Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lack of fear

After reading the posts and comments on both Tobold's and Syncaine's posts about sandbox thinking around EVE online, I started thinking a bit further. I mean, I have enjoyed immensely the WoW's lore, world and all, but something has seemed to be lacking in there. Especially at the level cap where the whole thing is around getting badges to get better gear to get to 'tougher' bosses.

It seems to me that WoW really is the easy mode due to the fact that death is not penalized at all. Sure, you get a slight repair issue with your gear, in PvP not even that, but otherwise there is no real 'danger' to your character. Death is only an annoyance, loss of time.

This makes the challenge to overcome the opposition a lot lighter and - IMO - a lot less satisfying than working on a real threat to your characters - or accounts - existence.

In the early days the computer games didn't even have a save points, so you tried to play as carefully as possible and as you overcame the opposition, the victories felt exceptionally fine. Currently we have been given the possibility to save each and every game at whatever point we want to and thus we do not risk the progress in the game whatever happens.

Has this made us gamers more lazier and more prone to whining that the games or bosses or puzzles are too easy? On the other hand, has our level of acceptable challenge lowered due to the same fact?

As far as I know, there is no achievement in WoW for completing the levelling without dying at all, and the achievements for completing dungeons without any deaths are scarce as such. The designers have taken the stand that dying is ok and just an annoyance, too, and are in fact stating that  you can gain everything without any fear of losing anything.

If you go and read any of the EVE blogs where the players tell about their feelings in the game, you will soon notice the difference. The mere survival in the environment is really felt by the player, and not taken for granted. Every success in the harsh environment is met with real life emotional response.

I don't see any problem in having this kind of approach in a themepark MMO at all. There should be the feeling of excitement, fear and danger of loss involved, of which WoW has lost its touch in the latter case at least. At least for me the feeling of danger is long gone, there is absolutely no fear of loss, death is an annoyment at best and there is always another try... or tenth, after the repair bills are paid.

Thankfully, there is a full world with full lore around to be explored. If I wasn't so opposed to PvP as whole, I might have the temptation to try my wings in EVE...