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5 Things that MMOGs Can Learn from Witcher 2

Updated Fri, May 27, 2011 by jeffprime

the witcher 2
Witcher 2 has hit the gaming community like a kick to the groin and players are rejoicing. With its gritty world and immersive gameplay, there are many elements of the game that could be used by MMOGs to uplift their stagnant, moribund state. MMOGs have been in a creative rut for quite some time, and the breath of fresh air that is Witcher 2 is just what the doctor ordered. Let’s take a look at five features of Witcher 2 that could positively impact online gaming.

Offer Meaningful Mini-Games

While some MMOGs do have a few mini-games, they can take a page from the mini-games to be found in Witcher 2. Games such as arm wrestling, dice, and bar fights (or fight club as I like to call it) are both fun and quick to play. Many MMOGs do not have mini-games, and if they do, they tend to somewhat stale or time-consuming. The games in Witcher 2 not only keep the player entertained, but they also reinforce the world setting. Wouldn’t it be great if you had 20 minutes to kill before you raid group formed and you could spend that time betting on various arm wrestling matches or playing the tables to enhance your bank account? Only got a half hour to play for the night? Well, if your MMOG had fun mini-games like Witcher 2, you could spend that time having fun playing the games and interacting with other players. Mini-games not only provide entertainment, but they also reinforce the multiplayer aspect in MMOGs.

the witcher 2
Can you go Over the Top on the dwarf?

A Vibrant Game World That’s Alive

The most compelling part of Witcher 2 is that you become totally immersed into the game world. It may be dark, gritty, nasty, brutal, and dirty, but it feels REAL. I can just wander around and listen to and watch the denizens of Temeria for hours on end. You get the sensation that everybody is living a life that doesn’t revolve around you, but rather your character is a cog in the engine of the game world.

Practically all MMOGs have a cookie-cutter world in where nothing changes. Sure, it may be day or night or perhaps it might be raining, but does the world ever change? There are ways that MMOGs can immerse you into their world and make their setting more alive and vibrant. Beggars can harass you for coins, shops can close at certain times, black-market trading only occurs at night, NPCs actually have lives and wander around according to that life, and so on. If a region doesn’t like a particular race (such as elves), players of that race can get harassed by the town guard, be charged higher prices, or perhaps even be imprisoned and forced to pay a fee or do a service to win their freedom. Perhaps a riot breaks out due to the drunken mobs at the rugby field and the players find themselves swamped by rioters and forced to defend themselves or that the rioters loot the shops, closing them down for a time. MMOGs need to make players feel that they’re visiting an organic, breathing world that exists with or without them.

the witcher 2
Looks like this fight is going to hurt.

Gripping Story Arcs

While you can play through Witcher 2 and focus only on the main quest arc, doing so would rob you of enjoying many hours of intricate story arcs on the side that grip you as you play them. Let’s face it: most MMOGs have quests of kill X of this thing or go escort Y to this place or take this item to a particular NPC. Not exactly the most fascinating situations to seize your imagination nor are they the stuff of legend. While some MMOGs have story arcs (such as various adventure packs in Dungeons and Dragons Online or the Defias Brotherhood arc in World of Warcraft), they tend to not be the most gripping of tales. Most mission chains follow a pattern of you get some info to take to an NPC, then you go kill X number of bad guys which leads you to other kill missions, and eventually you attack the lair of the bad guys and finish them off. However, the vast majority of players never become emotionally invested in the overall story arc.

What Witcher 2 does is make you care and fill you with the same fire and enthusiasm for these side quests as you do for the main quests. So much time and effort has been put into these and it shows in their quality. If MMOGs would devote as much storytelling energy into these side quests as they do into end-game raids, players would have a greater gaming experience. When you finish off the last boss in a story arc, you should feel like cheering about your victory, not thinking, “I got to run back real quick and turn this in so I can get my shiny trinket as a reward.” Playing the game and finishing quests should be the reward you’re looking for.

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