The Daily Grind: How important are invisible zone lines in your MMO?

Rise of the TREE more like.

A while back, Pantheon promoted a player thread about zone lines, in which a Visionary Realms developer is paraphased as saying that the zone lines in the game will basically be present but invisible to the player, such that the team can “stream the entire world around the player as they walk around.” There’s still zone boundaries, he said, “but it removes the requirement for having hard zone boundaries.” Pantheon players were pretty excited about it, and initially I was too. I mean, who doesn’t want a completely seamless open world to really sell the immersion? This is pure candy for explorers!

But then I thought about the immersive MMOs I already play, many of which have hard zone boundaries and full-on loading screens, and you know… maybe this isn’t really as big a deal as I used to think. In fact, one player in the thread points out that zone lines aren’t really any different than scene changes in a movie, an analogy that I’ve been chewing on every since. On my Big List of Essential MMO Things*, this just isn’t anywhere near the top. (*Not a real list. But maybe it should be?)

Let me kick it to you. How important are invisible zone lines in your MMO or theoretical future MMOs? Are they critical to your sense of immersion and convincing you that you’re in a truly open world that you can traverse in every direction? Or do you even really notice them at all?

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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