I think that most of you expect to read proper diary entries here, about the fun places to go and fun things to do in Shards of Dalaya, but please forgive me if I feel the urge to post a blurb about (MMO) game design from time to time.
Recently, we toured Kaladim, King’s Pass and Warpstone Caverns. We found groups in those places, some smaller, some more complete, but always groups. If you’ve ever played EQ, you know how important a group is. In EQ live, you wouldn’t even be safe in your own home zone if you walked around alone, and many newbies were so scared they wouldn’t even leave town after a few unhappy incidents of “rat gnawed my head off” or “fell into five hundred meter deep hole next to newbie gear vendor”.
That’s clearly not a great experience for a new player, but it also establishes a fact: It’s a dangerous world out there. Don’t go alone.
Modern MMORPGs don’t really believe in this anymore. You can cheerfully solo all the way to max level by just grinding and doing repetitive quests, all on your own. There isn’t really any sense of danger as long as you don’t venture too far from the path the series of quest hubs has prepared for you. Even if there is a bit of a dangerous situation here and there, usually nothing you couldn’t survive on your own. This turns many MMORPGs into n levels of single player boredom followed by some potentially exciting raids. With your guild and/or friends, of course, not with strangers you’ve met while your character grew up. Who’d be sick enough to group with out-of-guild people?
I miss this aspect of danger in modern games, yet it means that Shards of Dalaya faces the reverse problem; you can’t do anything on your own, but the world feels dangerous and exciting. The advantage over old EQ is of course that SoD players are usually much more experienced or better players than random strangers you used to meet in EQ, so some of the risk of trying to find a group is removed. You won’t die because your groupmates don’t know their game. Everyone I’ve met so far knows the game much better than I do. Any time spent in a group is very well invested.
It’s all a bit sad. There’s this dangerous and exciting world out there, with hand-crafted dungeons and juicy loot, but you won’t be able to see it on your own, because seeing it on your own would make it less dangerous and unexciting.
Tougher single-player gameplay without actually forcing the grouping element of the game could be an answer, but I think that can’t be accomplished within the game mechanics of an MMORPG, where numbers count more than any single player’s reflexes. That leaves me with nothing to add to the discussion, despite venting my disappointment 😦