So first of all lets talk about different types of games particularly close to MOBA / MMOs and we will draw some technical comparison. This is going to be a long post (I think...) so grab a tea, coffee, or if you want to think I am a genius and make this "otherworldly" post and if its legal for you - smoke some pot??? Just kidding but lets get started!
Vertical progression games:
World of Warcraft is a prime example on this one. What is a vertical progression game? Its when the producers provide content for the gamers to consume. Imagine a ladder and you are climbing it once you reach the top there is nothing to climb until you are provided with more steps to climb at the end of the ladder.
Think off World of Warcraft - each new patch and each new expansion we have new cool ways of killing a bunch of monsters or players with different gear and skills - this is vertical progression. Once you done it, there is nothing to do; the game becomes somewhat bland and boring until the developers give you more content to consume. That's why world of warcraft is coming with more and more different patches, raids, and gear every patch so we.... well can consume.
The benefits of this types of games - gives you a feel of individuality, it also tracks your progress via ratings, achievements, mounts and so on and so forth.
Negative side of vertical progression games - easy its once you consume the content the game becomes boring. In addition, the game also feels grindy and its more of the heavy time investment games out there.
This is the main reason why WoW lost 1.3 million subs last quarter - people raided, consumed the content, got used to new PvP done it all and got bored. Everyone waiting on a new patch, new nerfs, new buffs, refreshing gameplay, new monsters to smite wif your mighty SWOAAAARDDDDD, and FIREEEE BALLLLS of steel or some shit.
My Biggest beef, pork and chicken with those types of games is that they feel very grindy and more focused on character development rather than having fun. In addition, these types of games also require you to have online friends to play with and while it looks good on a paper we all know that our REAL LIFE, girlfriends, boyfriends, your mom, gyms, work - will take a huge toll on our gaming and we can find our hours of gaming either diminish or we might have to change hours that we play, leaving us unable to play with current friends and forced to find others. The biggest negative side of this is relying on other people to have fun.
Horizontal Progression Games:
These are very tricky games, and while they do offer some grinding, the main focus of these games is gameplay. They are usually focused around players casually logging in and having fun with out feeling of being left behind due to not having up to date gear and other crap. Good example of vertical progression MMO games is Guild Wars 2:
Gear is free, no leveling when it comes to PvP. PvE gear has a cap and PvE evolves around killing monsters for achievements and fun rather than a shiny new purple. THE PURPLE my friends they are amazing like a brand new car totally worth our time!!!! (sarcasm detected!) WoW challenge dungeons - is a horizontal progression component. Some might argue that arenas or RBGays is the same thing - but I tend to disagree as you need your gear maxed before you can get into good groups thus creating invisible entry barrier and making it very hard for undergeared players to get their ratings.
MOBA why did I mention them? Well they are the prime example of horizontal progression games where people log in to have fun rather than grind. One of the most successful MOBA games is League of Legends (yes some might argue DOTA 2 is best, Smite, Heroes of Newerth, My MOM raids my basement or other mobas). I do not want to argue which MOBA is the best, I just want to go off the MOBA that I have the most fun in - League of LAGANDs and disconnects which is bad, especially when your team relys on that specific lagger that curses you in french and calls you dumb american (true story).
MOBA types of games are known! For their horizontal progression. League of Legends has the most stream viewers, one of the biggest following / community. This game is roughly what 3-4 years old? (no idea honestly its my ball park estimation.) It is certainly "younger" than world of warcraft. It has a bigger following, way bigger and yet there are only roughly 4 maps to play on. Regular classic 5v5, 3v3, dominion, AREM.
So when it comes to amount of content that was developed - World of Warcraft will smoke the crap out of League of Legends. Then why doesn't WoW have as big of a following if not bigger? The simple answer - While LoL does not seem to have as much content as WoW - their content is current! There is no such thing as outdated "useless content" as for example WoW has (BC raiding for XMOGs? Get a life you nuuuurrrddd!) While WoW has more game content most of it is outdated and most of the time irrelevant compared to the current season / raiding. At the same time LoL has same 4 maps that have been played and they are all the time relevent regardless of a patch / season.
