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Reader Comments (18)

Posted: Jun 24th 2008 8:24AM Nadril said

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Seamless worlds and Zoning both have their benefits and setbacks.


On one hand, I don't think anyone would argue that Seamless worlds are more immersive then their zoned counterparts. Not having to deal with loading screens allows you to get that big feeling of "exploring" the world. This isn't saying that zoned games can't have immersion, it's just less.

The biggest thing (and biggest problem at times) with seamless worlds is the fact that all the players are there, in one world. Now, this is great at times -- there is no hiding from gankers by switching zones, none of that nonsense.

However it also means that for every new zone they put in, or for when a game launches, the zones are going to be PACKED. Just look at World of Warcraft's launch of even the sunwell isle, it was and still is madness to finish your quests there. During WoW's launch seamless zones meant a ton of problems with overcrowding. And, honestly, how imersive is 300 people trying to help bake the same damn pie? ;D


Zoning on the other hand allows developers to choose how many players they want to a zone. In Age of Conan the world is still very massive, and there are still plenty of players to a zone. In fact, if a player went from WoW to Conan today they would notice that during leveling (even now) there are tons of people of all levels in all the various zones, so it isn't empty at all. World PvP happens frequently and aside from loading screens it is difficult to tell that this isn't a seamless world.

And really, in the end, I would rather trade loading screens currently for smoother leveling. Some spots are already camped as is at higher levels, and one could only imagine the madness if this game was seamless. The big thing is that the border kingdoms, from what I understand, is entirely un-instanced -- allowing for mass PvP to happen.

The other big thing to take into consideration is that World of Warcraft is only seamless for leveling. Once you hit 70 everything you do save for dailies are in an instance. Arenas, battlegrounds, raids, instances -- all of them are "zoned" as one would put it.

In the end all that matters is how the game handles the content, and seamless / zoning can both work in the correct situation and game. As you stated in the article Conan really couldn't work currently because of just how large of a world was in the lore.

Posted: Jun 24th 2008 8:54AM (Unverified) said

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I recently came to AoC (yes I am off the island) and the zones I have seen do seem pretty large, however the instanced does feel like a broken world. I never took to Guild Wars because of this same reason. This is an issue with me .. especially as the main page http://www.ageofconan.com/ lists three following things: “Live” “Fight” and “Explore”. The instanced world does NOT makes that last claim valid.

Posted: Jun 24th 2008 9:33AM design1stcode2nd said

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I don't mind the instanes too much but I don't think everything needs to be instanced. they need to up the threshold on the number of players so you only get an instance when it would adversly impact play.

Posted: Jun 24th 2008 9:41AM Stop said

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After playing both zoned (FFXI) and seamless (WoW) MMOs, I think I can safely say I prefer seamless. It lends itself better to getting around, I think, and just feels more natural.

FFXI does have the amusing quality that due to their server setup, you can have individual zones within a single world crash. That always gets me.

Posted: Jun 24th 2008 10:04AM (Unverified) said

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The "world is too large" is not a good arguement for zoning. Azeroth, as described in the role playing supplements and the novels is also quite large. For example a trip on foot from Auberdine to the Crossroads would take *weeks* of travel if the world was "to scale".

They can shrink it down quite easily for the purposes of an MMO.

Posted: Jun 24th 2008 10:43AM Lethality said

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It's simple - this is not what people who enjoy MMOs have come to expect. AoC is a guided instanced-based game on rails with ZERO exploration. It's not an MMO. Just a series of connected tunnel-style maps.


Posted: Jun 24th 2008 11:02AM (Unverified) said

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Seamless worlds feel almost just as zoned to me as a zoned world. Granted you save the immersion breaking loading screen that pauses you for several seconds but many zones in WoW and other games are a series of interconnected boxes. Granted Flying mounts in TBC broke this apart a bit but still overall you travel from area to area with a huge shift in geography the second you hit a line. Pre-TBC (or any old world locations you still visit) are generally just 1 map with a few connecting edges to another map.

So you do save a loading screen which is nice for immersion but overall I find that the seamless world doesn't hold up immersion that much better than a world with zones.

Posted: Jun 24th 2008 12:12PM Jeromai said

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Me, I'd take the zoned world. Loadscreens don't bother me. Happy to trade the mild wait time for better graphics and less lag.

Zones also mean it's easier to expand the world by just adding new zones. A seamless world has to be at least roughly plotted from the start, and new islands/planes might end up popping out of the sea every expansion if the designers run out of imagination.

While I do subscribe to LOTRO out of a sense of loyalty to the lore, and for the 'realistic' seamless world feel when I get nostalgic for simpler MUD times, the expanding zones are limited by said seamless world to neighboring areas. Progress in that game is slow because traveling is such a timesink. Even then, I make heavy use of the automated horse travel, and map recall to town skills. I want my magic load screens and instant zapping to a location, thank ye.

