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Posts Tagged ‘evolution’

Wizards in Wizard 101 can jump.  It’s actually more of a half-hearted hop, but they respond to the spacebar.

Jumping does absolutely nothing for gameplay.  Your character is just as much on spatial rails as Guild Wars characters who cannot jump.  Neither game lets you jump off cliffs or clamber over small obstacles.  Even a character who jumps in Wizard 101 doesn’t get any sort of “z-axis” benefit for getting around.

So why can they jump?

One of the silliest complaints that I’ve seen about Guild Wars is that their characters can’t jump.  Somehow that matters to some players.  Specifically, those players who come to the game with preconceived notions.  (And then they claim that GW is not an MMO, as if that meant something.)

I submit the notion that such is the reasoning behind letting W101 characters jump.  Some players are expecting video game characters, especially MMO third person characters, to jump when the player hits the spacebar.  No matter that the combat in W101 is radically different from any other MMO, no matter that the theme is aimed squarely at the tween crowd who may not be jaded MMO veterans, no matter that the art direction is more “last gen” than “next gen” and more “Rowling” than “Tolkien”, if those characters don’t JUMP, the “first fifteen minute” impression will somehow be lacking.

W101 jumping is probably not about smart game design.  It has no use in the game if it’s taken in a self-enclosed context.  A player new to MMOs likely won’t care, and if they play for a while, they may indeed question why it’s even an option as jumping obviously does nothing but play an animation.  It is more likely a smart business decision, a bone tossed to MMO veterans (or tourists, if you’d like) so that they can feel more at home when they start to play the game and get around.  Jumping in W101 is more for those players who normally play something else, a hook to hang their virtual hat on, so that they might stay a few critical minutes longer.

So, I ask again:  What evolutionary purpose does the combat trinity serve?  What purpose, levels?  Do you really need raiding?

Some have levied criticism against my somewhat revolutionary design tenets, saying that evolution, not revolution, is the likely way to go when proposing game design.  There is truth to this position, and a large part of it lies in just these sort of vestigial design elements.  People tend to dislike change, and too much, too quickly can be a considerable obstacle.  Sometimes, for non-game design reasons, you may indeed have to include design elements that make no sense.  It’s an unfortunate evolutionary necessity.  (And as has been noted, MMOs aren’t really the best stage for revolutions, for better or worse.  The critical mass and adoption curve concerns pretty much make MMOs evolutionary beasts, rather than revolutionary, to my chagrin.)

At least, if poaching existing customers is important to you, rather than carving out your own “blue ocean” niche.  When I talk about revolutionary game design, I’m not catering to existing WoW addicts or other MMO tourists.  I thought that much was clear, but perhaps it’s still nice to reiterate.

If you are jumping in the “red ocean” shark pool, I simply propose that such choices shouldn’t be made “just because that’s how things are”, but that inclusion of design elements catering to expectations be carefully weighed and considered.  Perhaps they are right for your game, and perhaps they are a waste of dev resources.  Either way, do not design or create anything just because “everyone’s doing it”, or because “everyone expects it”.

You’re playing directly into Blizzard’s hands, and you will be crushed, perhaps without even knowing why.  The established MMO design priesthood has a Vision for How Things Should Be, and steering your game design into their trendsetting mainstream is giving them control over your success.  You can make money as a cheap clone, but it’s a precarious position.

EDITED: In his link over at his place (the AFK trackback link below), Syp corrects me, noting that the word is “vestigial” rather than “vestigal”.  I have no excuse for this oversigt, other than that I’ve seen it both ways in more than one publication.  I thought it was akin to the difference between “color” and “colour”.  An appeal to Webster confirmed the error of my ways, though, so I’ve made the appropriate corrections.  I’ve left the actual article http address alone, though, so as not to break anyone’s links.  It’s an undying testament to my everlasting shame.

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