Your MMO, Your World

Today’s MMORPG worlds are vast and expansive. You need to look no farther than World of Warcraft to fully understand just how big some of these worlds can get. I once attempted to run from the southernmost point of Tanaris to Orgrimmar and bailed about half way through. Suffice it to say I was running for a while, and felt that I could be better using my MMO time. So onto my point, what is it about these hugely expansive worlds that draws you in?

When I first start a new MMORPG I take at least a few hours to fully explore the world. Doesn’t mater how many times I die in the process, I am very picky about my worlds and if I can’t be convinced that I am actually a part of it then I usually just stop playing the game right away. I absolutely can’t tolerate a stale or stagnate world. Vanguard: Saga of Heroes was a perfect example of this. I initially started playing the game a few months after it was released (there was no way I was getting trapped in the beta-retail version). I began the game all cheery and figured the world would be awesome to explore and have fun with. Unfortunately, what I found was immaculate graphics attempting to cover up an otherwise boring world. Needless to say, I didn’t make it past my first month subscription. Of course, Vanguard isn’t the only culprit in this…

As more and more MMORPGs come out I am beginning to notice a trend in the way worlds are built. I don’t know what it is, but the World of Warcraft has character and, as such, I never thought the world was boring. For other games, like Tabula Rasa and Vanguard, the worlds almost feel methodical, like it was a randomly generated map. So what gives? How can an almost 4 year old game have a better, more lively world than games that have been released fairly recently? I honestly can’t tell you, but I bet it definitely helps to have a solid franshice to build off of. Just ask Lord of the Rings Online developer Turbine.

Thoughts? Comments? Let’s hear em!

P.S. Sorry for the absence/random slowdowns. We changed servers and had to deal with that mucky-muck.


  1. I think it has to do with the methodology behind world design. WoW’s zone design focuses on variety and larger-than-life stylized landscape features. A lot of the zones in WoW are pure crap, but the art design is so varied from zone to zone that you don’t really notice. Thousand Needles is vastly different from Felwood, which is vastly different from Winterspring. The differences help liven up the zones, despite them not actually being any more lively than other games’ areas. In a game like EQ2, the zones were designed with an eye towards greater realism — as a result the differences between areas aren’t as dramatic, tending to give everything a more-of-the-same feel.

    WoW’s choice can be grating from an immersion point of view, but I think the overall effect makes it a better choice for a game than what EQ2 did. If your character in WoW was transported to a random zone, chances are you could immediately tell where you were without reading the zone name. In EQ2 that would be true for some zones, but there are plenty you could be dropped in and not be sure of where you were.

  2. Some older games have large, varied playfields. Anarchy Online, for example, is a huge world and every bit is hand drawn. The variety over all is huge but not in the same way that WoW is. You have dense jungles and stark deserts and everything in bwtween…just won’t change abruptly as you travel on foot (Whom-pah/warp/grid to different locations and the change will seem more sudden).

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