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Does anyone appreciate scale anymore?

Just a quick post to say the following: I love that SWTOR is so effing big. I love feeling like I’m part of a huge zone or inside a massive structure. A lot of people don’t. The cynics will tell you that it’s all an artificial way to keep you playing longer (because tedium = retention, right?). I read a comment from someone just yesterday saying, “you don’t have to look beyond the too-big space stations and empty hallways” to see that Bioware is milking you.

I have to ask, what is it exactly people want? We complain when things are too big; we complain when they’re too small. We complain when zones are too linear; we complain when there’s poor flow. We even complain that they’re not doing enough with the hallways. 

When I first started playing MMOs, what spellbound me was the idea of connecting to a virtual world. I have always, always felt that tiny zones, unenterable buildings, and the “look how big we seem to be but actually aren’t!” window-dressing did as much to destroy the virtual world as the quest progression system. So when it comes to TOR, it’s almost refreshing to see a game finally bring back the sense of scope we’ve optimized out these last few years. There are moments where you can’t help but to stop and appreciate how grandiose everything is. When you see a pyramid, it looks like a pyramid, rising high into the sky above you. When you enter a headquarters, there’s multiple floors, bunches of rooms, and lots of “extras” playing out all over the place. It’s atmospheric.

I find it so odd that people would want to strip that from the game. Isn’t Star Wars all about the infiniteness of space — being a part of a tapestry much larger than yourself or any other one player? Can you even approach that going small? I understand that running between objectives gets boring, but when that starts to get to me, I ask myself: would I change it even if I could? And the answer is no.

Scale is one of those things that might annoy players in the moment but that sparkles in the memory. It’s also a passive means of drawing you in and forcing you to appreciate the world you’re running through. Artificial slowing? Maybe. But then again, it’s like we tell our kids in school, it’s better to do too much than too little. Bioware opted to go big or go home. We received the many worlds and space stations of SWTOR a result. The other approach we’ve already seen. It’s the Cryptic model; release early, expand later. If that’s what people are asking for, to take a step down, then I suggest waiting here until something better comes along.

5 comments

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  1. Craftygod

    I agree completely. Yes, running from point A to point B, especially when these two points are on opposite sides of a zone, can be a bit tedious, but I really wouldn’t want it any other way. If I’m going to play an MMO, I definitely want to get the Massively part of that. I love the Starwars world (well once I got out of Balmorra that is; that place is horrible), and I’m glad I’m getting to see so much of it.

  2. Vatec

    Ah, the eternal dichotomy between “world” and “game.”

    Frankly, I think the people complaining about the size are missing the point, especially since rapid transit is readily available. Run somewhere once and you can return there quickly whenever you like.

  3. Telwyn

    I agree as well. I love the feeling of space, not only in the worlds generally but also inside the instanced areas (heroics). I also like that there are plenty of areas with no immediately apparent purpose, it’s nice to escape the feeling of excessive pathing that some old games (like Guild Wars) and new games (like Dragon Age) have.

  4. Ferrel

    I don’t think it is really about scale. Scale is important, don’t get me wrong, but this is a fundamental flaw in how MMORPGs are made.

    Look at Britannia and Norrath as an example. Those were the worlds of UO and EQ. They were, in fact, worlds. You had towns, villages, and cities spread about for different people/races. You had numerous zones that simply fit a set of level ranges. You had wonders that were placed about because of lore reasons or because some designer thought it would be cool. There were no train tracks. You went where your whims took you and tried to find a great place to kill monsters and earn treasures.

    Now look at MMORPGs today. There is virtually on reason to leave the train tracks. In most cases doing so means inefficient play. You are told to kill ten rats so you run to where the rats are. You are told to find the purple tree so you go where that is. You follow the straightest path to your goal from the quest giver. The zone CAN be too big. It isn’t about scale. Its about running through things that are meaningless to get to where you need to go. The stuff you’re passing is either for a quest you’re not on or for nothing (like large empty halls that are designed to take longer to get through). If a quest doesn’t touch it, it is wasted space. That may sound terrible to say but that is the reality. Empty space exists to slow your progress.

    Being locked into the chore-grind is what ruins scale and worlds. That is how you have the too big complaint. The too small complaint comes from running into too many other players trying to achieve the same chore. Until the community stands up and says “I’m tired of playing the quest-hub game” this is what we get. Too big or too small when really what we mean is “I want a world to explore.”

  5. Vatec

    One of the best things about Rift is that the quest hub-based “chore” system is completely optional. If you want to, you can treat Rift as a sandbox and level through invasions, PvP, or even crafting (though the last is painfully slow if your primary goal is leveling). Mind you, the game isn’t a sandbox, but it’s easy enough to play it as one.

    The downside is that the “world” people will find it a bit too small and the “game” people will find it a bit too big, thereby pleasing neither party :^P

    One of the problems with TOR is, if you bypass the questing, there really isn’t anything “practical” to do. Too much of the game is invested in the voiced cutscenes. In that context, the world being huge can, in fact, be a downside. When your game is based around “chores” you can either try to make the “chores” more interesting, or you can try to make them fly by faster. The cutscenes and travel distances definitely don’t make things faster, so the entire paradigm is dependent on the cutscenes making the “chores” more interesting.

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