Instanced Game Play: Right or
Wrong for MMOGs?
One of the features that makes Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO)
stand apart from the myriad massively-multiplayer online games (MMOGs)
that glut the market today is that DDO provides 100% instanced quests.
For sure, it was one of the elements that convinced me that DDO was
going to change MMOGs forever. In case you're a little foggy on the
details, an instance is a special version of a zone or quest created
specifically for you and your group (or raid party...or opponents for
player-vs-player combat). While it's true that Guild Wars
instanced game play first, DDO became the pioneer for games that
frequently provide free updates and use instances for all quests.
In the 6 months since DDO's release (February 28, 2006), I've noticed a
debate surfacing regarding the value of instanced gaming. Tonight I
will explore that debate and ask for your input.
The Case for Instances
Ever work your way through a fierce dungeon only to find the dragon at
the bottom has not spawned for the day? Or how about navigate a
difficult maze fraught with unfriendly creatures only to discover that
another group is currently fighting the giant minotaur at the end? It
can and does
happen all too
frequently in many MMOGs. Instanced dungeons ensure your boss monster
will be there for you. You won't have to argue about rights of
engagement or get on a silly list to kill raid monsters as I had to do
when I played EverQuest Online Adventures.
On occasions with lower stakes but no less frustration, I have engaged
a meager skeleton in MMOGs only to have some power leveling maximized
paladin come along and pull all the skeletons in the zone (including
mine!) to his camp of level 4 wizards. Sigh. Sometimes people can be
downright rude. An instanced game like DDO makes kill stealing more
difficult (I won't discuss the DDO XP system this week). Usually you
still get experience for a kill so long as anyone in your party does
the deed. Thus, you can focus more on strategy and efficient killing in
an instanced zone.
The Case for Free-for-alls
Have you ever set off to explore by yourself, encounter a group that
needs one more, and find yourself adding 5 new people to your buddy
list at the end of the night? Or do you recall the fun in seeing all
the people you know from your server while out on a hike through the XP
Mountains? A game with only instanced quests takes away from the social
aspect of a MMOG. I mean,
don't we play online games to interact with people? Instances might let
you avoid a few jerks, but it will also cause you to avoid some really
great potential friends. If the potential downside of instances are
enough to convince you, let me point out two definite flaws with the
When you need only to group for an hour or two with someone to complete
a quest and you know you may never encounter that person again, you're
not as inspired to be on your best behavior, Okay, may you're always on
your best behavior. But how about the jerks you were hoping to avoid in
an instanced game? Just because the game has instances doesn't mean
jerks stopped playing, They're out there, just one blind invite away
from bringing chaos to your party. Additionally, if your party is in
danger of a wipe, there is a 0% chance of a rescue from nearby good
Samaritans. In an instance, you are on your on.
it's your turn to speak on the issue.
IN OUR POLL!
Do you think fully instanced game play is right for MMOGs?
- For sure! I want the dragon to be there when I arrive.
- I want some instances, but I like bumping into friends
while out adventuring.
- Maybe only raid encounters should be instanced to avoid
fighting in the end game.
- I say open up the whole world! Survival of the fittest, and
let players' good natures shine through.