How do y'all feel about gameplay changing dramatically half-way through a game?
MMOs usually do it at the high end. In EQ or WoW, the player is expected to focus on raiding. In Shadowbane, the high end switches to RvR.
A number of successful single-player games have done it, too. Half-Life switches from human and humanoid enemies to strange alien enemies. Halo switches from the Covenant to the Flood.
In MMOs, I don't want my game to be narrowed to a fine point at the end, much less a sort of gameplay that bears little resemblance to what I've been enjoying for months. In Half-Life, I didn't like the alien levels. In Halo, I didn't like the Flood levels.
The thing is... I don't believe a game must stay the same the whole way through. I'm not against new goals and new gameplay elements emerging late in the game.
I think my problem with this sort of U-turn in a game is that what I'm given and enjoy in the beginning is later taken away. That's what shouldn't happen. It's alright to broaden the players' options and experiences, but don't force players to give up the elements they've become attached to.
In the case of Halo and Half-Life, the problem wasn't just that my old enemies and environments disappeared; my combat options were reduced. The Flood are always rushing toward you, and they don't let their guard down. The Flood levels included fewer weapons, fewer vantage points. As a result, fewer tactics worked against them. It's alright to reduce options sporadically, such as a particular tactic being useless against BossNPC#22 but being useful in the fights shortly following that one; but gameplay options shouldn't be reduced continuously.
In MMOs, early options and avenues almost completely disappear. In particular, the games are designed so that levelling and skill progression is the primary focus, then that progression stops entirely until the next expansion.
In an MMO, I think a better model is to encourage goals to change but never cease to offer familiar content and gameplay. In a level-based game, that's near impossible to apply universally. But I'm going for a more SWG/Halo type of power system, so maybe I can do better.
Anyway, what do you think? What am I missing?