Conversely, instancing tends to make it easier for me to immerse into the world. Why? Separation from other players. Less distraction from people behaving in a metagame manner, like gabbling leetspeak or running in circles farming mobs. Makes it easier to imagine your character as the hero of his own story, rather than one of the faceless identically-equipped player avatar clones.

It's not critical for my exploration to feel like it's one big joined world. I just want to be able to see it all. And preferably find things that most people miss, off the beaten track. That's doable regardless of whether areas are separated by loadscreens or not.

Posted: Jun 24th 2008 12:20PM Desco said

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Things that kill immersion:

- Thousands of adventurers all trying to do the same heroic deeds, relatively few "citizens".
- Interfaces, such as meters, toolbars, talk channels, menus, words floating above everyone's heads, radars, quick-keys, etc.
- Focusing on levels, attributes, XP, combat stats, skill points, and "figuring out what all the stats mean, how they relate to one another, and which ones you should focus on gearing to achieve the greatest return for your character."
- People who talk in game about leveling and levels, their attributes, maxing stats, gaining skill points, XP, rezing, agging, tanking, spawn areas, zones, quests, NPCs, LFG, PST, FPS, WTS, WTF?, raids, maps, websites, other IRL stuff...
- People who talk... period. First of all, listen to the average online game player... Not exactly "high fantasy", more like "lowest common denominator". (The good news is your average tweaker MMO player is just trying to type fast and get stuff done, compared to your average flame-war starting adolescent homophobic HALO player.) Second, the way people talk about the above things yanks you right out of any possible "immersion" you could possibly have, and smacks you in the face with the fact that you're still basically in an IRC session with graphics.

...and you're worried about a little pause between zones ruining immersion? Seriously, I know that many MMO players have come to love/expect the above, and taking much of it away (stats, levels, channels, etc) would piss off more people than it would attract truly role-playing oriented immersion junkies like myself, but don't you think it could be toned down just a little before concerning yourself with load times...?

Posted: Jun 26th 2008 5:20PM Desco said

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Solo RPGs on PCs dead!? I think you might need to peel your eyes off Massively and WoW forums for a minute and take a look around. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006), Jade Empire (200), Mass Effect (2008)... All top rated, well-selling games. Yes, there's no doubt MMORPGs have taken over the genre, but you can't call single player RPGs dead.

And yes, I realize not everyone plays games the same way I do. But by saying that, you've demonstrated that you missed my point completely. I was NOT complaining that I don't appreciate MMOs for these reasons, nor do I think that these things ruin games and gaming. I enjoy MMOs too, or else me being here would be just make me a trolling loser who has nothing better to do than post on fan sites of things I don't like... My point was strictly about things that ruin immersion in a game's setting, and while I can get into playing WoW and have fun with it, there's too many other things that prevent me from being truly immersed in the fantasy world to worry about whether zone boundaries and loading yanks me out of the fantasy and reminds me I'm still just playing a game-- which was this article's original point.
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Posted: Jun 24th 2008 1:13PM (Unverified) said

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Sounds like the last two posters need to check out some single player RPGs. None of those nasty "other people" running around to spoil their fun!

Posted: Jun 24th 2008 1:34PM GRT said

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Singly player RPGs are pretty much dead, which is why MMOs have plenty of solo-preferred gamers coming over.

Best get used to the idea that no everyone plays games the same way you do.
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Posted: Jun 24th 2008 1:33PM GRT said

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I think there are two facets to the issue. Technically I have no problems with zones... a few seconds of loading screen doesn't bother me. What does bother me in AoC is that the zones aren't adjacent. When you run through Old Tarantia and there're gates that you can't use, but instead have to talk to an NPC who'll teleport you, it feels very disjointed.

Compare that to, say, EQ 2, which is also zoned, but uses zones more organically. You can "see" into the next zone you're going to enter. Either that or you come to a door/gate, and if you look at a map you can see how several zone portals, designed as gates/doors/tunnels/whatever, fit together, so it feels like a connected world.

Sure, give us insta-port ship rides from Aquilonia to Stygia, but lets us walk from Old Tarantia to the Wild Lands.

Conan got around well enough in his big world. Why can't we?

Posted: Jun 24th 2008 5:09PM Darthus said

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Actually you do "use a gate" when it's appropriate. The reason you don't use a gate to get from Old Tarantia to the Wild Lands is because they're supposed to be miles away. You talk to a wagoneer who takes you.