Once you got your level, your runes or some shit LoL focuses on having fun, on just logging, getting that que and focus on playing the game rather than "pimping" out your character. Yes WoW has battlegrounds but those are more of a festival of who having the most gear wins type of scenarios. Undergeared random battlegrounds suck ass while in LoL runes do matter but not to the point of blue geared WoW character vs full purple character.
That's horizontal progression games - they focus on gameplay rather than character progression with different PURPLES!!!
The question arises then - why GW2 kinda well you know failed... It had one of the most amazing starts possible when it comes to MMOs. And their philosophy is probably one of the better ones compared to other MMOs. Free gear, free 80 if you want to PvP. Focus on gameplay rather than grind - all this sounds amazing. The problem with GW2 was probably very simple - not enough of a time investment / balancing.
While League of Legends has it flaws when it comes to balance - it is certainly built around rock paper scissors where one champion counters another one. Early vs late game champions, over 100 different ones. And believe me I thought some of the champions are just a complete and uter trash when it comes to high end PvP gameplay and I was suprised by some of the top LoL streamers playing those champions and making them work.
Guild Wars 2 on the other hand felt like Rock, Paper, Scissors, Darth Vader, Atomic Bomb and Ultralisk. While it does have professions and they do have options there are just quite frankly not viable professions, not viable options and lots and lots of cookie cutter builds. I played for 2 weeks GW2 recently 3-8 hours a day and qued against some high ranked premades (30-60 ranked) and my experience was miserable to say the least. I just think there was really no good amount of time investment in the game balancing by itself. While league has 4 maps there are lots of things you can do - support, jungler, ADC, bruiser, AP carry and something in between 2. In GW2 there is only 1 mechanic - node capping, and while it does have some sort of a layer - bunker build, 1 shot 2 shot mechanic, condition builds, roamer. I just do not think it was enough to make the same Battle Grounds enjoyable over and over as LoL. Also Moba games usually take longer time than just 1 warfront.
In my opinion GW 2 Developers need to come out of their mom's basement, roll up their sleeves and be open about their vision of the game, balance, class roles. Develop more interesting profession / weapon choices. In LoL deveopers say this champion is a support, this one ADC, this one is Jungler, this one is bruiser. You know your class role and what it can fulfill while GW2 devs are silent. It is frustrating to play warrior sword and shield while you see other professions surpass you at evertying you do. You do not have a nitch on some professions, and some are straight more effient that you are. What is the point of offering variety of builds if there is a limit to what you can do profession wise (yes taking about warriors - 100blades or go home, Necro - conditionmancer or go home type of scenarios at high ranked play (usually!)). Give the life to builds make Necro axe spec have a specific role, or sword and board warrior, or a melee ranger have the roles that they can fulfill.
I would honestly make a shrine to GW2 if they can come up with more interesting gameplay / professions items in the future. 8 professions cannot simply satisfy our nerd craving theory crafting hunger. Come on with some weapons that transform your professions if creating a new profession feels like a huge time investement. Example: corrupted sword - will transform a Warrior into a Death Knight, Arcane Shield will transform elementalist into arcane melee warrior, dual dagger set will transform thief into assassin. and so forth.
Basically I think the plateform of gaming (no grind easy access) in GW2 is far superior of WoW model that has endless grind attached to it, but where GW2 failed is communication with their fans, balancing issues, and simply not enough content.
Ironically WoW had one of the most fun horizontally progression Battle ground maps - Alterac Valley where people would fight all the time, get the resources, summon avatars, assault bases and have some really long 40 minutes epic battles. People enjoyed it! But for some odd who knows whatever reason Blizzard let it die out with future expansions.
So what is the point of all this that I am typing -
In a hopes that WoW at some point also recognizes that they should tone down vertical progression in their game, its boring! Am I the only one annoyed by a constant gear grind even in PvP? Point capping?
WoW needs some structure again where people log in to have fun rather than progress their character. I have some ideas that I will post in the future blogs and twitt to their developers. Its funny but I did get a few responses from WoW Devs especially when I made a survey compared to GW2 where all I heard are crickets.
WoW needs to amp up their horizontal progression they need to make the game be fun instead of huge grind fest. And if people will seen entertainment in WoW over grind and WoW can provide it with horizontal progression then what we will see is a lot less people unsubbing in between patches and subscriber fluctuations.
Thank you for reading my long ass blog post about vertical vs horizontal progression games. And I will post some ideas in the future. Later!