Tuesday, September 1, 2009

MMO design: part 2

A continuation (after many moons) of this post

Today we take a look at Zones.

I've always wondered about what makes a zone memorable. There are a few factors: The mobs, the events, the place itself.

The first two factors mentioned are very commonly used in today's MMOs. Memorable mobs exists since the very first gen of MMOs (Ultima, RO, Everquest). Naturally, the more powerful they are, the more memorable, but at the same time, more painful for the players. There are rare instances where a mob can be so ridiculously powerful for that area that all players simply run away when it is sighted. Doesn't happen very much in WoW, but it exists in Ragnarok Online and Everquest (excessively for Everquest's case).

Next is the events. WoW makes their instances special by having lots of events, creating the effect that the player is playing through a story. If I remember correctly, Guild Wars and Dungeon and Dragons Online also abuses this. Event triggers are harder to implement in the actual world, because it indirectly affects everyone. Although I am a big fan of world triggers, the opinion varies across different people, and it is all dependent on the event. Sure everyone loves a positive event that gives buffs to everyone, but negative events? Sounds fun to me, but not to others.

Finally we look at the zone itself. I believe more can be added to the flavour of the zone other than event triggers, NPCs, towns, buildings, mobs and the exclusive stuff a zone have that others don't (some special item seller behind a secret wall perhaps?). Everquest has an assload of these stuff. Some are harmless like illusion walls. Some are deadly like the forest which spawn high level undeads and shadowknights only in the night (it's only beside a newbie area), and illusion floors that lead straight to a room filled with mobs. And of course, zoning into a zone, where the exit is at a totally different place as the entrance (this was some crazy shit, but it's in Everquest's Plane of FEAR after all).

So with these factors, they form a player's memory of the zone. We missed out the terrain layout and graphics but these are just the skin of the zone. Although it is still an important part of it, there isn't much about these to elaborate about.

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