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An Earthbound Perspective

Practical perspective on MMO play and practice.

Author: Dengar

The Problem With Instancing: Community

Posted by Dengar Thursday June 16 2011 at 1:28PM
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It's come up a few times, but let's get down to the real issue: instancing does not help build gaming communities. I just had a bit of a run in with another player in Animal Crossing: City Folk. What's normally a relaxing game can get a bit depressing should a problematic player enter your town. Retribution? You kick them from your town and ban them. However, since AC:CF uses real world time, progress that may take a few days can be ruined in a matter of moments, similar to EVE. However, AC:CF is completely instanced. I cannot simply go to his town and return the favor, and it may take awhile to find someone who knows him well enough to do it for me. The best thing I can do is post his name on the forums I met him in and pray he doesn't have too many more contacts.

And then, it hit me: it's the same thing in WoW. A player comes in, ruins things for other people, and can simply walk away. Without a persistant environment, and one in which the game allows nearly anyone into your party, you run the risk of having to deal with the lamer again, or face timers in order to avoid him. In Darkfall, you do have the option of ganking someone to high-holy-hell, but because there's no instances to hide in, no alts to switch to (without having to buy another account), and a single game world, lame players' reputations spread pretty quick. While soloing is sort of viable, the main issue is that other players (in groups usually) hunt the best spots, especially for people not in groups. A pariah has to have a very high level of determination in order to survive in Darkfall, while in WoW, the game will continue to hold his hand and force him onto other players who may be completely unaware of his actions.

I question this motive. I understand that people want to play the game, but instant gratification doesn't seem worth it to me. I've made more contacts running world pvp events in WoW than I have in instances... even in Vanilla WoW. While I still keep in contact with some people from my raiding days, I don't play with any of them, sadly. I've never even gamed with them outside of WoW. My world pvp friends, on the other hand, are people I've jumped MMOs with, switched console info with, etc. While one may feel like raiding can build the "soldiers in the trenches" connection, the problem is what happens when, to use a cliche, "the war is over." When the instance ends, and you need to do something else, is that person still someone you do things with long term?

Dengar writes:

I may actually have to do a slight retraction based on my newest Animal Crossing experience. I'm amazed at what some of these folks are doing with both the content and the extreme limitations of the intstancing.

Fri Jun 17 2011 11:21AM Report
fansede writes:

Instancing is a tool - a device.  There are many valid arguments made by veteran players about how instancing detracts from the massive multiplayer experience. However, I get the sense you got burned in a pick up group(PUG). It happens in even the persistent games. Terms like "trains", "spawn camping", kill stealing/tagging" were annoying aspects of the persistent world that prompted developers to branch into instances. I keep people who i enjoy the game with on my friends list and build my preferred community that way. Those that ruin that experience I do not game with. 

Fri Jun 17 2011 12:14PM Report
Dengar writes:

You may wanna reread the article. This was actually inspired by a non-MMO.

However, we've all been burned by instance groups. The difference between an instance and open world griefing is that when someone trains you, you can train them back, spawn camp them in PvP, etc. The only escape is logging out. When instances are available, they give the offender a place to hide. Community punishment can be more difficult, and since devs don't often police such things, it's up to players to do something about it. The problem is, instancing directly interferes with this.

When you add cross-server instancing to the mix, you have the same issue most FPS and RTS games have- a large anonymous playground for griefers to run around without worrying about consquences. 

You are correct that it's a device, but I don't believe it's a good one for the most part. However, I am seeing an interesting use of it that MMOs may not be utilizing.

Fri Jun 17 2011 6:25PM Report
kjempff writes:

As opposite to many, I don't think instancing itself is a huge problem. Instancing solves some issues such as potential bottlenecks, and as long as instancing is not dominating a world, I think the advantages weighs more than the problems.

As an example of this I will pull out the LDoN expansion in everquest, which as far as I remember introduced instancing to mmorpgs. In LDoN instancing did not have a negative effect on the world because it added a welcomed dungeon crawling addition to the game, while taking up a substantial part of the game. Even in Eq2 instancing worked nicely for the most part, not having many poor effects on community (there were other problems but it had nothing to do with instancing itself).

For WoW's case the problems have nothing to do with instancing either, but rather how getting into instances work, and that the entire game is based on it.


Playing the eq progression servers has reminded me why instancing was invented. That said, the problems with progression servers are more that the amount of players and time they have don't match the content the game has to offer.

If a game could offer so much content (Everquest could back when there were years to do your adventures), instancing would not be necessary and offcourse community and immersion would be better. But if we have to be realistic, creating this much quality content is not possible anymore, so instancing is a great way of solves some problems. When instancing takes over a mmorpg if become a lobby game, and that may be nice (diablo2 is great example) but it is no longer a mmorpg.

Tue Jun 21 2011 2:00PM Report writes:
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