Dark or Light

OPINION: All MMOs Should Have An Open Exploration Mode

Open the worlds

Poorna Shankar Posted:
Editorials 0

It’s no secret that Elder Scrolls Online is my favorite MMO. I genuinely love the open freedom that game allows for, especially after the One Tamriel and Tamriel Unlimited updates. However, as I was playing LOTRO this weekend with my buddies, a new realization dawned on me. MMOs should have a free exploration mode, opening the map completely. Let me explain.

If you’ve followed me at all, you’ll know that I didn’t always like Elder Scrolls Online. It wasn’t until the aforementioned updates that I really took to the game. Additionally, people who know me will say that I’m an explorer at heart. This is a major reason why I love large open world RPGs. The larger the world, the better. And I really do believe that. It’s why I spent over 175 hours in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

I absolutely love the freedom Elder Scrolls Online provides. I can walk literally anywhere in the world and seek adventure. My character level isn’t an obstacle. I can truly just wander around. Some hardcore players might sneer at this, but if I’m being completely honest, I just don’t care. The open nature of Elder Scrolls Online is one of, if not the, strongest asset of that game.

Let’s rewind the clock back to last Saturday as my friends and I were playing LOTRO. Our Managing Editor, Bradford, is an absolute Tolkien nut (so much so that he doesn’t realize the movies came first). The reason I enjoy playing LOTRO is not because of the quests, or the mechanics. I enjoy that game purely because of the world.

Watch Saturday Streamz - The Lord of the Rings Online fromI have said countless times that I want to do nothing but openly explore Middle-earth as depicted in LOTRO. But, because the game is designed the way it is – i.e. like a traditional MMO – this simply isn’t possible. I want to explore east of the Misty Mountains, but I can’t because not only is my character super low level, but I simply haven’t done the content necessary to advance.

At this point, many of you might be sitting there, frustrated by this obvious observation. Of course I can’t advance. I need to actually play the game in order to do so. However, what I’m proposing actually doesn’t negate or replace the traditional game or its mechanics. It’s simply an additional, supplemental, and crucially, optional mode.

I brought up Assassin’s Creed Odyssey earlier, and I did so deliberately. Both Odyssey and Origins have a Discovery Tour mode, allowing you to basically go sightseeing in their respective worlds. But Ubisoft used this Discovery Tour as an educational opportunity. And it makes sense, considering the worlds they were exploring were actual places in the real world.

But the point is, this Discovery Tour did not outright replace the base games. It was a supplement. And it was entirely optional for the player to partake. I am proposing something similar with MMOs.

There are many MMOs I haven’t played, but because I’m an explorer, I absolutely do want to explore their worlds. The exploration mode I’m proposing would allow you and your friends to basically roam the world and take in the sights. Enemies wouldn’t attack you, animals wouldn’t attack you. However, you would receive no XP. You would have no way of actually advancing your character in the base game. In that regard, while you would be able to converse with NPCs, there would be no quests, no crafting, no other mechanics from the base game. There is no risk, but there is also no reward feeding your advancement.

This exploration mode would be a pure exploration mode. It would be completely stripped down, but completely open for the pure joy of exploring the world and taking in the sights. It is exploration for the sake of exploration. That’s it. And, once again, I will stress that this mode would not in any way replace the base “normal” game.

In my opinion, such a mode may actually have the knock-on effect of encouraging players to play the base game after seeing the massive worlds. It would encourage them to partake in the quests and in all the various systems. I say this because I know for a fact that I would react this way.

Again, hardcore players may sneer at this. But as long as this mode does not impact the base game, nor provide any methods to advance, there simply isn’t any harm in adding it as a supplement, even after the base game has released.

If anything, I think opening the worlds of these games to players in such a way would only open up the game to a wider audience. Exploration is a very powerful thing. Given how diverse the setting and design are for all the various MMOs on the market, there is plenty to see.


Poorna Shankar