But when you go from Old Tarantia to the Noble District, there's a gate, you double click on it, and go to the Noble District. Then as you enter the zone, you can turn around and see the gate right there.
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Posted: Jun 24th 2008 3:53PM (Unverified) said

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Maybe it's just me, but EQ2 is often a horrible example. I walk a few feet through a zone portal and end up in completely different terrain? How disjointed is that? Hardly immersive. At least both Guild Wars and Age of Conan's world has continuity when zoning.

Even those seamless worlds we love so much are zoned, we're just skipping the loading screen. Every time we enter a new zone in, say WoW or LOTRO, all the chat channels are switched to those of the new zone. So we really aren't staying "connected" with "everyone" in this big seamless world. The "world at large" in terms with direct interaction with the other players is still limited to only the current zone you're in, regardless if you sat through a loading screen or not.

Funcom said they tried the seamless world approach but it required too many sacrifices on graphics. They chose the eye candy.

Posted: Jun 24th 2008 5:09PM Darthus said

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Right, as Talyn said, Funcom did use the convenient excuse that Howard's world didn't make sense as a seamless world. But the real reason they made the world zoned was because they wanted to create a dense, graphically stunning game. It wouldn't be possible with a large seamless world. My inclination is that it would be impossible to store all that graphical data in RAM, even with a 5 minute loading screen.

The reason WoW can do it is it streams in data. It doesn't load the entire continent into memory with one load screen. It can do that because it is not very graphically intensive. You can't stream in AoC's graphics.

So the real question is do you want a seamless world in 2008 that looks like WoW, or a zoned world that looks like AoC? I'll take the latter.

PS. to Lethality's comments that AoC is an on rails game, you obviously didn't play past perhaps level 20. Go to the Wild Lands, the Field of the Dead or Khopshef Province and tell me those are on rails areas. They are giant maps, equal to or bigger than any of the areas in WoW and you can wander anywhere you dang please.

Posted: Jun 24th 2008 10:11PM (Unverified) said

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Zones can be delt with if done correctly aka logically placed. What really plagues mmorpgs these days is locked instances. Locked instances really kill mmorpgs imho.

WoW's instance system separates the player from the rest of the world in more ways than most people realize. AoC's worst problem is it's idea that cloned instances are good lawl. Not only was this probably the dumbest idea ever to brought to a mmorpg but easily was one of the reasons I quit playing. The idea that someone can just choose to instantly warp out of their current cloned instance right into a different one is just stupid.

Even though I will probably try WAR out it is still falling into the instance pitfall I feel. When you make a game like that not only are you locking yourself into that system but growth is limited to adding more locked instances thus you get a game where EVERYONE is in a locked instance 80 percent of their playtime thus taking away from the immersion of a true connected world. Hopefully Darkfall will actually come out this year and be everything I'm hoping it will.

Posted: Jul 1st 2008 10:26PM Jeromai said

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I think the issue with jumping instances in AoC is only limited to the first days of the MMO and the number of beginning lowbies involved.

At a higher level, I'm wishing I could jump instances like I used to, and the instance option remains steadfastly closed for the zones I'm in. So I'm having to deal with 5-6 other people running around depopulating regions of quest mobs with area of effect damage. Happens. Hazards of playing MMOs.

What I find amusing is the number of people who are whining on the cesspool of the official forums about Cistern/Main System - a dungeon which isn't instanced. It's a public dungeon, open to all comers, that leaves room for social interaction (be it joining up with another group, stealing bosses from another group, training a pack of mobs into another group, or pounding said group into the dirt on a PvP server).

Suddenly because it isn't like WoW, where you can have a private dungeon instance, it becomes intolerable.

Me, I like Cistern/Main Sys. I've had a blast in two PUGs and two guild groups there - even though we wiped on getting trained by someone else, or encountering a boss that had insane aoe damage. We also ran into someone who tagged a boss and ran him into us, hoping we would kill it for him. A little communication within the group, and we ran off to leave him to get ganked by it.

We also had the encouraging shared group experiences of exploring somewhere unknown, progressing to a place none of us had ever seen before, learning and getting comfortable with the map, and successfully defeating abovementioned AoE crazy boss with tactics. In the face of tough odds, due to all the possibilities for public nuisance.

I think of it as a consensual thing. If you've chosen to join a group there, you have consented to dungeon crawling in a shared public area with all the pros and cons.

If you hate it, there's the option of solo private instances like the Villas or other group private instances - Imirian Ravine, etc.

@Theadrick: I play both. And I play MMOs because I have the option to solo or group with other people as I like. I will not play a forced grouping game, only those that offer choice.

Sometimes it is convenient to just solo for an hour or less, and play the immersion game of becoming your character and enjoying the story. And sometimes, when there's plenty of time to kill, it's nice to interact with other players on a more meta-gamey level, knowing that immersion will fall to the wayside.

(By choice, I don't RP. I play games mainly to Explore and Achieve, soloing and grouping as the mood takes me.)

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