The Daily Grind: What do you think about ‘exclusive’ zones in MMORPGs?

    
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I want to talk about exclusive zones today – specifically, Guild Wars 2‘s lounges, something I haven’t seen in many other MMOs at all. Essentially, they’re special themed maps that act as alternate hub cities, meaning they have pretty much all of the NPCs and craft centers and vendors you’d expect out of one of the world cities, only in a more condensed – and exclusive – location.

Personally, I enjoy these little maps a lot. I have three of them unlocked, and the next time I am playing the game regularly, I’ll probably get more. I used the Terrace in Divinity’s Reach as my home base for a while. Lily of the Elon was gorgeous, but it was a bit big and laggy for my tastes. Now when I play, I use Mistlock Sanctuary, as much for the weird physics (you float!) and the music as anything else. I have my eye on the hilarious tiki-themed one at some point too. I just like the idea of doing my important video game banking in a cabana on top of a volcano.

But I also have some reservations about them. They’re all paid, for a start, though I know sometimes the game will distribute free temporary passes for some of them. While they don’t really have anything beyond convenience, I worry that they separate the haves from the have-nots and drain the core cities of some of the most veteran players – of players period. Are they really the best idea for a game’s community?

What do you think about “exclusive” zones in MMORPGs? Is there a good way to do this?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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Robert Mann

I will, again, state that cities in current design MMOs are NOT SOCIAL HUBS. They are merely places where you see other players doing their own thing as you run by. There’s zero reason to care about those other players. These are services hubs, with other players and background to look at.

As such, I don’t really see how it matters one way or the other in the current common design…

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Ken from Chicago

STAR TREK ONLINE has the Captain’s Lounges that are exclusive areas although you have to go out of your way to reach them.

CITY OF HEROES had the Ourobouros zone you could access at level 25 and Midnight Club areas you could reach at certain levels.

NEVERWINTER ONLINE event zones. I remember one that was basically a second floor just above the ground level of the main city hub. The 2nd floor had the main vendors all in the tiny area.

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Natalyia

They don’t bother me at all as long as they’re akin to the GW2 ones – they’re just “utility” NPCs in a different location, in a nicely themed cosmetic setting.

I certainly don’t go out of my way to collect them or anything, but if people have a few that they enjoy? Cool. And since you can get them via in-game gold (by trading that for gems) then if you’ve just *got* to have one in particular, that can be a chase goal for the game for you.

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Kevin Smith

I have no problem with them as long as there is a way to gain access through playtime. No problem with having to grind to get something exclusive, but not grinding with the wallet. When you put them in as a paywall, then no they should never be in a game.

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Utakata

I have come to the conclusion over the years that anything exclusive in MMO’s is a bad idea for all players. Putting up gated areas only accessed by epeen metrics and/or upward RL mobility defeats the purpose of “Massively” in MMO’s, IMO. That is, it’s about as anti-community as First Class anything in real life…

“You’re not waving that pink shirt of yours again are you, Uta?”

>.>

…either way, I’m sure the devs and their Stan’dom disagree with this view. As well as, I’m sure some are looking at my subscription record of 2 MMO’s I play currently for the tu quoque touche. >.<

MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

I won’t generally pay for them. If it’s something that comes with having been a paid member, I might visit it a couple times, but they are usually dead and empty themselves, because people don’t use them as hubs because there’s not enough people able to access them.

I used the little Collector’s edition area in SWTOR’s fleet hub just to look over ‘special’ stuff they give there, and then left. The ‘Captain’s Lounge’ in STO I visited like maybe a total of 3 times, and never a soul in there.

Shunning people for ‘not being paid’ (Poor-shaming) is lame. I’m one of those ‘poor people’ in real life (I’m disabled), and because of my disabilities, I rarely GO ANYWHERE (I have no vehicle because they purposely keep my assets down below poverty level so as to not give me any ability to get out of this.), so I often don’t spend much of the limited money they do give me, so I have savings to dip into for paying for things like a paid subscription to keep me entertained for a year or 2(What else do I have to do?). Somehow this puts me into a group of ‘haves’ on games, but from what I’ve seen, they are no better, just TREATED BETTER. Maybe this is a human condition that needs remedied? Treat the poor better. Lift them up, instead of saying ‘You don’t get to participate’.

That’s something MMO’s used to be good about, making it clear we were all valuable as people, no matter what your real life situation was. You were needed to fill a role, whatever that role you chose to be. Then companies started money-grubbing/being greedy/locking everything down and making their games a money treadmill and un-fun. Maybe stop moving that way and try and bring back the experiences/fun we had?

So I guess my answer is, I don’t like them one bit.

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Hydlide S

The one you show in the picture I loved because it was a less laggy alternative to Lion’s Arch because it had way less people and a smaller area. But eventually they just kept putting it up for sale and so many people bought it that it’s just full of glowing people with millions of particle effects shooting out of their butt that it’s just as laggy as LA for me now. Kind of a shame, really.

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Bruno Brito

I’m not rabidly against them, but i am against them. Splitting the base and making social hubs less clustered feels like a bad idea. Specially because it’s clear that these convenience paid hubs are better designed. Lion’s Arch is really dull to navigate because the bank and the AH are far. The best town in GW2 for convenience is Rata Sum and it’s quite dark.

I don’t get why can’t they just make said places for everyone.

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Tanek

I don’t mind that these areas exist, but I also don’t go out of my way to buy them. The one “pass” I have in GW2 is the one I got with my Path of Fire order. It is handy as a way to fast travel to that zone for free, but other than that I can take it or leave it.

The one in Divinity’s Reach is particularly confusing to me since you can get just about anything in the city anyway.

The only other game I can think of that had anything like this is Star Trek Online. They had (have? I really don’t know if it still exists) an exclusive VIP “lounge” for subscribers. Next time I’m in there I should check whether it is still around. And what is actually in it. I’ve been subbed for years, but don’t think I’ve ever gone there.

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Arktouros

These are actually one of the few things I don’t buy as QOL in GW2 (and I own every Endless Contract except the Hair Changer).

I have one I got as part of a POF purchase but the only reason I ever use it is to quickly/cheaply get out to POF zones. Otherwise all it’s functionality is basically replaced with other, better items. Like Home Portal stone will let you go to home instance to gather, then you can pop out into the actual home town if you want or return to spot. If you pop into town you have access to all the same stations or can go back to LA for even more. They’re pretty pointless all things considered.

Really the issue with this whole elite area design is it’s just bad. If the advantage is everything is close together, did you purposely design everything apart knowing it’d be better to have it all together? More over these areas are often times locked away from the rest of the crowd, so you can’t even flex your “elite area” which means people don’t go there and instead congregate elsewhere making it a bad social space.