Posts tagged mmo design

Posted 2 years ago
the original motivator for comparing zelda games to mmos was the fact that i found so many of the ‘dungeon’ instances in mmos to be so painfully boring, and why i found dungeons in zelda so much more interesting. i got a little sidetracked by comparing narrative elements last time, but today i want to keep it all mechanics.
twilight princess’s dungeons feel freshest before you have too many hearts and too many tools to play around with. its a common problem with zelda games, where once too many tools are in the bag some either become useless or are obsolete. a similar problem exists in mmos that hand out abilities too freely, but thats beside the point. focusing on those early dungeons you get to see where the true dungeon design comes off.
later zelda dungeons tend to become a series of ‘aha’ puzzles and fights of minor annoyance. earlier zelda dungeons though, each fight could potentially remove half your hearts, and since the designers can’t dead-end you by making you have to search around for a tool, they have to find ways to make the exploration interesting and non-obvious. zelda manages to do this well, and personally i think its one of the series’ greatest strengths and a testament to its design.
compartively lets define the mmo-dungeon experience: a mostly linear tour of monsters and bosses, where the game usually assumes the player has a tank and a healer, and there are no surprises because the players have to repeat these dungeons repeatedly for rewards.
clearly zelda-dungeons have an advantage on that last bit: there is no advantage, nor any reason, to repeat a zelda-dungeon. there are backtracking bits that reward players with extra things for using new tools in old areas, but nothing quite as drastic as doing the same mmo-dungeon twice. still, part of the thrill of exploring a zelda-dungeons is that it is new territory to be mastered, there is a sense of unknown lurking behind every door, around every corner, and inside every chest. i think mmo dungeons could develop a lot by having some kind of randomized room and encounter template to pull from. maybe not every mmo-dungeon an mmo offers should be built this way, but having the option to engage in such an encounter would clear up the boring linearity and lack of surprise that plague the mmo-dungeon.
the second idea mmo-dungeons could steal from zelda-dungeons is the idea that it should be necessary to find and use tools to continue the dungeon. execution of this has proven tricky, as the ‘oculus’ and ‘grim batol’ dungeons in world of warcraft have shown. personally i think this is a problem that the tools given dont really empower the players, but instead give the player a new challenge to overcome. the tools given for ‘the black morass’ or ‘end time’ instances actually do empower the player in an interesting and useful way, and neither of those instances have draw quite the same ire.
…and this post is already too long for its own good. theres some good ideas to explore more in this post, but to delve deeper into them would be going too far from this mmo vs zelda exploration.

the original motivator for comparing zelda games to mmos was the fact that i found so many of the ‘dungeon’ instances in mmos to be so painfully boring, and why i found dungeons in zelda so much more interesting. i got a little sidetracked by comparing narrative elements last time, but today i want to keep it all mechanics.

twilight princess’s dungeons feel freshest before you have too many hearts and too many tools to play around with. its a common problem with zelda games, where once too many tools are in the bag some either become useless or are obsolete. a similar problem exists in mmos that hand out abilities too freely, but thats beside the point. focusing on those early dungeons you get to see where the true dungeon design comes off.

later zelda dungeons tend to become a series of ‘aha’ puzzles and fights of minor annoyance. earlier zelda dungeons though, each fight could potentially remove half your hearts, and since the designers can’t dead-end you by making you have to search around for a tool, they have to find ways to make the exploration interesting and non-obvious. zelda manages to do this well, and personally i think its one of the series’ greatest strengths and a testament to its design.

compartively lets define the mmo-dungeon experience: a mostly linear tour of monsters and bosses, where the game usually assumes the player has a tank and a healer, and there are no surprises because the players have to repeat these dungeons repeatedly for rewards.

clearly zelda-dungeons have an advantage on that last bit: there is no advantage, nor any reason, to repeat a zelda-dungeon. there are backtracking bits that reward players with extra things for using new tools in old areas, but nothing quite as drastic as doing the same mmo-dungeon twice. still, part of the thrill of exploring a zelda-dungeons is that it is new territory to be mastered, there is a sense of unknown lurking behind every door, around every corner, and inside every chest. i think mmo dungeons could develop a lot by having some kind of randomized room and encounter template to pull from. maybe not every mmo-dungeon an mmo offers should be built this way, but having the option to engage in such an encounter would clear up the boring linearity and lack of surprise that plague the mmo-dungeon.

the second idea mmo-dungeons could steal from zelda-dungeons is the idea that it should be necessary to find and use tools to continue the dungeon. execution of this has proven tricky, as the ‘oculus’ and ‘grim batol’ dungeons in world of warcraft have shown. personally i think this is a problem that the tools given dont really empower the players, but instead give the player a new challenge to overcome. the tools given for ‘the black morass’ or ‘end time’ instances actually do empower the player in an interesting and useful way, and neither of those instances have draw quite the same ire.

