At the basic level, a zoo is a theme park. We go to see the animals and exhibits. We don’t go to jump in the lion’s pen and see what happens or build penguin dens. Yet, there is a vast difference between a zoo and a conventional theme park because we’re not always sure what we will experience. In a theme park, the rides, show times, and games are all set, but at a zoo the tigers might be napping while the monkeys are doing it next door. Things are especially interesting if a zoo visitor happens upon feeding time.
From basic definitions a theme park MMO is one where players experience exactly what the developers intend for them to experience, and sandbox MMOs are more player driven. Yet, with Rift and the upcoming Guild Wars 2, developers aren’t exactly sure what players will experience. There is a little more excitement and chaos than the usual theme park in these MMO zoos.
This distinction is well known to first-person shooter PvP players. So many play the exact same map with the exact same weapons/classes/etc. time and time again. Yet even if the goal each time is to push the bomb to the factory, it feels different and exciting. This time I baked three spies at once. That time I axtinguished a Heavy’s face. The time I collected 12 heads and was able to catch up to Scouts. These are the moments that are missing in so many of the conventional theme park MMOs. When will I have my story to tell?
In Rift, I’ve had the great experience of riling up the animals, so to speak. I’ve had plenty of similar experiences along the way in live. I’ve helped win many invasions, and I’ve lost quite a few. There have been times when I’ve sunk to the lowest of bare quest deliveries. However, the most fun I have in Rift is where the whole zone feels alive with movement of the dynamic events.
The excitement comes from the unknown. Will I beat this rift with the one other rogue? Now another mage just showed up, how much will that change? Can we beat back this invasion even though our wardstones are getting crushed? How well will my team work with the opposing faction’s team? How much will I affect things if I change back to DPS?
Unfortunately this excitement is hard to share. Ever listen at a bar to a white-collar softball team talk after the game about how this time they caught the ball different? Yeah, it’d be like that. This time I closed the rift different than last time. The nuances will be lost in translation. A non-player will think it a simple theme park because the activities are all developer driven. It’s really more of a zoo, and it’s about time for Trion Worlds to let the animals go free.
Lock the visitors inside first.
unless it’s a farm