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General Discussion

General Discussion 

News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: Up to 90% of MMO Real Estate is Wasted

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Apprentice Member

Joined: 6/21/13
Posts: 40

7/06/13 4:12:36 PM#101

Cant help but feel upset. Are you serious Mark? 

You're trying to create an environment that will give players the feeling they're in an open virtual world. Will there be areas and content of the world not seen or used as much as other areas or content? Yes, of course! Its supposed to be another world. Thats like creating a bridge so ppl have a platform to walk across and complain that the legs of the bridge are not stepped on as much as the rest of the bridge. The fact that you don't see it that way really shows me what your vision of a mmo should be. 


Elite Member

Joined: 10/12/04
Posts: 874

Make worlds not stories

7/06/13 4:12:43 PM#102
Originally posted by Bjelar

"Dynamic content and more horizontal, rather than vertical, progression is one way to do this."

Why can't we just have a world with bunnies and elder dragons and players from lvl 1 to 80 in the same zone? We don't need dynamic content or more horizontal progression for that. We just need lvl 1s to be careful, sneak around for an apropriate prey or look for powerful friends/ clans to help them.

^This.. is the right way to see this.

The problem only arose after devs started tiering everything, and after made levelling too fast. It is not vertical progression in itself that is the problem, but rather that vertical progression is no longer the game but something to be done with asap before You start playing the game. Also horitontal progression often leads to very generic and boring game from a rpg perspective.

Make zones for a broad range of levels, and levelling the actual game, and those problems will solve themselves once again. Devs made this problem IMO and trying to fix it with horizontal progression and the fix might work, but vertical progression was never the problem, only how it is beeing used.

"I am my connectome"


Advanced Member

Joined: 8/11/08
Posts: 1686

All it takes for evil to succeed is for the good to stand by and do nothing

7/06/13 4:27:04 PM#103

Originally posted by mmoguy43

If other MMOs are supposedly wasting millions on their world content (all of which are much larger than Firefall's) then Firefall must be wasting millions in the constant redesigning of the whole game. Right?

Where's the article about that?

Originally posted by SoMuchMass

This sounds a lot like FireFall will have a boring world with limited zones.  This article sounds like an excuse as to why there won't be many zones in the game.  Developers do this often and try to point out why a weakness in their game is actually a strength.  Just like when GW2 stated "that the whole game is endgame", we all know how that turned out.

A big diverse world makes a game significantly better even if players don't visit it often, especially in "MMO'ish" games.  In the real world I love my town, I don't go to every part of it, but doesn't mean I don't want it there.

Limited zones makes a game feel like a lobby.  Size is not the issue, it is the diversity and uniqueness of each zone.  If this isn't there in an MMO, people will get bored quickly.




Also red5 have recently created a specific 'tutorial zone'(one that almost contains no useful information) which u burn through once or not at all and are never allowed to visit again.


Hard Core Member

Joined: 2/08/08
Posts: 670

Try not! Do or do not. There is no try.

7/06/13 4:37:32 PM#104
Originally posted by GeezerGamer
Originally posted by fiontar

Guildwars 2 took some very important steps in the right direction with level scaling to allow most of the world to remain viable content once you reach the level cap.

However, they stopped short of the potential of the system they pioneered in a way that makes you want to shake the current developers until they show some signs of intelligence and comprehension.

The problem with GW2 is that level scaling is not aggressive enough, which means that lower level zones are much easier than higher level ones, even if the gap is exponentially more narrow than in a traditional MMO.

If scaling really made low level zones almost as challenging as high level zones, they could then make them almost as rewarding to play in. This was the stated goal while the game was in development. Sometime around Fall of 2011, a year before release, they were saying that scaling would allow you to earn XP and level appropriate loot almost as efficiently in low level zones as in high level zones as a level 80 character.

If they had carried through with this, the entire world would be equally playable and equally rewarding even with a level cap character. They had the solution to the problem highlighted in this article with in grasp and they  blew it. I still can comprehend why, I guess some of the developers were just too afraid to fully embrace the new paradigm that GW2 proposed, but only partially brought to reality.

I don't agree with this. I think forcing a down leveling is a kick in the balls to time and effort you put into leveling UP your character. And in one cheap ass mechanic, they take it all away. I don't want to have a level 10 zone "Equally Playable" Why the hell should I bother leveling then?

They don't take it all away. You still keep all your skills, you keep all your gear (with a leveling down of gear, but still better), you even get loot in those zones equal to your max level (gear wise). I think more MMOs (especially) pvp server MMOs should implement this to relieve griefing and create a more equal playing field. 