…and this post is already too long for its own good. theres some good ideas to explore more in this post, but to delve deeper into them would be going too far from this mmo vs zelda exploration.

Posted 2 years ago
i finished twilight princess a few months ago and gave myself some time to think about it. im going to try to keep this as a comparative analysis of zeldas mechanics and the standard gameplay of an mmo. for my first post id like to discuss story elements.
narrative elements of twilight princess tend to focus on using characters and character interactions to tell the backstory. minor characters see a lot of re-use and contain dialogue outside of dungeons and quests. 
despite wanting to create a living world with large amounts of history, most of the mmorpg plot is conveyed only in quest text or minor gameplay events that are not repeatable. npc dialogue only weakly reacts to players accomplishments. even in a “story focused” game like swtor, you cant even talk to random townspeople to learn about the game world, which is abundant in twilight princess.
swtor does have an advantage that it has a ‘branching’ style narrative, in that the player has some agency over how the plot unfolds, but i think this is somewhat overblown. swtor excels at hiding the effects of players agency: differences are only found at the conclusion of an event, where cascading consequences are all removed from the players view and interaction. for all intents and purposes, swtor has a linear plot.
world of warcraft has been getting somewhat better about involving lore characters into the gameplay to tell a story. however some lore characters tend to get completely ignored between chapters, as if they had no interest in the events unfolding. theres a very real sense that after you finish an npcs quests, their interest in the world at large becomes a ‘not my problem, maybe you should handle it’. in twilight princess, even the hero team that meets in telmas bar makes a cameo apperance at the final dungeon. in warcraft you only see the very most important lore characters showing up in expansion ending raids, which is really the equivalent of zelda and midna tagging along to fight ganon.
on the whole there are elements where mmos have a stronger storytelling powers than zelda, but thats not to say mmos cant benefit from zeldas world-building and character building techniques. more recently it feels like the trend in storytelling has been about creating spectacle and trying to one-up eachother on how impressive they can create a mini-narrative, rather than working on creating simple and fundamental world building elements.

i finished twilight princess a few months ago and gave myself some time to think about it. im going to try to keep this as a comparative analysis of zeldas mechanics and the standard gameplay of an mmo. for my first post id like to discuss story elements.

narrative elements of twilight princess tend to focus on using characters and character interactions to tell the backstory. minor characters see a lot of re-use and contain dialogue outside of dungeons and quests. 

despite wanting to create a living world with large amounts of history, most of the mmorpg plot is conveyed only in quest text or minor gameplay events that are not repeatable. npc dialogue only weakly reacts to players accomplishments. even in a “story focused” game like swtor, you cant even talk to random townspeople to learn about the game world, which is abundant in twilight princess.

swtor does have an advantage that it has a ‘branching’ style narrative, in that the player has some agency over how the plot unfolds, but i think this is somewhat overblown. swtor excels at hiding the effects of players agency: differences are only found at the conclusion of an event, where cascading consequences are all removed from the players view and interaction. for all intents and purposes, swtor has a linear plot.

world of warcraft has been getting somewhat better about involving lore characters into the gameplay to tell a story. however some lore characters tend to get completely ignored between chapters, as if they had no interest in the events unfolding. theres a very real sense that after you finish an npcs quests, their interest in the world at large becomes a ‘not my problem, maybe you should handle it’. in twilight princess, even the hero team that meets in telmas bar makes a cameo apperance at the final dungeon. in warcraft you only see the very most important lore characters showing up in expansion ending raids, which is really the equivalent of zelda and midna tagging along to fight ganon.

on the whole there are elements where mmos have a stronger storytelling powers than zelda, but thats not to say mmos cant benefit from zeldas world-building and character building techniques. more recently it feels like the trend in storytelling has been about creating spectacle and trying to one-up eachother on how impressive they can create a mini-narrative, rather than working on creating simple and fundamental world building elements.

