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Role Playing (Games)

Brad McQuaid On Instancing 56

heartless_ writes "The man behind Everquest and now Vanguard:Saga of Heroes has responded to a Gamergod.com article about chasing that old loving feeling from MMORPGs of the past. He goes off on a long dissertation on Instancing in Massively Multiplayer Roleplaying Games. From the articles 'Let's start with the old school: perhaps the designers are big time original D&D players (or at least AD&D - that's what I played - hey I'm not that old). D&D wasn't massively multiplayer - it was you, your group, and the DM. No one would argue that setup created some great times, great experiences, and great memories. I sure have them. And if that is what you think back on mostly, what you cherish, what you are trying to re-create, then having multiple groups around is a problem.'"
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Brad McQuaid On Instancing

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  • Not really. (Score:1, Interesting)

    then having multiple groups around is a problem.

    Running into competitors in a D&D game makes for a great potential villain. Or at least a comparable entity that alternates between friend and foe.

    Good for gameplay and storyline.
    • The issue in MMORPGs becomes the issue that has been hashed out regarding Final Fantasy XI more than once: Having multiple groups in a dungeon area does, on one hand, allow for some cool interaction, but it also invites game-breaking abuse. The issue FFXI had was that guilds would large groups to monopolize bosses for weeks at a time, both making them incredibly rich and preventing other people in the game from finishing quests or getting good items themselves.

      Most MMOs are set up so there's lots of space t
    • Running into competitors in a D&D game makes for a great potential villain. Or at least a comparable entity that alternates between friend and foe.

      Good for gameplay and storyline.

      The problem isn't running into a potential "villian", which might make the game fun, exciting, whatever. The problem stems from the immature jerks who love to do nothing except grief other players by tapping quest mobs, training mobs of monsters to you, ganking (which is why I play on a PvE server, but still PvP often) and all
  • by Durinthal ( 791855 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @09:03PM (#14143323)
    I've managed to play a good bit of three games that take completely different approaches to using instances: Asheron's Call (no instances, last I checked), World of Warcraft (only large dungeons are instanced), and Guild Wars (everything outside of towns/outposts is instanced). Asheron's Call, at its height, had many crowded dungeons and people waiting in line for spawns, though this always gave you a chance to meet others. Guild Wars, on the other hand, feels empty, though you will always find that creature waiting for you.
    I think that Blizzard's done it best, where you can still randomly run into another player in the middle of nowhere (which can be fun for explorers like myself), but you don't have to wait for a boss to respawn at the end of that long dungeon.
    • by fatboyslack ( 634391 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @09:31PM (#14143481) Journal
      Yeah, I quite like WoW's balance. It is fun to meet random players and have a bit of PvP action, but sometimes it is good to concentrate on a 'remote dungeon' and fight with just you and your buddies. Of course, end game for WoW is now all constant running through instances or constant PvPing in.... 'instances' against the Horde. As Tycho said recently on www.pennyarcade.com, I've also become an 'altoholic'. But I digress.

      From 0 - 59 the balance in WoW is a delight. At 60 your pretty much stuck with instances or farming.
    • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @08:17AM (#14145939)
      Different balances for different tastes.

      Very true. After "completing" two conventional grind-based MMOGs to max level over several years of pain, I now adore the Guild Wars approach. Its designers completely threw out the MMOG rulebook, and created an amazing breath of fresh air amid the tedium of traditional MMOGs.

      The "emptiness" of zones that you speak of is the challange: it's you and your friends against the whole zone, without any of the annoyances of shared zones. It also means no dying to trains created by inept or uncaring players, no waiting for spawns, no camping, no kill stealing, etc etc etc. All of the fun, none of the pain. Just you and your chosen colleagues, which can of course be AI henchmen, against the whole world. It's excellent.

      But as you say, tastes vary, and some people like the pain of old MMOGs, the drudgery of waiting, and being at the mercy of others.
      • yes, but how is that massively multiplayer?
        • by Anonymous Coward
          yes, but how is that massively multiplayer?

          It's as MMO as traditional MMOGs in practice, because you still get to choose your playmates from the thousands of people online, out of the millions of registered subscribers. And 99% of the time, that's what people do and want in traditional MMOGs.

          The only thing that it doesn't allow is the unsolicited presence of people whom you did not invite and who 99% of the time do nothing but ruin the game for you.

          Shared zones sound good, until you realize that you've suf
    • AC did not have instances outside of houses because of technology, however they did dungeons that because of the way they way you had to open the portal were basicly instances.
      The WoW situation is good however EQ2 does it a little closer to AC, where you have larger dungeons that are open to all, and then when you get to the end of the dungeon is an entry to a instance where you may have a few more fights and then the boss. This is in addition to full dungeons that are instances.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @09:20PM (#14143426)
    Why pay $15/mo for an mmorpg when you spend large amounts of time in instances? Minimally Multiplayer rpgs let me play alone and with a small group of friends over the internets; isn't the monthly fee supposed to be in part to support server infrastructure that does things you couldn't just do with one computer and a non-dedicated server?
    • Why pay $15/mo for an mmorpg when you spend large amounts of time in instances?

