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[Column] General: The Trouble With Instances

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,622MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

Most MMOs today contain a certain level of instanced game play. But there is a cost to instancing players away from one another. In our latest Social Hub, we take a look at this and much more. Read on before heading to the comments to chat.

Some older games rely on instancing to a degree, and it is most often a component of themeparks, but having instanced raids or some quests is not the same as opening up a game world and then sticking a bunch of doors in it, open only to four or five people at a time. There lies the problem with the rise in instanced content. There have been plenty of complaints and observations about studios redefining MMOs (or even misidentifying them) if they contain lots of instanced content. After all, the term "massively multiplayer" doesn't refer to those four or five people. The outside game world might exist, but if most of what you actually do shuts other people out, then it also closes doors of opportunity to meet and interact with others outside your personal circle. Dungeon finders and the like can add a random or two on your team, but the focus for many on smaller group content can predispose players to only interacting with a small circle and then perhaps moving on.

Read more of Christina Gonzalez's The Social Hub: The Trouble With Instances.

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Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
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Comments

  • SlampigSlampig Chantilly, VAPosts: 2,376Member Uncommon

    I don't really minds instances. I totally do not expect an entire games population to be in the same dungeon as I am at the same time. 

    That would suck.

    I also do not blame instances for the perceived lack of socialization in games. That I lay squarely on the shoulders of the players. It is up to the players to be sociable, not the companies to make design decisions to force socializing. And you know how this crowd is. If they are forced to do ANYTHING then it turns into a whine fest and that is tiresome to deal with day after day.

    That Guild Wars 2 login screen knocked up my wife. Must be the second coming!

  • GruugGruug Chillicothe, ILPosts: 1,311Member Uncommon

    "Some older games rely on instancing to a degree....", I think you should have qualified that a bit. By saying "older games" it conjures games as far back as UO or SWG. To my knowledge, neither of which were instanced as much as your more "modern" games.

    My take on instancing is that it has become a requirement due to the anti-social tendency of many players. I can recall situations in those "older" games that a single lone player could ruin your in game experience by say attacking you quest objective after you had cleared a path to it. Or, waiting for mobs to respawn because OTHERS had cleared an area just minutes before. Instancing fixed much of those situations.

    While I understand the lament that there seems to be less social interaction, I also think that the anti-social among us has brought about the changes we NOW see.

     

    Let's party like it is 1863!

  • goldtoofgoldtoof leedsPosts: 337Member
    Those older games that have it, introduced instancing later on.

    E.g. vanilla EQ & daoc didn't have instancing.
  • aesperusaesperus Hamshire, NVPosts: 5,128Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Gruug

    "Some older games rely on instancing to a degree....", I think you should have qualified that a bit. By saying "older games" it conjures games as far back as UO or SWG. To my knowledge, neither of which were instanced as much as your more "modern" games.

    My take on instancing is that it has become a requirement due to the anti-social tendency of many players. I can recall situations in those "older" games that a single lone player could ruin your in game experience by say attacking you quest objective after you had cleared a path to it. Or, waiting for mobs to respawn because OTHERS had cleared an area just minutes before. Instancing fixed much of those situations.

    While I understand the lament that there seems to be less social interaction, I also think that the anti-social among us has brought about the changes we NOW see.

    Afaik, all those games have instances in some regard. It may not be as extreme as TSW or AoC, but it's a very common bit of technology.

    A lot of times people hear instances, and they think 'oh man, every zone is going to be copied & segmented'. But instances can be as simple as player housing, a shop, a dungeon, etc. To the point where most people don't even realize they're in an instance at all.

  • Dreamo84Dreamo84 Niagara Falls, NYPosts: 3,437Member Uncommon
    Eq2 didn't even have instanced dungeons at launch if I'm not mistaken. I know there certainly are quite a few old School open world dungeons.

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  • NadiaNadia Canonsburg, PAPosts: 11,866Member Common
    Originally posted by Fendel84M
    Eq2 didn't even have instanced dungeons at launch if I'm not mistaken. I know there certainly are quite a few old School open world dungeons.

    EQ2 had a mix, most were public but some were instanced

    many public dungeons had instanced boss areas

    http://eq2.wikia.com/wiki/Dungeon_Timeline

    Minor Heroic Instancesimage

    Major Heroic Instances - listed by level

     

  • GruugGruug Chillicothe, ILPosts: 1,311Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by aesperus
    Originally posted by Gruug

    "Some older games rely on instancing to a degree....", I think you should have qualified that a bit. By saying "older games" it conjures games as far back as UO or SWG. To my knowledge, neither of which were instanced as much as your more "modern" games.

    My take on instancing is that it has become a requirement due to the anti-social tendency of many players. I can recall situations in those "older" games that a single lone player could ruin your in game experience by say attacking you quest objective after you had cleared a path to it. Or, waiting for mobs to respawn because OTHERS had cleared an area just minutes before. Instancing fixed much of those situations.

