What Blizzard could/has learned from other MMOs

As part of my WoW-break, I’ve spent some time playing the Lord of the Rings Online.  While I think that the whole of LotRO is somehow less than the sum of it’s parts, several of those parts are very cool.

A sense of height – Graphically LotRO is on more realistic end of the scale.  Very pretty, with many subtle elevation changes.  A rolling landscape allows many moments of popping over a small rise to see what is on the other side.  Turning around while climbing a winding path up a larger hill gives an amazing view.  The main elements are that the zones don’t feel like a series of “levels” connected by paths up and down, and that rolling hills really provide a natural feeling environment.

Story driven questing – LotRO has it’s share of dull quests – the apparent standard for MMOs – but it’s main story line Bokos & Chapters are different.  Here you interact tangentially with the Fellowship (and the main LotR plot.)  These quests tell that story, with each quest being part of the story.  This type of plot focused quest is great, pulling me from quest to quest like chapters in a book.  By comparison, simple ‘kill x’/’gather y’/’deliver z’ quests which use ‘quest text’ as simple window dressing rather than driving any real plot along, feel extremely empty.

Achievements/Traits – The LotRO there is an achievement, an form of mini-advancement, for almost everything.  Kill a goblin?  Explore an area? Finish a quest? Craft an item?  Use a special ability?  All count towards achievements.  These have tiers, with the first ‘Kill 50 goblins’ version giving a ‘Goblin Slayer’ title.  Then the ‘Kill 150 goblins’ level unlocks a new Trait.  Traits are basically minor stat  bonuses, and as you level you can have more and more ‘equipped’.  Even without trying you’ll have more available traits than you have slots, and this is part of the genius of the system – unlocking a new trait is at best a minor upgrade, but it is still a tangible reward.

In Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard manages to closes the gap on each of these points.

Height: Even at Blizzcon last year the first available zone stood out for it’s sense of height.  I completely understand limiting everyone to ground mounts, as so much of the new content is based around terrain that has a very real sense of elevation.  Flying over a few mobs is one thing, skipping over a mountain is another entirely.

Story: The early Northrend and the Death Knight starter zone quests feel far more plot driven.  The quests really do feel like pieces of a story, just told in ‘quest size bites’.

Achievements: The WotLK achievement system is nice, even if it only provides cosmetic rewards.  I think that the existence of several hundred ‘mini-dings’ may more important than the actual reward.  Will see how this plays out.

Having read so many articles complaining about games simply cloning Warcraft, I’m quite pleased to see that Blizzard seems to be watching what other are doing right.  None of these are groundbreaking, and only Achievements will ever show up a ‘feature-list’  (imagine the box for Wrath listing “Quests that suck 60% less”) – but these are the small type of minor changes to the game that I’m looking for.  No WoW expansion will be revolutionary, but seeing that it is more than ‘Outland with snow’ does make me happy.

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Explore posts in the same categories: LotRO, WotLK Beta, WoW

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