Advanced Member

Joined: 6/01/04
Posts: 3205

7/06/13 4:53:46 PM#105
Originally posted by Sanguinelust
I can't remember if Anarchy Online had one when it came out

AO had the backyards at launch. Sometime around or after Notum Wars is when they gave a tutorial zone.

There are 3 types of people in the world.
1.) Those who make things happen
2.) Those who watch things happen
3.) And those who wonder "What the %#*& just happened?!"


Novice Member

Joined: 8/30/04
Posts: 331

7/06/13 5:06:13 PM#106

I'm sorry but I just can't agree with this opinion piece as I feel it's too shallow to be qualified.

i do not believe that territory is under used in games, merely becomes so at different points in time. In the early launch days of games, the sheer volume of new joiners and first adopters mean thee tutorials and starter zones will get the lions share of foot traffic. Of course these zones become less relevant as the new players dwindle and the last the over but by this point they have arguably returned their design value.

many games already have design systems to promote the wider exploration of zones through POI's, deeds and achievements and its up to the player ultimately to decide their preferred play style such s content burners or explorers.

But then you look at games such as EVE and GW2 who manage to keep zones relevant as you scale so we already have examples of devs who are tackling this cyclical issue of zone population.


maybe the answer is to have broader zone level ranges. What if we stopped having 50-100 levels which levels roughly covering 10 per area nod broadened them either cover a wider range of mixed difficulty or made games with only 10 levels and differing systems to give gamers that sense of progress and achievement?

For me personally I love it when devs add new zones to explore and would rather they did this at the high end levels to keep me playing rather than end game raids and dungeons, but this is my own particular play style.

i also appreciate the innovation of wow remapping its earlier zones through climatic events to essential rebrand them and provide a new early level experience. Perhaps more games should adopt this fresh respray route rather than just a new content strategy?


To err is play is divine


Novice Member

Joined: 6/11/05
Posts: 633

7/06/13 5:09:32 PM#107
Sorry but the premise seems wrong. Zone creation cannot be a set % of the budget. Just compare eve , swtor and some 08/15 asia grinder. They clearly have all vastly different budget allocations. Furthermore consider reusing assets for additional zones -it means the first zones will cost much more to produce then the next one. Additionally the creation cost will also depend mostly on tools, shitty tools will make it more expensive. That aside i would really love to see how you calculate the cost for a zone

Pi*1337/100 = 42


Bitter Vet™

Joined: 9/13/06
Posts: 20039

Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions. Pvbs 18:2, NIV

7/06/13 5:09:53 PM#108

Actually, I recall almost every detail from Talking Island, the starting zone in Lineage 1 then again in Lineage 2.

If I think carefully, I can recall almost every zone from not only Lineage 1, but DAOC as well.

Why? Because I spent a lot of time in them, either through a slower leveling curve, or their content was just plain different depending which class I chose to play.

It is true, current theme park design is seriously flawed, unless you feel like rerunning it in alts, you don't experience it very much.  And many games allow respecing, and multi-classing meaning you don't need to create as many alts these days.

So sure, time for some "new" designs, oh you know, maybe along the lines of how UO or EVE and some others were designed?

I'm wondering if Mark really played any other style game besides the standard theme park started by EQ and perfected by Blizzard.

As others mentioned, even today there's some creative solutions to the problem as evidenced in GW2 and some others.

I myself prefer virtual worlds, therefore I'd like the same land mass to be equally useful to all players at all times, but there are many who prefer to play more of a game...and in fact frequently you'll hear complaints on these forums (most recently regarding Neverwinter) by people saying there's no need to spend any money on the "world", just give them a way to directly jump from one dungeon to another.


Arrogant, Condescending, Dismissive, Elitist, "Meany", you speak as if these are bad things?
Still currently "subscribed" to EVE, and only EVE!!!
"This is the most intelligent, well qualified and articulate response to a post I have ever seen on these forums. It's a shame most people here won't have the attention span to read past the second line." - Anon


Novice Member

Joined: 9/22/12
Posts: 374

7/06/13 6:06:26 PM#109
Originally posted by black_isle
Is this a weekly Firefall advertisement column or just a dev writing a general column who also happens to be working on a game? This shameless advertising disguised as a column is becoming very irritating. 


This is nothing more than a shameless Firefall plug.  I've played Firefall and the game is crap.  There is no content, no open world PvP, no freedom, no permanent world changes, no player affect on the environment, no housing, no customization.

This Red 5 studios talks the talk, but certainly can't walk the walk.

