So last week I talked about static parties and got a pretty positive response. Those who hadn't done static parties before, and there were certainly a lot of you, wanted to try them. Those that had done static parties advocated for them. That's all cool, but it leads to a really interesting question: Why do we even need the massive part of the MMORPG thing?
I've tread this ground before and keep coming back to it. If the only reason you play is to hang out with friends, PvP, or meet new people, then is the persistent world really necessary? Having played several non-massive online RPGs (Diablo, Phantasy Star Online, Neverwinter Nights, Monster Hunter, etc.), I honestly think that the persistent world is the second biggest reason, next to guilds, that MMORPGs suck.
Yeah, I'm sure there are few of you sharpening the teeth on your chainsaws and cleaning your deer rifles in preparation to hunt me down for muttering that, but put the arsenal aside for a minute and just think about it. You can meet people in a town hub or lobby. NWN was able to host 90 players on one server and some FPS games are capable of hosting 150 players at once! Portal together a bunch of instanced PvP capture points and you have RvR without the auto-attack snorefest that is current MMORPG combat. Even if an instance can only hold 64 players, what's the largest raid you've ever been in? 25? 40? Hell, you can even have auction houses with fully instanced games. There was really no reason why something like Diablo couldn't have let players sell the items that they acquired to one another through and auction house system. Well... Aside from the fact that the auction house hadn't even been invented at the time that Diablo 2 was released that is.
So we've already established that nothing is really lost in a fully instanced MORPG, but what is actually lost because of a persistent world? Well, mostly you lose individual bandwidth. MMORPG developers try to compensate for this by using expensive server clusters and some truly obtuse netcode. But even with the most cutting edge equipment and programming, you're still stuck with a tic based game. This means that much of the game is on autopilot in order to limit the amount of traffic both to and from the servers. Furthermore, persistent worlds dilute the actual content of the game with unnecessary downtime and travel time. How much time in an MMORPG do you just spend sitting on your ass waiting to heal? How much time do you spend just getting from one place to the next? Again, this is to help limit the amount of traffic to and from the servers. You also lose a considerable amount of what makes an RPG compelling in the first place. Primarily, you lose the story and the logistical planning. Since all you have to do is spam potions, heals, or sit around until your health regenerates, you don't have to plan ahead as to what you take with or how to approach this or that group of mobs. Since the game is just one large series of quest vendors, the only story you'll get is from the flavor text of the quests. That's a poor substitution for the branching story lines and dialogs of Morrowind or KOTOR.
With the heavy weights of the persistent world thrown off, online RPGs have the freedom to engage in storyline and bring back several elements that seem to have been lost from MMORPGs. Cut scenes, branching dialog, puzzles, damage that doesn't go away until you actually heal yourself, requiring character to eat and drink to stay alive, true real-time OR turn based combat, you get the picture.
Anyway, I'm sure that a few of you feel otherwise so please, explain to me exactly what it is that persistent worlds bring to the table. Please tell me the advantages of persistent worlds that make up for all that they remove from the game. In short, tell me why you think I'm wrong. I'm sure that there are many of you that do. Of course, many of you are holding on for that living, breathing, alternate reality to escape into forever. It will never happen.