Under Da Sea

My first 3D exploration in an MMO was in World of Warcraft.  There were some delicious herbs to be found off of Westfall’s shores.  Stranglekelp was found amidst roaming Murlocs, and when the herb was smoothee’d with some Blackmouth fish oil, my priest could be underwater for in-game hours checking out wreckages, looking for pearls, and generally enjoying the freedom of the z-axis.  There was one area, if I recall correctly, in Stranglethorn Vale where some elite Murlocs were guarding a sunken ruins.  I played an interesting game of agro-Operation trying to swim down to the bottom without alerting the bug-eyed fish-lizards to my presence.  It took a few tries, but I remember being so proud and feeling so clever.  The quest suggested a group of people after all.

The z-axis is appearing more and more in MMOs as another dimension to be explored.  In most MMOs players can jump, fall, and explore structures with multiple stories from the ground.  Underwater provides a fully three-dimensional exploring space.  Then flying is also becoming more of a mainstream item with World of Warcraft having received player controlled flight with the Burning Crusade expansion, and Aion Online’s entire game being built around the flying mechanic. Flight actually even came up in dev discussions on Lord of the Rings Online because, you know, giant eagles carried Gandalf and the hobbits.  One of the Turbine devs however remarked that many of the maps looked pretty terrible from above, and it was unlikely that the great eagles would stoop to mere steeds in the sky.

Even with the current aerial progression of exploration in MMOs, I like underwater exploration better than flying.  Flying requires ground content below it to be notable.  Then there may or may not also be in-air content as well.  For underwater places, what is underwater is the content.  Sure there can be shipwrecks and mer-giants walking on the sea floor, but it doesn’t feel like the seafloor is really the originating plane.  I might also like it better because swimming is real.  It’s something that I can relate to, whereas flying only occurs on the silver screen and in my imagination.

This leads me to a Guild Wars 2 tidbit I touched upon in an earlier post.  ArenaNet is creating a complete underwater continent.  They don’t want the danger of air to factor in either, and an easily gained consumable will be available for your fish-breathing enjoyment.  Exploration is one of the key goals to this zone (or zones).  It excites me that their focus is on having underwater explorable content rather than it being a small slice of the normal E-pie (as in EASK, or what have you..ummm… pie).  Afterall with that badass dragon in the trailer coming from below, it only makes sense.

Lord of the Rings Online, which is my MMO pony of the moment, has no three-dimensional combat that I can think of.  Either the mob will go into exploit mode or run up the cliff face.  Plus players can only swim on the water.  The three-dimensional architecture and level construction found in the game can be amazing.  The Forges and the Grand Stairs, two Mora instances, are beautifully designed multi-leveled zones.  For the moment, though, the game as far as combat is concerned might as well be compared to the jumpless, “2-d” Guild Wars.  Maybe this will be rectified someday, but I feel we will get mounted combat before 3-d combat in the MMO.  Amazingly enough, I had not really noticed the deficiency until writing this article.  Of course I was quite happy playing years of Guild Wars without a jump button until ArenaNet suggested that maybe it should have been there in the first place.

–Ravious
a half-crustacean band

13 thoughts on “Under Da Sea”

  1. Yeah, the GW lack of jumping didn’t bother me. The game doesn’t need it. That’ probably because of careful planning around a technical limitation. Now, designing underwater content to be playable with full z-axis support from day one, that sounds good. We *do* play these things in 3D worlds, after all.

  2. Water in DarkFall is very important. Not only is fighting someone very different in/under water than on land, but many locations can only be reached while swimming through a submerged cave. A few cities/hamlets are notoriously difficult to siege because of the added challenge of a cave or waterfall entrance. Another use water plays in DarkFall is to prevent falling damage: if you can make yourself land in water, while someone chasing you jumps and hits land, you put yourself at a huge advantage. I think the real genius of it is that instead of making an entirely different ruleset for water, the engine just changes a few things (movement speed and need for air), and allows the players to determine how best to deal with it. More than a few players have gotten a well-deserved rep for being amazing water fighters, and whenever they reach it the smart players stop pursuit.

    For GW2 though, if you remove the aspect of managing your air supply, how exactly is water and different than flying other than being slower and with a blue screen filter? You still have to create a ocean floor, with anything above eventually being the sky, and then everything in between is the ‘land’, be it under the sea or in the air.

    1. Because with flying you start at the height with the “most” content and go up to less content…. you really don’t explore the air, you explore what’s below from the air. Sure sometimes you can get to new areas only by flying, etc., but then you would land.