      I think that's a good point. After all, if you're in an instance, then why are you even playing online?

      The overall jist of it, as I see it, is that the 'instance' is a sort of 'competition regulation'. It's the tool that devs utilize when they think that the content should be accessable to all players but with regulation... regulation being in the form of a 24-hour timer, once a week, etc.

      The other side of the coin is,
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I think you answered your own question. instancing was introduced by some games as a way to provide that catered more details game play thats difficult to do in wide open unscripted areas. It also provides a way for you and your friends to have fun without getting ganked, or harassed by the other morons in the game. Yout get a nice private, scripted, no interference, game play with you and your closests friends.

      of course some games take it too far, or dont use it enough. but honestly tryint to complete
    • Which is where Guild Wars has it exactly right, everything outside of Towns or Outposts is instanced.

      This allows the game to be free of monthly fees.
    • I might even pay $15 a month for a single player if it had great new content. But, yes, it is kind of silly to deal with all the issues of a MMPOG (lag, patches, lame players, monthly fees) if you are just playing the single player instances.
  • by L7_ ( 645377 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @09:29PM (#14143476)
    You can't have a pvp game that uses instances. Some of the best PvP ive ever been exposed to was the dungeon resource xp spots in Asheron's Call on Darktide. Same with the dungeon's in UO: its where people fought, because thier fights were to control resources. It was competitive, and you couldn't famr gold/xp at the best spots without earning that right.

    The fact that all PvP is now done in instances in WoW has IMHO really hurt the game (other than the required 40 man instances eek!), since players no longer get to fight over and use persistance resources that everyone could access. The arenas in STV and DM are nice, as well as the huge outdoor raid boss fights, but not near the types of fights that occur over persistant areas in other games, as players dont need to hold/use the areas after killing the boss or opening the chest.
    • Have you never been ganked while trying to get to a quest objective? There's plenty of PvP going on outside of Battlegrounds!
      • Cases in point: Stonetalon and Hillsbrad. Stonetalon is an alliance rogue playground. Try to do any of the quests - any of them, seriously - on a pvp server without getting ambushed a dozen times. Especially the ones that require you to go up north, near the alliance camp. Hillsbrad, heck, my usual server isn't even pvp, but from THursay evening until Monday morning, the field between Tarren Mill and Southshore is a constant back-and-forth war. Since Arathi Basin came out, it's shifted a bit into Arathi,
      • by LincolnQ ( 648660 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @09:48PM (#14143554)
        Well, ganking isn't real PvP. I mean, it is PvP, but it's not really fun most of the time. Sure, occasionally you'll run into an equally matched opponent in the world and fight them, and it will be fun. And the grandparent did mention the pvp arenas in STV and DM, which are clearly awesome. So yeah, there is PvP in WoW outside of instances. But it's not really compelling, and you can't rely on it being actually fun.

        Compare to Shadowbane, a game based around PvP. Mostly there were big castle sieges, which were tremendously fun because you were defending something you personally cared about -- your own guild's city. There were also bosses with valuable runes, and we would fight other players for the right to keep the rune. And then there were groups of gankers who would go around killing leveling groups, and you had to always be ready to defend yourself against the gankers whenever they might appear. Now that's PvP that you can care about.

        On topic, on topic, hmm... Oh yeah, instancing. Shadowbane didn't have instancing and it was great. WoW had instancing and it was only okay (didn't provide me with nearly the fun factor of a non-instanced persistent world). Guild Wars is all instanced... and I like it a lot, but it's the "counter-strike" aspect of its PvP that's fun, rather than the traditional MMO feel. I'm not currently in a guild so I don't really do the bigger, more organized groups in Tombs, but I do the 4v4 random arena and it's loads of fun. I think instancing takes away from the "awesome, I can DO something" feel of the world.
    • This was also the mechanism for what many DAOCers consider to be the best era in DAOC PvP. Namely, in the period after Darkness Falls was introduced, when PvP and XPing were intertwined through and within it in an interesting way.
    • You need to get back on and play in Alterac Valley. This BG is so huge you fight to control resources (gold mines, towers, grave yards) and go on quests to gain the upper hand. Unfortunately, some AV games can last over 24 hours. o.O
  • There are some aspects of D&D (or any other in-person RPG) that online games just don't have.
    • Face to face contact. Talking with the other players, making funny voices, facial gestures and generally socializing
    • A human DM that adjusted things to the tastes of the group, fudged die rolls, provided a changing storyline that you really, honestly had an impact on.
    • Imagination. Limiting graphics to at most a general diagram can inspire. I'm not saying online games can't do this, but the imagination isn't necessary.
    • No online fee to play besides the inital gaming materials (that will still be usable 10 years from now).

