Modicum of Interaction

I started playing World of Warcraft again. I wouldn’t have done it without a friend of mine who is a huge Blizzard fan, going to Blizzcons and all that. I asked what server he played on. Ravenholdt. Sounds good, I thought, as I watched the World of Warcraft client update after nearly a decade of dust.

Then when it came time to choose that character’s home, I gulped when I saw Ravenholdt. “RP”…. okay, whatever, and “PvP”… what? PvP meant that if I was out in the open world picking daisies any dirty orc player could come and gank me. I was never going to be safe from the darkness in the hearts of humans IRL.

I can feel Syncaine’s future eye roll already. 

When I hit Redridge Mountain, the first area that was “contested”, meaning both Horde and Alliance players have stake in the zone, there was a level 20 waiting for me. Thankfully, I was able to run in to the NPC-defended tower before I died. I sat in there like a puppy mournfully watching the rain. I could not exit the tower knowing that 5 levels below Mr. Noob Basher I would be toast. Then a level 75 arrived on a magnificent flying beast from out of the sky and popped Mr. Noob Basher.

Another time I saw a Horde player getting overwhelmed with NPC aggro at Alther’s Mill. Not sure what he was doing there, but it’s a thug life so I popped a few DoTs on him to help him to the graveyard.

None of that would have happened if I had not been on a PvP server. Except for my one foray into the dungeon finder, I would have had virtually zero interaction with other players. There would have been no story for me to tell except “I did the quests in three zones, and it was what you would expect.”

There was a modicum of interaction that raised my early journey in to World of Warcraft beyond mere content. I cannot say the same for my recent return to The Secret World, and I know that World of Garrisoncraft is basically an interaction insulated feature. Well, until as of late.

I thought about the content I’ve been returning to in Guild Wars 2 on “finished” characters. Silverwastes is the big one, where the zone ends with a huge boss fight requiring three lanes of players. It is definitely on farm mode for the entire game, but things can change. A lane can fail a champion, a lane can start losing siege carriers. Just before the patch there was one fight where Lane 1 had to beat the first and second champions.

Even Dry Top has this modicum of interaction. It’s a huge event farm of a zone, but the more organized people are in farming, the better the rewards for everybody. It is like a blast of fresh, desert air when a competent commander starts rallying the peasants. Even in ye ol’ Cursed Shore, it’s pretty impossible not to have someone muck up your solo event.

I often return to a Jeffrey Steefel quote about MMO players wanting to be in an arcade playing their own pinball game but being surrounded by the activity of others. I think that was the last decade’s notion of MMOs, and I think it was not the best idea.

I think interaction is necessary. Looking at the general commentary on the recent Garrison mechanic in World of Warcraft, people appear to want more interaction than their own “private pinball machine”. I’ve seen suggestions for phased sharing of a Garrison with guilds, visiting players, etc. People apparently don’t like to be alone and separate in an MMO. Who would’ve thought?

Well apparently Richard Garriott of the oldest school of MMO’s disagrees. Or rather is going to have an option in the upcoming Shroud of the Avatar MMO to be completely insulated from other players. Yes, there will be an option to have a full-on single-player MMO (online and offline!). Most of the other upcoming MMOs seem very heavily based on player interaction, which is what I would more expect.

Around the blogosphere and elsewhere, the three pieces of of the MMO acronym have been heavily discussed. What is “massively”? And, maybe they are silent cornerstones. However, I am finding that persistence and interaction are what matters to me most. If either aren’t part of the MMO’s equation and focus, I am barely interested. There are far better single-player games, like Witcher 3, than MMOs for that type of gameplay and experience.


6 thoughts on “Modicum of Interaction”

  1. This is why the EQ progression servers are doing so well. People group to level. There are other people everywhere. It’s so refreshing – and sad you have to play a 1999 games to get it. :)

  2. MMOs without interactivity are like Pinocchio without any magic: wooden, stiff, and dull. Throw in some friends, a chance encounter with a stranger, and suddenly it all comes to life.

    I think the pinball analogy is off. I don’t want every waking moment in my MMO to require me and a small army, but I fully understand that much the experience comes from assembling the proper force. I don’t know ten people in real life I would want to assemble to do any shared activity outside of standing around in one room eating and drinking. To get the interplay and teamwork and shared experience that I crave in MMOs, I MUST interact with strangers, build relationships, and participate in an open community.

    The more MMOs are designed to sidestep interactivity, the harder it becomes to interact with others and build those relationships, as the game ceases to actively promote or require those interactions. We don’t need to go back to 1999, but I think the popularity of MOBAs with their group-based, role-required, strategy-promoting gameplay indicates we can do a bit better in MMOs than making them all flower picking simulators (where the flowers are phased so you don’t have to speak/interact/or fight with any strangers).

  3. I’ll take the pinball machine in the arcade surrounded by other pinball players.

    Relaxation is the primary thing I look for from an MMORPG. Anything that detracts from that is a negative. Of course, if players are seeking excitement or creativity other options may be preferable but that’s not what I come to the genre for.

    I spent six hours yesterday and another four hours today sorting inventory on fifteen GW2 characters, swapping and stacking items across three accounts and two guild banks and those were two of the best sessions I’ve had in ages. Not really much room for interaction in that but equally it would make no sense to do it at all without the infrastructure of a public MMO.

  4. World of Warcraft : player interaction is dungeons, PvP, Raids, certain holiday events, asking a Mage for a port.
    Rift: Rifts, Instant Adventures, dungeons, PvP
    Lord of the Rings Online: Dungeons, skirmishes?, quests which used to require you to beg at length for a group, so frustrating…I don’t know if that is still the case
    I’m fairly sure most others are the same.
    While it is fun to work cooperatively with others, the ways in which that can be done seem limited.

  5. Your examples of open-world PvP are why the concept is hard to sell to those who haven’t really experienced it. If you say “we are adding the ability for someone to kill someone else who doesn’t have a chance to fight back”, few are going to say “awesome addition, go for it!”. But the more you try to have PvP, but keep it ‘fair’, the further you stray from the players being able to get into interesting situations, even ones like that lvl 70 coming down and clearing away the basher (which is just another example of someone who can’t fight back being killed, but very different from your perspective).

    Generally PvP MMOs fail not because they have or allow PvP, but because the devs expect the PvP to carry the entire game; you still have to make a decent MMO, and usually they don’t.

  6. Interaction is certainly important, the sense that the world has more than (laughably bad) AI-controlled robot characters. As for the PVP example you give I’ll pass on that, like others I game to relax and the ‘adrenaline’ from unexpected encounters is something I can well do without of an evening.

    Maybe it comes down to a competition vs cooperation debate. Does all interaction have to be competition in MMORPGs or can we also encourage cooperation? Guild Wars 2 does have cooperative events as you described of course and FFXIV positively encourages coop grouping at all levels. I much prefer the cooperative side to interaction.

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