On the Need for Empire Space, Even in PvE

One of the secrets of EVE’s success as a PvP-centric MMO is that most of the sheep are safely in the pen. Sure, some folks engage in daring raids in high-security space, but it is mostly safe, and the vast majority of the playerbase is there. Those massive 0.0 empires are funded (probably in-game, certainly out-of-game) by the safe sectors.

SynCaine discusses more or less what the undead horde in Horizons was supposed to look like, in contrast to the more moderate Guild Wars 2 plan of hyper-evolved public quests. One can imagine the potential hell of server divergence if you actually let the game run wild like that; some developers would be happy to see such big differences across servers, expansions could not be planned linearly, some players would love it, some players would claim to love it while flocking to the safest server… I kind of like the idea that what server you play on really means something, but SynCaine circles back around to the problem with having meaningful consequences: it is not safe:

I agree that most WoW-type players don’t actually WANT dynamic content as defined above, which is more than likely the reason its not more common. In a way, what GW2 is trying to do is make those type of players believe the content is dynamic, while still ‘safe’ enough so their individual nightly plans don’t get too disrupted.

Well, yes. I really do want to be able to log on for an hour twice a week and have fun. Well, perhaps not me personally, since I am insanely obsessive like the rest of you, but as a developer you do not want a game that alienates people who will give you a full monthly fee for minimal access (in favor of the guy who plays 40 hours a week and complains on the forums another 20). I do not want to come back from a month away and find myself unable to escape from the undead-infested city that was safe when I logged off. I do want some safe, formulaic options that are available at all times, and if I re-join in an unsafe area, I want a button to get me somewhere stable without forcing me to spend a whole night doing it. Because you or I may be excited about checking the progress of the war every night before logging in, but with my work schedule, I want to be able to play when I want to play. You can tell me to go play something else for a night if I need that safe option, but if you tell me that very often, I am taking my subscription dollars with me.

So we cannot turn the whole world over to the risk of undead hordes without narrowing our little MMO niche. Instead, we keep some completely safe, static areas. We should have this even to the level cap, to keep those long-term casual players who are happy to run their daily heroics. But I agree, we could go a lot further with letting events play out in the wilds.

: Zubon

PS: Is that the core plan for GW2 PvE: “public quests plus a deed log, go!”? That sounds better than most, actually.

4 thoughts on “On the Need for Empire Space, Even in PvE”

  1. I suspect that GW2 may be also going back “old school.” Start to get away from the Quest-Hub mechanism and go back to the more open world where you went out and hunted back in EQ with out any direct quest. Event will happen and you will get extra xp for being a part of them.

    Though I doubt they will get away with NO quest hubs, but scale it back to something like DAoC. Enough quests to point you in the right area to go hunt for your level.

    They seem to also be keeping your personal story quest along as well, so I suspect there will be something you can always do to progress along that line as well. As long as no event is required for any of your main story quests, then it should work out well.

    It isn’t as bad to be gated on some achievements by events that you can not control. Some achievements should be based on a little bit of luck of being in the right place at the right time.

  2. Good points, but you can balance this sort of thing fairly easily when your game is one-sided like GW & GW2 – all the impacts the PCs have are either for the good guys, or for apathy.

    Thus you just design matters such that should your dynamic events threaten safer areas, you either have deus-ex-machina that spawns more friendly guards etc. and thus keeps the area safe, or you have some suitable dynamic system for the good guys as well that when left alone does counter-act the other dynamic system enough to keep areas safe.

    Besides, variation is good in moderation. I absolutely loved the games where, just occasionally, I’d arrive in the next area’s major city, and the city itself might be safe, but right outside, there’s a major siege going on. To change that from always being the case (which gets old fast) to depending on what you and others have been doing in the game world lately offers a lot of potential.

    A lot of people seem to drift from existing MMOs seeking something different because logging in to do the same daily thing just isn’t fun after a while. I think there’s a healthy happy medium between ‘and tonight we’re going to do the same boss run who always does the same mindless things over and over again’ and ‘tonight we have no clue, we’ll see how the world has changed’.

    After all, we have MMOs that offer the former – I don’t see much value in a new MMO reinventing that concept, yet again. Is the chance of surprise such a bad thing, as long as the surprise isn’t too unpleasant?

  3. Public quests were the feature of Warhammer Online I liked the most. I really am not a fan of static grouping, so running down a road, seeing a burning castle, and helping out with slaying the invaders with a group of strangers is precisely the amount of interaction I want from my MMO.

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