written by Fyren
It is no secret to anyone that I have been sinking many an hour into the excellent behemoth slaying game, Dauntless. The developers are very involved in the community, and the early access beta period is going pretty well for them. With the impending release of Monster Hunter World on Steam though, the good folks behind Dauntless should be a bit worried. Their only major competitor managed to top the steam charts this past week, just with pre-purchases; Monster Hunter World does not even release until next month. Where does this leave a free-to-play title like Dauntless? I find it leaves them focused and ready to tackle the future head on, but with a few hurdles in their way.
Many players of online games focus on what we like to call “The Endgame”. This is the part of the game, where you have completed most, if not all, of the content available and are now doing some repetitive task to eke out that little bit more from the title. This can be doing raids or dungeons, achievement hunting, collecting the best and rarest skins or dyes, or maybe getting that flashy title that no one else has. The concept of endgame is a strange one to be sure and the developers of Dauntless seem to agree. This is why they ditched the term endgame altogether, opting instead for something they call “The Evergame”. While I appreciate their optimism, I don’t think their vision of a constantly engaging evergame is quite realized yet. Though, I would imagine much of their vision is not yet realized with the game only being on version 0.4.5.
“…branching outward and upward toward the activities that will keep you playing for years”
The evergame in Dauntless at present, involves a handful of heroic encounters. These encounters rotate on a weekly basis, with only some being available at any given time. These encounters give slayers access to the top tier gear available in the game, including several special exotic items with added bonus effects like a war pike that shoots lasers or a helmet that allows the wearer to cheat death. The problem with this gear or equipment based progression is that players will always get through the content faster than a development team can make it. While I am not among the best players in the game, I still find that I am nearing the end of the progression curve. I have several, fully upgraded sets of the most powerful equipment available. What is there now?
Many players, myself included, find at this point that the challenge itself has become too low and the reward nearly non-existent. In other words, the stick is too short and the carrot is too small. I have encountered this several times before, mostly in MMORPGs, where I have raced to the end only to find that there is little to nothing there. Now, in defense of Phoenix Labs, they are churning out new content at a fairly reasonable rate; a new behemoth and a new weapon type, as well as new craftable grenades and new exotics slated for release to the public in the next 2 weeks or so. My worry though is that players will acquire and master all that is coming with this next big update in about a week. Far shorter a time than it took to develop said content.
“Expect opportunities to choose your destiny and find new ways to play instead of just pushing toward one or two endpoints”
The concept of endgame is meant to be endless. A treadmill on which the player can repeat the same things over and over, but still feel engaged, compelled and, most importantly, rewarded in doing so. World of Warcraft continues to do this well, with their increasing difficulties for dungeons and increasing rewards. They have an ever longer stick, with an ever larger carrot on the end. Developing such an endgame or evergame is difficult, and something that developers miss the mark on time and time again. There is no magic bullet to do it well. Perhaps in the future Phoenix Labs will implement a scaling system for their top-tier content, but that would also introduce problems to matchmaking, something that will become more of a concern when their competition launches on PC next month.
“We fully plan to support Dauntless with as much content as possible for as long as possible. We want to do this forever.”
I, for one, have no intention of playing the latest installment of Monster Hunter. I already have too many games to play and too little time. I am excited to see what comes next for Dauntless though. Not just with their huge incoming content patch, titled The Coming Storm, but also for the years to come. Phoenix Labs have made something pretty special here, and I hope it continues to be for a long time to come. Did I mention there is a hammer that shoots lava and fireballs?