Friday, November 26, 2010

Pace, Epicness, Adventure


A few days ago I wrote about my Perfect Dungeon Run. One difference to current dungeons in major MMORPGs is pace. Optimally, the pace in a dungeon changes. A perfect dungeon includes periods that are

- slow & thrilling
- slow & relaxing
- fast & relaxing
- fast & thrilling

Current dungeons in World of Warcraft are fast & relaxing. Every single second. The only reason this does not result in boredom is the brevity of the dungeons. And the carrot at the end. This is in contrast to raids that include slow & relaxing (trash) and fast & thrilling periods (boss encounters). Sometimes even fast & relaxing trash.

In the presented dungeon you have slow & thrilling periods while exploring the dungeon, fast & thrilling periods while running away from the goblin patrol or during combat, slow & relaxing periods while searching the room or resting and fast & relaxing combat against the insects or maybe the first goblin encounter.

Change of pace needs to be part of any experience that lasts longer than a few minutes. Otherwise boredom sets in. It is also helpful to have several gameplay concepts at work. If dps or heal is the only concept, boredom sets in even faster. Thus, the concepts of sight/sound/smelling/bag space/weight/illumination and during combat Block/CC/support/dps/interrupt/pulling/distance are important. They are not just copy/pasted from real life.

There exist a lot of interesting gameplay concepts, but it is sometimes hard to find them. Tetris was the result of an interesting concept that has almost nothing to do with any natural default. Most games, however, look at nature and transfer concepts. MMORPGs, of course, have always done this more than most games, because they started not as games, but as simulations of a supposed interesting experience: Overcoming challenges in a fantasy world.


Not every concept in real life is a good gameplay concept. Especially not if non-modified. This applies to wounds that drastically hinder one's capabilities or traveling for hours or days real time.

What a MMORPG basically does is to compress real life and modify it to be more fun - on a screen. The compression applies to time as well as to space: Compared to the size of your character, all things in a MMORPG are drastically smaller than in real life.
In fact, this has become almost a problem in Cataclysm-WoW, because Blizzard allowed the graphics engine to display far further into the distance. Suddenly you can see how close everything is. The fog was not only a graphical limitation; it also was part of a beneficial illusion.

The time compression can become problematic, because different compression factors are needed to create different experiences. It turns out, for example, that 'epicness' is difficult to create if players spend only 20 minutes on something. Any story your grandpa might have told you that lasted for less than 20 minutes didn't feel epic. And this also applies to any experience in a MMORPG. There are fundamental limitations for humans and any epic experience. And one of that limitation is a minimum investment of time.
There are no 20 minutes epic experiences. No matter how good the content/dungeon is.

This, however, does not mean that a MMORPG should not contain 20 minutes experiences - or even 10 minute experiences. In fact, all MMORPGs should! In addition to epic experiences that are broken up into segments that potentially last hours!

A MMORPG has to be as diverse as the players that are supposed to play it. And while achieving within any persistent social context is fun, it is ultimately inferior to achieving by experiencing epic adventures in a persistent social context.

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