instancing

EVE Evolved: EVE Online’s case for asymmetric and asynchronous gameplay

If there’s one thing that EVE Online does better than any other MMO on the market today, it’s persistent gameplay on massive scales. The now-famous Bloodbath of B-R5RB in 2014 involved 7,548 players over the course of almost 24 hours, and the Siege of M-OEE8 at the end of 2016 peaked at 5,300 separate players all piled into the same star system at the same time. Hundreds of thousands of players live and fight in the same single-shard universe, and EVE‘s largest corporations have more members than the total population on some other MMOs’ shards.

But what about the smaller end of the scale? MMOs aren’t just populated by monolithic organisations bent on galactic domination, and a growing proportion of today’s gamers play online games solo or in smaller groups. Features such as Upwell structures and the new PvE gameplay have clearly been designed with a wide range of gameplay scales in mind, but EVE has never really got past the problem that bigger groups are almost always better. Could the solution to this problem be found in small-scale asymmetric and asynchronous warfare opportunities?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at why EVE‘s massive scale makes it so compelling, the problem that massive scale introduces, and the case for more asymmetric and asynchronous warfare.

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The Daily Grind: Is instancing in MMORPGs our real enemy?

The first MMORPGs I ever played hadn’t come up with instancing yet. They had perceptible server lines and time-sucking zone walls, but everyone was in the same world, fighting over the same everything, often waiting in lines for spawns or flat-out cutting in those lines with no recourse left to the players but to chuck their own manners or lose out.

It took time, but eventually the purveyors of online worlds figured out how to instance off content. Some instanced dungeons so we wouldn’t have to camp-check again. Some just instanced housing. Some instanced whole zones to keep the lag down, and some even instanced the overland world or storytelling areas, leading us to the point that some players argue that all types of instancing are bad, that it destroys worlds and breaks up communities and leads to tiny, unambitious lobby-based games.

I’ve never been convinced that instancing ruined the genre; some of the biggest “feeling” MMOs I’ve played were layered with instances to keep everyone together, whereas a truly open-world game can feel tiny if it’s so big you never meet another soul. To me, it’s not the structure of the gameworld but what players are encouraged and enabled to do within it that makes or breaks the feel of an MMO and its community. Instanced housing, for example, is better than no housing at all!

What say you? Is instancing in MMORPGs — the very thing intended to help us all fit into these worlds together without trampling each other — our real enemy?

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