Editorial: Instancing and MMORPGs
Danielle "Sachant" Vanderlip looks at the trend of private experiences in public games
n 1: a state of extreme confusion and disorder [syn: pandemonium, bedlam, topsy-turvydom, topsy-turvyness] 2: the formless and disordered state of matter before the creation of the cosmos 3: (Greek mythology) the most ancient of gods; the personification of the infinity of space preceding creation of the universe [syn: Chaos] 4: (physics) a dynamical system that is extremely sensitive to its initial conditions
From the Official WoW Strategy Guide by Brady Games we get the following definition of an Instance:
Perhaps that’s an exaggeration to the effect that instancing has created within the game worlds we like to call home. There is the good that goes with the bad like in all things and while it’s not a perfect solution it has its’ value.
Join me if you will and let’s take a look at what good instancing can do for gaming.
Casual players rarely get to see upper end content of games. It is argued that if they don’t have the time to put in they won’t miss the upper content. In many cases, this may be true. In many others it isn’t. Some games are created to allow for casual gamers to at least work as a crafter or be quickly piggybacked onto a higher player’s experience runs and level right along with them. In these games the pinch of upper end content isn’t as painful. For those that take part in games that are not only unfriendly to solo players but offer little to nothing for the solo player at the upper end, the last level they can achieve is the end of the road. At best what they have to look forward to is creating another character.
While it’s painful for an individual, it can be traumatic for guilds. Rifts are created between the casual and ‘hardcore’ players. The upper end players don’t want to repeat content they have found boring or have repeated countless times for others and so those that are more casual are left behind. Guild leaders must decide what is best for the guild. Go forward? Or wait? Neither is an easy choice and inevitably if a game is not flexible enough to allow for a compromise, guilds will and do fracture or even collapse completely under the strain. Even worse is when a small guild is unable to accomplish tasks alone. They either must give up on the idea of upper end content or they must join with another guild to cooperate. Given the nature of MMOs and the communities in them this can either be a way of bonding and creating a larger guild than originally intended or it can lead to drama with a capital ‘D’.
It is a two-headed beast that is not easily overcome. New players who once gained the help and tutelage of more experienced players can no longer find them among them save for when they are passing through to buy new things. If they want that sort of help, they MUST join a guild and not any guild but one that is larger than any guilds have been traditionally in the past. They must compromise their quality of play if they are a casual gamer. They must learn to expect less from their time and give more time to achieve the same goals as anyone else. We call this ‘the grind’. It hurts. No one likes it, and it is the brass ring that developers struggle to grasp.
Are instances a bad thing? No. I don’t believe they are completely. They have their bad to go with the good. They have compartmentalized our playtime into sound bites. They have shut us off from the ‘riff raff’ and created order out of chaos. I am probably one of the few that misses a bit of chaos. I fully believe that developers are just people searching for that one perfect answer. They are not gods and goddesses and until someone finds the Holy Grail of game design, I am sure we will continue to live our moments in instances.
Editor's Note: Danielle "Sachant" Vanderlip serves as the assistant community manager of Wolfpack's Shadowbane until May 15th, 2006.
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