Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Turn, Turn, Turn

Appeasement? Or understanding?

There are a few of us here who bemoan the state of the Virtual World with some regularity, who were particularly disappointed when it became clear that Draenor was being presented as our 'new world', in the past, when the 'present' version in game was ripe for potential change. There's been a rolling argument for dynamic content since Blizzard altered the world view in Cataclysm: as Anne Stickney explains in her response to this Tweet,  it would be fabulous to have a gaming world where things aren't simply on a small and predictable loop, where the kids in Stormwing don't run around at 3am but are firmly tucked up in bed, where the houses in cities aren't simply populated, they're homes.

This would be a significant step forward in our gaming world, and hints at a myriad of possibilities.

This could allow for different Dungeon setups during Festivals, for instance. Seasonal NPC's could be introduced into normal 5 mans with quests specific to the time of year. As is the case with the Wanderer's Festival every Sunday in Karasarang you could see people arrive, setup their stalls and leave rather than vanish as the Darkmoon Faire does every month. You could track progress of NPC's across zones, knowing if it was a Tuesday you'd find them in Arathi, and each day they could be doing something different. It would present a brilliant illusion of progression of linear time without the need for major zonal upheaval, which has to be a major goal for creating a living, breathing world.

Just think what that could do to an area like Dalaran, which needs to remain intact inside the Expansion timeline it inhabits, but exists in a number of different places on the timeline in different states. If you paired this with phasing technology, the potential is significant.

A world that changes when you do? YES PLEASE :D

The technical issues however that this could throw up would be considerable, especially if, as I've been finding with dragging two people around the same place a lot of late, you're in different stages of the same journey. There are parts of the Jade Forest, for instance, that I can't fly through with two people because the sub-90 has not done the quests that allow it to be open to them when the 90 is cleared for passage. It would be quite easy, I wager, to make parts of the World different for two separate characters to travel through: the problem comes when you want to pair them up to do so. If those areas are then dynamically seeded with NPC's that are appropriate to the phased events, the bottom layer of 'set' need never have to change at all, the changes can be stuck on top of the base level inside the phasing itself. Think of it like a static background with layers of transparent plastic stuck on top, to make what is the World in basic form into something very different indeed.

Part of me thinks that might have been what they've been doing all this time in Karazhan, you know.


As Anne points out in her article, even if nothing comes of this, it is encouraging to see that Blizzard know this is an issue. Immersion in any medium is determined by an individual's ability to forget they're doing so to begin with: the best games aren't just compelling, they're diverting and entertaining to boot. This kind of dynamic technology would allow a measure of freedom we've seen hinted at previously in Blizzard's endeavours but never fully realised because of the limitations in technology, but as I suspect I'll be saying a lot in 2014, much has changed since this game was first released. To give us another dimension to the nuts and bolts of the daily world is enough to get at least two Bloggers excited enough to write articles on even the possibility. I know we wouldn't be alone.

I reckon Blizzard grasp that too.


dobablo said...

Group leaders already decide the realm and instance of their group. How hard could it be for them to also define the phase. It would be a big help for geting people to support people doing quests in zones that they have already cleared and 2-man vehicles.

Altaholic said...

Immersion already suffers horribly in wow thanks to their focus on raiding being the 'real game' and making the rest not matter.

Andy Farrell said...

It would be a big help for geting people to support people doing quests in zones that they have already cleared and 2-man vehicles.

It would also be a big help when trying to summon people to ICC


R said...

The most lasting memory I have from playing Skyrim a while back was a shocking awakening of how possible it is to make a game world feel alive.

It permeated the game... not just in terms of major world changes (which can happen in WoW but in some cases don't map well to an MMO in general) but things like NPC activity (they moved around, chatted amongst themselves (with a surprising number of dialog options), lived lives (jobs during the day, going home to sleep at night), changing inventories on shopkeepers (which makes sense in context, you aren't the only person using their services, after all), etc.

It was also noticeable in "instanced" content... the indoor stuff. I went into dozens of different caves that were, I think without exception, DIFFERENT CAVES. WoW has... 3 main cave designs? All WoW keeps have the same basic model, maybe with a door or pathway blocked. All wizard towers have the exact same, stupid rope ladder pathing and the dude you need to talk to is almost always (when torture isn't involved) at the top because... wizards need to stand as high as possible for some reason. Not sure why they don't just fly up to the roof if that's a thing.

It's entirely possible that Skyrim had a much longer development cycle than WoW does for any particular piece of content, or maybe they had a larger number of development resources, but I'm just not sure why WoW is missing those particular elements even after all this time. To me, that's what's most missing from WoW... Garrisons have the potential to be a personal version of this "living world" thing but I'd like to see it extended to NPCs and the actual world itself. Would it be so bad to go into a cave for the first time ever and NOT know that you'll have to take the left corridor, drop down to the lower area, hug the left wall and kill the dude at the end of the platform, then drop down, hug the left wall again and follow it back out?