    While I understand the lament that there seems to be less social interaction, I also think that the anti-social among us has brought about the changes we NOW see.

    Afaik, all those games have instances in some regard. It may not be as extreme as TSW or AoC, but it's a very common bit of technology.

    A lot of times people hear instances, and they think 'oh man, every zone is going to be copied & segmented'. But instances can be as simple as player housing, a shop, a dungeon, etc. To the point where most people don't even realize they're in an instance at all.

     

    I understand that. What the article was referencing was was the door type instancing such as used in SWTOR. EVERY MMO that I can think of use an instance of one form or another but only many of the newer ones use that door type instancing.

     

    Let's party like it is 1863!

  • SephastusSephastus New Brunswick, NJPosts: 448Member Uncommon

    Instancing is part of the "I need it now" population.

     

    However, it does allow for certain content to not be monopolized by only a few groups/guilds, which is what happened in Final Fantasy XI.

     

    IMO, all content should be available for the whole world, without instancing it. If the developers do not want certain content monopolized, they should then make that target boss "unviewable and untargetable" like Final Fantasy XIV does,  to the group that just killed it, for a specified amount of time.

  • VengerVenger York, PAPosts: 1,318Member

    I'd like to see instances done away with.  But what I don't want to see are mmos to go back to this schoolyard I tagged the mob first or kill stealing crap.  The idea and mechanics behind group play need a lot of rework.  Because this idea that anyone that comes into my groups little bubble is taking away from me and mine does not promote good community IMHO.

  • Ender4Ender4 milwaukee, WIPosts: 2,253Member

    I dislike instancing quite a bit. Not only does it cause issues with socialization but it makes devs balance entire dungeons around a full group. Part of the fun in EQ was I could walk in a dungeon and solo near the entrance. I could find a friend and we could duo some of the easier parts, then maybe 2 more friends show up and we go and do the hard parts. A single dungeon could allow me to play with anywhere from solo to a full group.

    I also really dislike the trend of dungeon instances not having any respawns.

    Build more content, spread out where the bosses spawn and what has the loot in general to stop some of the camping issues and you have yourself a game that doesn't need instances. Heck you can even put multiple copies of the same dungeon in the game if you want and just change the skins some. Have Blackburrow and then another full copy of the zone but call that one a different name and make the gnolls look slightly different. No reason to create an infinite number of copies and have them separate from the rest of the game.

  • RocknissRockniss Youngstown, OHPosts: 1,034Member
    Instancing in wow is where I made most of my regular social contacts
  • ZieglerZiegler nashville, TNPosts: 159Member
    Originally posted by Venger

    I'd like to see instances done away with.  But what I don't want to see are mmos to go back to this schoolyard I tagged the mob first or kill stealing crap.  The idea and mechanics behind group play need a lot of rework.  Because this idea that anyone that comes into my groups little bubble is taking away from me and mine does not promote good community IMHO.

     

    I disagree to an extent.....anti-social actions actually promote community.  If you have people that like to be the bad guy, then you have conflict and from there come grudges and wars and KOS lists.

     

    The key is both sides understanding what is going on and that actions in the game doesnt represent the person playing the game. If you're playing Sith/Orks/Bad guys...you shouldnt be having a cup of tea with your counterpart...unless you poisoned it to hurt him....but that is in game....that doesnt mean you can talk on TS/VENT/Comms and joke about it or whatever.

    The proverbial....if somone kills you....kill'em back.....dont go whining to the forums/GM/internet about how some guy ganked your camp and needs to be banned.

  • iJustWantiJustWant Somewhere, WAPosts: 81Member
    Originally posted by Sephastus

    Instancing is part of the "I need it now" population.

     

    This "I need it now" categorization applies to open world and instances.

     

    In instances, this category of gamer goes it solo, or groups with like-minded others; whatever their preference, they want to go do it faster. If I'm not in that instance, their play style can't possibly affect me.

     

    In open world, this category of gamer still goes it solo, or groups; but now their need to go do it faster conflicts with other gamers not in their group. They can and do affect me; they run ahead of me and tag the boss, even though I've just cleared the path.

     

    Instances help alleviate this dilemma.

     

     

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  • TheocritusTheocritus Gary, INPosts: 3,752Member Uncommon
    I didnt mind instances until the cross-world stuff started......
  • VengerVenger York, PAPosts: 1,318Member
    Originally posted by Ziegler
     

    I disagree to an extent.....anti-social actions actually promote community.  If you have people that like to be the bad guy, then you have conflict and from there come grudges and wars and KOS lists.

     

    The key is both sides understanding what is going on and that actions in the game doesnt represent the person playing the game. If you're playing Sith/Orks/Bad guys...you shouldnt be having a cup of tea with your counterpart...unless you poisoned it to hurt him....but that is in game....that doesnt mean you can talk on TS/VENT/Comms and joke about it or whatever.

