I will keep on rumbling from time to time on the topic of evolved PvE and how games should “reset” back to the EQ experience and grow it in new and innovative directions. Today I want to target the concepts of instances vs. an open world.
Most of the industry is claiming and probably rightfully so, that an MMO is defined by an open world. GW (1) is mostly instances and thus the sequel is transforming the game into a fully persistent open world. That said the irony in that regard across games nowadays is the fact that end-game content, or premium content as many will consider it – is usually instanced. It is more important for me to point out the irony and missing elements than to pose suggestions how to overcome the challenges. I offer that even with GW2’s most advanced new concepts – we are still doing things wrong. Breaking the molds is great – but more breaking is needed 😉
Lets examine what we know already about GW2. As far as we know – in GW2 every mob is treated as a “rift” mob. Excuse me for the RIFT reference. Meaning that even if you help someone to put down a mob – you both gain from that kill independently. That is definitely a must concept when addressing an open world cooperation. The doubt that I still have about all of this is the fact that it could work well when population is controlled. I doubt that scaling up or down the traffic of mobs can work well though when 2000 players are storming a geographically bound zone. It also relates to my issue with quick and mindless combat. I already mentioned it in my previous posts – that running along with say 200 other people killing things – is mindless and miss the target of making me feel special. Whether its a big boss or a swarm of soldiers – it just doesn’t work for me over time. Instances on the other hand – give us the notion of strategy, planned combat and bosses will fall after a long fight. Most people crave for bosses – yet bosses are the exception. In EQ, I would argue – some mobs in an open environment just felt like mini-bosses. But we didn’t have 200 people running after them. Its the combination then – of controlled population (thus with emphasis still on individual contribution), strategy (to overcome a real challenge) and (relatively long) boss-fight that would summarize what could be an ideal setting. In my humble opinion that is. That would be a worthy evolution of the table top D&D sessions which some of us can still remember – into the open world of MMOs.
Its easy though to give up I guess. Just take a look at Cryptic’s in development – Never Winter online D&D. While GW is going open, Cryptic gives up on open worlds. Its just too complicated and budget heavy – so I gather from their interviews. Given the shortcomings of the MMO genre – its not that unlikely that we will still give them a try soon. Though they are crazy to think I will play the game without a Druid! Going small is one thing – but restricting class option is plain silly. But never winter that.
The challenge I pose here to developers is to truly think “Public Instance”. I don’t have to play with 200 other players in one area. The world can stick me automatically with my guild and friends somehow. Its not an easy task – but heck I never promised it will be easy. I want to have real challenges. In the extreme a black and white situation of success. The consequence of failing would be the past 15 minutes gone to waste. I am not talking about setting me back in my progress. But having meaningful memorable events. The border between public and instanced should be somehow blur for a period of a fight or more. People should still meet new players, but without feeling always stack in a world war event. It could be nice sometime. But definitely not always. In my opinion a controlled population area is definitely not an instance in its current sense. Its a challenge. And maybe some game in the future will crack that PvE nut for us. More on that in the future …
Please leave here comments and ideas!