Tenfold Hate

Do Gamers Take Technology For Granted?
November 12, 2007, 1:39 pm
Filed under: Gaming, MMORPGs

When I think of cool features I’d like to see in an MMORPG, the same thing tops my list each time: a living, breathing world that players have the ability to impact. In its earlier stages of development, Vanguard hinted at such a world without delivering. Even now, the mightily hyped Warhammer seems to be retreating from the promise of “WAR mattering” in this regard.

Doesn’t the blacksmith ever sleep? The poor bastard is slaving away at his anvil whether I log in at four in the afternoon or one o’clock in the morning. Is the farmer’s daughter condemned to a life standing stationary outside the barn door waiting for adventurers to deliver her another dozen wolf paws? There have been baby steps made on this front, but whether we’re razing forests or planting trees, sacking cities or building homes, I want to see games over the next five years move away from the predominantly static worlds we’ve become accustomed to.

This is a tricky subject however, because there comes a point when one group of player’s ability to alter the world can detract from another group of player’s enjoyment of it. The old “If my rivals sack my home city, where can I learn new skills and stock up on arrows?” problem. “If Guild L337 already killed the Minotaur King enslaving the village, what does that leave us peons to do but grind more kobolds in the swamp?” We deal with our fill of this kind of crap enough in real life, do we really want to contend with it in-game? Instancing is the immediate solution to the problem, but it’s a band aid on a shotgun wound that doesn’t bring us any closer to the day of truly seamless, player-impacted environments.

Are studios simply treating the types of hurdles typically faced in any creative endeavor as if they’re impenetrable obstacles? Is this naivete on my part as someone who knows little about game design, programming, and coding? Does technology need a few years to catch up with what we as gaming enthusiasts want out of our games? A horse can only go so fast no matter how skilled the jockey. Perhaps we’ve been too spoiled and have come to demand too much. Or maybe the bones we’re thrown here and there are enough to satiate our hunger for the time being.



I’ve pondered this myself. I wonder if this is a technology challenge or a design one?

Seems you have a continuum defined by two polar opposite experiences currently: The Guildwars/DDO (game lobby with instanced world) all the way to the Ultima/Eve type one continuous world.

Most games have attempted in various ways to effectively layer single player (even grouped) experiences on top of each other (i.e., everyone kills Hogger) rather than having worlds affected by player actions. There are few if any truly server-wide events and for good reason. If there was only one Hogger, 4999 other players on the server would have little to do.

Hard to say whether the devs just said, “Let’s just write a quest line that leads up to killing a named. Since everyone has to do it, we’ll just make it a fast respawn.”

From a single player perspective, it may make sense to progress through Hogger, but watching literally millions “kill” Hogger doesn’t seem too immersive to me. Makes sense from a player development perspective, but often I feel like I’m just looking over someoneelse’s shoulder while they play a different game.

Instancing for the bigger stuff solves the spawn camping problem, but doesn’t really address the core issue– implementing unique player specific goals or rewards in a massively multiplayer world.

Ironically, “kill ten rats” is probably the most truly immersive quest ever written– Rats are a problem (story), they multiply quickly (respawn, context appropriate) and they are not unique mobs! 😉

Comment by TheNut

Heh heh, I definitely agree with your “kill ten rats” observation. The core issue is, as you articulated perfectly, “implementing unique player specific goals in a massive multiplayer world.” I just can’t help but think studios are much closer to being able to do this from a technological standpoint than current MMORPG releases would imply. It’s kind of funny to direct players on supposedly epic quests or missions, only to have them feel like assembly line circus dogs queued up to jump through a hoop.

Comment by tenfoldhate

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