The "I Win" button proposed in my last post was perhaps too extreme - effectively boosting you straight to the end of the game. However I do see a role for other time saving options that would allow players to bypass content if they wish.
Why not allows players to start a game at any level they want? Why not give players alternative "easy routes" to unlocking difficult parts of the game?
Such features would be very liberating for players - allowing each individual to choose their own level of challenge and time commitment. I think it would also enhance the longevity of a game. How? Because it allows new players to jump into a game at the latest liveliest part and not have to wallow in deserted five year old content.
Ok so you have some objections. I will try and deal with the ones that come to mind:
1. You need to grind through levels 1 to 80 in order to learn how to play your character. I'm sorry but I don't agree. I think someone who has played mmos before could probably pick up a pre-made end game character in a brand new game and get up to speed in a few days. In fact I fail to see how grinding through 80 levels of solo play prepares you properly for end game grouping anyway.
2. But even noobs who have never learned to mmo will jump to max level. You need the grind to filter these people out. If the level grind filtered out arrogant losers who assume that they are better than "noobs" I would vote for it. Sadly all it filters out is people who have neither time nor patience to get through it.
3. I spent months levelling and equipping my character. You are devaluing my efforts by introducing easy mode for other players. This is a slightly trickier argument. I know that the real value of the pixellated rewards you get in an mmo stems from the effort involved in getting them. I guess the answer to this is that you must decide yourself what challenges you want to take on and you will know in yourself what you achieve and don't achieve. Why do you need to artificially limit someone else just to affirm yourself? I am prepared however to make a concession on this one - I would allow cosmetic differentiation (perhaps titles or fancier looking gear) for those who do it the hard way. The easy mode stuff should be just as powerful but perhaps not as pretty looking.
4. But this is a pvp game. You are giving that new player an unfair advantage by letting them have instant access to high level skills and equipment. To answer this I think you need to differentiate between games where pvp is a contest with no real impact on the game world (like WOW ) or games in which pvp is integral to the control of territory and resources (like EVE). In a game like WOW I do not see any point in pvp contests between players of unequal level. I think that allowing people instant access to full gear and equipment would only enhance pvp in these games. On the other hand in a game like EVE skills and equipment are just another of the resources that underpin the whole foundation of the game so perhaps it would be wrong to give people an easy route to power in these cases.
4. I played a game once that had an exploit that made it too easy. There was no challenege left in the game and I quickly lost interest. With few exceptions MMOs are grown up games for grown up people. you can make your own decision as to what challenges you want to undertake and what challenges you want to skip. I am not saying easy mode should be compulsory just that it be an option.
5. Aren't there plenty of free MMOs using rmt which allow this anyway and aren't they all boring grindfests. Yes and yes. I think there is a fundamental business flaw in the free to play / pay for advancement model. There is a huge moral hazard that encourages game developers to make the free gameplay as boring as possible so that people will gladly pay to bypass it. Games should be made as entertaining as possible so people will pay to play them not pay to skip them. For this reason I think the "easy mode button" has to be free to use.