Which virtual world to visit this summer?

Summer is coming. Summer means gaming. So does the rest of the year, but still. Which means I need a summer MMO to keep myself busy.

I really did try to give EverQuest II another chance, but after a brief session yesterday I decided to call it quits again. I do enjoy the game on certain levels, the gameplay is fairly solid and the graphics aren’t all that bad (except the character design, which I’m not a big fan of), but I am amazed at how the zoning always gets to me. It really shouldn’t be that big a deal, but I can’t help having to stretch my imagination too far every time I zone – in my head, The Baubleshire and the Forest Ruins aren’t connected in any way, despite the fact that they are right next to each other. The zoning between them completely breaks my immersion, which annoys me to the degree that I have a hard time enjoying the rest of the EQII-experience.

For a weak moment I was considering resubbing to Age of Conan, despite what some people seem to think about Funcom’s latest event screw up, but then I remembered that if there’s one game that has a lot of zoning, it’s AoC. I also did some reading on the official AoC forums and seeing references to the amount of instances of a given zone up at one time, I really decided to skip it. If there is one thing that gets me more than zoning it’s instancing of an open zone (dungeons are exceptions). I even prefer more servers with less people on them than multiple instances of a zone on one server. Just the thought of it makes my skin crawl. It’s a horrible, bad and cheap design solution.

So where does that leave me? Rappelz still won’t co-operate, which really bugs me. A clean install is coming up and some manual patching on top of that should solve my issues, even though it’s really damn annoying that I have to do that just to get the thing running. Champions Online has been delayed until September, but to be honest I wasn’t all that impressed with the press beta. Jumpgate Evolution has been delayed as well, but considering what a train wreck of a MMO NetDevil’s old Auto Assault was, why do I even care to begin with? I’m not very impressed with the ship design and I know I will always expect space MMOs that only has a ship as your avatar to be as cut-throat as EVE Online. Dog fights are cool and all, but I still love the rush of EVE’s PvP fights.

Darkfall? The €42 price tag says “no”. I would love to give it a try, but I can’t for the life of me see myself paying that much money for it. It also seems like the European, and only, server is already populated and entrenched by now. I might consider it if they open up the NA-1 server in June and allow people to transfer off from EU-1, but I would prefer to see a brand new server opening up in Europe instead. Even though the empires are already established in EVE Online, you still have Empire space to keep you safe and cuddly until you dare to leave for low- or null-sec. I’m not 100% sure, since I’ve not tried DF myself, but it seems like it would be harder to start up a brand new, small sized guild compared to getting a corp up and running in EVE.

So, my eyes have once again fallen on Vanguard. There might not be any large-scale politics to get involved in, but it has a massive and epic world filled with places to see and explore. I really liked it when I played it, but since raiding in World of Warcraft got the better of me I cancelled my sub ages ago. I haven’t seen the Isle of Dawn (except the very first parts), I never got past level 20 and since diplomacy has seen a bit of a revamp since I left I’m really aching to see what they’ve done with those quest chains (I really liked diplomacy). I’ve been a bit worried (and still am, in a way) that SOE would leave the game to rot, but the Halls of the Pantheon update was just applied to the live servers which means the devs are keeping themselves busy.

As it stands right now, it’s Vanguard vs a deeper commitment to EVE Online. I love EVE, I always have, always will. But it plays completely different than other MMOs, at least for me. It’s about 10 days until I finished Small Railgun Spec V, then we’ll see if EVE will be my summer MMO. Until then, I think I’ll resub to Vanguard and give Isle of Dawn a spin. After all, Beau seems to be quite impressed with it.

And then there’s that damn Ryzom I just can’t get out of my head…arrrrrgh. I think I’ll go play inFamous for a bit.

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4 comments

  1. Dlangar says:

    I’d be very interested to hear more discussion on how and why instancing annoys you. For instance (no pun intended), I always thought the multiple instances of common zones to be actually a kind of good solution to the problem of multiple shards or of overcrowding in a common world. Now granted, most games don’t provide adequate tools or means by which to ensure you’re in the same instance as people you want to play with, but I find that to be an interface problem more than a flaw in the design itself.

    I spend a lot of time thinking about how much is too much when it comes to instancing, but how much is too little too. Instancing can give you a LOT.. a more directed, single player experience for your group, elimination of spawn camping, cinematic opportnities, load balancing, etc. But it takes away too — separation from the rest of the world, breaking of immersion, load times themselves, and less of a feeling of connectedness to the world. Plus, as in the case of City of Heroes or Guild Wars, often time the instances quickly feel repetivie and canned, and you really start to feel very disconnected from the world.

    Eve and Space oriented MMO’s aside, in a general terrain/avatar based MMO, care to elaborate on what you think is an appropriate level if instancing?

    Dlangar
    http://ofcourseillplayit.com

  2. Petter says:

    …I always thought the multiple instances of common zones to be actually a kind of good solution to the problem of multiple shards or of overcrowding in a common world.

    Aye, it is. For a game designer, or a network tech, it’s probably a god-sent solution to a lot of pure technical problems. But it also breaks my immersion completely. One of the wonders of playing a MMO for a long time is starting to recognise names, characters or guilds. To run into a city and see people you recognise. It makes, for me, the world come alive. Multiple instances of the same common zone breaks that particular city, or outdoor area, into many different pieces. I can instinctively feel it – the place I am in is not unique, it’s only a copy of many possible copies.

    Yes, Stormwind exists on all WoW servers, but my own server is my own self-contained world. Thus having multiple copies of an area on the same shard/server breaks immersion in that it reminds the player (i.e. me) that the world isn’t real. The whole moving between instances to be with friends just makes the whole thing more tangible. Even though I am in the same guild chat as my friends I still enjoy running past them in the street, giving them a /wave, and keep going about my business.

    Guild Wars is different in that the whole game is, more or less, instanced. I had a really hard time getting into the feel of the GW world thanks to it, the various outposts and cities become more like chat channels with a graphics-based UI. I don’t mind instanced dungeons, as they only shut out the rest of the world while you are inside of them – that way you and your team mates can go on your own great adventures against dangerous opponents without worrying about being griefed. But the moment I step out of that particular dungeon, I want to be back in a single, coherent world.

    Do I make any sense?

  3. Meiguoren says:

    The only one I care about in the near future is The Secret World. Yes, it’s a Funcom game, but it’s being run by Ragnor Tornquist, and whatever plops out of that man’s head is pure gold.

  4. Petter says:

    Sadly I wouldn’t use the words “in the near future” when talking about TSW. But yes, I’m really looking forward to it as well – if nothing else because of the storyline.

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