Tag: map design

/Saved: Beta impressions, Evergreen topics and ingame adventures

This week, there were some interesting posts about games in (early) testing- namely Atlas Reactor and Black Desert Online, a discussion about solo play in MMORGs and ingame adventures from The Secret World and Final Fantasy XIV as well as some thoughts about map/zone design.

Beta Impressions

Black Desert Online’s reception seems to remain mostly positive, although i have to say Ironweakness’ impressions were worse than i expected while still being quite positive all things considered, while Syl mostly worries about cash shop prices and PvP but still thinks BDO can deliver in terms of exploration.

Atlas Reactor is a game i’m somewhat eyeing: a turn-based multiplayer battle arena sounds like fun! So i was happy to see Nerdy Bookah’s First Impressions review of the game- and it seems they’re quite impressed. While i’m generally quite forgiving and not too bothered by cash shop weirdness, these days i’m not entirely sure Trion has a good plan for earning money with the game. Having no plan – or a bad one- might result in some strange moves on the way to figuring it out. Other than that, though, i’ll probably check it out sooner or later.

Opinion

There are a few topics in MMO-land that surface from time to time- one being the Solo-play-in-MMOs-topic. However, i think it isn’t boring or tiring at all, because perspectives and game design shift all the time- just take a look at the way SWTOR does things now. This week, Wolfy wrote about solo dancing after Syl asked why people would play an MMO solo.

J3w3l took Ironweakness’ post about zone fatigue and shares her own thoughts on that, stating that she doesn’t feel it as much when maps change themes slowly instead of shifting from one map design to another.

Ingame Adventures

Syp brings us another tale from The Secret World, this time revolving around the quest “Wetware” which takes place in Tokyo. Aywren shares her observation that sometimes, healers are killjoys in pick-up-groups. Personally, i’ve had much worse experiences with tanks- and WoW hunters, and healers are probably more sensitive because wipes will ultimately be blamed on them, but i can still see where she’s coming from. Ironweakness takes a look back at the games he played in 2015- this week’s post was about Final Fantasy XIV.

 

Backpacker: World of Warcraft’s Teldrassil

World of Warcraft has a few qualities, which shouldn’t be surprising since it’s still the most played MMORPG out there. For me, two are very noticeable- the fluid gameplay/combat/movement and the second one, the world/zone building. It’s not only the graphics and Blizzards ability to get the most out of their decade-old-engine that WoW still looks good- it’s because of the zone design. So i decided to start a “backpacker” series for that. It’s easy to do, too, since you can play World of Warcraft for free up to level 20. After some research, i came to the conclusion that a Druid would work best, what with the travel form and such. It might be possible to explore zones much further into the level bracket when playing this class.

Leaving Darnassus
Leaving Darnassus

I don’t know where this plan is going to lead me- maybe even into a subscription, but if i’m honest, the last times i started playing WoW, the questing got to me. It’s always the questing- with Rift, Lord of the Rings and WoW. While Rift has decent alternatives to level a character, i don’t think one could say the same for WoW. Sure, there are dungeons and they’re great experiences- but i wouldn’t know why i should play the instanced part of the game to experience the open world. And questing is slow. Exploration doesn’t seem to be rewarded with xp, so leveling through exploration and crafting/gathering is not a good alternative. So you’ve got questing, pvp, pet battles, gathering and dungeons as ways to level.

Gathering could work. But it would take a lot of time, too much for me, even when i could combine it with grinding mobs.

Anyway, the possibility to level a character to 20 without paying gives me the option to travel through quite a few zones. I’ve always been an Alliance player, so i’ll use a Nightelf Druid for this, even if that means i’ll be starting on the wrong continent. I think i can leave for Stormwind come level 10 (already there, but haven’t looked if i can take the ship over there).

So let’s take a look. I don’t really know how long this lasts, but WoW’s zones are believable to me, and that’s the great advantage. In Lotro, for instance, the third zone you’ll play in will consist of one village/inn and some ruins as homesteads for people. I don’t know why these people don’t build and seem to be content in their ruins, but it strikes me as odd. In WoW, which i didn’t experience a whole lot (until Un’Goro in TBC’s time), the zones leading up to Un’Goro seem…well, despite it being a fantastic, sometimes odd world, it seems more “civilized”. I mean, villages look like villages.

The starting village of Shadowglen
The starting village of Shadowglen

Look at that- that’s where your life as a nightelf begins- it might not be exactly as big, but the whole layout is similar to the faction capital of the Guardians in Rift, Sanctum. I’d like to highlight that i don’t want to devalue Rift by stating this, but simply to state how much i like these sort of things. And it’s an exaggeration, of course. Sanctum is still bigger than Shadowglen’s center.

Another thing that i didn’t remember – and that might change later on – is that World of Warcraft really is generous with space/landscape. In other, more modern games, mob density is quite high- it’s for the sake of accessibility, of course, so that you don’t have to search for the mob you need for a quest or compete with other players for the same mobs, but if you look at zone design from that perspective only, what remains is a functional map. When you leave room for all kinds of things- villages, wildlife, trees, the odd cavern, rivers, lakes and whathaveyou- the zone looks and feels a whole lot more believable.

Lake Al'Ameth
Lake Al’Ameth
To Dolanaar
To Dolanaar

WoW’s zone design always impressed me. Sure, i like my fantasy worlds even more “open”, even less “zoney” and not as “themepark-styled” (thinking about the “haunted house zone” for levels 20 to 30), but there are few games providing that- the last one i know was Vanguard, which had a great world albeit with its own flaws. Other games are good, as well- Rift and Lotro’s worlds are open, and especially Lotro offers great landscapes that still hold themselves very good in terms of graphics, Final Fantasy 14’s zones are of a very good design, as well, but they feel quite small.

Exploring Teldrassil