Do you like being a small cog in a big machine?

Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.

– Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy

Discussing raid sizes yesterday, it’s clear that some people just enjoy the experience of large raids. Milling around with tens or even hundreds of other people brings out the massive size of an MMO. But the experience can also be dull and impersonal. (Not as impersonal as people often think though – I knew every member of the team when I was officer for a 40 man raid.)

PvP has similar issues. Some people adore the huge city or fortress siege operations where half the server turns up to join in the fun. Others prefer the steel cage death match of a three man arena team. Or even hunting solo.

And it doesn’t stop at group activities. Some MMOs offer a vast virtual world to explore, where you can run for ten minutes in any direction without seeing a town or city. Others are more focussed (Aion comes to mind) and the zones are simply bunches of mobs and quests laid out in an interesting pattern — but at least you won’t get lost.

Then there is the economy. EVE offers a truly vast economy, where players can make every item (just about) that is available in game. They have day traders, haulage, and lots of scope for deep play by traders and manufacturers. Games like Guild Wars barely have crafting at all and trading is done via shouting on city channels.

Single player games typically offer a very crafted experience. The player starts at the beginning, goes on to the end, and then stops. In a single player RPG, the world exists purely to serve the needs of the game or the story. Games which have a large world to explore are rare. But in MMOs, you have a chance to be a small cog in a big wheel – the game is big, and you are small. There are many other players and you are just one. I wonder, though, if this aspect of game design is changing and perhaps players are less interested in being dwarfed (both physically and in terms of content) by a huge virtual world.

  • Do you like a game world to be so large that you will get lost when first learning your way around?
  • Do you like that there are so many possible activities that you will probably never be able to do them all?
  • Does it bother you if there is content that other people do and you can’t (assuming you have enough to do to justify whatever you are paying for the game)?
  • Do you like having lots of options (for example: massive raids, large raids, small raids, instances, solo) or would you prefer a more streamlined experience?
  • Do you like to feel totally immersed in the game world?
  • Do you like to feel like a small cog in a big machine? To be part of a larger virtual society?