The State of the MMO: Building a World, Part 1

In the first part of an ongoing series, multiple MMOG developers dissect the creative effort that goes into building a persistent world.

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You might hear naysayers crowing that all massively multiplayer online role-playing games are just World of Warcraft clones, but in fact, there is a great deal of diversity in the genre. In 2012 alone, each popular MMOG's world has been notably different from the others--and for those looking to escape into an alternate digital universe, the uniqueness of the world can make all the difference.

In our first part of an ongoing series on MMOGs, we caught up with developers from five major studios and asked them to describe to us the joys and sorrows of building a persistent world. Fortunately, the majority of the studios in question weren't newcomers to the genre; they were standing on their own shoulders, using their previous experiences to inform subsequent projects. ArenaNet is one such studio--and their time working on the original Guild Wars went a long way towards what Guild Wars 2 would become.

Efficiency was a key factor, as it turns out. "I learned the importance to get any element into the game and playable as soon as possible from working on the original Guild Wars," says Guild Wars 2 lead level designer Steve Hwang. "This allows you to test new play concepts like dynamic events and allows you to iterate on them. For example, we prototyped the first dynamic events in GW1 and played them for several weeks. We learned what UI elements were needed to inform the player about the event, how chaining events would play out, and how difficulty was very dependent on player group size. We've been fighting centaurs in Queensdale for five years now."

Hwang's ArenaNet cohort, lead systems designer Mike Ferguson, learned similar lessons: iterate quickly, and attempt as many daring ideas as you can. "Our experience with working in very quick iteration cycles was absolutely critical in allowing us to try out all kinds of ideas and keep what worked well and change what didn't," he says. "We also learned that it was essential for us to try out ideas we really believed in instead of just settling for what works for everyone else. When our team really believes in a concept, we will do our best to find ways to make it work, no matter how hard (or crazy) it sounds initially."

LucasArts has a database called the Holocron. That is the final say on everything Star Wars related.

The Secret World wasn't Funcom's first online RPG, but the Norwegian studio didn't approach its world blindly: it had two previous games under its belt, as well as reams of tall tales to inspire their take on modern-day mythology. Says The Secret World creative cirector Ragnar Tornquist: "With Anarchy Online, we built a universe from scratch. While the story used Earth as a starting point, the rest was a blank slate. Rubi-Ka, its ecosystem and political structure, the myths and legends of an advanced far-future civilisation, the corporations vying for control of the galaxy--every detail had to be thought up and fleshed out. By the end of it, there was enough material to fill a whole novel."

As it turns out, Anarchy Online has more in common with The Secret World than initially meets the eye. "With The Secret World, we also began with Earth," says Tornquist, "but this time around, we stayed put. You'd probably think that would be easier than creating a universe from scratch, but that really wasn't the case. When you're basing your story and setting on the real world, on history and mythology, on things people have heard about, read about, or seen with their own eyes, you also have to make sure the details hold up to scrutiny."

Of course, world designers aren't limited just by their imaginations: multiple persistent world games are built on existing properties that inspire rabid fanboyism and excessive nitpicking. How can a developer hope to stay true to a license like Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, while still exercising creativity and flexing your passions?

If you're Turbine Entertainment's Chris Pierson, you read, and you read, and you read.

"My primary reference [for The Lord of the Rings Online] is, of course, the core books (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), and Tolkien does a lot of thorough description, but you'd be surprised at what he doesn't describe. Try and draw the exterior of Theoden's hall of Meduseld based on the book, for instance. He spends more time describing the channel of water that runs alongside the road leading up to it. So we draw from other artists' interpretations--60 years after the books' publication, there's a fairly strong zeitgeist for many things in the world--as well as, in many cases, historical sources. Rohan, for instance, is extremely Dark Ages Germanic (plus a lot of horse imagery), while our Dunland pulled in strong Celtic elements. We also use some of the atlases and other reference books that have come out over the years, but always double-checking against the source in case those books get a detail wrong now and then (which sometimes happens when anyone interprets someone else's work)."

Bioware's James Ohlen has an even broader database of licensed material when it comes to Star Wars: The Old Republic.

"To remain true to the world we're working in we use source books, online sources and the IP experts that work for the company that owns the property. Most important is that everyone on the game team is a fan of the property we're working on. There is a significant amount of source material for Star Wars. We've used Wookieepedia. LucasArts has a database called the Holocron. That is the final say on everything Star Wars related."

