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To start I'd like to tell folks the difference between instances and zones as to many people seem to either have them confused or simply don't know the difference. If you know the difference, skip the next paragraph.
Zones are enclosed spaces in a game that require loading to cross. Most single player games, especially shooters, are zoned. You complete an area and then load to the next. That is a zone. In MMOGs the popular thing is to do an open world and this has various benefits and detriments but that isn't the focus of this thread. An Instance on the other hand is a copy of an area, from a zone to a quest location. These require loading and are often dungeons that only you or your group participate in. As well many modern MMOGs instance their zones. Champions Online does such, when you enter a new zone you choose the instance to join. Each instance can only hold so many people before a new instance is formed to hold more.
Ok now thats out of the way, on to the topic of the thread;
A lot of people are worried it appears that TSW will be heavily instanced. Personally I don't mind instancing if it's done right. But a lot of folks absolutely hate it, whether it's a team instance dungeon or instanced areas ala the example above. One of the bigger reasons people worry about this in TSW is because the game uses an updated version of the Age of Conan engine (which is the massively overhauled Anarchy Online engine) and AoC uses both zone instancing and personal instancing.
Let me just say, stay thy fears people. In an interview on ZAM.com, Funcoms Creative Director and lead of The Secret World, Ragnar Tornquest, states how much he dislikes instancing and plans to use it only sparingly in TSW.
"ZAM: Based on some of the gameplay footage, it looked like you could go into this modern day world. Since this is based on our Earth, you've got to have some game zones. Will there be zoning? Instancing? How big is the game world going to be, and how open is it going to be, versus how instanced?
Ragnar: I'm not a fan of instancing at all. That really sort of bugs me all the time, but some people don't care at all. We're going to avoid instances as much as possible. Instancing is something that you sometimes have to do to protect newbies - especially at launch. Our playfields are very large. We want to avoid loading screens. For example, going from London to New England isn't going to be like clicking a map and seeing a red dot go from one place to another, that's not what it's going to be like. It's going to be seamless. There's going to be very little loading, and hopefully it's going to be instantaneous. We want you to be able to move in a way that fits the mythology of the game, that actually makes sense. It's not going to be like "what the hell? Why am I in New England right now? I was just in London!" It's going to actually make sense. I can't explain why it's going to make sense, but it will make sense. There might be some instancing. We're going to have instances and places like dungeons, or something we'll call dungeons, and those will be more team based experiences. Those will be instanced. The open world stuff we're going to try to avoid instancing as much as possible. We want to make sure that you feel like you're in a living, open world, and you're traveling around that and exploring it. Like I said, our playing fields are large and they are epic and it's going to feel that way, yet you're going to be able to travel seamlessly. Lots of promises, but we'll see. I just don't like instancing, so we'll try to avoid those."
So good news for the 'I hate instancing' crowd.
Oh, the entire interview can be found here;