Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Phasing and You!

One thing that I haven't mentioned recently is that I have started playing WoW again, casually. Sunraven has been transfered to a PvE realm, joined a guild with some old faces and levelled to 80. Wrath of the Lich King, the new WoW expansion, has proved to be a very entertaining little buy and I have been continually impressed by both the improvements to the game and the depth of the content. However, last night I realised that I had missed one of the most important features new to the game: Phasing.

It was like being punched in the jaw.

Flashback to the early days of WoW. I remember Gorthaal, my druid, battling hard to free the Crossroads from the threat of the Bristleback Motherf*ckers and their seek-and-destroy hyena allies. No matter how many I killed, no matter what rewards I gained, no matter what level I returned to rain hell and damnation on them, they were still a Clear and Present Danger to 11-14th level characters in the vicinity. My pwnage was for naught.

Jump to Age of Conan. Gorth, my Bear Shaman, rescued the City of Tortage from the evils of some nasty dude during the instanced Night period, whilst doing all manner of jobs for people during the Day period. My Night was my Night and my Day was shared with everyone else. In the Night my actions were persistent, in the Day they were not .... until the end of level 20 when I owned the bad guy and the place changed. Under the veil of loading screens, transitional NPCs etc, we had the vestige of a persistent world.

Back to today, well, I won't talk about Wrathgate but I will talk about Shadow Vault. I was on a mission - infiltrate the Shadow Vault for the Knights of the Ebon Blade and deal with it's undead denizens. Fair enough. Kills a few, grab some items - standard fare. However, I then had to convert some NPCs onto the side of the Ebon Blade. OK. And now me and the NPCs attack the Elite Boss Man. We own, naturally and I get sent to tell someone far away that Shadow Vault has been taken.

Now in old WoW, I would return to find that Shadow Vault was still held by undead, my new allies are now enemies and everything has been reset.

Not now. Now I return to find a thriving Ebon Blade supply camp. My new allies are now Vendors or guards. There is a flight point and a Quartermaster and even, I believe, an Innkeeper. The game world has changed.

There are other points in the game where this happens. It doesn't happen everywhere though but when it does it is very subtle indeed. No loading screens. No transitional NPCs. Its just like a story unfolding before you.

This, I believe, has been one of the things that has been requested of MMOs for some time - a truly persistent reality. Of course, this is still a single perspective reality but it goes some of the way. I was truly stunned by it last night because it meant that, in the story, for once, I had really made a difference.

Good stuff.


Fandomlife said...

What happens if you go to that same place with someone who hasn't done the quest to chat?

Anonymous said...

They'd get killed by the mobs which you no longer can see!

Literally they'd see a different set of things on their screens than you would.

Wrathgate is probably a good example of this, and I'm now looking forward to experiencing the questline you are refering to.

Indeed, MMO's main issue has often been that the world is static and unchanging and I think it's a fantastic development that Blizzard has finally implimented a way that you actually feel that changes are really happening for you as you progress through the game.

The Death Knight starting area is probably the best bit of phasing you'll see by the way, the world truely does change and alter around you in a major way.

It does get you thinking about the kinds of things they can do now with phasing though doesn't it. :-)

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks.


Fandomlife said...

Fair enough, but would they see each other?

I think some games have been using this for a bit. I think LotR: Online does it?

I also fully aspect the Bioware Star Wars MMO to use some form of trick like this and others to enable storytelling.

All interesting.

Mark McC. said...

There are a set of group quests in Icecrown which use the phasing system which can make for getting a group to do it tricky. The phasing technology in Dragonblight and Icecrown in particular has been really well done, and there is also some faction related phasing in Storm Peaks with the Ice Giants that moves the story line along nicely.

That said on the whole I have been really impressed with the quest lines in Wrath, I've felt much more a part of the war against the lich king with his many appearances throughout each zone, than in say Burning Crusade where the big bad guy was pretty remote unless you were doing 25 man raids on Black Temple.

Wrathgate - just awesome

I've rolled a death knight just to look through the starting quests on recommendation from a few people.


Mark McC said...

You dont see the other people if they are at a different phase, they will disappear from view if they are moving together.

Very similar to when you are dead and travelling back to your corpse I guess, other people are not aware of your ghost moving past.

Anonymous said...

Only downside of phasing is a bit of a lowering of FPS when you enter and exit a phased zone.

You might not be able to see all the other stuff on screen, but apparently what happens is that your computer loads up everything in the phased zone and then the server effectively tells the client what it can and can't interact with (Blizzard following the standard pattern here of never trusting clients... Theres a programmers joke in there, honest...)

I'm running a 8800GTX 728mb dedicated card, which, in Burning Crusade, in the middle of Shattrath with everyone flying about & everything was a solid constant 60 frame per second (the max the game will allow), and it never dropped from that.

In particular the phased zones can drop to about 30fps for me now, which I know sounds a lot, but when you consider the games specs are for a 128mb card is a HUGE drop.

I shudder to think what someone on minimum spec must get as their FPS these days.


Nick said...

hey neil, it's nick (aka havock) hope you are having fun on wow again, I'm back playing casually as a DK on my brother's server (Thunderhorn).

Have some fun and I'll see ya round.