The Daily Grind: How much instancing is too much?


Plenty of MMOs use instances. Although it's pretty fundamental to the genre that a massively multiplayer game will involve shared spaces and content, sometimes it makes sense for a game to create either separate versions of common spaces, or private sub-spaces where the environment is made for a given player or group. Instancing can cut down on lag and overcrowding, by spreading the population of a given zone across multiple versions; it can also serve story goals, by allowing players to have challenges all to themselves instead of waiting in line for their turn at a public challenge.

But instancing can cause problems, too. One criticism of City of Heroes was that mission maps were always instanced, creating a sense of discontinuity. Age of Conan, too, has come under fire for overuse of instancing, particularly in PvP zones, where it used to be possible for a player to make a nuisance of himself in one instance and then vanish into another to avoid pursuit.

So, what sort of content should be instanced? Is there such a thing as too much instancing, or should more games be like Guild Wars, which instances just about everything? Does instancing drive you crazy, or make you sigh with relief?
This article was originally published on Massively.