MMORPG – Lack of Repeatability is the Real Problem

There are a lot of opinions about what makes the various MMORPG games enjoyable, but one area that I haven’t seen discussed is what I call Repeatability. By repeatabilty, I’m referring to the ability to start multiple, new characters and enjoy playing them.

I believe that was a factor of the success of the original Everquest (EQ1), but that it is missing in most of the current MMORPGs, including the current version of EQ1. Of the various games that I have played, the worse example when it came to repeatabilty was Everquest II (EQ2). Once you brought one character up to level 20, all characters with the same starting city basically ran all of the same quests, over and over again. Thus, there were only two tracks to level 20, the Qeynos one and the Freeport one. Except for a single thread of class related quests, everything was the same for every character you created. (Note: I have not played EQ2 since the massive restructuring of character creation, so I can’t comment on the current state of the game.)

Sony has really gone for canned scripts for starting characters. Star Wars Galaxies now has the space station quests and EQI now has the Mines of Gloomingdeep. In both cases, unless you have the money to support taking short cuts, the optimal way to raise a character is to follow the script.

When I first played Everquest, every new character was a new experience. They had separate starting cities and quests. Learning your way around Faydark, Qeynos Hills or, later on, Cabilis, was challenging and fun. Unfortunately, game play has evolved to the point where everyone seems to know the best places to level and travel is so trivial that you see level one gnomes hunting the ice canyons of Everfrost Peaks.

Of course, I need to mention Word of Warcraft. Of all the current games I have tried, it seems closest to being repeatable. It’s not that it doesn’t have fixed quests, it just that both sides have at least three starting points, with a collection of zones to level in. When you create a new character, you aren’t restricted to one starting series. You can jump back and forth to the other starting regions to vary your experience.

And, that is the key. You need to be able to have a relatively new, enjoyable experience when you start a new character. Given that it is quite common for someone to decide that they really chose the wrong class with their first character, starting a second character in the same starting city is normal. I probably started at least two dozen characters, on a half dozen different servers — to play with different friends — over the six years I played EQ1.

It was fun in the beginning, because I spent a lot of time exploring. Exploring the region around the starting city, discover quests and experimenting with class play styles. It was fun. After six years, there isn’t much of EQ1 left to explore at the lower levels, so I’ve been looking at other games. So far, WoW is the only one that has held my interest for more that a few months.

I am looking for a MMORPG where it is fun to try different characters.
I am looking for a MMORPG where leveling / crafting is not a job.
I am looking for a MMORPG where it is OK not to be UBER.

If you find such an MMORPG, let me know.


Multiple characters over level 20 in EQ1, EQ2, WoW, SWG and Horizon, but not one at the level cap in any of those games.