Ohlen is fortunate enough to work on a game that has considerable freedom within its universe. "Because we're based thousands of years before the movies we have a lot of freedom to develop the Star Wars universe the way we want. LucasArts has been great at giving us creative freedom." The Lord of the Rings Online, on the other hand, has unique limitations. Says Pierson: "Certainly there are constraints; figuring out how to merge with the timeline of the novels is the most challenging one, since the characters cover a lot of ground really fast, and leave a lot of mayhem in their wake, particularly in The Two Towers and Return of the King. Oddly, it's not as bad with actual setting because Tolkien left so much interesting stuff lurking off on the periphery of a reasonably narrow strip of action. Take Moria, for instance--the Fellowship traverses only a tiny portion of it, which meant we got to fill out a lot more. If anything, Tolkien gave us a good sprout to grow a larger plant from."

Pierson continues: "Of course, there are parts that are annoying. His tendency to make interesting areas off-limits to outsiders--hi there, Lothlorien--or to describe wide swaths of land as utterly barren and uninhabited--Lone-lands and Eregion, I'm looking at you--makes me want to beat my game designer head against my desk. To an extent, with stuff like that, you have to apply liberal doses of salt and say, 'well, there has to be someone living somewhere other than Dale, Rohan, Bree, and Gondor.' We're still making a game, after all, so we have to push against the constraints at times."

Whether or not you feel Turbine succeeded in creating the Middle-earth of your dreams, you certainly couldn't accuse Pierson of neglecting his research duties. He also has to be conscious of how others have interpreted the licence--particularly Peter Jackson, director of the Lord of the Rings films.

If anything, Tolkien gave us a good sprout to grow a larger plant from.

"I've read the books about six or seven times straight through," says Pierson, "but I'm constantly rereading bits, particularly when doing the research pass at the beginning of an expansion's development, so in reality I've probably done certain chunks between 15 and 20 times. It's been occasionally hard to keep from replicating Jackson's work because he got the book spot-on in a lot of cases (not all of them, though), and there's an expectation among fans, particularly casual ones who came to the story through the films, that Middle-earth should look the way it does in the films. Fortunately there's still plenty of leeway on a lot of things. If you look at our interpretation of Amon Hen in the Rohan expansion, for instance, it's radically different from Jackson's."

A world starts with concept. But dreams don't magically appear on paper--or on a computer monitor. It takes years of hard work for the imagination to take on a shape that can be enjoyed by others. It also takes a lot of collaboration. Ragnar Tornquist knows this all to well. "[MMO development] involves a lot of people. Writers, concept artists, designers, modelers and environment artists. It's an iterative process that begins with the written word and ends with an actual world you can move around in and interact with." The team at Trion Worlds might have imagined a very different world from Funcom's mysterious realm, but creative minds like Rift Design Director Simon Ffinch and Environment Artist Chee Fong worked tirelessly to bring the world of Telara to life. How did Ffinch and Fong take a vision and turn it into an actual digital realm?

"Once the concept for the overall mood is figured out, the next step is to create a whitebox," they say. "This is a very simple version of a given area where we are mostly concerned with footprint, silhouette and layout. We then figure out the major hubs and variations on the concept, using a set of pre-created whitebox assets. At this point more detailed and refined concept art is made, focusing on construction aspects of the bigger pieces. Not everything in the whitebox gets a concept; it is usually just the major points of interest or 'hero' pieces. Modelers then take the whitebox to completion, changing it from a very rough idea of the area, zone or dungeon to a detailed but mostly untextured version. It is at this stage that the modelers transfer the style and design motifs from the concept art to all the pieces in the area. As the modelers take the assets to completion, terrain artists flesh out the geology and layout to a more realistic and refined state. Skies, lighting and final terrain textures are added and everything gets wrapped up with a polish and optimization pass. This includes reducing draw calls and polygons and unifying colors and lighting."

Clearly, world design doesn't occur in a vacuum. Each aspect of the game impacts everything else, from quest flow to character dialogue. Says Bioware's James Ohlen, "World creation starts with the writing team working with the world designers, then goes to concept art. Then we figure out the quest flow. Once that's known, designers block out the world with temp art while writers are taking care of scripts for the quest lines. Then designers implement the quest lines while environmental artists start adding final art to the worlds. Then we spawn the world with enemies. The final stage is building out the cinematic scenes in all of the conversations. Internal play testing is ongoing throughout the process once spawning is complete."

This is the nitty gritty of world design. There are artists to consult, assets to request, and considerations that the uninitiated would never stop to consider. Chris Pierson at Turbine laid out the process in plain terms, and even then, it was clear that a staggering amount of effort and teamwork goes into crafting a digital paradise.

