Convenience vs. Realism (part 2)

<< Part 1

The problem lies in that fact they rely too much on making certain things easy, reducing lasting appeal and replay value. There is a huge difference between making a gaming experience convenient for a gamer, and making it trivially easy. While making something easy does make it more convenient, the opposite is not true. There is a way to make a task convenient but not easy, but why would you want to go through the trouble?

Accomplishing a task needs to be meaningful to have a lasting effect on the gamer. I got more satisfaction out of completing a 15man UBRS run with X number of wipes then I did when I received my “Champion of the Frozen Waste” title (for completing all of the major pve content in Wrath).

EQ2 gamers have recently applauded SOE for releasing an expansion pack which introduced extremely hard content, content that each player is proud of after successfully completing it. The same has been said for Mines of Moria (but to a lesser degree), while EQ and FFXI have always had extremely hard content. Making something,  any part of Budgeted Gaming that is, easier compromises too much of the basic principals of what a mmorpg is.  Lets for time being examine a major piece (it shows up twice) of Budgeted Gaming, travel, and see if it is the right place to add convenience for the gamer.

Travel

First off, lets get one thing straight, travel IS good in an mmorpg. Without beating around the bush, in the six items I listed above, travel is not generally what needs reduced and I’ll tell you why. Travel..

  • increases the perceived size and scope of the world
  • makes a task appear slightly more dangerous
  • encourages exploration
  • allows your world to retain it’s mystique and perceived danger
  • clearly draws a line between city hubs and other areas of the game
  • reduces random ganking
  • allows down time in game to socialize
  • creates anticipation

A side benefit from creating disconnects from wilderness and city areas is that the vast majority of the player base will spend it’s time in town. So if a party decides to go exploring, the likelihood of meeting another gamer out in that area is very rare. It essentially compartmentalizes the game to make sudo private zones for players.

Now you may say, “hey Vanguard tried large travel times and it didn’t work!”. That statement is untrue to a certain extent. It did have large travel times since the game world was extremely large, but Vanguard’s initial problem (one of at least) was the starter zones were too spread out. One should not be penalized with a 40min run across harsh wilderness at level 1 just because he decided to roll an human while his friend decided to roll a wood elf. The game should start small, local, and allow it’s scope to expand as the player increases in level / power / meta levels ect.

Conversely Guild Wars completely eliminated travel by allow the gamer to teleport / instantly travel / what ever to any part of the game he had already visited. While initially extremely useful and great for efficiency, there was little to no ingame socialization and many gamers complained about the world feeling very small, even though it could be argued GW has one of the larger total landmasses to explore of any game.

The important thing to note is how to make travel convenient without eliminating it. I honestly don’t think summoning or teleporting is necessarily a good thing for an mmorpg. Instant travel to a location far outside of a dungeon (maybe a town, quest hub ect…) which still requires some dangerous travel on foot is most ideal for Budgeted Gaming.

The dungeon itself shouldn’t be the main focal of the play session for the group, getting to the dungeon needs to be part of the experience too. Make travel meaningful and fun by adding alternate routes, secret passages, dangerous chasms or beautiful scenery; the important thing is travel needs to be a part of the game, part of the session experience and treated just as important as any normal game content.

An example, while originally I enjoyed WoW’s flying mounts I noticed I spent less and less time enjoying the world and more time accomplishing tasks. This was where, I believe at least, WoW stopped being a world and began being a game in my eyes. Flying mounts erased any mystique, scope, or danger to a zones. 

So what about leaving a dungeon, how should that be handled? This is the one case where I believe instant travel to town in necessary, and thankfully most mmorpgs agree. Getting out of a game is not a fun exercise and any method to expedite that process should be made. This frees up time for the gamer to finish book keeping before logging off without having to spend time traveling back to town.

 Part 3>>

(Next time, the two most under rated peices of mmorpgs, assessing what to do and finding a group for it!!)

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6 Responses to “Convenience vs. Realism (part 2)”

  1. […] Aphelion An MMORPG Design Blog « How to Write Great Design Docs Convenience vs. Realism (part 2) […]

  2. Good read so far! I’d not thought of travel in that way before.

  3. Thanks, I’m a strong believer that while travel shouldn’t be tedious, it should be an integral part of the game – maybe a meta game to an extent.

    -D^t

  4. Some nice thinking here.

    I also feel that travel is underappreciated in MMORPGs today, though with some slight differences in how I got there. In particular, I focus on two meta-level effects that eliminating or reducing instant travel could have:

    * greater sense of immersion in the gameworld
    * increased opportunities for player-player interaction

    Safe roads and danger off the beaten track helps create memories of “safe” places and dangers braved.

    And player-player interaction is useful not only for simple socialization, it also promotes economic behavior.

    Whether these trump the impatience that some gamers feel at not being able to meet friends or access content immediately… that’s a question I can’t answer. It’s worth thinking about, though, as the blog post above does nicely.

  5. Thanks Flatfingers, I wish I could eloquently express my ideas as well you sometimes. ^^

    Maybe this falls back into the “play in” vs. “live in” type player discussion we had, and which seems to be predominant across the mmo landscape currently.

    -D^t

  6. […] Once into the quests I noticed on an escort mission (yes a real escort quest inside a mini solo dungeon, is this really a FF mmo?) that the world really is amazingly large and travel is non-trivial. Both concepts very FFXI – but wait – I can teleport between “hubs” in the world and not need a WHM? With this I think SE really hit the mark here balancing scale and convince. […]

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