Setting OffMarch 25, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
Tags: game design, memories, rift
All MMOs have them. For some players they define the nature of any given chosen race, whilst for others they’re a just a speedbump before getting to the meat of the game. There can be one of them, or many of them. Quite often, they’re all a player will see of a particular game, and all MMOs have them.
But I suppose the biggest question for me is:
What is a starter zone *for*?
Now, I freely admit to being somewhat oblivious when it comes to official forums. I recently, in my role of guild officer, posted a recruiting message thingy on Rift’s official forums, and that left me feeling rather strange in my tummy.
Part of me felt a little brave and excited, having entered the lion’s den. Another part of me felt a little soiled; instead of lurking rarely (and laughing at all the misguided fools and their patently ridiculous wittering on) I was choosing to actively participate in proceedings. But I digress.
I’ve been aware of some consternation and complaint that there is only one starter zone per faction in Rift, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t care. In fact, I quite welcome it.
I remember Warhammer Online’s multiple starting zones. One for each race in each faction. They were lovely zones, oozing with character, and part of a very strong game concept. Which, of course, fell apart when players got involved; pretty soon, the dwarf and elf zones were abandoned after the initial surge of players, and everyone just moved to the Empire for levelling purposes because that’s where everyone else was.
Age of Conan went for the complete opposite, with one multi-layered, highly engineered zone that had both multiplayer and solo elements, with the solo side a fantastic story that would have worked well in many single player games. Of course, it was a shame that the rest of the game was nowhere nearly as well detailed in terms of quests and story, and that the fantastic solo quest line just seemed to make players think in solo rather than group terms.
Now we have Rift. Most of my play has been on the Defiant side, but I did complete the Guardian side during one of the later Beta events, and to be perfectly honest, I have no problem with there being just one starter zone.
The Defiant starter zone is cool. There’s a part of me that loves an “escape from an apocalyptic future by using time-travel to change the past” storyline, and it made me all squiffy and special. Due to the nature of the story line, I’m not surprised there’s just the one. Sorry Kelari and Bahmi players, your racial starter zones were gobbled up by the big narsties on their way here. Yes, I’m being all Eth-ist and assuming they’d hold out longest. Or something.
Ultimately, I don’t care whose homeland it is. Because the important thing is what that starter zone is *for*.
To my mind, starter zones are there for three main reasons (in no particular order);
- To teach the basics of the game
- To try and turn interested tourists into long-term residents
- To establish the background story for the game
Anything after that is pure gravy because, ultimately, it’s the zone I’ll spend least amount of time in. Even counting the repetition required by the judicious and willful addition of alts, it’s *still* the zone I’ll spend least amount of time in.
All that I care about is that the starter zone fulfils the above three objectives. I want to have the game grab my attention, I want the game world to intrigue me, and I want to know how to play the game by the time I get out of that starter zone a few short hours later.
Ultimately, I’d much rather game developers didn’t spend time creating six or so starting zones when two will do, because that’s time that could have been spent on later level zones, or instances, or PvP zones; not something that will be completed and forgotten about in a couple of hours.