Friday, April 3, 2009

The Vending Machine

WAR is seemingly built on a fairly straightforward premise, one that rings very familiar to the consumer in us all: Have it your way, right away. It's a vending machine mentality. Lots of choices, easy to get at.

What do you want to do? Let us make it easy for you. Scenarios, quests, PQs, oRvR ... they're all just a click away. The rallying cry is the latest step in this direction, adding more convenience, and the "arena" and multi-tier city-defense scenarios upcoming are yet more options, and on it goes.

But this is a good thing, right? Well, yes. And maybe no. It's often very pleasant. It minimizes waiting around, searching, riding aimlessly. Or it intends to at least, your mileage may vary. There's a lot to do, at every level of gameplay, and each of those things is easy to do. You get buffed up in level in both oRvR and scenarios, so you can hypothetically contribute as soon as, or even before, you enter a tier's level-range.

The downside is the thinning of the waters ... each element takes playtime from the others. If you think that WAR should be all about oRvR, then you probably wish there were fewer or less appealing competing options that suck players from the oRvR lakes. If you want to do nothing but PvE, you might have a parallel response: that it's too easy or too lucarative to do RvR, that encourage participation in RvR at the cost of PvE.

The second downside is immersion. If everything is sort stripped of locational meaning then the world doesn't feel solid. Where exactly are Nordenwatch or the Stone Troll Crossing? (okay maybe you know where these things are. I don't). Is Talabecland really right next to High Pass? The design of the world emphasizes narrative connection and ease of access over world shaping, which comes at the cost of immersion. I don't really understand how the pieces fit together. I'm not sure that they do fit together, honestly, as they're constructed. It seems like the world is built on a premise, rather than a map.

So, what's the take away? It is what it is. I think the loss of immersion is a significant one, but the added convenience of the structure, as well as the nice narrative flow of moving as you level up the battlelines toward both your own capital and the enemies are positives.

I think that the wide array of options are competing against each other, but if you have less to do, do you reduce your player base, and consequently have fewer people to take part in your fewer choices? I don't know.

I think that WAR works. For me it works. But it is this odd thing: this vending machine game of many choices.


  1. "You get buffed up in level in both oRvR and scenarios"

    Only the latter is true on open RvR servers. We don't get bolster when we go into the RvR lakes.

    I agree with you about the map confusion and the location of scenarios. I can tell what pairing they belong to, but only a few make their locations obvious: Caledor Woods, Battle for Praag, Reikland Hills, etc.

    I'm sure that an instanced world is important for client stability or whatever nonsense, but I really miss the ability to travel the entire map without hitting an instance portal. The world feels very disconnected. Even though flying in WAR -- click a button, get a loading screen, arrive -- is faster than taking the wyvern or gryphon was in WoW, I liked the fact that I could look at the landscape and scenery while flying.

  2. Right on.

    The wyvern experience is the perfect example of immersion vs. convenience. Something gained and something lost.

  3. Interesting post, got me really thinking. I think thats one of the problems with WAR is it's immersion, investment into your virtual world. I remember riding a horse through parts of albion, going wow.

    Without the investment, it's easier for people to walk away. I know people won't leave WoW for the simple fact of all the time they did invest.