evidently the future…just depends on who decides to get on the train before getting hit by it.