Instanced Raids vs Contested Raids: Darren and Robert debate
Editor's Introduction: Every Saturday, we feature a debate between two writers here. If you have any ideas for future debates, please do not hesitate to post them in the comment thread linked at the end.
Darren Bridle: Contested mobs are bad for games that have instancing available to them. The only players that seem to argue for contested mobs are those in the top 1% of the game, what about the other 99%? Instancing has made smaller guilds capable of having fun and experiencing raid content that was never before seen let alone attempted.
In Everquest one, back in the early days, I remember the feeling of being beaten to Trakanon, it was a gut wrenching feeling to be sitting there prepping for the kill, when another more experienced guild walked in and took the kill. Where is the spirited racing to kill the raid mob first in that? Only one set of players can get glory leaving everyone else to feel dejected and unworthy. If content developers spent more time creating varied and challenging instanced encounters, there is no need.
Robert Fitzgerald: While instancing would seem to provide the type of enjoyment smaller tight-knit guilds would enjoy, it absolutely alienates the solo player and small groups of friends who play. Instance dungeons are generally driven by level and the number of players needed to succeed within the dungeon. Many players are not able to muster the necessary bodies to enjoy all that is within an instanced area. Instancing promotes segregation within the game, which is contrary to the evolution of massively multiplayer games.
The fundamental problem with instancing is it creates a different type of elitism within the MMO world. This new elitism is borne from the prospect of "if you want to see what’s inside the wonderful instanced area, you need to be in a guild period." Rather than bringing thousands of people together in a virtual world thus allowing them to interact and enjoy a mystical realm as members of a faction, instancing brings thousands of people together from all across the globe only to once again divide them into smaller groups.
Darren Bridle: While those intentions are true, the fact of the MMO world as it stands just doesn’t cater to players like they used too. "Griefing" and "Botting" have caused havoc in these open zones with hundreds of players forcing groups into instanced dungeons just to get away from it. Single groups can enjoy the varied instances with sometimes long and elaborate story lines in them, without being disturbed by other players after the same goals. Often contested areas involve long camps sometimes ending in little or no success. Instanced dungeons with lockout timers remove the need for camping and worrying about other players "kill stealing" or hovering like vultures waiting for you to fail. It’s the MMO population that has forced instancing into the genre, but implemented correctly instancing is a great solution.
Robert Fitzgerald: Much like the infamous $2 million cup of coffee and subsequent "Caution contents may be hot," we once again find ourselves creating solutions to address the problems brought about by the few. While general player griefing can be a problem within contested areas, it is a problem created by a few bad apples. How far should developers take this line of thinking? How many more features will the developers add to the game world to combat troublemakers? Instancing areas has become an alternative to good customer service. Developers have chosen to separate players through content rather than creating harmony through policy enforcement.
Contested content provides the purest MMO experience. Allowing players to interact with others within the world created. Players coming together, surviving great tests, and forming bonds is what MMO's should be about. Constantly creating ways to overcome the career griefer within MMO's will only lead us to a game where all of the game is instanced and all players are segregated bar the few rare meeting areas ala Guild Wars. Social skills or the lack thereof should not drive the "innovation" of MMO's. More focus should be put into creating more contested content, more areas within the game where players can experience excitement thus spreading out the population of a game world. More exciting areas would do great wonders to alleviating congestion and griefing. If there are only one or two really "cool" dungeons’ or areas within a game, of course everyone is going to be there.
Darren Bridle: I'm going to bring up 2 topics, quests and raiding. I think that design can fix the first of these 2, questing. All too often, contested mobs are needed for quests. These mobs either drop good loot or the quest itself is a good quest that everyone wants to do. This creates griefing, camping, kill stealing, farming etc. I think that MMO designers have realized these issues and used instancing to relieve some of this. I think Rob is right in saying that instancing is not the solution to questing. A better design would be to use more triggers. Remove loot from contested quest mobs.
However, on the flip side, if anyone has played Everquest 2 and completed the instance "Nektropos Castle" they know this instance is a quest and a story plot all in one. It has traps, puzzles, clues, named, bosses, you name it, it has it. This is a wonderful use of instancing, with great design. It moves away from the "Lets just throw an instance in with some loot to make everyone happy" ideals. If we can find some combination of Quest instances with trigger mobs, I think contested questing can be a thing of the past and a lot better world for MMO players.
Now onto the second topic of raiding, I really can’t think of a good way to avoid instances with raiding. Contested mobs are demoralizing for raids. Only the elitist manage to mobilize and take down contested mobs fast enough. Everquest 2 has taken a trigger approach, but the trigger has to be "up" in order to use it, which defeats the purpose. Triggers create too many drops so that won't work either. Lockouts for instances can control the amount of loot coming into the game, while also giving guilds their own area to play in without hassle. I think instancing for raiding is a great way to bring a guild closer together, and enjoy uninterrupted, grief free events
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