"To do a chunk of a world, I figure out what needs to go where, in a very broad sense, by painting over a scaled map of the area in Photoshop," Pierson says. "Once that's done I'll use licensed terrain-building software to block out and develop a basic heightmap, while also figuring out what biomes we're going to need, requesting the necessary assets (trees, rocks, ruins, waterfalls, etc.) from our art studio, and deciding what existing assets we can use as placeholders for both ground textures and scenery. I check out the heightmap in the engine and iterate a bunch of times over several weeks, adjusting stuff here and there, then divide the world-chunk into smaller pieces and doing a more detailed pass on each of these in turn within our worldbuilder tool. By the time this is done, the piece will have a first pass on texturing and scenery-asset placement done, at which point I (and whoever might have been doing it with me, because I always have some help) hand the piece over to whoever our lead has assigned to that piece. They then polish the region and build out the towns, monster camps, and other details, and just keep refining until we hit deadline. Along the way our requested assets come in from art, and we incorporate those as we go (as well as making suggestions for polish)."

As you can imagine, there are a lot of kinks that must be ironed out. These kinks aren't necessarily bugs, but entire game systems that might not turn out as intended, or that don't work harmoniously with other aspects of the design. ArenaNet's Annie VanderMeer Mitsoda knows a thing or two about ideas that just don't work the way they were meant to. "When we were working on actually starting to build out personal story content, and looking back on early drafts for missions that were written before the other systems really came online, there was more than once that we went 'Whoa, okay, this isn't going to work!' Or we'd implement it and it wasn't nearly as fun as we thought it would be."

Mitsoda's colleague, Steve Hwang, offers a specific example of a system that just wasn't working. "At one point in development, to make the world feel alive, dynamic events were visible to players from a very long distance. This had the effect of cluttering the compass with icons and players would often see an event and head to it, but because it was so far away they wouldn't arrive in time, or would show up just as the event ended, which was disappointing to players."

I think I want a mix of 'yeah, that's what I thought that looked like' and 'so that's what that looked like,' with a dash of 'holy shit' mixed in now and then.

Almost everyone we spoke to agreed that the key to success was remaining flexible--and to be ready to throw an idea out if it wasn't working, no matter how much you adore it. "One of the largest adventure zones in the game, for example--the Besieged Farmlands in Transylvania--was built and rebuilt from scratch three times before we landed on what we have today," says Funcom's Ragnar Tornquist. "Gameplay changes, performance issues, art direction, testing and feedback--all of it affects the world we've built, and we need to be very flexible. It's dangerous to get too invested in how things look, and a willingness to change and discard and redo is something we instill in everyone."

At ArenaNet, Kim Kirsch echoed Tornquist's sentiments. "When you build something, it's easy to fall in love with some tricky thing you came up with on the backend, or to miss the fact that you aren't explaining or messaging things properly because you already know how everything works. The ability to put yourself in the shoes of the player, and the ability to receive and use feedback, are irreplaceable things that every developer should be mindful of."

Each developer made vast changes to their worlds over the course of development, either throwing out entire areas, or redesigning them so drastically that they took on new properties. Not every region you explore in Star Wars: The Old Republic is the same as when it started, for instance. Says James Ohlen: "The first world we built, Korriban, probably went through the most revision. Initial builds were too claustrophobic and felt more like a fantasy world than a Star Wars world. The final version that appears in the game has more open spaces and feels like it belongs in the Star Wars universe."

These steps are only the beginning to creating an online world, and our world designers had a lot more to say. Next week, the developers talk about first impressions, and taking old fantasy standards and making them new again. We also get a peek into the future. Could there yet be an Anarchy Online 2 in the future? Ragnar Tornquist gives us the scoop.

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Written By

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

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Discussion

76 comments
tommynj
tommynj

I wonder what is next on the mmo failboat. Elder Scrolls Online anyone ?

Snaptrap
Snaptrap

It's sad to see a game like GW2 already slipping off the charts and it hasn't even been out for a month yet. Some of the regions are like ghost towns. Some of the bugs are so apparent that it's hard to believe the developer even missed them. For me, MMO's are running out of gas. GW2 was to be the next step, but I think I'm going to ditch them completely.

Snaptrap
Snaptrap

It's sad to see a game like GW2 already slipping off the charts and it hasn't even been out for a month yet. Some of the regions are like ghost towns. Some of the bugs are so apparent that it's hard to believe the developer even missed them. For me, MMO's are running out of gas. GW2 was to be the next step, but I think I'm going to ditch them completely.