I am just so sick of the MMO game industry.  Every company has 1 or 2 "ex-WoW' devs and they all spew the same crap just like this guy is.

How many of you have played Firefall?  Did you know that in Firefall every time you craft an item your next crafted item takes one to ten times longer to craft?  I spent 20 minutes crafting once.  And by 20 minutes crafting I mean there was a 20 minute timer to craft one item.  Of course Red 5, being the visionaries they are, provided a button where I could pay real life money to instantly finish my crafting!

These companies are sickening honestly.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 3/04/04
Posts: 34

7/06/13 6:16:11 PM#110

You know. I've been saying this same for past 10 years or so. I don't really get why developers insist on creating level based enemies and zones as opposed to tiered enemies. Sure sidekicking that exists in some games is a step to right direction but the fact remains that rewards in lower level zones are often less even if you get sidekicked simply because lower level enemies are mechanically easier.


Tiered system is much better since you basically just split the content into 3-4 difficulty tiers based on the expected difficulty and adjust the rewards based on that. Player levels change but enemies are without levels. They should however learn more skills based player level to match increased power and versatility of a higher level player (assuming levels are used to learn skills and spells). We all know that because of limited resources higher level enemies currently are just reskins of existing ones anyway so why not focus resources on making *all* zones and *all* enemies playable and rewarding regardless of the player's level.


Each zone can have a theme and unique set of rewards and because no zone is better than the other everyone should be happy. This naturally mandates that rewards are without levels as well. This is actually a good thing since it means that resources spent on leveled gear is freed and all skins are available for all levels. You would still have rare gear from tougher content, time consuming scavenger hunts etc etc. and the reward from foes could increase based on the player level especially if there are some things that require more resources on a higher level.

- Beregar


Novice Member

Joined: 10/01/09
Posts: 2045

7/06/13 6:32:21 PM#111

I've posted about this exact topic many times, mostly pieces comparing Guild Wars 2's world building model with those of the traditional World of Warcraft models.  As a developer of a WoW type game, it must be so sad to see so much of your hard work get rushed through by players in a matter of hours only for it never to be relevant to them again.  This applies both to leveling zones within the current release of the game as well as all level capped content across expansions.  

Concerning open world leveling content, it is as the author says; all of the zones and quests and stories that take place there comprise the vast majority of the current game's content at any given time.  Yet, players fly through it in the vast minority of their overall playing time.  Once they out-level the zone, they have little to no reason to ever return.  What's more, they're often left with an extremely small portion of the game's overall content to replay over and over again.  This portion has come to be known as "end game."  It's clear to see how this is not optimal for either the developers or the players.  

Even then, an expansion comes along and renders all that end game content you've been playing for months obsolete.  All those dungeons and raids become useless, not only from a progression stand point, but also from a fun stand point.  If a group returns to a classic dungeon or raid in their new overpowered gear at their new level, the encounters become completely trivialized.  Many of the intended mechanics can be ignored.  The life is sucked right out of them.  

Have you ever had a zone you really loved playing in that you wished you could go back to?  Have you ever wanted to run a classic dungeon for fun, or wished the game still provided you with a progression reason to run that dungeon?  In most WoW-model games, you just can't.  That content essentially doesn't exist for you anymore.  

That's when I look at GW2 and see some promise.  Yes, it relies on downleveling mechanics, which the author of this article cites as "unsatisfying" -- and maybe there is a better way for the future -- but it's a start.  GW2's open world is as relevant as any game's I've ever played a year after its release.  Aside from the gameplay that occurs in the open world, which I personally find more fun and entertaining than any other MMO, every zone remains relevant and playable to characters of all levels. More importantly, the developers constantly guide players to various open world zones as part of the game's ongoing living narrative.  If you really love a zone in GW2, chance are you can easily spend hundreds of hours in it, not just the half-dozen or so it takes to level through it.  

Finally, there's the instanced dungeon content.  Many of what would be considered the "end game" dungeons already scale players down to levels below the level 80 cap.  One's level in dungeons, I think, is something players have learned to ignore.  As it stands, it looks like the current dungeons are primed to remain relevant for many years down the road.  If an expansion is to hit GW2, and the level cap increases, players will still be able to run the current dungeons for their specific rewards and still be presented with a relevant challenge.   

Now I'm not saying GW2's system is perfect.  There are many flaws that I don't have time to get into right now; but compared to something like WoW, on the topic of keeping 100% of the developed content relevant, GW2 has made tremendous strides.  

