Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Making an Impact

I don't really understand why so many MMO commentators are obsessed with the idea of players making an impact on the game world.

Scratch that. I understand why they want to make an impact. What I don't understand is how they expect people who don't make an impact in the real world, to all of a sudden be able to make a significant impact in a virtual one.

Very few people actually change the world. Most of us settle for small victories and quiet defeats. That's not bad, that's just how life is. Very few of us are offered Achilles' choice.

But it would be the same in an impactful MMO. You'd have a few people--the hardcore, the Ensidias and the Mittanis--and they would shake the world. A dragon would arise, and they would rush to slay it. You and I, we'd probably arrive on the scene much too late, long after the dragon has been defeated.

Faced with that, I'd much rather have a world of handcrafted, polished content that I can experience. Even if everyone else experiences the same content. Indeed, there are advantages to having shared experiences. Everyone knows who Hogger is, because because everyone has experienced Hogger. Shared experiences help knit a community together.

In the end, I guess I doubt I would be the hero in an impactful world. At least in a static world I can slay dragons, even if everyone else can slay them as well.


  1. I agree. Impact just seems to be something that would work better in a single player game, where it's ok to let the player be the one to change the world and have the world revolve around them.

    I do think it's interesting to experiment with ways that the player base (as a group) can effect the game world though. I remember liking the AQ handins, where everyone could contribute.

  2. I have never killed Hogger.

    True story.

  3. The argument can be made that in the real world, every little action you make has a changing impact. You never know what tiny action you do or decision you make that can lead to huge changes happening for you for others around you. Of course in the real world there are an uncountable number of other variables occurring that couldn't be replicated in an MMO.. at least not anytime soon or programmed by humans. :)

    However I do think that a dynamic world would be a very interesting and fun step for the genre to take if someone was able to do it correctly. When you think about Blizzard talking about a "next-Gen" MMO you have to hope that there's more next-Gen about it than just the graphics. It's hard to imagine what that might mean, but if anyone can pull off a dynamic, changing game world I'd put my money on Blizz to figure it out.

  4. Building off what Spinks said, IRL we all have an impact, it's just usually a very small one. Those who have an impact tend to be guiding the collection of small impacts rather than doing something themselves. The AQ event was a good example of this: We all had our little impacts which built up into something big. That is how you can give players an impact without the problem of New dragon + one hour = no dragon for anyone else.

    In other words, it is practical to have an impact if it is the result of collective action.

  5. I agree that having the player make some sort of impact on the world as a whole... or atleast in the way you described is impractical in an MMO. There are many single player games that your actions and choices change the world. They can exist because those games are designed around one person to be the hero... not the 50 thousand players on any given server.

    Having a game changing even is possible in an MMO, like having stormwind be destroyed by something but then you deny that experience to every new player following that event. Opening the gates of AQ was great for those that experienced it but I started in BC so never expereinced that. Like wise remembering the zombie plague is a great gaming moment for me... but many others HATED the event.

    Balancing a change in the game is difficult because you have people on both sides.

    Anyway I agree shared experience is much greater then hearing someone boast about a one time accomplishment because they happened to be in the right place at the right time.

  6. I think the reason why people hated the plague event is that you were 'forced' into it and it had no impact, it was just a way to pass time until release. AQ provided a common goal that people could opt in or out of depending on what they were doing.

  7. You know what I never understood about Hogger? How come the level 75 Stormwind guards in goldshire 2 mins down the road can't go out there and 1-hit him? I mean seriously, are they just sitting around eating donuts waiting for enemy faction players?

  8. I know I'm in the minority here, but I actually LOVED the zombie event. Not so much for the happenings in the cities, but the spawning of the mobs out around the world...the ones that dropped decent gear for my alts. Of course, fighting over the spawns wasn't all that fun, but on those odd times when there weren't very many people online and I could group with the few that were standing around waiting for guy to spawn, it was fun for me.