“The strength of the game was in it’s rich open world content that could be played at any time even by those who had “outleveled” it. Some of the early events are so much fun that I would have really enjoyed doing them many times over. To have the reward system weighted so heavily away from the best parts of the game had the effect of undermining gameplay.”
But GW2 does a better job of incentivising that content than any other MMO on the market?
GW2 is not alone in being bottom-heavy with large amounts of low level questing content that is never required to reach cap, this is common as developers tend to create multiple early zones to avoid crowding problems on launch. WoW is literally bursting with low level content that will never be seen by players who start the game now, as you only need to complete around 20% of the quest content to hit cap.
These games make practically no attempt to encourage high level players to go back and complete this content, by contrast GW2 goes out of its way to make that content rewarding even for higher level players. Aside from the downscaling which prevents players one-shotting everything in a lowbie zone, the game also upscales rewards from anything you kill, and any events you complete. If you’re a level 80 in a level 30 zone, you get high level karma rewards, level 80 item drops and scaled up gw2 gold rewards for anything you do.
The game rewards exploration of low level zones, not just with achievements but with currency. The completion rewards for doing everything in a zone are significant, and exploring/completing all content in the world grants you valuable items used to craft legendary weapons, as well as a unique title and a star next to your name in the game world, visible to other players as a vanity badge. I mentioned that the dungeon content was dead as people didn’t seem to care much for it, but i certainly remember seeing plenty of people with stars by their names within a short period after release.
So given that GW2 actually does do a better job of rewarding low level open world content than any other comparable MMO, why would a lack of rewards for that content be the problem when players suggest that “something is missing”? There’s no reasonable basis for that, as the most succesful examples in the genre do well without rewarding that content at all. It seems like a more sensible conclusion would be that taking a high level character back to the starting zones and playing through levelling content again in an area with different visuals simply isn’t compelling gameplay for a lot of players.
Levelling content is seen by many as a kind of extended tutorial that allows the player to familiarise themselves with the mechanics of the game world and the workings of their character. By slowly introducing the player to new abilities you allow them to explore the class fully, so that by the end of the levelling process the player can comfortably use everything that the class has to offer and feels an attachment to the role.
When they reach that stage of understanding, the natural next step is to provide them with challenging content that tests everything they have learned, giving them an opportunity to fully utilise their class and pushing them to hone their play. There are succesful titles which do this by providing increasingly challenging tiers of content at end game for players to test themselves with – this is what the open world content in GW2 completely fails to do.
Coming back to the same starting zones that you learnt the game in, now armed with a full compliment of skills and talents and an intuitive understanding of how to play your class, makes everything in the zone trivial. It also offers no social element as there’s really no reason to group up with people and work together to kill level 10 boars. Infact the content itself is quite anti-social as it results in the community spreading themselves out over an entire game world instead of congregating around higher level challenges.
With nothing to challenge the player in the open world, poor dungeon play due to a failed class experiment and no raiding, players are left with no end game PvE content to test themselves on at all. People have many different reasons for playing MMOs, it’s a wide market and games typically try to satisfy as much of the Bartle quotient as they can. By leaving out this type of content which is frankly a staple of the genre at this point, GW2 loses a big chunk of players that aren’t satisfied by simply exploring zones and aren’t interested in arena PvP.
If WoW is anything to go by, the type of player they fail to accomodate probably accounts for a pretty large chunk of the market, and that is a content and gameplay design issue, not an economics issue.