Thursday, October 25, 2012

Getting outside

The people who play MMOs a lot are regularly thought to never get outside.  It turns out isn't entirely true but isn't entirely wrong either.  In Mists of Pandaria Blizzard made a big effort to change that image; instead of just sitting in the cities teleporting to dungeons now and then the players are very strongly encouraged to get outside a bit.  Outside in WOW rather than outside in real life, mind you, but it is a start.  The two main mechanisms for doing this were reputation grinds and Spirits of Harmony (SOH).  All kinds of gear and recipes are gated by reputation which 'forces' people to do enormous numbers of daily quests.  Crafting is also gated by SOH which are found by grinding in the outside world though dailies do end up giving the player a small supply of SOH to work with.

This certainly does get people out in the world.  When I do dailies I see people all the time doing the same tasks I am doing and I actually fly places rather than just sit around in the main city waiting for a teleport.  The questions I have are why this choice was made and does it actually make the game more fun?  I remember the old days of spending 30 minutes just to get to the entrance of Maraudon and then having one person leave the group; we sure spent a lot of time wandering around the world but it was mostly just an aggravation rather than some kind of panacea.  The same applies to fetching Aqual Quintessence in order to raid Molten Core - I spent many hours wandering through the far reaches of Azshara to get my bucket of water but I don't know that doing so was much fun!

Most likely this change in philosophy came from people complaining that the world in WOW no longer resembled a believable fantasy setting but instead just a loading screen for dungeons.  Roleplaying and immersion are harder to achieve when all you do is log in and hit a button to be transported to a far away dungeon to blow things up whereupon you will be teleported home again.  I am afraid though that the idea of a living, immersive world being the core of WOW is long dead and cannot be resurrected.  Here is the problem:  WOW is built around a gear grind.  Every profession, dungeon, raid, or pvp encounter is designed around progression.  The world is very obviously built around getting more powerful at a steady, controlled rate.  An immersive, interesting world cannot be one where every activity is controlled to provide a predictable, steady stream of numerical rewards.

You know what really reflects an immersive world?  Quests, tons of them.  Pet battles.  Wandering rare monsters that don't drop much of consequence.  Obscure factions that provide little or nothing in terms of power rewards.  I had a blast doing the questline to open the AQ dungeons long after those dungeons were entirely irrelevant in terms of reward.  There are players out there doing these things just for fun and that is where the 'being part of the world' experience comes in.  As soon as everything is measured on the metric of power/time that world vanishes in a puff of optimization.

The solution to getting players out in the world and enjoying it is NOT to put numerical rewards out there.  Instead there should be interesting things to do that have practically no reward at all.  Let those that want to gear up do so in ways that they enjoy and leave the roleplaying and exploring to those who are looking for exactly that.  Setting up players who want to optimize power to need huge amounts of utterly trivial, extremely repetitive questing is just going to piss them off.

No comments:

Post a Comment