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Welcome! I am teaching law at St. Petersburg State University and engaged in legal practice with the international law firm Dentons. Major part of my research is connected to virtual worlds and massive multiplayer online games (a broad field which includes Internet law, video game law, virtual law and game studies). My legal practice is focused on providing support to computer game companies. This interest derives from my passion for computer games which I consider as one of the most important cultural artifacts ever created. Please note that this blog conveys my private opinion which is not necessarily shared by any organisations I am associated with. For more formal and detailed introduction please visit my website arkhipov.info which serves more as a 'business card'.

Monday, August 27, 2012

3 Things Which Mists of Pandaria Won't Introduce...

...but which could make World of Warcraft more enjoyable and competitive. Just my private opinion, based on recent discoveries of certain game mechanics, mostly through Everquest 2 and RIFT, but through some other games as well.

So, the last Friday evening I had a reminiscence on my positive World of Warcraft experience. I even logged in for a couple of minutes to check how it looks after my experience with other games. Well, it still looks great.

I believe that Blizzard clearly succeeded in two things, besides becoming the most commercially-successful online games company:

(1) creating a belivable world in a Warcraft setting which, despite mostly linear story given through quests, really feels like a world,

(2) achieving the best performance in "soft" aspects, including, above all, fonts, cute pictograms and smoothness of interface. 

However, the general mass of online players is getting more and more experienced. The taste develops, and there is at least three crucial things which could be introduced to World of Warcraft to make it better.

1. Alternate advancement. In any form. Please. What meaningful activity is reserved for the end-game? Although you may do a lot of things, any further advancement (we don't count achievments here, do we?) lies in getting more and more items to equip and improve stats through raiding. Or to participate in PvP for the same goal.

I guess, I am not the only one who feels somewhat an inferior player if I do not raid or do not participate in organized PvP (pre-mades, arena fights etc.). Furthermore, I even had a period while I raided for a while. It really becomes boring soon. The risk of raiding is to have just another 4-hours of work after a working day, where you don't get anything in return. 

What may mitigate such situation is to introduce any form of alternate advancement. By this time I can give three examples: 

(1) Age of Conan - you gain alternate advancement experience which ultimately allows you to develop, so to say, altenrative talent branches. The source of the advancement is just killing of mobs, if I remember well. I don't think that this would be nearly close to grinding, as you kill a lot of mobs anyway in dungeons and raids. 

(2) Everquest 2 - you gain alternate advancement points (which really look like levels) which you can directly invest into, so to say, alternative talent branches. The source of the points / levels is a variety of actions which, in particular, include completing quests and killing rare "named" mobs. Just imagine how intersting it would be to complete quests in World of Warcraft at higher levels not for just some achievement, but for alternate advancement! 

(3) RIFT - you gain alternate advancement (planar attunement) experience for completing the activities suitable for your level which otherwise would give you basic experience. Correspondingly, you gain planar attunement levels, which give you planar attunement points you can invest in several alternative branches to gain increase in mostly quantitive aspects. 

2. Mentoring.  I think that it is after Everquest 2 and RIFT when the term "mentoring" became the common one to reflect game mechanic which allows player to regulate the level of the character. 

World of Warcraft, clearly, had a half-measure in form of level-lock - you can reach, for instance, the level 70, and lock your experience gain hoping to have an authentic, let us say, The Burning Crusade content experience. However, everyone who tried to do this faced two problems. The first is the lack of players who could join you - not everyone wants to do old content, and the less players want it, the less players want it. The second is that such a character could not be used for any other activity. And definitely, It would not be right to have four hunters for different content: level 60, level 70, level 80 and level 85, would it?  

The great thing about mentoring is that it allows to revive old content. World of Warcraft has tons of old content. Probably, even most of the players have tried it. But is there any fun to get through this content alone at the maximum level?

Perhaps, in the nearest future we will observe a kind of major game design solution to the problem of proper rewards and stimuli for getting through old content being mentored down to the appropriate level. Right now the experience of Everquest 2 and RIFT shows that mentoring, at its current state, makes solo experience more enjoyable, while outdated "end-game" (e.g. raids for lower leveles) is still far less in demand. 

3. In-game knowledge base affecting game mechanics / giving rewards. I would dare to say that this point may turn out to be quite fresh. Does everyone remember Tome of Knowledge introduced in Warhammer Online (which is currently, unfortunately, near death as far as I can see from various sources)? 

Here is a video which explains the feature, my credit to the author:


The only game where I have seen a similar feature is Atlantica Online, a F2P tactical combat game with strong RPG elements. By the way, this is a good game to try if you are a bit tired of traditional theme-park MMORPGs. In Atlantica there is a record of all your mob kills, and, if I remember well, the more mobs of certain kind you kill, the better loot you receive from them, or something like this.

Tome of Knowledge was a bit different feature, and deeper, I would say. It alone could make a revolution in online role-playing games. For what reasons Warhammer Online failed may be a topic of separate research, as other features it had (including, for instance, public quests) were also pretty cool.

This is the end for today, I guess.

Apparently, this post does not cover many other features not [yet] implemented to World of Warcraft, including real RvR warfare, better crafting system (which could include something to make, e.g., low level recipes still interesting at higher levels) etc.

What would you add to the list?