    The proverbial....if somone kills you....kill'em back.....dont go whining to the forums/GM/internet about how some guy ganked your camp and needs to be banned.

    I'm sorry but when did this become a ffa pvp discussion?  And let's just say there isn't a piece of your post that we have any common ground on.  Your post pretty much promotes why instances should stay.

  • CrazKanukCrazKanuk Elmira, ONPosts: 2,499Member Uncommon

    I'm not sure how instances segment a community, TBH. If we're talking about dungeons or, more specifically, raids the content is rarely done with a PUG. This means that, generally, the common practice is to do this with your guild. From my experience, that's generally a very social activity. 

     

    You seem to be making the assumption that during downtime in non-instanced dungeons, people will just sit around and socialize with each other, because that's what people do. In my experience, it's generally more like "Ok, well this guy's not up, onto the next!" running around from point, to point, to point as quickly as possible, grinding out as many kills as possible during that time. 

     

    I think that your statement is true about "go-go" groups, but not as much so when talking about end-game instances with guild groups (although then we get into the whole side-issue of guild politics, etc). Not gonna go there. 

     

    Crazkanuk

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    Azarelos - 90 Hunter - Emerald
    Durnzig - 90 Paladin - Emerald
    Demonicron - 90 Death Knight - Emerald Dream - US
    Tankinpain - 90 Monk - Azjol-Nerub - US
    Brindell - 90 Warrior - Emerald Dream - US
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  • blbetablbeta elkhart, INPosts: 79Member Uncommon
    Asheron's Call did not have instances. It was usually good to run into people in the dungeons. The only time it was a pain was when you needed a specific mob. Todays everyone one gets their own loot/exp pretty much fixes that.

    Of course a lot of Asheron's Call dungeons were just different areas. No big boss, just another area to explore.
  • ZieglerZiegler nashville, TNPosts: 159Member
    Originally posted by Venger
    Originally posted by Ziegler
     

    I disagree to an extent.....anti-social actions actually promote community.  If you have people that like to be the bad guy, then you have conflict and from there come grudges and wars and KOS lists.

     

    The key is both sides understanding what is going on and that actions in the game doesnt represent the person playing the game. If you're playing Sith/Orks/Bad guys...you shouldnt be having a cup of tea with your counterpart...unless you poisoned it to hurt him....but that is in game....that doesnt mean you can talk on TS/VENT/Comms and joke about it or whatever.

    The proverbial....if somone kills you....kill'em back.....dont go whining to the forums/GM/internet about how some guy ganked your camp and needs to be banned.

    I'm sorry but when did this become a ffa pvp discussion?  And let's just say there isn't a piece of your post that we have any common ground on.  Your post pretty much promotes why instances should stay.

    Different strokes for different folks. *shrugs* I can play a co-op game anytime I want with a small group. That's not what I am looking for in a MMO. I am looking for PVP during the normal course of play. It makes it exciting for me...YMMV  just get used to isolation in your massive multi player game, cause as long as players can be bad to each other, they will, such are humans.

  • DamonVileDamonVile Vancouver, BCPosts: 4,818Member

    I like instanced dungeons but I don't like instanced worlds. Games like neverwinter make me feel like I'm playing a single player game with a bunch of annoying people around.

    I guess open worlds are being done away with because instanced ones are cheaper to make and maintain.

  • VoqarVoqar Phoenix, AZPosts: 498Member

    I love instanced dungeons, because I would rather do ONE group clearing an instance vs seeing tons of people stomping around, camping spawns, and all that.  Instances to me are more like me and friends sitting down and doing a dungeon in D&D or something.

     

    However, I *would* like to see some variety in content that's sorely lacking.  For ex, along with instances, I would like to see "dungeon zones" ala EQLive where the whole zone is very hard content that requires groups, but it's an open zone where there may be lots of groups.

     

    Variety and options are good.

     

    I also don't think this issue has anything to do with community, or at least, I don't think it's the driving factor in why community sucks in newer and more recent MMOs compared to the original MMOs.

     

    The real reasons why community has changed are challenge and grouping.  The old MMOs had forced or all but forced grouping - so you did stuff with other peopl ALL THE TIME.  Plus, the older MMOs had a much higher challenge level - you had to group and you still might die miserably for the smallest mistake.  Death mechanics were harsher.  You feared dying.  Fear of death, grouping, and overcoming hard challenges IN GROUPs are what lead to strong community in these games.

     

    With most modern MMORPGs and recent MMORPGs being largely solo affairs for most of the game, with optional/avoidable grouping for much of the game (or for all of the game for people who treat these nearly single player games AS single player games), and with the overall challenge level and trivial nature of dying being so low now, community just doesn't happen as robustly.