InsidiousNature
InsidiousNature

Best lore: Warhammer Online

Best pvp: Warhammer Online

Worst management: Warhammer Online

oflow
oflow

I love MMOs and have pretty much played most of them over time.  The thing I would really like to see is MMOs take a step towards actually dropping the pen-n-paper paradigm and actually incorporating more action and real world elements into the game. What I mean by this is MMOs were originally designed as graphical representations of pnp D&D with stats and rng.  I would like to see MMOs actually use visceral effects and actions instead of actually relying on stats/min-maxing.  Stats could still exist but they should be in the background.  I would like to see players actually have to experiment with items they find in the world.  For example, the sword you find seems like a normal sword but glows blue near orcs and does more damage versus them.  You would only know this thru experimenting with it. 

 

I would also like to see MMOs actually moving away from levels and loot acquisition as the main for of progression.  Instead, MMOs should be based on skill acquisition.  Instead of doing quests just to get purple gear, you should be motivated by interacting with the story. For example, Anakin Skywalker's motive for pursuing the dark side wasnt just to be 'leet' his final motivation that pushed him over the side was the promise that he could find a skill that would prevent his love from dying.  Loot can be a determining factor but the primary reason to get loot should be the abilities that it gives not just a carrot on a stick treadmill.

 

Another thing that I would really like to see is MMOs get rid of a lot of the unnecessary time sinks. This like vendor trash and armor repairs are a waste of time and just add tedium to the game.  Instead of wasting time on these things they could make things like crafting more robust like FFXI's crafting system that relied on time of day and availability of components.

 

The players should be the quest givers not random npcs asking for 10 widgets.  Expert crafting players send othre players on quests for dragon scales to create the fantastic armor set for example.

lemoi
lemoi

Outstanding article, can't wait for part 2. Really makes it clear what a labour of love it is to create compelling  persistent game worlds on such a vast scale.

unikat
unikat

Even tho I don't really like MMO's, this article was really good.

 

I really hope some of the future parts will cover characters, monsters and bosses.

GetafixOz
GetafixOz

Having played everything from Meridian59, I think I am finally over the genre for now. I just finished with SWTOR which I have to say I enjoyed immensely and the way you have a consistent storyline from 1-50 that you can always return to when your not grouping makes SWTOR just about best in show for me. However too many years in EQ and EQ2 and well as an 18 month stint in WoW have left me kind of worn out on the whole thing. I had no interest in GW2 for that reason even though it looks like a good game. Funcom did me a favour with TSW because it is sooo bad, I basically said thats my last MMO, be intersting to see if anything can lure me back.

3Minotaur3
3Minotaur3

I may be interested to play again a MMO, especially a MMORPG when...

- They'll stop making static and 'feeling-of-no-progress' worlds... You killed a boss, only to see it respawn a bit later so it's available for the next players...

- No subscription... ever... I don't want to pay for the right to play a MMO when I'm playing something else for more than half a month...

- No boring quests like get me 10 magic things or kill 15 rabid wolves... Rinse and repeat ad nauseam...

- No more stuck in one role... You're a tank, and you can only play as such...

 

So far, the only MMOs I'm interested/already playing are: League of Legends, World of Tanks and MechWarrior Online... I find them fun probably because they're so far from the classic WoW formula...

 

As for RPG, I prefer singleplayer or classic multiplayer games like Fallout, Skyrim, Borderland or Torchlight, where I have the feeling of changing the world around me. Far more than any MMO to date... 

 

 

ali_manslayer
ali_manslayer

very informative article, the last mmo I really enjoyed and got into was the first guild wars, recently tried rift but didn't feel anything there, might give guild wars 2 a shot,

anyway I have a question for you kevin, what is your all time favorite MMO?

nyran125
nyran125

MMORPG :> Massively Monotonous Openworld Role Playing game.

 

 Even Knights of the old republic feels more alive in the cities and towns with things going on, than SWTOR.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

Wait what? There's a "creative effort" that goes into MMOs?

MegamanX2011
MegamanX2011

Kevin VanOrd is the only reason i keep reading Gamespot. That other reviewer Carol Petit is horrible.

BuBsay
BuBsay

As usual, VanOrd knows how to write a damn good article.

 

On a personal level I'm kind of burnt out on MMO's lately, I was a raider in Vanilla and BC WoW, played Guild Wars, LotRO and The Old Republic (along with a few other short lived ones) and I think this is true of a lot of people.