Posted 2 years ago

spinyn0rman:

⊙▂⊙

THIS IS WHAT MMO DESIGNERS ACTUALLY WANT YOU TO DO >:|

Posted 2 years ago

after my disappointment with swtor, and getting 30/50 hom points in guild wars, ive been on a mmo hiatus. ive got a huge backlog of single player games i need to chew through while im waiting for my next passion (hopefully diablo 3 and Guild Wars 2)

presumably the mmo designers ive been so dissapointed in have all played zelda games before they sat down to create their mmos. so theres a burning question thats been bothering me: why are they increasingly failing to capture the same sense of exploration and mystery that a zelda has? why are they all making the same exact wow clone? why is blizzard content to make monster hallway after monster hallway?

ostensibly i know even twilight princess has it’s own form of the kill 10 boars quest (its kill however many lightning bugs there are to banish the twilight) and the dungeons in zelda are linear if you notice that there pretty much only one way to progress through them. but theres still something endearing about the zelda dungeon that the mmo dungeon hasnt yet captured.

and i know the mechanics for zelda and mmos are quite different — and im not asking for the players to solve puzzles between boss fights — but i dont think it would hurt mmos to try a bit more variation beyond monster hallways.

Posted 2 years ago

this is how i view 90% of conversation options in swtor

Posted 2 years ago

bioware doesnt want to you to finish swtor quickly.
this is evident by the transportation system designed in swtor.

once you unlock ‘travel’ running and your speeder mount the game decides its cool to double and triple the lengths you have to move around. suddenly tight, small planets dense with content are exchanged for large sprawling planets with the exact same amount of content. the way aspects of the game are set up seem designed to waste your time. for example:

to go between planets you use a starship, but you cant speeder from your ship to the planet surface, you have to walk through the startport areas, and its never a straight line. you cant fast travel into your ship.

the ‘capital city planet’ for imperials has a gap in its transportation network. to get to the story zone of this place you have to take a speeder from the spaceport to just outside of the city, then walk to another transport hub, take that, and continue walking to your story area. im told the republic side has a similar setup. you repeat this process many times over the course of your classes storyline. it serves no real purpose other than to eat up time.

you do have a fast travel ability that lets you zip to areas you have been to before, but it is on a 30 minute cooldown. this feels punishingly large given how big some of the planets are.

allegedly this is about conveying a sense of immersion and scope, but there are plenty of ways a well crafted cutscene could do this better. in fact there are such cutscenes between loading screens. and there are plenty of places to stare across the vast expanse in front of you. but there is rarely an interesting vista to behold in the game. the terrain is copy pasted throughout so anytime you think you are seeing something interesting, you are sure to see it again, somewhere else, poking its face at you.

you walk and rewalk the same interiors with the same design all to pad out your playtime.
just so you dont finish the game too quickly.
just so you stay subscribed.
so bioware can collect $15 a month to finish their unfinished game.

Posted 2 years ago

why i play guild wars:

near the end of my world of warcraft days i found that my brain could no longer stand pointless grinding gameplay. i became offended at having to pay money in order to perform chores and waste time so that i could get to what i considered the fun part of a game.

it was a rather cynical time for me and everything i read about an mmo made me hate it more because i learned how to ‘read between the lines’ and see the mmo designers as drug pushers, tweaking their game to specific ‘reward schedules’ to delude less enlightened gamers.

then a friend mentiond guild wars to me and my opnions changed. where world of warcraft and its immitators were one thing, guild wars was staunchly not.

in guild wars there is a limited amount of grinding. you reach the level cap within the tutorial zone and can quickly become gear capped soon after. my mind was blown.

pvp had similar relaxation of the grind. pvp-only characters could be created right away that could instantly craft top tier weaponry with the best stats you had unlocked. you could unlock new pvp options through playing pve, through playing pvp, or by purchasing an unlock pack for money.

the focus on playing guild wars is completing things because you want to overcome a challenge, and the game is packed with challenges. if you want to repeat content, it is because you have chosen to do so. while some content is locked, it is only because you have not finished a quest chain. through regular play the game world unfolds new options before you, and conveys a real sense that you are on a journey, not that you are trying to get to a specific destination.

most of all there is no subscription. the game does not need to artificially inflate its game time because there is no profit motive in it. you can play guild wars in bursts and not worry that you are wasting money on an underused subscription fee.

Posted 2 years ago

one of the coolest features about guild wars is that each campaign has an epilogue section. here you get to meet all the characters from the campaign and can talk to them to get their thoughts on how everything turned out.

in order to really punch it in that you completed something they roll the credits for the game and a bunch of fireworks go off.

what it also means is that they can have a nice little ‘end’ for casual players. for hardcore players there is still more to be done in elona and the realm of torment, but for casual players you have finished an interesting narrative to its conclusion. and you didnt have to grind gear and get into a raid group to do it. (well, i mean i did, but its totally possible to solo nightfall).

this makes it a million times better than what blizzard has going on in world of warcraft.the closest thing i can thing of as a parallel is the end of the bloodmyst isle chain where a bunch of guys appear clapping for you, and then that concept is never used again, or if it is its just for raiders.