     

    I think a secondary factor is guilds.  In the early MMORPGs the idea of being in guilds was new.  And sure, we mostly joined guilds and had those little communities within communities, but now it's more like you gravitate towards your guild as your "community" and the server as a whole is less meaningful.  You also have guilds that persist across multiple games now, whereas in the early days guilds were mostly new and hadn't built up that type of legacy/history.  A lot of times going into a new MMORG you're already in a guild and already have friends you'll spend a lot of time with, and that immediately makes it less likely that you'll bond with new players in that new game, and makes it less likely for a server community to ever happen.

     

    Lastly, with older MMORPGs, the players were more hardcore and more dedicated to partuclar games.  You'd play EQ for years, or DAoC for years, or WoW for years.  Newer MMORPGs play so much like single player games with weak endgame that you can be totally done with them in 3-6 months, with a (an increasingly smaller) chunk of that being solo stupid mode leveling.  The games are being designed to be more casual, less binding, more people flit around between more games.  F2P amplifies this as people simply don't stick with any particular game.  It's harder for community to happen when you don't see people for days on end or rarely see the same people ever and don't see the same pugs twice in groups, etc.

     

    The shift away from hardcore with challenge and force grouping to solo ezmode and casual appeal not only has killed potential for community but has all but morphed MMORPGs into something other than MMORPGs.
     

    Premium MMORPGs do not feature built-in cheating via cash for gold pay 2 win. PLAY to win or don't play.

  • goldtoofgoldtoof leedsPosts: 337Member
    Making a mmo with zero instancing as a selling point might be a good idea. Variety afterall is the spice of life, and I can only think of 3 current mmos that don't have instancing - eve, planetside 2 and darkfall.
  • Ice-QueenIce-Queen USA, GAPosts: 2,451Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by blbeta
    Asheron's Call did not have instances. It was usually good to run into people in the dungeons. The only time it was a pain was when you needed a specific mob. Todays everyone one gets their own loot/exp pretty much fixes that.

    Of course a lot of Asheron's Call dungeons were just different areas. No big boss, just another area to explore.

    That's what I loved about Ultima Online/Dark Age of Camelot (Pre-ToA)/Asheron's Call.

    You'd be in a dungeon and always see people coming by. I miss those game worlds and the seamless worlds. Very little instancing in the older games. Besides towns and exploring, I met a lot of online people from dungeon crawling. Today's mmo's you do an instance dungeon with 4 other random people and barely speak. That's not good for me.

    image

    What happens when you log off your characters????.....
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFQhfhnjYMk
    Dark Age of Camelot

  • VengerVenger York, PAPosts: 1,318Member
    Originally posted by Ziegler
     

    Different strokes for different folks. *shrugs* I can play a co-op game anytime I want with a small group. That's not what I am looking for in a MMO. I am looking for PVP during the normal course of play. It makes it exciting for me...YMMV  just get used to isolation in your massive multi player game, cause as long as players can be bad to each other, they will, such are humans.

    That is kind of my point though.  If you minimize the ability to grief open world dungeons would work better.  Bring groups of random people together for a common goal.

    The whole grouping mechanic was designed to ridged for it's own good IMHO.  What was made to bring people together really has done more to separate people.

  • thecapitainethecapitaine West Chester, PAPosts: 401Member Uncommon

    I don't understand why it has to be one or the other.  Entirely open world or entirely instanced.  Both approaches have their time and place in creating a solid gameplay experience today.  Maybe in the early days, people could be largely counted on to be respectful (of you, your time, and common courtesy) but a stopover on general chat should demonstrate that a new age has come.  For purely practical reasons instances are needed to create some semblance of order where and when it is most needed.

     

    I also think we need to be a little less disingenuous when it comes to pinning the problems of MMO socialization squarely on instancing.  Yes, it does allow soloists and the anti-social to rabbit hole up and avoid interaction but, as has been made clear on these forums time and again, when given the chance most MMOers don't really want to deal with strangers anyway.  They'd much prefer their small circle of comrades, their guild list, their RL posse.

     

    The days of a monolithic audience and design approach are quickly fading and with it I expect to see a range of games varying from heavily instanced to almost completely open; allowing players to choose exactly what sort of game they want to play.

  • maplestonemaplestone Ottawa, ONPosts: 3,099Member

    I don't like instances on the principal that I play an MMO to be part of a world and instances mean that the world has no objective state and the way instances are most commonly used, I can't have other players at a comfortable distance (I'm either too isolated from other players or I'm forced into a team gameplay where other players are too close for comfort)

    That said, I like the way a game such as EvE uses instances ... as a way to create ephemeral points of interest within a persistant background but not completely isolating players from each other.  I see that there are some other game that are starting to experiment with this sort of idea and look forward to see how those experiments pan out.

     
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