 

It's not that MMO's are getting stale, it's just that a lot of people are getting worn out on the constant grind for leveling and gear, especially those who have played things like WoW for almost 8 years straight now.

vadagar1
vadagar1

like

 

hope TESO blows our minds

hairday
hairday

Hey, wait a minute. This article smacks of, I dunno, real journalism or something. Nice work, VanOrd. 

taylor420420
taylor420420

Seeing as Sony stopped maintaining SWG servers, the whole MMO thing is dead for me.

CarlitosWay
CarlitosWay

Good article Kevin, as always. One question though: You of course mentioned that Secret World was not Funcoms first MMO, however we never got to see any more opinions on Age of Conan. Im assuming this is because the article is being based on newer MMOs instead of all of them in general?

 

AoC had one of the best world atmospheres of any game i ever played. Aside from being EXTREMELY detailed, their sizes were just amazing. Especially when you stepped into cities. And their source material is more than 3 times that much more than LOTR. Now, their game content has faltered over the years, but i believe that if LOTRO could get a mention, AoC wouldve fallen in there too.

 

carolino
carolino

I just hope GUILD WARS 2/ArenaNet prevail like the "second best" MMO or something like that.

 

When  companies reach the top there ego explodes and they just unlearn it all.

 

 

Slade968
Slade968

I think there is too much pressure on the new MMO game, the WoW killer that everyone expects there to be.The fact of the matter is that there probably won't be one game that complete redefines the genre. WoW was a huge leap for its time and did something that not many other games in the genre could achieve. It was an addictive game for many years and yea it required a monthly deposit but so what? Can we really expect one game to completely fulfill out bottomless desire of new innovative content without a monthly deposit?

 

How many single player stories keep us satiated as consumes for multiple years at a time? Can you honestly name one that you could play for hours every day and still be having a great time years later? I can't. I think it is great what they did with guild wars 2. I'm glad that there are companies that ambitious. Did I expect to approach the game and be completely blown away by something I've never seen? No, i didn't. But for a game that is only 60 bucks, I don't think we, as consumers, could ask for much more. Game developers are people, just like the consumers, and they want to play a the games just as much as we do.

 

It's time for people to stop expecting something that will completely redefine how we spend our time gaming and realize that this genre is too demanding for it's own good. I'm grateful that these companies work to make a new experience for us. And if they want to make some money while they are doing it, then that's good for them.

Rackjaw
Rackjaw

The #1 reason that I didn't like SWTOR was because the world felt lifeless, bland, fragmented, uninspired, and linear. Also no day / night cycle was a huge letdown, I could never get immersed in that game. Too bad because I liked most everything else well enough.

diabolik_023
diabolik_023

i kind of liked the SWtOR ... maybe i will go back to it once free2play is activated

befo72
befo72

The SWtOR developers should be thankful for being included in this article.

 

Listen, I'm not one of those rabid TOR haters; I think they did a lot of things extremely well, but where they failed miserably was in creating a living, breathing world (or worlds in this case) with believable scale.

 

In this area, I believe GW2 has set a new standard. Never has a world felt so...alive. And that archtecture and art style...wow.

ToughCritic28
ToughCritic28

 @Snaptrap um, what..? GW2 is still thriving, I don't know what game you're playing.

 

greendude123
greendude123

 @InsidiousNature  Well, Warhammer had some decent Lore, but ive found WoW to have the best so far. Ive read all the novels out so far, and there is just a crapload of content/story, even more if u read the quests.

 

I also hated the way warhammer did the PvP, rock>paper>scissors is not a great way to build a mmo

 

I agree with the last part though lol

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

 @ali_manslayer My all-time favorite MMO is Anarchy Online. It connected with me for a lot of reasons. It had a world so different from any other online world at that point; it had endless customization options, so each time you gained a level, it was exciting; it had amazing sound design; it had a backstory that interested in me, and made me feel like part of a conflict that mattered; it constantly surprised me: lightning storms just outside of West Athens, little secrets and hideaways off in the distance, and so on. It also made it easy to log in for a little while, do a mission or two, and log out. You even got a home of your own, right off the bat. It felt less like a game to be played, and more like an actual place--different enough to be unique, yet grounded in political conflicts that resonated. 

cephas90
cephas90

 @BuBsay That's why I love GW2.  As a vet, there's nothing more refreshing than an MMO experience that, for me, lacks the overall gear/grind pressure prevalent in most competitive mmo's.  That said, the hardcore element feels slightly less intense as a result.  But hey, I'm barely 40 in game :P

vishisluv7
vishisluv7

 @BuBsay I agree. Not only have people been tired of the constant grind for years, personally, I've been tired of the dungeon grind in particular. Even the MMOs that try to be different end up with the same old dungeon grind on lockout - raid on lockout. GW2 is on my radar because the pvp looks good enough to be endgame.

