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Habitat and modern mmo’s

I was only somewhat surprised by how similar some of the problems Habitat had when compared to the problems with popular games like World of Warcraft.  It was almost comical when Morningstar and Farmer talked about allowing players to use weapons and kill each other, but expected users to do so in a responsible manner.  Although they never fully articulate it, I think the main barrier keeping virtual worlds from being taken fully seriously is the fact that there is complete anonymity and no real consequences.  Player vs. Player combat (pvp) is still a major question in online games.  WoW solves the problem by forcing players to choose at the outset whether they will fight on the side of the Alliance or the Horde, a decision that affects the entire course of the game.  Generally speaking, players are only able to kill players from the opposing faction with whom they are unable to speak.  This system works fairly well but is obviously just another work around such as the inability to fight within cities in Habitat.

The part about not being able to anticipate which design flaws will be seized upon by the community with disastrous results is also still very prevalent.  One of the most famous examples of this in WoW was the Zul’Gurrub disease glitch.  Soon after the game’s release, the developers released a new dungeon that extremely high level players could explore.  One of the bosses gave players a disease called “poison blood” which slowly damaged players and also jumped to other players who were nearby.  The unintended consequence of this was that the disease traveled from player to player until it reached the starting zone where low level players were unable to survive the effects of the disease for more than a few seconds.  Because of this, the game became completely unplayable for most of the low level players on any given server until the problem was fixed several days later.  It’s also worth noting that almost monthly, the developers release new updates and changes that try to make the game more fair but never quite succeed.

Another design flaw that WoW has completely failed to address is the fact that most of the new content that is introduced is only enjoyed by the select few players who are willing to spend countless hours of monotonous play time to see it.  This is a major problem with almost any mmo and leads many players (including myself) to “burnout,” something I’ll hopefully talk about more in my project presentation.

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