To Create and Destroy

Games, even violent ones, frequently create situations where it is easier to create than destroy. Well, no, it is easier to delete a level-capped character than to build one, but in the normal course of MMO play, even your most destructive actions tend to build rather than destroy.

In the modern parlance, “RPG” means “character advancement.” This is what you are building. While your actions on-screen involve stabbing things and setting them on fire, everyone you kill gets better within 120 seconds while the experience you gain is permanent (outside old-school EQ). You earn money faster than you can reasonably burn it, and some games include character advancement while you sleep.

Are there any in-game actions that would actually harm Azeroth? You could hack the servers, you could reduce Blizzard’s revenue by being enough of a jerk to drive away players, but could you actually destroy Stormwind, defeat the Horde, or even permanently kill a single wolf? The worst you can do is throw away your own advancement or impede others’ in limited ways.

Everywhere else in your life, building is hard. Left alone, things fall apart. Reality is a treadmill, where your house and body need maintenance just to avoid getting worse. Bullets are cheaper and more effective than equipment for keeping them out of people. Kipple accumulates. It can be pleasant to pretend that things out of sight remain as they were instead of atrophying and decaying.

: Zubon

12 thoughts on “To Create and Destroy”

  1. Hmmm… interesting assertions. It mirrors what J McGonigal is saying in “Reality is Broken”; that game work is more productive than real work. McGonigal says that because we have clear goals, motivations and rewards, gaming is more satisfying work than the real world.

    However, you’re right. I sometimes feel that all this “one person making a difference” in the game world stuff is a bit shallow – eventually it all resets and all your work is undone.

    I am hoping that the dynamic events in GW2 will allow players to inject some tangible changes on the world.

  2. That would an interesting question for one of your co-bloggers to pose. WoW, in its original iteration, had a quest in which the entire server had to unlock AQ to progress. The world changed. EQ II promised a world quest to unlock froglegs or something but never implemented it.

    Why not throw in a few world-changing quests. Surely they have the technology. Why not create a new one, every quarter?

    Hell, Asheron’s Call did this sort of thing every month in its prime.

    1. I’d love those kind of quests. Where people would have to organically organise themselves for a very present threat. If they fail it could have lasting effects for that quarter or something :D

    2. It’s a good topic, although I think it is off-topic.

      Nothing you could do would affect whether AQ unlocked or what happened the next month in Asheron’s Call, nor the similar quests in LotRO to unlock Eregion or the giant turtle. The game does not allow for server divergence, so the full player impact was whether you, along with thousands of others, completed the required activity a few days before anyone else.

      It is like bosses that respawn. They create the illusion that your character had an impact, but the quarterly world-changing quest will change the world no matter how many or few people complete it. The change is pre-destined, the quest pretends that it matters whether you complete it.

      Now if we had a one-server game in which the final outcome was not certain, or a game that allowed meaningful server divergence based on player activity, that is exciting.

      1. It’s a good topic, although I think it is off-topic.

        Sorry. Someone who has a blog should write a post about it. As for your one server game, well … you know.

        I’d still be playing Eve Online were it not for the fact that it rewards people who joined when the reviewers were telling me it was just a buggy space mining simulator, and that if I decide to take a break for a month, I can never overcome that gap.

  3. The thing you describe is partly present in Guild Wars 2. Most Dynamic Events occur whether or not players are present in an area, and if noone comes and defeats the enemies, the event fails by design. Consequently, if noone plays, everything gets worse.

    On the contrary, destroying things in the course of a Dynamic Event is as impossible in Guild Wars 2 (left apart the possibility of doing nothing at all) as it is in other games. Either you help make the event succeed, or you do not care, but there is no way to help the centaurs destroy the human village. The reason for this is mainly anti-griefing.

    Permanently harming things is restricted to the Personal Storyline, where you can destroy game world objects, but this does not harm other players.

  4. with Eve, perhaps, being a notable exception to this? Sure, your character advances, but there are some real short paths to massive destruction.

  5. Given the little guys on the block are Xyson and Minecraft I’d say that creating seems to be the trend lately. Really need some carnage in an MMO as well, but it looks like there will be more open worlds and actual world building in the future of our themparks.

  6. Hmm yeah. Very interesting thing to point out and muse on. I guess I can only add that reality and the game were each created for different reasons, and therefor created differently.

  7. What does defeating the horde mean for the Horde players? Do they become players in a survival horror suddenly where the alliance is all around and trying to stomp them out? Also Killing ten rats in this sort of world eventually leads to rats getting hunted to extinction. If we can’t balance game economies how are we going to balance game ecologies?

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