Games should be fun from the moment you open their application. There shouldn't be this need to "slog through the tough stuff to get to the good part." I said in one of my articles long ago, "Endgame should start at level one," and I feel that perhaps I need to clarify that statement. All of your fun should not be hidden away in your game or stuck at the end -- it should be present in the design regardless of level, time played, or any other arbitrary unit of measurement.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying you should be doing these huge raids at level 1, nor am I saying you should put all of your great stuff in the beginning and leave the rest of your game barren. (Variety is the spice of life, after all.) What I am saying is that I should feel that I'm enjoying myself, no matter the activity.
If I'm killing 10 more rats, I should feel that these 10 rats are worth it. I shouldn't be off wondering why I'm killing 10 more rats, or attempting to set up a macro to avoid killing 10 more rats, or telling other people, "Hey, if you kill these 10 rats, the game gets way better after that."
Can you review an MMO in 10 hours? 20 hours?
"If you're not having fun at those initial steps of the game, chances are that you'll never see those 'great aspects.'"
This finally leads us to the age old question: "How do you review an MMO?" People are always saying that 10 hours isn't enough to review an MMO. Or 20 hours isn't enough to review an MMO. Or six weeks and 23 levels
aren't enough to form an opinion on an MMO.
Let me turn the tables for a moment here. How would you guys feel if I wrote the following?
"You know, MMO X is an amazingly deep game. I loved how much the game really opened up after 20 hours of gameplay. It was, after those first 20 hours, one of the best games I ever experienced. I highly recommend this game.
I think, if I wrote that, you guys would be hunting me down with pitchforks and torches. What I wrote right now doesn't sound like a recommendation. How can I recommend this game if the majority of my playtime was taken up by boring gameplay? How does that, in any way, make a good game? It doesn't.
So let me follow up by saying this: While no review can look at every aspect of an MMO, it doesn't matter. If you're not having fun at those initial steps of the game, chances are that you'll never see those "great aspects." All of that fun, hidden deep in the game's design, will go to waste if players don't want to stick around. That's poor game design, and that means it's a poor game.
A 10-hour review easily separates the games from the grinders. If I find that I'm forcing myself to play a game because it's a part of my job, then it's not a game I'm going to recommend to you, my readers. Simply put, if I can't find ways to force myself to do my job, you're sure as heck not going to want to do this for fun.
Seraphina Brennan is the weekly writer of Anti-Aliased who doesn't take I.O.U.s for fun. When she's not writing here for Massively, she's rambling on her personal blog, The Experience Curve. If you want to message her, send her an e-mail at seraphina AT massively DOT com. You can also follow her on Twitter through Massively, or through her personal feed, @sera_brennan.