      With swimming you start at the level with the “lest” content and go down towards more content.

  3. I’m with you. Underwater is way more appealing to me than flight. I love being a Warlock in WoW simply because I can hang out underwater all day long. I only wish they made more use of it.

  4. I’ve never really understood why MMOs all the way back to original EQ allowed full z-axis movement underwater, yet almost none allow full, free movement in airborne flight.

    Horizons apparently did, if you played a dragon. I never found out because I unsubscribed after the free month. Vanguard does, and it’s extremely liberating. I assume Flyff does, but I never got high enough to find out.

    Any other MMOs that offer full, free flight? (Don’t say “Aion” ;) )

  5. I get lost in areas with different levels because all the maps are only 2D :( And I get all turned around underwater.

    Have they increased the time you can breathe underwater in WoW in the last couple of years? It seems way longer these days. (I took a break.)

    1. Yeah, was (doubled? tripled?) when wrath came out last november.

      I’d be able to tell you, but I play a druid, and as a result never see the bar anyway :D

  6. One of Champions Online’s final zones is an underwater zone – you exit a sub in the area (quest hub) and embark on a truly 3D experience. As a ranged hero, I do not have any problems fighting in this environment. My melee friend however hates the zone with a passion; having mobs spread out in packs using all three x,y,z axis really seem to mess with him and other melee folks. Something to consider.
    Iam not playing Aion, so I don’t know how melee combat “with wings” plays out.

  7. Swimming in LOTRO has one of the clumsiest of the rather clumsy animations in LOTRO, it really looks awful. Plus, as you pointed out, you cannot dive, which is very odd!

    Diving seems to be the new trend, and I think it offers more than flight. Aion’s take on flight is not very convincing, it is a tactical tool for travel and combat, but it is very time limited and needs to be preserved for said situations and feels clumsy at times.

    Flight was one of the biggest MMO design mistakes in the latest history. Yeah, people love flight. I also like the effects of really good drugs, but they destroy. Flight is not bad per se, but making it “invincible transport mode” most of the time, allowing to bypass any obstacle and removing world pvp bottleneckes and giving world pvp the final kick in the balls, making travel faster and faster and faster…

    To put it bluntly, as much as I personally loved my flying mounts and flying around, they take away from the game and destroy. They should never have happend.

    But other dev teams can learn that looking 3D is not enough, as you pointed out, LOTRO has huge heights and impressive landscapes, but very poor 3D combat support, and also lacking a natural kind of movement, the ability to dive – for no other apparent reason but the lack of a diving animation, IMO.

  8. Srry guys but you a probably going to troll or criticise what im saying but here goes:

    Aion, Its a good game at heart and they are on the right track but what ever happened to the good old business ways and ethics.

    NCsoft fail to communicate properly with their customers and no matter what excuse you come up with there is no denying that they are lacking in this department. Business success relies on a healthy company. A healthy company cares about their customers and products and thus must efficiently communicate properly. Its easy and cheap to do this so there really is no excuse. I hardly see any reply from any NCsoft reps on these forums and IMO some of the fixes have been pretty slack.

    I pay money for a product and both the seller and the buyer have an agreement that the product will perform adequately and satisfactory (there are even laws that enforce this). Now there is a much grey area for aion about what is consider satisfactory due to the complex nature of it, but seriously cant they act like the good old days and say “here loyal customers helping to better our product and enduring with our issues, have a free month” would it really hurt? how good would you feel as a customer being acknowledged like that. And with all the start up money with the initial launch it IS a possibility financially.

    Its the little things that count like customer recognition and communication that makes a difference. So what if they are not perfect its a competitive industry i understand take your time and do it right but just conduct your business right and shows us that you care and are trying your best to deliver the good product you promised us.

    Now i have hear ppl say if u dont like it dont play it. There is a flaws in this, i have paid a considerable start up cost for the game compared to the ongoing sub thus there is some expectation and i feel i deserve to be compensated.

    I have also heard “no one cares if u unsub” who ever says that can sit the F down cos they have know idea how markets and power of numbers works. It like voteing ppl say oh my vote doesent count but if u think about it for maybe lets say half a second and your not a monkey or another lesser species you would figure out that maybe there are many other ppl that feel the same way and that one unsub is really quite a lot more. Many ppl go silent about how they feel and dont use these forums.

    I LOVE AION. do i like the company and how they are going about their business? well i think they can do much better than that, if not a free months at least a discount or just SOMETHING to show us we mean more than money to you.

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