…in a Fire
This morning I thought I would take a stab and talking about some of the constructs in online games specifically that need to just go away. Over the years I’ve noticed a bunch of things that really do not benefit players in games and only serve to divide them. This is going to likely be a more free form style post than my normal 3 blocks structure… but I am just going with that one.
1) Region Lockout
There are literally an unlimited potential visualizations of the internet, because so much depends upon the activity at the moment you observe it. The image to the left is someone’s vague attempt at “drawing” the internet. It looks like many things, but you know what it absolutely doesn’t look like? That’s right there is no way to somehow match that image up to a map of the countries of the world. The internet is this grand technology that has essentially abolished borders and turned them into meaningless distinctions. I have friends in England, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador, Brazil, and more than I can possibly count in our sibling to the North… Canada.
Ultimately I want to be able to play freely with all of them, and if it was not hard enough to try and juggle time zone conflicts… game companies seem to feel the need to throw up artificial boundaries to keep players from different regions in separate bundles. This needs to stop, and while server localization is a good thing… blocking players from freely mingling between the areas is a bad thing. Region based launches and region based exclusivity also need to “die in a fire”. We are living in a global community, and its about damned time we realize it.
2) Server Restrictions
Another massive frustration is that as gamers we are still somehow constrained to playing on servers. Don’t get me wrong… I love servers. Before it went to shit I loved Argent Dawn my role-playing server in World of Warcraft, and currently I am in love with Cactuar in Final Fantasy XIV. I absolutely think having a small intimate group that you see every single day is a good thing. What I don’t think is a good thing is the hard boundaries. Just because I live in the Tulsa area in Oklahoma… doesn’t mean I can’t go visit someone living in the Dallas Texas area. Essentially this is how our games should work too. There are certain games that are already doing this and it is amazing. In Rift for example you can choose to move your character between servers at will once every week, but more important than that you can choose to transfer yourself temporarily to ANY server in your cluster and you are able to group across servers freely. The Secret World has the same sort of setup, and it allows you to join up with literally anyone else playing the game.
Both of these situations represent the ideal, that you still have a server structure that gives you familiarity with other players but at the same time the freedom to hang out with anyone else who happens to be playing the same game as you. Completely abolishing servers on the other hand isn’t as good of an idea. In The Elder Scrolls Online we free floated on the same server, but the fact that player names were hidden and that you were constantly being mixed with a different batch of players… kept you from developing ties. There are friends I have in FFXIV only because we saw each other doing the same things over and over and struck up a conversation while doing it. This is important, but it is also important to be able to hang out with that person you meet five months after you started playing… and find out they are playing in a completely different server community. Your character is just data, and it should be able to flow between servers… which are also just data.
3) Faction Walls
Another thing that I find super frustrating is when you meet someone that happens to be playing the same game as you… but then you find out that you are on opposite sides of some meaningless conflict in game and as such your characters are sworn enemies. Red versus Blue mentality needs to go away. It is a very dumb way of dealing with the concept of factions, because in the end it is the players that end up losing out. I’ve never felt faction pride in a video game, because these factions have nothing to do with me. I didn’t get to choose the way that the Horde was founded in Azeroth. I didn’t choose to align to the Orcs and the Tauren and Undead and god forbid the damned Blood Elves. I was brought into a situation where those were already connected for various also meaningless reasons. Nothing about that has anything to do with me and my motivations as a player.
What is more meaningful is that for players to start out in the world with certain baseline alignments determined by their race or their class… but have those be malleable. One of the things I loved about the original Everquest was that your faction choices were personal in nature. Paineel was a city of Evil Erudite Necromancers… but by choice I aligned my Wood Elf Ranger with the city through lots of personal work. Meaning that I could go there at any time I wanted and use the city like any other city. Similarly I knew players who factioned with the giants turning Kael Drakkel… an area that is normally a raid zone into a useable player city. These are interesting choices ones that take lots of effort, but ones that also bring the player deeper into your world as a result. Setting up artificial boundaries just for the propagation of shallow player versus player combat is a horrible idea and needs to go away. Let the players choose their allegiance, and let the players decide just what they are willing to fight for.
4) Weekly Lockouts
This one is a thing that is starting to change slowly, but where it still exists it needs to go away. What I mean by weekly lockouts is that once you run something like a raid you are locked out from participating for another week. This used to create this complicated process of making sure that you stayed unlocked from this or that content to make sure you were eligible to participate in it with your raid or your guild. As a raid leader it was always disappointing to get ready to go and find out that one of your key members had locked themselves out earlier in the week. Like I said this is starting to change slowly with the introduction of the “loot locking” construct, where you can participate as many times as you like but you can only receive loot once. Even this has many forms because the World of Warcraft version is a per boss loot lock, and the Final Fantasy XIV version is a single piece of loot period from the entire instance.
In both cases however it is significantly better than being locked completely and unable to help out your friends. If you notice that is a running theme in all of these things that need to go away. Basically there are a lot of MMO constructs that get in the way of you playing with your friends. For awhile now I have had this maxim of “anything that gets in the way of you playing with your friends is bad” and I still stand by it. What I would like to see is that there be some reward for the players “just helping out”. Sure they can’t win the actual loot off the boss, but maybe for participating they get a loot bag at the end of the run that can contain some interesting stuff. This sort of thing would give folks warm fuzzies for helping out their friends, but also not be rewarding enough for people to abuse it by grinding the raids over and over. In any case… these are four constructs that I feel that MMOs would be better off without.