Succumbus
Succumbus

 @BuBsay There's also a gap from those just coming into the game from those who have played for years. It can be a little daunting.

 

You play SWGalaxies? I would think you would have tried that being a vanilla veteran and Guild Wars I player.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

 @CarlitosWay Ragnar focused mostly on Secret World, but he did touch on both AO and Age of Conan. They'll both appear in part 2 :)

sammoth
sammoth

 @CarlitosWay

 AOC was a greta looking MMO but, it's technical problem at release was horrible. It took a major fall back then.

Slade968
Slade968

PS: pretty buzzed when this was posted so forgive the emphatic embellishments.

 

colt_a
colt_a

 @befo72 GW2 really set a new standard in a lot of areas in terms of an MMO.  The overall leveling experience (how everything gives you at least a little xp), the auto scaling to area (play with your friends regardless of level, get loot of your level), the crafting discovery system, dynamic events, the living breathing world (and awesome incentive to explore it to 100%)....

 

Not saying GW2 will be the one to rule them all, the overall gameplay is sort of niche.  But I would be very surprised if all future MMOs didn't steal 2-3 of these ideas every game.

MoreThot
MoreThot

 @befo72 yeah TOR was very linear. However I don't believe GW2 has set anything. It is the same type of linearity but a bit more free in how you level.

vishisluv7
vishisluv7

 @befo72 Despite ToRs flaws, the talent behind it are very qualified to speak on the subject matter. The world was all corridors rather than a living world though, point taken there.

InsidiousNature
InsidiousNature

 @greendude123 WoW has crappy lore but even crappier pvp system. WAR still has the best pvp of all active MMORPGS, shame about the devs trying to cripple that. Oodles party combinations, a group people who know what they're doing are able to mop the floor with three or four times their number of pugs so no mindless facerolling is allowed. Lots of learning curves, sure, but that's one of the appeals of the game. Of course, I'm excluding DAoC because it's hardly active nowadays. But has to be noted that DAoC had THE best pvp of all games of all times, period.

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

The guy who praised TOR would know anything about creative effort?

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

I wasn't aware that it was trolling to say MMOs suck. I thought that was the more popular opinion, in this case.

BuBsay
BuBsay

 @Succumbus I did play SWG for a little while, and really enjoyed it pre-NGE.

Curzad
Curzad

 @colt_a  @befo72 Agree, having a really great time in GW2 right now. I actually like to log in and play, explore, vistas. First MMO in a long time I've really enjoyed.

vishisluv7
vishisluv7

 @colt_a  @befo72 I agree colt. That's a nice list of points that future and current devs will no doubt be looking to incorporate into their games. You can bet Blizz will be patching in some of these ideas.:)

ggregd
ggregd

GW2 is only linear in that areas have different level content and you need to stay near your character's level on the way up.  Beyond that, with the level scaling you can go back to lower level areas that you've never visited and have as much fun as you do in the higher level ones.  There is no nudging/shoving you from one quest hub to another and no quest log keeping track of everything you do and making sure you do it in order.  That's the kind of linearity WoW introduced, and that I'm tired of in LoTRO and that detracted a lot from Tera's potential.  GW2 feels very different.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

 @MoreThot  @befo72 I think vishi is looking specifically at TOR's level design. Compared to most themepark MMOs, Guild Wars 2 is much more free and open. Any game that has a path--leveling, storytelling, and so on--could be called "linear" to some extent. In terms of world design specifically, TOR is much more linear than is Guild Wars 2.

InsidiousNature
InsidiousNature

That is correct, more's the pity. Still around 3-400 subs and 2 servers active, one EU the other US. But it's declining rapidly due to horrible decisions above.

vishisluv7
vishisluv7

 @MooncalfReviews You sound like someone fresh off a TOR rage quit who would probably troll any article involving MMOs.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

 @MooncalfReviews Posting in an article about MMOs that MMOs suck is the very definition of trolling. 

vishisluv7
vishisluv7

 @Kevin-V  @MoreThot  @befo72 Early Rift was very linear in this fashion as well. I haven't played in a long time, at release there was a set hub which sent you to the next all the way up and it wasn't disguised at all, ha.