Where did the seamless worlds go?

When the second generation of MMOs (DAoC, AO, FFXI, and Shadowbane) was being release this was one of the biggest selling points for these games. Big open worlds and no zones, at the time this was one of the big complaints about EQ (King of the mountain at that time). So all of the developers were working on ways of making a game that did not have small zones like EQ.

DAoC actually accomplished its goal of making most of the world seamless. The only times that you zoned were into dungeons and the capitol cities. When they added an expansion you would have to zone in to it also. But the world was big and alive. You could actually walk around the capitol cities they existed in the game world. This really added to the feeling that you were in a real world and felt real.

Then out came the 3rd generation MMOs (EQ2 and WoW) EQ2 stuck to its guns and continued the zoning thing the zones were huge but you still had zones. WoW on the other hand has a pretty much seamless world there are zones but only where they make sense. Wow’s system is very similar to DAoC and I personally believe is the right way to do it.

Now come the current generation of games and the first one out of the gate is Age of Conan. Age of Conan decided to go extra heavy on the zones. Then WAR is released and what do you know every zone is instanced. We also have the recent cryptic MMOs that don’t even try to hide that the entire game is instanced.

Now that the history lesson is over, why are they doing this?

Developers will tell you it is to customize the experience for the player, it is make the story better, or even reduce lag. But the real reason is Laziness! That is why. By making everything instanced they are able to dynamically allocate resources based on load and it saves a ton of money and time doing it this way. Every server can load any instance, it is really a very cool technology. But it is killing immersion in games.

In WAR the map and the physical world do meld well together through most of the game. But when you get to the end game and you do a city siege all of the cool siege weapons that you have been using just disappear and you zone into the city. You are not trying to break the walls down you zone into it and fight over some flags. Then you fight some PVE battles and in the end you really had no effect on the real world. Mythic really screwed the pooch on city sieges they should have been epic but they ended up being and epic PVE zerg fest.

Now to the game that prompted this entire wall of text Star Trek online. The entire game is instances which would not be so bad if they were large, but they are not. What kind of space has small zones? Space is huge the zones should be huge. They should all be connected by space it should be seamless. Cryptic really missed the entire premise of Star Trek

Space… the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

How the hell can you do any of that if there are 30 other people in the zone with you? There should be expanses of empty space with random encounters and planets to explore. How can you make a Star Trek game without exploration? HOW?

By making the entire game instanced. They were lazy and decided to make it on the Champions Online engine because it was easy. But don’t worry you can customize your ship like nobody’s business.

Developers stop being lazy and make a real game. If you want to even try to compete with WoW the world needs to feel like a world.