Tenfold Hate

Will Instancing Rear Its Antisocial Head in V:SoH?
December 2, 2007, 12:07 am
Filed under: Vanguard: Saga of Heroes

A recent post by Vanguard developer Avarem on the Sony Vanguard forums reveals that the game’s first level 50 raid dungeon, Ancient Port Warehouse, could be instanced. On the surface, this may sound like bad news for diehard subscribers to the much maligned V-word. There they go, further watering down Vanguard and making it like every other fantasy MMO on the market. But I genuinely feel this is not their intent. There are a lot of features we’d like to see incorporated into MMORPGs that just aren’t technologically feasible quite yet. Let’s not forget that designers have to work with the tools they are given until the next wave of technology closes the gap even further between what can be done and what we can imagine.

I view anything out of most developers’ mouths–SOE or otherwise–with a good deal of healthy skepticism–but I think the way SOE is handling this will not spoil the open world feel that so many active Vanguard players hold dear. Let’s face it. With Vanguard’s as-yet-to-be-resolved hiccups, it’d probably be near impossible to negotiate your way around APW on a busy weekend night when you could potentially have 15+ groups (270+ players) concentrated in one area. Even if the server could handle it, your screen could very well become a slideshow–something pretty unwelcome when you’re in the middle of an important fight with 17 guildies reliant on your mad skills.

But make no mistake, this is not your granddaddy’s instancing. They are introducing a compelling twist that I think will maintain the game’s integrity. The instance will not be limited to one raid group. They’re shooting for instances that can hold about 10 raids simultaneously, thus negating that Skinner Box feel prevalent in so many other MMOs when you step through a dungeon door to find its corridors populated only by you, your closest acquaintances, and NPCs.

When the current Vanguard producer went on the most recent SOE propaganda-cast and threw out meaningless lines like “we’re bringing the sexy back,” I wanted to throttle my earphones and scream, “How about bringing tails to the hineys of your canine and feline avatars?” In my eyes, SOE has a lot to prove in their handling of this game.

Call me crazy, but I do think their proposed handling of APW is a very promising sign.



I hope they apply this to some of the other highly populated chunks in the game.

Comment by mightydar

Hmmm, while I think this is a good preventitive measure in the case of APW, I wouldn’t want to see instanced zones across Telon. I think its open world feel is one of the things Vanguard has going for it that every other fantasy MMO does not. Just look at Guild Wars. While it’s a very fun game, you never get that sense of participating in a living, breathing world because everything outside the city walls occurs in the vacuum of instanced play.

Comment by tenfoldhate

I’m sorry to say but I must disagree. Instances are a necessity endgame balancing and fairness.

Warhammer and LotRO are instituting a system of Public Quests which works more along the lines of open-world raiding that you’re asking for.
But make no mistake, instances are required for a the overall fairness of the community, and are here to stay.

Comment by Warzard

“Warhammer and LotRO are instituting a system of Public Quests which works more along the lines of open-world raiding that you’re asking for.
But make no mistake, instances are required for a the overall fairness of the community, and are here to stay”

If you want to see a good example of a game without instances, check out Eve. The Eve universe has no instances. When someone is running a “dungeon” in Eve, other players can do a radar-like scan to find the “dungeon” and break in on them at any time. The only time that players in Eve are completely cut off from the rest of the game is when they are docked in a space station.

The overall fairness of the game is that anything is fair in eve and players always have to expect the unexpected. If you really want the good loot drop from the “quest” you’re running, then be prepared to fight for it, and not just against the NPC’s.

So instances aren’t as necessary as you seem to think. In my opinion, instances are more like playing a LAN game rather than an MMO. Taking players out of the game continuity means they aren’t really in an MMO any more, right?

If the real problem is server load and lag caused by overcrowding, then the designers need to do some work on game content and game mechanics, rather than splitting off little pieces of the game into instances.

Comment by Swift Voyager

@ Swift: I definitely see your point. Though I’m not vehemently opposed to instancing, I’m of the mindset that designers need to “learn the rules so they can break them” rather than falling back on established game norms (e.g. instancing, raiding, level based progression) if they ever want to keep our niche of the gaming world exciting and relevant.

@ Warzard: I think for us as gamers to say “Game Mechanic X is necessary to keep a game fair and balanced” is a bit short-sighted. No doubt instancing is one of the most practical, established methods of solving potential in-game problems at this point in time, but think of how quickly games evolve. Devs should constantly be expanding boundaries and trying untested ways of solving problems, otherwise we’ll be playing the same tired old game five or ten years down the line. If designers weren’t occassionally asking themselves, “How can I do that better?” we might still be playing Adventure on the Atari 2600.

Comment by tenfoldhate

Five or ten years down the line? We’re already playing the same tired games.

I’m all for some ingenius dev team coming up with a new way to have compelling content for everyone. It’s just not happening yet. Evolution is slow. Gamers have zero attention span and are impatient. That hasn’t changed since Pong either.

What I like about instancing is it provides the ability to have scripted events, possibly some story-telling, and other things that qualify as “compelling” to me. I’m enjoying Vanguard but the couple dungeons I’ve been in so far have zero story (it’s probably hidden away in Diplomacy somewhere), zero scripted events, and the mobs just stand still waiting for you. *yawn* Actually that’s pretty much what WoW does too other than they do have scripted puzzles to get through, otherwise no story and static mobs waiting to be killed. At least LOTRO kicked it up a notch with events that give a sensation of urgency or just “oh hey, that was cool” that you don’t get otherwise. Certainly aren’t going to get anything like that in a wide open world where 20 guilds could be standing in line to whack the same mole.

Comment by Talyn

If you think about it, this article doesn’t really make any sense. Vanguard catered to hardcore players by design, but that plan blew up in the MMO’s face because there’s just not enough players that think the way hardcore players do.

Now Vanguard changes focus to more casual friendly approach to playing (i.e. Instancing) and now people are saying it’s a bad idea.

Well maybe hardcore players should stop considering what’s best for themselves, and start considering what’s best for the game’s survival.

Comment by Warzard

Ignore that last comment, it didn’t come out right, the way it’s supposed to.

Comment by Warzard

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