Imagine being able to play Blackwing Lair, or Molten Core, or AQ40, or Strat, Scholomance, Dire Maul, UBRS, Karazhan, Serpentshrine Caverns, Tempest Keep, Mount Hyjal or any of the other vanilla, Burning Crusade, and Wrath of the Lich King dungeons and raids today.  Imagine them still being difficult, still something worth bragging about, and still providing relevant rewards.  How HUGE would WoW be now?   Instead, WoW always remains almost exactly the same size, because, for every bit of content that is added, a similar amount of content is then swept aside never to be played again.


I had to edit to say that, even though I love this guy's design theory (probably because it always seems to precisely match my own), I am now much less inclined to check out this Firefall game.  Sure, he succeeded in getting it into my field of view, but that's not saying much in today's market; there are dozens of MMOs that I at least know about.  If you want to write a design column because you believe in that design and you want to get it out there, great.  Do that.  If what you have to say is well-received, you'll develop a small crowd of followers.  If you want to eventually make it known that you're also developing your own game, that's fine too.  But right now, by tagging on a little pitch about your game at the end of every article, it makes it look like the entire article was one long sales pitch, which not only makes the reader feel somewhat duped (and therefore inclined to angrily resist your pitch entirely), but it also diminishes the value of everything you had to say.  We're left wondering if the first 90% of the article's content has been rendered obsolete, so to speak.  


Apprentice Member

Joined: 3/28/08
Posts: 17

7/06/13 10:32:46 PM#112
It may seem like wasted money but those zones get the people to the end game zones (where they spend 90% of their time.) I'm sure those end game zones cost just as much as the noob zones but the time spent in those makes up for the lack of time spent in the noob areas. I'm sure it all evens out somewhere or we wouldn't have MMO's.

Novice Member

Joined: 6/30/13
Posts: 15

7/07/13 12:33:10 AM#113

I agree with Mark that something needs to be done industry wide for dynamic gameplay. however the environment isn't the solution in and of itself. And DEFINTIELY low level zones are played OVER AND OVER again. I made a TON of characters over the course of my WoW days, and EQ2, and so many others. I honestly feel in MMO's that the real problem is NOT the dynamic play. Its the CONNECTION TO YOUR CHARACTER AND ENVIRONMENT.  I still feel Firefall and most MMO's out there today completely miss the mark on character connection. The RPG element of the game, where the story plays out and your character creates bonds with NPC's and other Characters based on love, hate, sadness and loss, or joy. its just not there. I mean imagine an MMO, where regularly through the game you encounter cut scenes and moments akin to Aerith dying in FF7, or Raiden saving your characters hind end in Metal Gear, or even Dom dying in Gears of War in a heroic explosion....

What makes a great RPG is the emotional connection to the characters and moments. There are ALL KINDS of games in the world. And each kind of game sells if its done in a way that creates a NEED for the player to play. An emotional attachment.  I agree that budgets are overinflated for a MMO player base worldwide that is for the most part disrespectful, unwilling to pay, and undeserving.

However, games like Firefall (which please Mark, stop plugging your game so hard, its like every 2 days on here and its getting embarrassing, why cant you create a world event in Firefall or a game world for that matter, that creates enough buzz on its own that you don't have to use a second JOB to advertise.),  anyway, games like firefall are solid enough, but still lack the ability to make the player WANT to save the world. Or WANT take that next step. There are no levels, true enough, but the one problem with that is that the game itself feels static a lot of the time. You know that the creatures and the enemies are tapered to your level. That the game doesn't advance, YOU advance.

My MMA instructor once said to me (as I threw up from a concussion), we only ever get as good as our opponents. Leveled worlds might be more expensive, but they have one thing a non leveled world doesn't.... dynamic difficulty. And sorry Mark, but, more enemies does not equal more difficulty. Firefall is always 100 enemies against you, and that is just plain getting old the more I play.  If you want to make a great game, you need to create a true balance. There is a few ways to do this, but I'm not in the mood to write an novel on here.

The most important thing about it is this, the FTP model is destroying the gaming industry by creating the monster we call FREE. Its cheapening the industry in jobs, talent, and completed projects; in a genre that doesn't need a million mediocre games. It needs a few GOOD games everyone can enjoy.

On any Friday night, it costs 40 dollars to take a date to the movies, easily. Why do we allow players to tell us they cant spend 12 or 15 dollars in 30 days to play something for hundreds of hours?  Time to go back to traditional game design models, utilizing new systems for dynamic environments, and truly dynamic leveling, and placing the responsibility for originality, dynamics, and quality squarely back on the developers, who's job it is to create a world that is truly entertaining. THE WHOLE GAME is important. Not just dynamics. This includes emotional attachment to a character, story, and if your going to voice act it, USE GOOD ACTING. Don't use craptastic acting like Guild Wars 2 did.