    Yeah, MMOs have a certain flair (no need to schedule a game with friends, automationing most of the game mechanics), but they lose appeal quickly. D&D, Shadowrun, World of Darkness, Toon, etc. Gimme those over MMOs any day.
    • You also forgot to mention the great movement and action liberty you have. You can nearly do everything you want to do. Unlike MMO where you are constently block by the coding difficulty of imagining that someday a player will want to "Jump over an ogre, while throwing a firebolt at an arrow throw by the archer of the team while another ride by there to catch you in your fall."
      • You can nearly do everything you want to do. Unlike MMO where you are constently block by the coding difficulty of imagining that someday a player will want to "Jump over an ogre, while throwing a firebolt at an arrow throw by the archer of the team while another ride by there to catch you in your fall."

        Or, you know, climbing a small hill. Or jumping over a fence. Or crossing a shallow stream. Or walking down a steep cliff... but you get the point.
  • The author clearly has never had his Cloudsong zerged out from under him.
  • Instancing can be a great tool in a game, especially to guard against annoying behavior like loot stealing, dishonorable PVP, and spawn camping. But for the most part, I find the normal MMO atmosphere much more enjoyable. The idea of being out in the wilderness, and that being the same wilderness as everyone elses - the idea that I could run into anyone else at any moment - that is the true fun.

    I remember my favorite all time moment in gaming was during Final Fantasy XI (not an altogether wonderful game, bu
  • by 1inthestink ( 929974 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @11:40PM (#14144096)
    As a veteran of a few MMOG's (WoW and City of Heroes most recently), I thought Brad's comments were mostly on the mark. I was surprised at how even-handed his remarks about World of Warcraft were, although he did allow himself a few cheap shots.

    I definitely think that he exaggerates the impact of instancing on speed of leveling. City of Heroes is a highly instanced game, in fact, the majority of missions take place in an instance, whereas very little of World of Warcraft takes place in instanced areas. But there's no question that the speed of leveling is dramatically faster in WoW. He gives some great analysis of the thought process behind designing a faster leveling game, but the statement that more instances = faster advancement is demonstrably false.

    Furthermore, I think that instancing is just one aspect of an MMOG that can either work for or against community-building. The biggest factor in my mind is content soloability. If you don't NEED a group to defeat the vast majority of a game's content, a lot of people won't bother. You can pretty much solo your way to max level in WoW, but trying to do so in EQ or any traditional MMOG would be damn near impossible. This fits in with WoW's more casual-friendly atmosphere, but it means that unless you plan on joining a guild, you're unlikely to make many new friends.

    Not that you'd really want to if you've spent any time listening to the General Chat channel in the Barrens. "OMFG Trollz r gayzor!!111!"

    • I think you have to distinguish between instances for doing Missions/Quests/Storyline from doing instances for getting phat-l3wt. Any instance thats done for a mission is a good thing by my book. The last thing anyone wants is to get ganked or have to wait in line to finish a mission. On the other hand, instancing for special l3wt generally isn't a good thing for a wide range of reasons.

      Naturally its all subjective, but this is generally the case. Games with more instance designed areas tend to be less com

    • Only played CoH recently eh?

      There was the great herding nerf about three to six months back. The great hearding nerf slowed down leveling speed (particularly in the post-30 world) dramatically. I've been playing WoW for four months now, and haven't hit 60 quite yet. In CoH, I'd hit 50 in about 3 months.
  • I personally think that the instancing in WoW is done at just the perfect amount. Only the large-scale dungeons are instanced which is a great way to prevent boss-stealing. However, the rest of the world is not instanced so as mentioned before you can run into anybody just about anywhere.

    On the other hand, in City of Heroes beta when I played EVERYTHING was instanced to a degree and it really lost the feel of really being a part of the world because of it.

    The last extreme is Asheron's Call w

  • RPGs = group sex, without the sex
  • Like the one in my sig this one is never going to be settled. I spotted at least the following holy wars regarding MMO's.

    PvP vs PvE. Any PvE game will be instantly joined by PvP fans hounding the forms for PvP to be introduced. Same the otherway around. PvP fans at the moment are in a bit of a bind because the premier PvP games are not doing too well. PvE sells more monthly subscriptions and while games like EQ2 are introducing things like duelling Sony also took a lot of PvP out of its SWG title.


  • by denjin ( 115496 )
    I hear Dungeons and Dragons Online is totally instanced for all 'quests'.
    • Yea, the main city is global with the design that this is people will meet, socialize, form groups etc.
      Then once that is done and they leave the city it will be thier group vs the NPC world like your D&D game played at someones house.
      • by Vo0k ( 760020 )
        And never a chance to meet another team...
        Sometimes such crossovers are really great, when a good GM or two pit two teams against each other in some weird competition, or force them to cooperate, or just two groups of players meet to play a common adventure together...


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