Tuesday, April 17, 2007

On the Edge of Gameplay

I know I said I wouldn't talk too much about myself, but there is one particular bit of game experience which clings forever in my memory, and I think it is particularly meaningful in explaining the type of game I would like a MMORPG to be.

The setting is World of Warcraft, the Deadmines (Low-level party instance). The party is sub-optimal, consisting of a paladin as the only healer, the only one capable of casting resurrection AND the only one being above minimum level for this instance; the rest of the party was made of tanks and damage dealers (Did I ever mention how opposed to gnome warriors I am?). I was playing a rogue; this is important.

Needless to say, this was a hard win, but we progressed onward anyway, despite a large number of near-wipes. Once, the whole party, minus the paladin, was killed; the paladin saved his own life by jumping down in the water, a feat NPCs aren't smart enough to accomplish. This allowed him to climb back up and resurrect the rest of us.

Now, we cleared most of the instance, but the final boss would have been a problem. Simple tactics working best, we decided to target the boss only to get credits, ignoring its friends. The fight went on, and after much damage taken, the boss dropped; our own party did soon after. Now, the rest of the party all did their looting, taking one head of the boss each (Yes, each got one head of the human boss. That's MMORPG rules for you), except myself; so into the fight was I, that I forgot to do it. Everyone being dead, and having finished their quests, it was decided that we wouldn't be fighting through all the respawns again just so that dumb little rogue could get his quest done. Then it dawned to me that as a rogue, I could use stealth to go right through all the respawns to get to the boss.

The party disbanded (I think the paladin stayed in the party, curious to know how I did; he didn't help in the sneaking part, unfortunately), and I returned again to the instance entrance. I sneaked past the encounters, feeling the adrenaline rush through, as if a single one of them saw me, it would undoubtedly be the end of me.

Long sneaking quest made short, I managed to go through the whole instance in stealth mode, all alone, and reached the boss' corpse, only to see that it had de-spawned in the mean time.


A few weeks later, Blizzard increased the de-spawn time of bosses.



So little Hexedian the gnomish rogue might not have been the best at sneaking part guards, but one thing hits me when I recall this story. I've played a character to level 50, and a couple more to mid-level; I've done Shadowfang Keep, Gnomeregan, The Scarlet Monastery, Uldaman and even ZulFarrak; I have tried a wide range of content in the game; and yet, despite all this, the one bit of gameplay that always comes to mind when I think of World of Warcraft is a failed instance run I did with a secondary character. The game I played wasn't even part of World of Warcraft's intended gameplay; the quest to sneak past all the guards didn't exist, yet it might be the most enjoyable moment of all my WoW history.

I think MMORPGs should have more Hex the rogue moments, where the events that happen are what players make of them, not what was scripted to happen. Gameplay will emerge by itself if you let it do so, and do not constrain the game with artificial limitations.

I hope my story, while not the most interesting one around, at least managed to entertain you, and give some kind of idea as to what I envision of a game.

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