Whether I play MMORPGs, ARPGs or Looter Shooters, I like having goals to work towards. A mix of both short-term and long-term ones works best for me.
Especially the latter two genres need such goals to keep me engaged because, let’s face it, the gameplay loop these games provide stays pretty much the same no matter how long you play them. Not that I mind, if I didn’t like those kinds of gameplay I wouldn’t play them to begin with. Still, having no carrot dangling in front of me makes me less inclined to log in sooner rather than later.
There seem to be two kinds of design philosophy regarding how players can work towards such goals.
The first one is a system of total randomness. All we can do here is play the game to the best of our abilities, because doing any specific thing doesn’t increase – or decrease – the chances of achieving our respective goal. Path of Exile is a good example of this. Any mob can drop every existing item up to its level, so it doesn’t matter in the slightest which mobs you kill as long as they’re strong enough. The only way to increase your chances of getting a certain unique item, for example, is killing more mobs in less time.
The upside of this is that you can opt out of doing stuff you don’t like to do. Hate a particular map? Run it only once, then never again. There is not a single item in the game that drops only there. In theory this also provides for more gameplay variety since you don’t feel compelled to kill the same boss over and over to maximize your chances of getting what you want.
In my opinion this is a pretty big downside at the same time though because, whatever you do, the chances of getting the exact item you want are abysmally low. Hence, if you’d like to play a build that needs a couple specific uniques to make it work you pretty much have to trade with other players, which of course feels much less rewarding than finding the stuff yourself. Also, playing the game only rarely feels like working towards a specific goal, because, well, you just can’t. I love PoE, but if I could change one thing it’d probably be this.
Warframe marks the exact opposite of the spectrum: to accomplish specific goals you have to do very specific things.
Frames are the best example. For each frame you need its blueprint, which you can just buy for credits at any time, and three manufactured components. Those require various crafting resources and also the corresponding blueprints. A quick research revealed that, for most frames, the latter are all dropped by planet-bosses. What surprised me a bit is the fact that every boss has its own associated frame which it drops all three blueprints for. For example, all component-blueprints for the Rhino frame, which I wanted to unlock first, are exclusively dropped by – wait for it – Jackal. Oh my…
I’d already gotten one of the three blueprints when I beat him the first time though, so all I needed were the other two. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? Well, randomness is random, and I needed to run the mission another 18 times until the third and last blueprint finally decided to drop.
Fortunately I knew by then how to beat the guy quickly, so the bossfight itself wasn’t too big of a nuisance anymore, and you know what? I didn’t mind running the same mission over and over, because, as I said in the beginning, the gameplay loop is always the same anyway. I kill stuff and loot all the things while running towards the objective, then I fulfill that and move to extraction. Rinse and repeat.
Would the gameplay be more varied if those blueprints could drop anywhere? Possibly. But I’d definitely feel much less purposeful while playing, and chances are I still wouldn’t have completed my Rhino yet – which I love, by the way, in case you haven’t noticed.
Lakisa is also playing Warframe now, so naturally we did it all again to unlock Rhino for her too. Once more it took quite a lot of runs, and I still didn’t mind at all.
So yeah, if given the choice I’d always favour a system that lets me work towards my goals in a target-oriented way. It might result in a somewhat monotonous, maybe even tedious playstyle for a while, but I’m much more motivated when I have a specific purpose, and I also love achieving those goals myself instead of just trading for the stuff I want.
What about you?