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Lost Pages of Taborea: Where's the fun with world events?

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Borrowing a lesson from one of Justin's Road to Mordor articles, I decided to tackle Runes of Magic's world events. I'm talking about those repeatable events sprinkled around the world, events we'll be getting a lot more of when Chapter 4 hits, events anyone can jump into for fun and profit. It's the fun-vs.-profit scenario I want to look at.

Recently, the memento rewards on world events were nerfed. This comes after a lot of drama over players who were going AFK in droves to collect large numbers of the shiny coins to buy purple statted gear from the Black Codex vendors. My only concern with the events is that players can go AFK. Large groups of players, whose soul intention is to go AFK, block people who actually want to play and (dare I say) enjoy the events. However, there are still discussions surrounding the loot aspect of events.



One side of the coin

The debates I usually see and get involved in seem to boil down to the fact that players can too easily get geared beyond many dungeons. This in turn leads to sparse pick-up-groups, less-skilled players at endgame, and players getting something for nothing. I'm usually on the other side of the fence. My perspective has me shooting back with questions. Would players who choose to skip the dungeons -- via events -- want to run in pick-up-groups? Aren't options and player choice a good thing? Why take things away from the game, limit choice, and force players down a tube?

The equipment-modifying system is one that is praised by many players currently playing the game. One of its key features is that it gives players choice and freedom. The choice to over-mod to our hearts content is there, and it's a great thing because it's fun. It's already been possible since RoM's inception to mod past content. That's power given to the player -- a choice and option to play the way each individual player chooses to play. Don't like running dungeons ad nauseam? Modify gear past it. One dungeon is more fun than another? Gear up for that particular dungeon. Want to just be as insanely tough as possible? Go for it. Yet the ability to run a linear track is still there for those who want it. If a player prefers that style of gameplay over crafting or any and all else, that choice is there.

My side of the coin

Having the events give out handsome amounts of mementos does nothing to change the game in that respect. It's still going to happen. Players can skip content and go where they want, when they want anyway (which is a wonderful thing). Anyone can buy diamonds to convert to gold or earn enough gold in-game to buy all the stats he needs to do the highest-level content without working linearly through the dungeons. It doesn't stop, hinder, halt, or prevent progression-junkies from doing what they want. Even better, it doesn't stop people with limited funds from playing the entire game the way they want. Yet some progressionists feel it lessens the feelings of success. It diminishes the intangible reward of accomplishment. This is something I never stop hearing, and it likely will still be argued when I'm old and gray.

Never-ending developer woes

Even though the whole debate is outside the real concern of whether the content of the events is actually fun to participate in, we have a war here in which one side wants real in-game change in events it never participates in, change that affects only its own out-of-game feelings in another part of the game it does actually play. If this isn't a good case for the importance of game psychology, I don't know what is. I can't help but feel like it's a situation in which one person is trying to turn off all the lights, disconnect all the televisions, and shut all the doors and windows to sound-proof a house because he has a headache. Instead of better tackling the situation by taking an aspirin, he demands changes that affect everyone in the house -- changes that will also affect everyone differently.

Is this the life of game design? Maybe, if you broaden the concept and make it vague enough, but if you commit yourself to keep the microscope at the same level of focus when looking at all sides of an issue in RoM, better choices for events and other features could easily manifest themselves. Those better choices will squash any rationale for poorer game design. The world events should be fun. As repeatable, outside-of-dungeon progression-content that seems to only concern dungeon-goers insofar as its rewards, the events should focus on fun gameplay. Personally, I will never understand a logical rationale for overlooking the actual gameplay or the importance of effectively limiting choice in gameplay for the purpose of having a better sense of accomplishment when completing an entirely different part of the game.

The dungeons don't change. I can still go through the dungeons however I see fit. And if I'm putting so much importance on nerfing another area of the game to make my preferred area of the game more fun, I'm just placing that over the importance of actually having my content be fun to play. Am I kicking around a rusty ol' can of beans and lamenting that the kid next to me has a shiny can that says "awesome" on the side, then arguing to have his can demoted so I can more fully enjoy kicking my can across the finish line and getting a prize? Is that more important? Or am I actually looking at what I'm doing, in the moment, and enjoying myself?

It's all important

What's the order of priority? I'm aware this is an age-old predicament that won't go away anytime soon, but RoM is there to enjoy. The world events should be designed around how fun they are. All content should be. For the most part, I believe that is how content is designed. As much as some features contain ancillary functions, they are never the main focus, otherwise we'd all be playing the same MMO. The reason RIFT is amazingly different and fun for some players isn't that the loot tables, rewards, and balance between those rewards are different. Its popularity isn't based on allowing a sub-group to feel a substantial accomplishment compared to the other guy. Other MMOs, like World of Warcraft, are the opposite. I have to agree with what RIFT's Executive Producer Scott Hartsman had to say about MMOs becoming less about aspirational players and more about aspirational content. He notes that he knows who the top guild is on his server, but he doesn't care. Over time, Scott's found that players are more involved in what they are finding fun and care less about what the rest of the world thinks about them, and that's because the actual gameplay and content you play through is different. Different, but fun. The possibility of removing events from RoM or changing the rewards is secondary. It might not even be that important at all.

Each Monday, Jeremy Stratton delivers Lost Pages of Taborea, a column filled with guides, news, and opinions for Runes of Magic. Whether it's a community roundup for new players or an in-depth look at the Rogue/Priest combo, you'll find it all here. Send your questions to jeremy@massively.com.

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