In the scheme of things, the world of game design will play out the failings and ruin some great IP's but eventually come to a realization on what works and what doesn't. But hopefully a designer soon will bring back emotional connections, and create a solid system of dynamic leveling to gameplay.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 7/04/11
Posts: 2034

7/07/13 1:42:37 AM#114
Originally posted by jojotheduck
It may seem like wasted money but those zones get the people to the end game zones (where they spend 90% of their time.) I'm sure those end game zones cost just as much as the noob zones but the time spent in those makes up for the lack of time spent in the noob areas. I'm sure it all evens out somewhere or we wouldn't have MMO's.

They spend 90% of their time there because they have to, the rest of the game world is useless to them.

Survivor of the great MMORPG Famine of 2011


Novice Member

Joined: 3/22/13
Posts: 1

7/07/13 2:52:03 AM#115

Very interesting article!

But please stop suggesting that flawed game design in the form of a strictly linear zone progression is a defining characteristic of an MMORPG. It is not. For example compare SW:TOR to SWG.


Elite Member

Joined: 5/24/10
Posts: 1600

7/07/13 3:02:22 AM#116

Im sorry but this mob scaling thing fails miserably.  It is NOT a good system.  Part of playing ANY rpg. MMO or not is the feeling of your character getting more powerful.  If when you enter and old zone the mobs are just as hard as the new zone then, all of a sudden it becomes both stupid, and pointless to go to new zones.  Why should i travel to a new a place when i can just stay in the same area and kill the same mobs whose spawns i know and tricks i know and get the same XP?

Oblivion had one of the most universally hated systems and it was pretty much as Mark Kern described.

The solution is much simpler.  Do what EQ did.  Have high level mobs the run around the zone that low level players have to be weary of.  And stop making every zone only encompass a certain level range.  There is no reason a section deep in the zone can't have level 30 mobs in it if its normall a 1-10 zone.  So what if 10% of the zone is used for higher level mobs.  Its gives people a reason to come back.  I used to go back and kill Kizdean Gix in west commonlands in EQ1 just for shits n gigiles, help out the n00bs, whatever reason i wanted ot.

Guess what you can also do.  Attach higher level dungeons to the lower level zones!  Holy crap the thought!.  Yes, amazing, a level 1-10 zone could easily have a set of goblin caves filled with mid 20's goblins, Who woulda thunk it.


"The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently."

- Friedrich Nietzsche


Apprentice Member

Joined: 7/04/11
Posts: 2034

7/07/13 3:10:32 AM#117
Originally posted by whbeard

Very interesting article!

But please stop suggesting that flawed game design in the form of a strictly linear zone progression is a defining characteristic of an MMORPG. It is not. For example compare SW:TOR to SWG.

One design is inferior to the other, so it is a flaw. Linear games are ephemeral compared to Games with horizontal progression or more activities in the game world.

Survivor of the great MMORPG Famine of 2011


Novice Member

Joined: 10/04/04
Posts: 118

Can I have your stuffz....???

7/07/13 3:14:09 AM#118
Originally posted by Sanguinelust
I can't remember if Anarchy Online had one when it came out

Anarchy Online had "Backyards" in the main cities where new players started. I remember in Omni 1 alone there where about 20 backyards, and each new player would spawn in a different back ard so that they would'nt become over crowded. Unfortunately there was'nt a big enough playerbase to supportthese backyards, so a new starter area was made. Now they just lay empty and useless....


Elite Member

Joined: 2/17/05
Posts: 2956

First came pride, then envy.

7/07/13 3:42:59 AM#119
Actually, i do remember my first day playing my first MMO, and subsequent MMOs afterwards.  I agree though about the wasted landmass in MMOs, but what is the solution?  It's not really about the content within them, but the incentives.  It's the same reason that people go to shopping malls, theaters, sporting events, etc.; instead of going to a farm or an inudstrial building site.  It would be very challenging to design a world where every area is occupied all the time, because there would need to be enough people to occupy the land mass.  Add to the fact, that not everyone is concurrently in the same time zone. 

Hard Core Member

Joined: 10/10/03
Posts: 5693

7/07/13 4:02:47 AM#120
One way forward would be to move away from small ribbon shaped zones to larger open zones. These would be for a larger level range and so get used more. I know its a revolutionary idea, no one has ever tried anything like it before. :)
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