I wrote this piece as an article for the October Guild of Messengers newsletter – http://messengers.sixpencemedia.com/. If you aren’t seeing it, the newsletter will be up soon.
Let’s talk about instancing, in two multiplayer games (MMOs):
Guild Wars – http://www.guildwars.com
Myst Online: Restoration Experiment – Uru – http:/www.mystonline.com.
From the official Guild wars Wiki – “An instance is a game location that is specifically generated by the game for a party or group…… Instancing allows a party to adventure by itself without other players stealing kills/loot, but also precludes any chance of meeting a random stranger at a secluded location ……” (http://wiki.guildwars.com/wiki/Instance)
Scenario time – I’m in Guild Wars, and I need to find 5 gargoyle skulls. I start in an area with people, and I enter an instance of an area – the catacombs. The area is mine alone to play in. The magic, the beauty, the wonder and the fun – it’s all mine! I wander around, and I find some gargoyles – those meanies! I rain fire, and I get my skulls. I leave the catacombs and go back to town.
In Guild Wars an instance is not permanent. When you leave an instanced area, your copy goes away. The next time you go exploring , another copy of the area is generated for you. It sounds disjointed, but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like you exploring the same area. This works because there are things you can accomplish in an hour or two of play.
In Uru instancing is permanent. When I play Uru, areas of the world, called ages, are set up for me as I explore. Unless I decide to reset an age, whatever I do in my private ages stays “done”, even if I leave and come back to the age. If I push a lever in Teledahn to turn on power, the next time I enter Teledahn, the power is still on. It makes sense to have permanent instanced ages in Uru because the puzzles are lengthy and complicated. If an age was reset whenever I left – I wouldn’t get anywhere! I can also invite people to my private ages – I can share them with friends.
This feature of Uru is very appealing. All of my private ages feel, in some way, like home.
Both Uru and Guild Wars have shared spaces, an area owned by a group of people. Uru calls them neighborhoods. Guild Wars calls them Guild Halls.
Both games have multiplayer public spaces. Guild Wars has towns, estates, outposts. Guild Wars makes copies of the public spaces, so the towns don’t feel too crowded. Each copy of a public space can be visited by any player. If your friends are in a different public space from the one you are in, you can join them. Uru has one public space, Ae’gura, the city. About 100 people at one time can be in the public Ae’gura. Uru also makes copies of the city accessible from the neighborhoods, to enable everyone to visit the city, whenever they want to.
Not all MMO players like instancing. Arenanet plans to reduce instancing for its next game, Guild Wars II, and focus on more of a classic MMO shared game world. But – I want to say to Arenanet – I love instancing! Uru is currently not open for play, but there is some possiblity that it will come back. MORE/Uru will continue to have permanent instanced areas.
Here’s what I love about instancing. Online games can be messy, complicated places, particularly for a devoted but intermittent player. They can be annoying to the player who likes both an online world with “people” and a virtual world where you can be alone – or with a few companions. My game time is very limited, and I want to have a good time each time I play. Sometimes I want to experience the beauty and the wonder of the worlds all by myself. I’m social, but there are times when I want to be alone. I don’t want to ignore the people in an online space, like you ignore strangers on the street in a real city. Sometimes I want the “people” to not be there at all! I want to control it – I want to be the one who decides when to be with people and when to be alone, in my beautiful online multiplayer worlds.
So please – Uru and Guild Wars – keep my private space!
A few pictures – because I like pictures
Teledahn, a private age in Uru
View from my guild hall, a shared space in Guild Wars.
amarez – mszv