In every MMO I’ve played in, we eventually see the game population divide up into populations of unusual – some might say freakish – creatures. The exact nature of these sub-populations varies, but the point is, they exist, and they’re downright weird.
Let’s take raiders, as an example. Once we hit level cap, it’s all about the raiding. Everything we do is bent towards improving our performance in raiding. We practice on target dummies, grind for cash for enchants and gems and potions, hone our trade skills to feed those needs, farm mats for consumables, do dailies for tokens and cash, fish for buff food, and so forth. If any of us manages to get off and do something that is the least bit enjoyable – but not related to raiding – we feel guilty about it.
And look at that gear. Min/maxing is hardly adequate to describe what we do to our gear, and what sort of gear we look for. It’s like you took a battleship, and shrank everything down to the size of a destroyer – except the gun, which swelled to five times its normal size. That’s a typical DPSer in a nutshell. A typical tank is a brick with legs. A healer is best represented as either a giant bandaid, or a giant ball of cotton (Disco priests, yo!).
I mean, Hunters wear mail. And mail with higher armor values is – by any measure of common sense – better. Except for raiders. If it doesn’t make our gun bigger, we’re not interested.
Don’t get me started on PvPers. I mean, they have entire separate gear tiers from everybody else in the universe. I’ve seen periods of time where priests have been the terror of the battlefield. Arenas give rise to such perverted stat mixes that even the developers can’t sort out what they’re doing. Hey, Johnnie found a +50 to pillar-humping sword!
My point here is that the endgame, be it PvP or PvE, warps perceptions of whatever game you’re playing. Somebody spent a lot of time and effort putting together a game world that has NOTHING to do with either of those things, and most normal people actually get out there and enjoy them. While we’re QQing about cooldowns and OP rogues, the larger population is taking its time and enjoying the game they paid good money for.
It’s true – Blizz kind of stacked the deck against itself with the inexplicably high XP rates during leveling (Most zones, you can’t even complete all the quests before they go gray). But outside of that, there are a number of interesting and compelling stories out there that the power-leveling supa-raider has never seen. I wonder how many people right now are scratching their heads over the entire "Fangs of the Father" questline, wondering where this black dragon came from.
The "normal" people out there know.
Right now I’m seeing a bumper crop of this syndrome from STWOR players. "I’m level 50, now what?" The usual answer is "grind, dailies, raid." Right now, a lot of people are finding out they paid sixty clams only to do the same thing all over again. All the work that Bioware put into other parts of the game, totally unappreciated and likely unsampled. As much as they wanted to break the mold, they simply failed to take the herd mentality of your average raider/pvper into consideration.
I have to give kudos to Blizzard on this. The average bored raider has no idea what to do outside of get ready for more raiding. So Blizz has provided a means to measure one’s progress in, for example, experiencing the stories told in each of the zones – i.e. the various Loremaster achievements.
Within the Raider / PvP / Roleplaying echochaimers, our plaintive bleats are loud and distinct. But from outside, all people care about is what is that annoying buzz and how do I stop it? It isn’t any wonder that you often experience resentment from those outside of your special little tribe. They’re enjoying all the new content while some group of shmoes have already beaten the end boss and are crying about how the game’s all over for them.
The ongoing challenge for MMO creators is to create content for all the normal people and all the mutants like us. We haven’t seen it yet, and nothing looks to have a solution forthcoming, so we’ll keep watching and hoping.