Ferrel is sleepyA long time ago I remember playing EverQuest and hearing word from the World of Warcraft alpha/beta that there would be instanced content everywhere. At that time I and my guild mates thought, “oh, that will be great!” Here it is years later and I thought today, “it would be great if there weren’t so many instances anymore!” You certainly can have too much of a good thing and I think we might need to look into doing away with all this instancing! To undo an instance you need to understand why you have one in the first place!

EverQuest was a pretty amazing game when you were playing it. However, it had some annoyances. One of those, especially before Kunark came out, was that you had to share everything with everyone. Don’t get me wrong, I do like to share, but this was ridiculous! For any given level range you’d have one to three dungeons and you had to fit everyone there or find alternatives. This lead to a lot of fights, camp disputes and some interesting incidents regarding trains. There just wasn’t enough real estate in certain places. You had too much competition for a finite resource at some key choke points. Blizzard figured that the best move to solve this was to give you and your friends your own instance! Thus, instancing en mass was born (not to be confused with Blizzard inventing instancing. They didn’t).

Now when you wanted a dungeon, you had one! World of Warcraft would give you your own playground and nobody could horn in on it! All the named mobs were yours! The shiny loot that they dropped couldn’t be stolen away by another puller! Nobody outside of your group could get you killed and things were good. Despite early success, WoW initially kept the instances limited. You still had a very robust and large world to level and interact in, even if it was concentrated on chore hubs. Things worked well but now they seem to be out of hand! Everyone seems to be instancing greater percentages of their game. This is especially true when you reach max level. Once you cap out you technically never have to interact with someone outside your friends list or guild again. Dungeons? Instanced! Raids? Instanced! Battle ground? Instanced! Girls Locker Room? Instanced with female only flag! This is a problem.

On any given server I no longer know anyone outside of my guild or the annoying fools who never shut up in general chat. I’ve become so insulated by the instance system that I have no sense of community on Oasis. I no longer have great stories of heroes and villains in that population. There is simply no humanity and that makes me sad. The whole lot of us seem to be on prozium (bonus if you know what that is without Googling it). We don’t experience the great lows of someone competing for our spawn or stealing it. At the same time we don’t have the thrills of derailing a train, saving a failed group, or winning back a mob from a thief. It just isn’t the same.

EverQuest 2 threw me a bone in Sentinel’s Fate by including the Hole as a non-instanced dungeon. It is large, has named mobs, some loot, and an experience modifier that makes you actually want to be there. I’ve enjoyed running into other players and competing a bit for mobs and loot. In all honesty it has been my favorite part of the entire expansion. The execution is superb and I applaud it. It is only one dungeon, however, and it still isn’t as well planned as many of the ones in EverQuest. I think more time spent swinging the innovation arm back would go a long way.

In truth I believe we should always have at least one instanced dungeon per leveling tier. That way, if the open areas are packed, you always have somewhere to go. The great part about open dungeons is that you can also use them as a kind of story and progression. Perhaps at level ten you can begin Ferrel’s Castle and kill some of the simple monsters that roam its outer courtyard and walls. At fourteen you can move into the inner yard and fight harder monsters. The deeper you go the higher the level until eventually it becomes trivial. This mingles high and low level people at a cross roads and I think that would be fine. By doing this you wouldn’t need as many dungeons as you do instances. I might also recommend that each open dungeon have a “maximum capacity.” When it reaches that you can open a second one like EverQuest 2 does. This way you’ll never have the EQ1 system of waiting for a camp for hours.

Grief is also going to be reduced with the way encounter locking works. Yes, you’ll have to compete for spawns, but healthy competition is a good thing. It gets the blood flowing and makes players focus. It is harder to sleep through contested content than an instance. Developers could also break up the camp system by not allowing mobs to spawn on one point. Give each named a chance to spawn in a given area. There are other solutions to that problem as well. The environment has just changed so much from the EverQuest days. It isn’t the same and I don’t feel like we need the fix anymore. Uninstance me please! Let’s bring the community back together.

6 thoughts on “Uninstance me!

  1. I think that instancing is necessary for traffic control and providing respite from jerks. Let’s be honest; anonymous internet gamers aren’t always polite, civil people.

    That said, I’m a fan of making these MMO things feel more like worlds, and open dungeons are one good way to do that. In the end, MMOs need both instancing (or phasing, whatever), and open content, ideally on parallel tracks so players can play according to their preference. I know I’d probably bounce between the two.

    My experiences playing the WoW trial (three times so far) have all been dealing with open dungeons, or at least, whatever passes for dungeons in the early game. I jumped into an instance in Orgrimmar once, and died in short order, so I didn’t bother with it again. When I went dungeon crawling, it was always around other players. I didn’t particularly care to group up, but I did help and receive help from passers-by. It was a lot of fun, actually. A wee bit chaotic, to be sure, but fun. Ditto my experience over in Allods Online; there have been no instances so far, and I’m at level 16 (of 40). It’s fun playing through open dungeons, even if named mobs could stand to respawn a bit more frequently.

    (Though that in itself is an immersion breaker… there is definitely a give and take with immersion, story and playability.)

  2. I think vanilla WoW did well in this regard. Many of the original dungeons, including The Dead Mines, Uldaman, and Dire Maul, are a combination of shared content and instanced content. Typically the outer sections (which can be substantial) are shared, with access to the instanced content placed deeper within the dungeon. This design allows for interaction between all players in the shared sections, while still allowing for “private” group play within the instanced section(s).

    Unfortunately, most later dungeon content introduced in Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King is heavily instanced; it’s extremely rare for players to interact outside their guilds anymore. Sure, you still see people running around the world, but they are generally ignored, it seems. Further reducing the sense of community is the newest “enhancement”, the cross-server random pick-up grouping.

    Personally, I would like to see completely open, shared dungeon content, but that scales according to the player population within a dungeon; i.e. with more players comes more monsters and more loot, so there’s plenty for everybody.

    I’d love to see a scenario where a group of 10 players encounters a group of, let’s say, 5 goblins, who immediately realize that they are boned, so as they enter the fight, one goblin blows a horn for reinforcements, and soon another 10 goblins (perhaps with a bigger, meaner “boss” goblin in the lead) come running to join the battle. It would require careful balancing to be fun, but something like Left 4 Dead’s AI director could be used with good effect, spawning new opponents as necessary.

  3. I agree that the vanilla wow form of instancing was better. I liked that they were still connected to the world in a way. Gradually that went away, and now my understanding is you just teleport right in and out of instances from anywhere.

    So…if we can teleport in from town anyway, why not go strait for a boss instead of the ‘start’ of an instance? And why do the forces of evil allow summoning stones to exist 5 feet outside their strongholds so endless enemies can pour in? It strains coherence of the game world far too much for my liking.

  4. Thats why i love vangaurd its had it rough starts but its been polished up quiet a bit and there really isnt any instancing its like old school eq but in the new generation population is just small but big enough for a real immersion.

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