There were a couple comments in this post (When the Treadmill Moves With You) that I wanted to break out into another blog post, instead of it getting buried in the comments.
Werit said “Eve, UO and SWG all have grinds but they are just disguised.” I happen to agree with that. I didn’t play UO, so disqualify that from future comments, but Eve and SWG certainly had grinds. The difference for me, though, is that they weren’t level grinds. I could jump into either game, or have friends join the game after me, and be able to fight together fairly quickly. Sure, the veteran would be stronger in many ways, but it didn’t prevent the newcomer from participating in a significant, although limited, role. Tackling in Eve is a perfect example. A new Eve player can skill up very quickly to join their friends virtually anywhere in the game and perform a very important role in any PvP operation. It doesn’t take much longer to be able to contribute something to mission running with friends, even if they’ve been in the game for a long time. I used to salvage behind friends running level 4 missions, and they’d give me a cut of the salvage. I got to see level 4 missions close up, I got great loot, they saved a lot of time by not having to come back and salvage, and I got to hang out with friends who were many millions of skill points ahead of me.
So, while I agree with Werit that there are certainly grinds in Eve, it doesn’t prevent me from playing with friends who aren’t the same level. I have examples of successfully playing with friends in SWG who were vastly different skill levels (and also being able to skill up as a crafter and make a contribution to the economy fairly quickly), but in the interests of brevity, I’ll just say it was more possible in SWG than level-based MMO’s.
I started thinking about that when Snafzg said (also in the comments in my blog post linked above) “I would care much less about levels if the few MMO friends I do have didn’t level way past me in such short periods of time due to varying play schedules.”
I’m not going to sit here and argue that Eve and SWG, both skill-based systems, are somehow the perfect solution for treadmills, grinding, or levels. Both games did make it easier (or should I say possible?) to play with friends who started playing long before or long after you started playing. That just can’t happen in EQ, or DAoC, or WoW. And I’m not sure how much that can happen in Warhammer.
I think Bildo’s right that Warhammer does have an advantage over EQ/EQ2 and WoW. He mentioned the variety of rewards you get while leveling, and how you’re working for a variety of goals while leveling that will hopefully make the experience a little more enjoyable and less Ding-Focused.
Plus, I think WAR has an additional advantage. With an endgame focused on realm versus realm warfare, players can participate regardless of their gear. You don’t have to be at a certain point in a raid progression, wearing a specific set of gear, with an established DPS or healing baseline. Does it help if you’re uber? Sure! But when the enemy is beating on the doors of your keep, all are welcome in realm defense.
So, the issue of falling behind your friends in level still exists in Warhammer, but if you’re willing to work through that to reach the level cap, you’ll be able to participate in RvR with your friends on a fairly equal footing, at least open-field RvR. Instanced/Scenario PvP might end up with static groups joining, and gear mattering, more than fights around keeps with variable numbers of participants. But open-field RvR, open to anyone who shows up at the keep or anyone who joins the warband, should provide a fairly equal end-game playing field compared to dungeon-focused raiding.